Panel Discussion: A Democracy in Reverse?


2 p.m.

Zoom – in Englisch


On February 1st this year the world woke up to news of a military coup staged by the Tatmadaw in Myanmar. Aung San Suu Kyi and other government officials were detained and the military has declared a year-long state of emergency. Meanwhile Myanmar’s civilians, its electoral commission and the rest of the world have refused to legitimize military rule by advancing the civil disobedience movement which includes labour strikes and public protests. Sadly, a history of horror seems to be repeating itself as the military repel protests by a full-blown killing spree of unarmed civilians. Until recently, Myanmar’s other woes of military crackdown and persecution of ethnic minorities such as the Rohingya had dominated world news. With this military takeover, it seems that the country is reversing into a legacy of military-led governance which is responsible for its lot of having one of the longest running civil wars since independence. Beyond what we hear in the news, what are the underlying dynamics of Myanmar’s situation? Why is the reversal of democracy a recurring Burmese legacy? How do we make meaning of the Tatmadaw’s involvement in governance and economic management? Was Myanmar ever a real democracy being a country with a proxy military party? This lecture attempts to provide an understanding of why and how Myanmar’s crisis is what it is today. Panelists will reflect on Myanmar’s political, economic and social life. Speakers will also attempt to connect the dots of Myanmar’s democratization process and rights concerns while situating the role of international and civil society actors for Myanmar’s future.


Salai Kipp will discuss the historical background of Burma’s long struggle to establish a federal democratic union.
Salai Kipp is a senior Chin politician and formerly a member of the Supreme Council of the Chin National Front. He was a student political activist while studying architecture at the Rangoon Institute of Technology (RIT). His activism led to his detainment under the Burmese military regime in 1986  subsequent political asylum in Germany.  Since then, he has, together with other fellow exiles, founded various organizations in exile. In 2009, he launched the “Vansangva Democracy Movement” which started with an “Online Democracy Training” for Chin University students. In 2012, he returned to Burma to continue the democracy movement.

Tharaphi Than will speaking on the topic, “protest to revolution: evolution of Myanmar’s anti-coup movement”. She is an associate professor at the Department of World Languages and Cultures at Northern Illinois University. She is currently working on the intersection of dissent and food, particularly rice focusing on the events leading to the 1967 and 1974 rice riots in Myanmar. Together with feminists around the world, she is also working on an edited volume entitled Field Feminism. Her publications include Women in Modern Burma published by Routledge in 2014.

Tim Paul Schroeder will speak about the role of ethnic groups in national peace building and federalization as well as the impact of the current military coup on peacemaking. He is Head of Program at Covenant Institute, a Yangon-based think tank. During the last decade, he has been involved in the Myanmar peace process, especially contributing to a better understanding of Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) and their governance and service delivery systems. He also advises international development partners on peace & conflict issues as well as conflict-sensitive program management.

Aung Kyaw Moe will speak about minority and ethnic groups’ democratization processes and the impact of military coups on minority groups especially among the Rohingya population. He is the Founder and Executive Director of the Centre for Social Integrity (CSI), which he established in order to promote the inclusion of Rohingya people and social cohesion in one of the most fractured regions of Myanmar. CSI was awarded the Tomorrow’s Peacebuilders’ Youth-led Peacebuilding Award in 2017 for innovative peacebuilding efforts, the Schuman Award in 2019 for his contribution to peace and human rights, and most recently the Global Pluralism Award. He has worked with diverse international NGOs for over 13 years during his time in Thailand, Singapore, Afghanistan, and Liberia.