ICTJ Forum: Myanmar’s Fragile Path to Democracy and Peace

7/22/2014

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After more than half a century of repressive military rule, Myanmar has embarked on a fragile, yet hopeful transition to democracy. Since President Thein Sein took office in 2011, Myanmar’s new political course has received considerable international attention, especially from development agencies and industries eager to invest in the country.

To evaluate the current state of progress, ICTJ released a new 28-page report today, “Navigating Paths to Justice in Myanmar’s Transition.” It analyzes the country’s attempts to foster democracy, peace, and development and examines the role international assistance can play in ensuring that economic development doesn’t neglect the need for accountability for ongoing and historical violations.

In this podcast, ICTJ’s Hannah Dunphy speaks with Deputy Program Director Anna Myriam Roccatello, who just returned from Myanmar.

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The new report is based on ICTJ’s work in Myanmar over the past six years, and, as Roccatello explains, “underpins certain features of [Myanmar’s] transition and the policy decisions that have been made by international actors, while engaging with the Myanmar transition.” International involvement like ICTJ’s has been crucial to Myanmar’s transition, and the report calls on international actors to help ensure that human rights violations in the country are taken seriously by the new government.

Roccatello also discusses the recent anti-Muslim violence and the challenges it presents to developing adequate transitional justice measures. She suggests solidarity through an understanding of common suffering as a way to unify the country and promote the transition to a peaceful society.

This unity is also what Roccatello suggests will lead to more victims feeling comfortable participating in truth-seeking measures, which can help societies like Myanmar deal with atrocities of the past. Roccatello is optimistic, given her recent time in Myanmar, that there is an emerging trend towards accountability.

Roccatello also looks ahead to the next six to twelve months: “Hopefully we will move into a national political dialogue phase where the issues of transitional justice that have been momentarily parked in a different place – because the priority was to stop the fighting and reach a truce – will be finally revived and looked into seriously.”


PHOTO: People cheer to celebrate the 67th anniversary of Martyrs' Day at the National League for Democracy (NLD) head office in Yangon on July 19, 2014. General Aung San and eight other leaders were assassinated on July 19, 1947, as Myanmar marks the 67th anniversary of Martyrs' Day. (Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images)