Beyond Armed Resistance: Ethnonational Politics in Burma (Myanmar)
Ardeth Maung Thawnghmung
Policy Studies, No. 62
Honolulu: East-West Center
This paper sheds light on the activities of non-armed members of ethnic minorities in Burma, insufficiently studied actors in the conventional study of ethnic politics in Burma that has long been dominated by a focus on ethnonational armed resistance groups and ceasefire groups. Focusing on the Kachin, Karen, Mon, and Shan ethnic groups, the study describes nine major economic, political, and geographical categories of civilian experience, followed by four contributions that non-armed members of ethnic minority groups may make to the political system: (1) supporting the status quo, (2) transforming or undermining the status quo, (3) promoting collective identity and culture and addressing humanitarian needs, and (4) helping to mediate ceasefire agreements. The study demonstrates the need to be aware of the full range of nonviolent political actions that exist among ethnic minority populations and argues that policy responses must look beyond the role of armed groups and become more sensitive to the needs of the diverse members of ethnic communities.