Podcast: The Changing Face of Myanmar

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Episode Guests
  • Elizabeth C. Economy
    Senior Fellow for China Studies

Show Notes

On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, Richard Cockett, former Southeast Asia correspondent for the Economist and author of Blood, Dreams and Gold: The Changing Face of Burma, weaves a vivid narrative of Myanmar’s colonial past and its legacy for the nation today. As he brings to life the tumultuous history of Southeast Asia’s newest democracy, Cockett highlights the role of the “plural society,” a mercantilist jumble of ethnicities brought together under British rule to exploit local resources. In Myanmar’s case this plurality never led to integration. Instead it set the stage for rising ethnic Burmese nationalism in the 1960s, military rule, and ongoing ethnic strife. Even Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s de facto head of state, is a product of the institutions that built modern Myanmar a half-century ago argues Cockett: no longer simply a symbol of democracy, she is playing the shrewd politician by toeing the line of Burmese nationalism. To hear more about the fascinating history that has beget today’s Myanmar, listen to our conversation below.

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