Liberalism and Democracy in Myanmar


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23 Citations (Scopus)


Historic Myanmar elections in November 2015 paved the way for an NLD government led by Aung San Suu Kyi to take office 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 Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim minority, and more than 750,000 refugees fled to neighbouring Bangladesh. One critical question that now confronts the fifty 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 and purchase of key concepts it presents a rich array of evidence, including eighty-eight 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 for the foreseeable future.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages256
ISBN (Print)9780198809609
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2018


  • Democratization
  • Illiberal democracy
  • Liberalism
  • Limited liberalism
  • Myanmar
  • Political culture
  • Rohingya
  • Sectarian violence
  • Tolerance
  • Transitional justice


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