Human Rights in Asia
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Human Rights in Asia

Edited by Thomas W.D. Davis and Brian Galligan

Does the increasing prominence of Asia also mark a new era for human rights in the region? This timely book uncovers the political drivers behind both recent regional and country-based changes to the recognition, promotion and protection of rights.
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Chapter 9: Human Rights Coalitions in Myanmar

Andrew McGregor


Andrew McGregor There are few countries in the world that generate the same level of concern about human rights as Myanmar. Formerly recognised as Burma, it was renamed in 1989 by a government many consider to be illegitimate and the prime cause of human rights abuses. Despite, and perhaps partly because of, the diverse array of strategies to bring about human rights changes in Myanmar, very little appears to have been achieved in the first decade of the Asian century. The Nobel Peace Prize winning leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who won 82 per cent of the seats in the 1990 elections, never took power and has instead spent long periods under house arrest; thousands of political prisoners languish in jails; the military continues to figure prominently in reports of brutality against civilians, particularly in ethnic areas; and thousands of refugees seek sanctuary in the refugee camps of neighbouring countries. The prognosis is not good. My aim in this chapter, however, is not to further outline the abuses (although I will provide a brief overview); organisations like Human Rights Watch and the Karen Human Rights Group are better suited for that. Instead, I explore four discourse coalitions that have formed to drive or resist rights change. Rather than advocate in favour of one position, I seek to explore the arguments, achievements and openings for human rights change enabled by each. The approach responds to GibsonGraham’s (2008) call for more performative academic research...

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