For nearly twenty years, an array of mainly Western governments, NGOs, and international organizations including the UN have tried to promote democracy in Burma using sanctions and diplomacy. The net result has been an ever more entrenched military dictatorship, a looming humanitarian crisis, and a possible resumption of armed conflict. How are we to think about this failure in international policy? Thant Myint-U will identify at the core of this external impotence a singularly ahistorical analysis of Burma, its 44-year-old dictatorship, and its even longer-running civil wars. He will also ask: Could things have been handled differently? What does Burmese history tell us about what is and is not possible today? And what are the prospects for constructive change?
Thant Myint-U is a senior visiting fellow at the International Peace Academy in New York City. In 1994-99 he was a fellow of Trinity College in Cambridge University where he taught Indian and colonial history. He has also served for many years in the United Nations, first in three different peacekeeping operations (in Cambodia and ex-Yugoslavia) and then at the United Nations Secretariat in New York. In 2004-05 he was in charge of policy planning in the UN's Department of Political Affairs. He has written two books on Burma: and The River of Lost Footsteps (2006) and The Making of Modern Burma (2000). He was educated at Harvard and Cambridge Universities and completed a PhD in modern history at Cambridge in 1996.