BCIM Corridor a game changer for South Asian trade

A vender weights corn for a customer at a market in Yingjiang, near the Myanmar border, Yunnan Province, China, 26 May 2012. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Pravakar Sahoo and Abhirup Bhunia, Institute of Economic Growth

The Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor will increase socioeconomic development and trade in South Asia. The initiative seeks to improve connectivity and infrastructure, energy resources, agriculture, and trade and investment. It will connect India’s Northeast, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and the Chinese province of Yunnan through a network of roads, railways, waterways, and airways under a proper regulatory framework. The current focus of BCIM talks is on an inter-regional road network. This makes sense, as roads are the cheapest route of trade. Read more…

ASEAN to face a summit of challenges

People sell goods at a street market in downtown Yangon. Myanmar is to hold 24th ASEAN Summit in the capital Naypyidaw over May 10-11.  (Photo: AAP).

Author: K. Kesavapany, National University of Singapore

The ASEAN summit in Yangon is taking place at a time of global and regional uncertainties. The drums of war are beginning to sound in Europe, with the possibility of the conflict in Ukraine spilling over and derailing the existing geopolitical order. In the East, tensions over the South China Sea are threatening to cause geopolitical upheaval and damage aspirations to found an East Asian Community. Read more…

The evolution of Sino–American competition in Myanmar

US President Barack Obama delivers remarks after a meeting with Myanmar President Thein Sein in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 20 May 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Adam P. MacDonald, Halifax

For decades, China has been Myanmar’s principal international partner. In the years preceding Myanmar’s opening up, China dominated Myanmar’s foreign discourse as an important economic and military partner, and a source of international diplomatic protection due to the diplomatic isolation and widespread sanctions imposed on Myanmar by the West, especially after the 1988 coup. Read more…

India’s Look East policy in need of a relook

Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh listens during the 7th East Asia Summit plenary session as part of the 21st ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh, November 2012. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Tridivesh Singh Maini, New Delhi

Does India’s foreign policy suffer from a lack of consistent and innovative outreach policies in Southeast Asia?

At a recent East-West Centre conference in Yangon, most participants seemed to feel the answer was yes. Such criticisms are worth mentioning because India’s immediate neighbours, such as Nepal and Sri Lanka, often complain that New Delhi intervenes a touch too much in their internal affairs. Some go so far as to argue that China, in spite of being more powerful than India, does not exhibit the same hegemonic tendencies. Read more…

Fight or flight for foreign capital in Myanmar?

A girl chats on her mobile phone near Sittwe, Rakhine State, western Myanmar on 30 March 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Josh Wood, ANU

Myanmar is in the midst of a foreign investment boom.

Over the last 12 months it has received over US$3.6 billion of foreign direct investment (FDI), an increase of nearly 300 per cent, according to government figures released in February. Despite this encouraging news, enormous barriers to future investment remain, and if reforms are not quickly enacted, foreign capital may take flight as quickly as it has arrived.   Read more…

Road to constitutional amendment in Myanmar going nowhere

Workers carry salt in Maekaye village, Myanmar. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Melissa Crouch, NUS

Since Myanmar’s Joint Parliamentary Constitution Review Committee submitted its report to the Union Parliament on 31 January 2014, the constitutional amendment saga has taken another twist.

The Committee was given the task of reviewing the 2008 Constitution, which had been drafted by the previous military junta. It was required to make recommendations to the parliament, yet it ultimately avoided this responsibility. Read more…

Myanmar dressing for a role on the world stage

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a lounge suit and Prime Minister Thein Sein in Myanmar's traditional business attire at the UN donor conference at Yangon in May 2008. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Chit Win, ANU

In the aftermath of the devastating Cyclone Nargis in 2008, ASEAN and the UN organised an international pledging conference in Myanmar to rally international financial support. It was the biggest international event of its kind in the country’s history. Read more…

A way through for Myanmar

Myanmar President Thein Sein greets Myanmar Opposition Leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a dinner reception to mark the 67th anniversary Union Day on 12 February 2014, in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. Union Day is seen as the birthday of the Myanmar nation. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The story of Myanmar’s political and economic reform in the past few years is still unfolding and the next 18 months will be critical to whether it will be a success or failure, as the country moves through a decisive phase of constitutional reform towards the 2015 elections. But one thing is clear. The country has been blessed in its journey thus far by exceptional leadership, not only in Aung San Suu Kyi’s steadfast quest for democratic reform but also in president U Thein Sein Read more…

Balancing reform and justice in Myanmar

People attend a National League for Democracy public consultation led by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on amending the 2008 Constitution in Yangon, Myanmar, 10 November 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Adam P. MacDonald, Halifax

The reform agenda enacted by President Sein has been impressive on many fronts. The last three years signal he has a real desire to change major aspects of the state and society.

But these reforms have not reached the security portfolios and institutional independence of the military. Read more…

Will Myanmar’s ASEAN chairmanship lead to national reconciliation?

From left, Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario, Singaporean Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, Thai Foreign Minister Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, Brunei Foreign Minister Mohamed Bolkiah, Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, Cambodia's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Pou Sothirak, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, Lao Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, and ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh of Vietnam, pose for group photos at an Association of Southeast Asian Nations retreat in the ancient city of Bagan, Myanmar 17 January, 2014. It is the first ASEAN meeting being held in Myanmar since the country assumed chairmanship of the 10-member regional grouping late last year. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Eliane Coates, RSIS

Myanmar’s chairmanship of ASEAN this year will become an open display of its progress in undertaking national economic and political reforms. Naypyidaw’s hosting of ASEAN has the potential to improve Myanmar’s international reputation, national economy and, potentially, domestic reconciliation efforts.

Long seen as a pariah state, Myanmar sees the ASEAN chairmanship as an opportunity to demonstrate its reformist credentials and a platform to re-engage the international community. Read more…

Myanmar must step on the gas for fiscal reform

Thein Sein, President of Myanmar, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 18 November 2012 for the 21st ASEAN summit. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Josh Wood, ANU

Myanmar’s narrow tax base and overreliance on resource revenues is laying the foundations for a future fiscal crisis. If reforms are not urgently undertaken the government may not be able to provide basic services and risks becoming seriously indebted. In either scenario, recently attracted foreign investors will quickly take flight. Read more…

Keep an eye on the people with the guns in Myanmar’s transition

Myanmar military officers stand during the 68th anniversary celebrations of Armed Forces Day, in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, March 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Lex Rieffel, Brookings Institution

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. Read more…

Where is Myanmar going?

Guards of honour stand at attention during a flag raising ceremony to mark the 66th Independence Day of Myanmar, near Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon early on 4 January 2014. Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, gained independence from Britain on 4 January 1948. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Adam P MacDonald, Halifax

In 2013 President Sein’s government continued with their widespread — but not completely comprehensive — reform agenda, enacting important domestic changes alongside a number of successful foreign engagements erasing Myanmar’s previous pariah status.

Read more…

Growing pains ahead for Myanmar

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, right, meets with Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Canberra, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Chit Win, ANU

The confused usage of ‘Myanmar’ and ‘Burma’ helps to portray some of the uncertainty surrounding Myanmar’s development in 2013, and was most obviously on display during the visits of President Thein Sein and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to Australia at the beginning and end of the year. Read more…