AshEse Journal of Economics
Vol. 3(3), pp. 199-218, November, 2017
© 2017 AshEse Visionary Limited
Managing Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Myanmar: Lessons from South Africa
University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC), No. 2006, Xiyuan Ave, West Hi-Tech Zone 611731, Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China
Received October, 2017; Accepted November, 2017.
Beginning in 2011 Myanmar has initiated reforms to transition the country from half-a-century repressive military regimes to civilian rule. As the country’s progress towards democratisation it is threatened by cleavages grounded in ethnic, linguistic and religious identities, the study examined how democratic institutional mechanisms could be used to manage Myanmar’s diversity drawing lessons from South Africa. Employing comprehensive integrative review methodology grounded on appropriate conflict management approaches, the paper made a critical analysis of the cost of ethnic conflict in Myanmar and drew comparisons between the constitutional and institutional mechanisms established by Myanmar and South Africa. To address the central goal of identifying lessons that Myanmar can learn from South Africa in managing ethnic and cultural diversity, the researcher assessed the impacts of the approaches adopted by both countries, and provided recommendation and elements of change to help Myanmar create ‘a state that belongs to all who live in it.’ The paper holds that democracy is built and sustained on inclusion and tolerance. As an intricate cultural mosaic, with several decades of repression, discrimination and militarism the sustainability of Myanmar’s democracy can best be achieved through constitutional recognition and toleration of cultural diversity; establishment of a parliamentary system of government to facilitate the inclusion of all groups within the legislature and the executive; adoption of proportional representation to ensure that all minority parties have the possibility to access national politics; and the establishment of a genuine federalism and autonomy arrangement that gives each constituent group a political space of their own to express their own values, identities and interests.
Key words: Ethnic group, Ethnic conflict, Cultural diversity, Democracy, Diversity management