The dissemination of research projects of CRISEA Work Package 4 “The State” took place in February 2020 at two locations in Myanmar, the University of Mandalay and the French Cultural Institute in Yangon. Both events followed similar dissemination conferences and briefings in Manila, Kuala Lumpur and Chiang Mai. The dissemination conference on 10 February was convened by the Department of International Relations, the University of Mandalay’s CRISEA partner. Presenters at the morning session provided insights into public policy challenges in Myanmar and the region with papers on China’s state-state ties and business relations in Southeast Asia by Edmund Terrence Gomez from the University of Malaya, highlighting both the visibility and invisibility of these relations, an overview of obstacles and achievements by Myanmar’s National Human Rights Commission comparing them with other ASEAN countries by Marco Bünte (University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany), as well as the party-building processes among ethnic parties in Myanmar’s Kachin and Shan states (Kristian Stokke, Oslo University). The afternoon session focused on dynamics of political change in Myanmar with critical contributions from Soe Myint Aung (Oslo University) on the character of the country’s democratic opening, Kyawt Kyawt Khine on Myanmar’s relations with ASEAN and ASEAN’s illiberal norms and practices reviewed by David Camroux. The last session threw light on various forms of “purification” as a political practice in Southeast Asia. While Rachel Leow’s research offered novel insights into the deportation of unwanted Chinese from SEA to China in the first half of the 20th century, Tomas Larsson (both Cambridge University) illustrated practices of religious purification as part of a process of legitimation of the new monarch ruling in Thailand. Volker Grabowsky (University of Hamburg) concluded with a discussion of mass violence in relation to the state as it emerged from the trial of Khmer Rouge leaders. The presentations drew much interest from professors and students as well as social and political actors from the Mandalay Region.
On 11 February, the French Cultural Institute in Yangon (Institut français de Birmanie) hosted a half-day briefing session by CRISEA researchers sharing their findings on Myanmar’s democratic transition, the country’s Human Rights’ Commission, its place within ASEAN since 1997 and the prospects of party-building processes of ethnic parties in the perspective of the 2020 elections. The numerous audience of journalists, academics, activists, international diplomats and members of NGOs actively engaged in the Q and A session which followed the presentations voicing matters of concern in the context of Myanmar’s current crisis issues and future challenges.