Re-examining Ethnic Identity in Myanmar
Author: Sarah L Clarke, Seng Aung Sein Myint, and Zabra Yu Siwa
Published by: CPCS
Publication date: May 31, 2019
Since its independence from Britain in 1948, the country of Burma, also known as Myanmar, has experienced decades of armed conflict focused on issues related to ethnic identity. Over generations, ethnic-based conflicts have produced severe humanitarian and human rights consequences for many, including death and injury, displacement, gender-based violence, and a lack of access to basic services. A focus on ethnic categorisation and ethnic identity narratives have also contributed to systems and structures that have institutionalised discrimination against some while allocating benefits and entitlements to others, producing a landscape of deep fractures, inter-group competition, and distrust.
“Re-examining Ethnic Identity in Myanmar” re-examines ethnicity from the perspective of diverse Myanmar stakeholders. Emerging from a closer examination of historical experiences and grievances, this report seeks to uncover the ways that ethnic identity has been used for a variety of political purposes. The objective of this analysis is to bring complex root causes of armed conflict in Myanmar to the surface in order to better consider and identify strategies that address long-standing tensions and violence. The report explores these issues with reference to three case studies: one focused on Kachin ethnic identity, one on Arakanese ethnic identity, and one on Karen ethnic identity. The case studies provide additional historical background aimed at grounding the views raised by meeting participants and community stakeholders. The report concludes by considering a range of recommendations aimed at multiple Myanmar stakeholders, including leaders from a variety of ethnic communities, the Myanmar government, and international actors.