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Brookings: Keep an Eye on the People with the Guns in Myanmar’s Transition

Author: Lex Rieffel
January 13, 2014


"Standing in the way of success in the peace process — as well as most other aspects of the transition to better governance — is the government's apparent inability to control the guns. Has there ever been a successful transition in which the government does not have authority over the military and the police?"

I fear that Myanmar's transition to better governance could start to go off the rails in 2014. While a serious train wreck seems unlikely, the mood in the country could sour as problems pile up, which could make the national election expected at the end of 2015 a messy affair. As a result, the new government that will likely take office in early 2016 might be less effective than the current one.

A breakdown in the peace process is the problem most likely to push the transition off the rails. The efforts being made by the Thein Sein government to negotiate a durable peace with the country's ethnic minorities, after more than six decades of civil war, are serious and commendable. By some accounts, agreement has been reached on 80 per cent of the issues. It is not unusual in such delicate negotiations, however, for the last 5 per cent of the issues to be as difficult to resolve as the first 95 per cent.

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