Liberalism and Democracy in Myanmar

ISBN : 9780198809609

Roman David; Ian Holliday
272 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Nov 2018
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Historic Myanmar elections in November 2015 paved the way for an NLD government led by Aung San Suu Kyi in March 2016 and saw the country deepen its graduated transition away from authoritarian rule. Nevertheless, military forces that for decades dominated national politics remain privileged in a constitutional framework designed to deliver discipline-flourishing democracy. In August 2017, the military intensified its campaign of ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim minority, and more than 750,000 refugees fled to neighbouring Bangladesh. One critical question that now confronts the 50 million people of this Southeast Asian nation is whether their push for greater democracy is strong enough to prevail over the resistance of a powerful military machine and swelling undercurrents of intolerance. What are the prospects for liberal democracy in Myanmar?

This book addresses this question by examining historical conditions, constitutionalism, popular support for democracy, major political actors, group relations and tolerance, and transitional justice. To probe the meaning of key concepts it presents a rich array of evidence, including 88 in-depth interviews and three waves of surveys and survey experiments conducted by the authors between 2014 and 2018, all of which are triangulated with constitutional and legal texts and reports issued locally and globally. The analysis culminates in the concept of limited liberalism, which reflects an at times puzzling blend of liberal and illiberal attitudes. The book concludes that a weakening of liberal commitments among politicians and citizens alike, allied with spreading limited liberal attitudes, casts doubt on the prospects for liberal democracy in Myanmar.


1 Historical Context
2 The People and the Constitution
3 The Theatre of Democratization
4 Group Relations and Tolerance
5 Transitional Justice
6 Limited Liberalism

About the author: 

Roman David is Professor and Head of the Department of Sociology and Social Policy, Lingnan University, Hong Kong. His publications include Communists and their Victims (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), Lustration and Transitional Justice (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011. Winner of the Concept Analysis Award of IPSA in 2012).; Ian Holliday is Vice President and Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Hong Kong. His publications include Burma Redux: Global Justice and the Quest for Political Reform in Myanmar (Columbia University Press, 2011).

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