'External' Aspects of Self-Determination Movements in Burma

Date: Feb, 2003
ODID Working Paper No. 94
Author(s): Sandra Dudley (QEH)

Based on secondary resources and long term anthropological field research, this paper explores some of the 'external' factors involved in the pro-democracy and ethnic struggles for self-determination currently being experienced in Burma. The analysis draws in cultural, economic and political aspects to demonstrate that a number of macro- and micro-level external or external-origin influences are at play, at a number of different 'inside', 'outside' and marginal sites. The paper argues in particular that 'cultural' factors such as computer-mediated communication and contacts with outsiders when living in exile, serve as means by which real, virtual and imaginary connections are drawn between these different sites and the actors who inhabit them. In the context of Burma, this paper thus presents a glimpse into this complexity of origin and substance of external influences, of interactions between the external and the internal, and of the multidirectional pathways along which they operate. After an introductory overview, it does so by first reviewing some pertinent macro-political and macro-economic external factors, including international views and strategic interests. The paper then focuses on micro-level social and cultural issues, examining aspects of new media as utilised by the Burmese exile community and international activists. External influences on exiled communities living in the margins on the Thai-Burma border (characterised by the paper as neither 'inside' nor 'outside' proper), including Christianity and foreign non-governmental organisations, are then explored. The paper concludes that inside views, reactions and experiences of outside influences are presently just as important in determining outcomes as are the outside influences themselves.

ODID Author(s)