In 2011, Myanmar entered a phase of democratic transition. As the country emerges from decades of authoritarianism, ethnic armed conflict, contentious civil-military relationships, and entrenched poverty, it has a remarkable opportunity to move toward democracy, sustained economic development, and lasting peace. Successfully governing the transition requires more effective policymaking. This seminar addresses the research question: how has policymaking taken place in Myanmar’s transitional governments after the end of the military junta as the ‘central policymaking device’? Establishing structures and processes for effective policymaking is critical to providing guidance for government policy makers, most of whom are grappling with many issues for the first time. The composition and functioning of Myanmar’s transitional governments changed significantly during the five years of the first transitional government led by Union Solidarity and Development Party (2011-2016) and the first two years of the second transitional government led by National League for Democracy Party – NLD (2016-2018). Although the country’s 2008 constitution features authoritarian elements, it also allows for significant departures from the governance practices of previous military regimes, including basic approaches to policymaking. The paper discusses how executive policymaking in Myanmar should be understood under two transitional governments since the military’s withdrawal from direct policy rule in 2011. The author explains Myanmar’s contemporary policymaking mechanisms in two aspects: (1) the parameters of the 2008 constitution that define the civil-military relationship, and (2) the mechanisms of the state more broadly that already exist and could further be improved without major constitutional reforms. Though challenging, improvements to Myanmar’s policymaking processes are not impossible. While some changes will have to wait for significant constitutional reform, much can be achieved through improvements to existing structures and processes.
About the speaker
Dr Su Mon Thazin Aung is Director of Training and Capacity-Building at the Institute for Strategy and Policy- Myanmar. She also works as a Consultant at the Asian Foundation in Myanmar on governance and policymaking project. Dr Aung holds a PhD in Politics and Governance Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She also earned a MSc in International Political Economy from the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, a MBA from the University of Newcastle, Australia, and a BA in Southeast Asia and Pacific Studies from the University of Yangon. Her current research interests encompass elite politics and policy studies during democratic transition, particularly in relation to ethnic conflicts, resources extraction, media reform and labour policies primarily in Myanmar and Southeast Asia. Dr Aung has published several scholarly articles and book chapters in academic publications including Routledge, Journal of Contemporary Asia, ISEAS, and World Scientific. Her commentaries on Contemporary Myanmar’s Politics also appear on the Foreign Policy, and East Asia Forum. She is also a regular contributor of Myanmar Quarterly Journal.