A Handbook of Terrorism and Insurgency in Southeast Asia
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A Handbook of Terrorism and Insurgency in Southeast Asia

Edited by Andrew T.H. Tan

This timely and significant book seeks to explain the deep-seated complexities of terrorism and insurgency in Southeast Asia. In the aftermath of 9/11, this region has been designated by the United States to be the ‘second front’ in the war on terrorism. Yet despite the emergence of this ‘new’ global terrorism, the authors argue that armed rebellion in Southeast Asia is a phenomenon that predates Al Qaeda and the global Jihadist movement and that much can be learned from the motivations behind it.
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Chapter 15: Ethnic Conflicts in Burma: From Separatism to Federalism

Martin Smith


15 Ethnic conflicts in Burma: from separatism to federalism Martin Smith Since independence from Great Britain in 1948, ethnic insurgencies have remained endemic in many minority-inhabited regions of Burma (Myanmar).1 An often bewildering array of armed ethnic struggles has continued throughout all periods of government. Over the decades, the ideological visions and strategies of many nationality movements have adapted to the changing geopolitical landscapes. During different eras, the goals of the leading ethnic parties have ranged from separatism to seeking federal systems of government. None of the ethnic parties, however, has succeeded in achieving its political objectives, and there has been no secession of any ethnic minority territories from Burma. At the same time, none of the major ethnic insurgencies has ever been totally defeated nor have ethnic grievances been addressed by an inclusive process of reforms. The evidence is compelling. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, there continued to be over 30 different ethnic forces still in control of their own territories and arms. Some groups had ceasefires with the military government of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and some remained in armed struggle (see Table 15.1). Equally critical, decades of ethnic conflict and humanitarian suffering have witnessed Burma decline from a resource-rich country that was once regarded among the most potentially prosperous in Asia to one of the poorest and most conflict-torn lands in the contemporary world. In the process, hundreds of thousands of lives have...

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