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Regime Transitions in Southeast Asia: Lessons for Myanmar?

Lee Jones
Queen Mary, University of London

Myanmar has recently undergone significant regime transition, promulgating a new constitution in 2008 and holding its first elections in twenty years in 2010, followed by political and economic reforms, the entry of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy to parliament, and the lifting of Western sanctions. Cautious optimism abounds in many quarters about the changes underway, with rosy predictions that Myanmar will become a middle-income country within a few decades. But Suu Kyi herself cautions the transition is ongoing, even declaring that ‘no tangible changes’ have occurred. This roundtable seeks to make sense of the conflicted and contested transition process in Myanmar, and to speculate about likely future trajectories, by comparing it to transitions elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Cambodia underwent transition from one-party rule to ostensible multiparty democracy, but is still dominated by state-business networks clustered around the old ruling party. Is Myanmar fated to tread this path? Or is an Indonesian trajectory more likely, where the military’s post-Suharto role in domestic governance has substantially diminished? What does lessons does the fate of East Timor’s first democratic constitution have for Myanmar as it amends its own constitution ahead of the 2015 elections? What could Myanmar learn from Vietnam’s integration into the global economy as it emerges from isolation? And can Myanmar avoid the spiralling land conflicts that affect many developing countries across developing Asia? This roundtable looks for parallels and pitfalls in the social, economic and political dynamics of Southeast Asia and beyond.


  • Professor Caroline Hughes (University of Bradford)
  • Dr Peter Carey (University of Oxford)
  • Dr Rui Feijo (University of Coimbra)
  • Dr Lee Jones (Queen Mary, University of London)
  • Dr Thomas Jandl (American University)
  • Dr Reshmi Banerjee (School of Oriental and African Studies)