In view of its problematic human-rights record and the military regime’s continued extra-constitutional rule, Myanmar has faced mounting diplomatic pressure from the international community since the renewed detention of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in May 2003. This Adelphi Paper examines Myanmar’s foreign policy, which is predicated on state-building and development, as well as on defending the regime’s priority of establishing an enduring constitution over democratisation. It discusses how the regime has been able to take advantage of the economic, security and geostrategic interests of both China and India in the country to achieve developmental and security goals. As Western capitals have sought to place Myanmar under the scrutiny of the UN Security Council on the grounds that its domestic circumstances have regional security implications, the paper highlights how its relations with Beijing in particular have assumed ever greater significance. It discusses the regime’s aims, disappointments and concerns in its relations with the US, Japan and Europe; details the difficult decisions facing the leadership as ASEAN has started to relax its application of the non-interference norm when dealing with Myanmar; and examines its interaction with the UN, particularly the secretary-general and his special envoys. The paper concludes by analysing the likely regional and international implications of intensified political pressure on the regime.
Jürgen Haacke is Lecturer in International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science.