Dr. Maung Zarni is an exile, commentator, critic and expert on the political affairs of Myanmar. His research interests include the political economy of violence, international development and conflict, as well as democratic transitions in Asia. He is Visiting Fellow (2011-2013) at the Civil Society and Human Security Research Unit, London School of Economics and Political Science, and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.
Zarni spoke with PRAXIS on February 28, 2012 while he was attending a World Peace Foundationseminar on advocacy and human rights.
PRAXIS: What do you think are the greatest prospects and greatest challenges facing Myanmar – both socially and economically – as it emerges from the last six decades of direct military rule and global isolationism?
Zarni: On the future of Burma: No one is in a position to figure it out exactly. It’s not crystal ball gazing either. I’m a structuralist and look at interests as structures, such as commercial, strategic, etc. I don’t see a bright future for the country, but that doesn’t mean that I’m completely hopeless or desperate in the situation. The buzz word being used is “opening up” and the way “the new Myanmar/Burma” is framed in the Western discourse and the media, especially in government policy and institutions such as the World Bank, IMF, or the UN, no one has a better framing of Burma than Barack Obama, who framed Burma as his foreign policy success story in the  State of the Union Address. That is outrageous. That’s the hype. Continue reading →
PRAXIS: The Fletcher Journal of Human Security views the complexities of pressing global issues through a multidisciplinary lens. We believe that the security of individuals is best understood by drawing on the intersecting fields of human rights, conflict resolution, humanitarian assistance, and international development. This year we have modernized the journal by expanding our online presence with the PRAXIS blog, as well as developing a new logo and cover design. Along with these exciting new developments, PRAXIS remains fully dedicated to its primary mission as an academic journal, and we are pleased to present the twenty-eighth edition of scholarly articles. This year’s articles focus on different facets of inclusive global justice, with authors investigating human-centric mechanisms of transitional justice, peace processes, and international development.
In our first article, Adan E. Suazo argues for the importance of long-term political inclusion of former combatants to prevent the reoccurrence of conflict. Through three case studies, he investigates different political inclusion mechanisms contained in peace treaties and the ability of former warring parties to obtain electoral success in post-conflict. He concludes by defining the types of inclusive strategies that may be the most conducive to peace by allowing parties a true opportunity to gain political power.
“Shkool kub bhalo lagey!” was the joyous sentiment we heard coming from the crowd of beautiful, young schoolgirls at the Sundarban Girls Secondary School. We asked them if they liked school, and they repeatedly met our question with a resounding “Yes! We love school!”
Unfortunately, access to education for many girls in Bangladesh does not come without constant struggle and steadfast dedication. As is the case in over 95 percent of all secondary schools in Bangladesh, the government did not establish this school. The Bangladeshi Constitution mandates that the government provide free and compulsory education “to such stage as may be determined by law.” This stage, evidently, ends after primary school. Additionally, Bangladesh is arguably not honoring its obligation under international law as a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. Article 13(2)(b) maintains that states should strive for secondary education to be generally available “to all by every appropriate means,” including the introduction of free education. Instead, it is the responsibility of villages to organize, plan, build, staff, and maintain schools for their children. Once up and running, the government provides small subsidies for teacher salaries, but the village must cover all additional operation and overhead costs. It is miraculous that many impoverished, rural populations, with so few resources, are able to make these schools a reality.
Laura Seay is an assistant professor of political science at Morehouse College in Atlanta, USA. Her research addresses community responses to state fragility in central Africa and US foreign policy in central Africa. She has conducted extensive fieldwork in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and is completing a book, Substituting for the State, on the differences in the ways that civil society organizations respond to the state’s absence in social service provision in the Kivu provinces and Ituri district.
Seay spoke with PRAXIS editors Keren Yohannes and Casey Hogle on March 1, 2012 when she was attending a World Peace Foundation seminar.
PRAXIS: Can you outline some of the ways advocates have framed the conflict in the DRC? What impacts have these ways of framing had on Western policy responses to the conflict?
Laura Seay: You see two primary streams of advocacy. One has to do with the rape crisis and the other is about conflict minerals. The anti-conflict minerals advocates argue that the armed groups benefiting from the mineral trade are the same groups that engage in massive human rights abuses. A group called the FDLR once got about 75 percent of its revenues from the mineral trade. Another group called the CNDP, which has now reformed itself as the M23, was getting about 25 percent of its revenues from the mineral trade. Is that bad? Yes. But there are different sources of revenue, and these groups are quite adaptable.
The other stream of advocacy is focused on stopping rape. How do you do that? Do you go after the conflict minerals issue? Do you go after the broader problems of governance in the Congo? We know that the majority of rapes in Congo that are happening are civilian-perpetrated, so I believe you’ve got to do something within the civilian population. Continue reading →
Every week I would see white buses roll by on the road near my office in Mulliyawalai, Mullaitivu District. They did not stop – nothing happened there except business and rebuilding after three decades of civil war. The buses continued on to the district capital and, from there, further north. They were full of Sinhalese passengers, the majority ethnic group in Sri Lanka, and until three years ago, a group that could not have come to this region. Before then, the district was the seat of the extremist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as the Tamil Tigers. To non-Tamils, it was like the throne room of the Great and Terrible Oz. Even three years after the end of the fighting, it remained extremely isolated, rural, and sparsely populated.
Mullaitivu District was ground zero for a contest of memory between Tamils and non-Tamils. It was here that the war ended in an assault that killed upwards of 40,000 Tamil civilians. Continue reading →