Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies

Strategic choices in Myanmar’s transition and Myanmar’s national security policies

By Trevor Wilson

Since 2011, Myanmar’s leaders have concentrated on ensuring the success of their overall political transition, given the expectations created after the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011–2012. Not surprisingly, designing a new national security policy was less a priority than achieving ‘peace’; national security was viewed as a matter of continuity rather than transition. Moreover, many of the reformist objectives of the political transition were not applied to the evolution of a new national security strategy or to the challenge of adjusting national security policies. Indeed, many historically unacceptable military practices—human rights abuses, targeting of civilian populations in insurgency areas and acting outside the law in confiscating land, labour and resources—continued. While this different approach to national security reflected ingrained sensitivity on the part of Myanmar’s leadership, reluctance to expose national security policy to scrutiny and determination to retain political control, they are not necessarily unreceptive to overseas experiences.

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