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Myanmar’s post-Election Foreign Policy
- This paper’s main objective is to explore the likely direction of Myanmar’s foreign policy after the historic election won by the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Laureate, a democratic icon and a long-term opposition leader. To this end, the paper analyses key statements by the new leadership. Further, it zooms in on a number of areas in domestic politics with particular relevance for the direction of foreign policy: unresolved projects with China (in particular concerning hydro-power), human rights issues, and the peace process in which many donors are involved – and links these issues to the question of Myanmar’s socio-economic development. The paper concludes that Myanmar’s foreign policy “will continue in line with fundamental principles from the time of independence, but will also focus more on domestic matters of relevance to foreign policy”. Myanmar will continue to pursue a balanced foreign policy, regionally and internationally. The general election held late last year represents a historical landmark in Myanmar’s democratic transition. The international community is watching the new government’s foreign policy to see where it goes. Here are some pointers. The focus of the outgoing government was on reintegrating with the international community, but the new government will not need to reset relations with the West. This is related to two important factors. First, the reputation of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi rests firmly on her record as a Nobel Peace Laureate and as an international icon of democracy. Second, the previous administration already developed Myanmar’s relations with the West and Myanmar will now need to re-engage with China. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will therefore need to convince the West to continue its support, ease the remaining sanctions imposed on Myanmar and invest heavily in the country – while also re-establishing relations with neighbouring China. Against that backdrop, this paper explores the concept of Myanmar’s foreign policy as articulated by the country’s leadership, and then turns to domestic factors that may influence the foreign policy direction.The government led by the NLD was formed on 31 March 2016. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is arguably the most popular leader ever in Myanmar and controls two ministries: Foreign Affairs and the Office of the President. She also serves as the State Counsellor. This is a considerable responsibility, with the day-to-day running of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and policy recommendations of the Office of the President. Many have worried that having such heavy responsibilities might interfere with her work on priority tasks such as the peace talks.
Chaw Chaw Sein