Lecture "Myanmar Today : How Can We Respond?" Held

Update: July 20, 2021

On Friday, June 4, ICU President Shoichiro Iwakiri hosted an online lecture inviting ICU's Senior Associate Professor Kana Takamatsu, who has a profound knowledge of Myanmar (major: International Relations, Gender, and Politics). With the participation of about 100 students in the lecture, Professor Takamatsu explained the current chaotic situation in Myanmar.

The lecture hosted by the ICU president is part of the lecture series titled "Liberal Arts and Contemporary Society," inviting leading authorities in various fields who would speak about how people are connected with the world through their work. This was the third in the series.

In the lecture, Senior Associate Professor Takamatsu explained the history of Myanmar's military government and the background starting from the transition to a civil government in 2011 to the outbreak of the coup d'état on February 1 this year, so that the participants could understand, from the perspective of "what response can we take," the movement toward democratization in Myanmar and the current situation in the country where lives of many people are being sacrificed by the intensifying military oppression. As for the possibilities of change in the national administration structure where the military has had strong influence since the time of the National League for Democracy (NLD) government, the professor described from the standpoints of the economic structure developed under the military administration, the spread of authoritarian practices in the military, and the conflict within NLD. Further, she mentioned gender issues in the assembly and the worsening of poverty, especially women's poverty, due to the impact of COVID-19.

Regarding the reaction of the international community to these disturbances in Myanmar, the professor referred to the ASEAN five-point consensus (including call for immediate cessation of violence, demand for the initiation of dialogue between leaders of the army and the public, dispatch of ASEAN special envoy to Myanmar to monitor that process, and humanitarian support) and introduced that although reactions taken by the international community were mostly in the form of sanctions or intense criticism over the military's oppression of civilians, there was a case where discussions had been held despite the existence of the principle of non-intervention. Posing the question of what kind of support would be possible as a response to protect the livelihood of Myanmar citizens while achieving political stability, she pointed out that in the situation where providing civilian-level support was difficult, the key would be how to offer support without just adhering to criticism or sanctions.

The participating students asked questions regarding the support for the army among Myanmar citizens, relation with the Rohingya issue, road to the peace process and other issues with respect to the ongoing coup d'état and the oppression by the military as well as the response of the international community. Also, to a question as to what one could do as a citizen of Japan, there was an opinion that, in seeking concrete civilian-level actions, it was necessary to empathize with people who are living and fighting with their voices in areas where massacres are actually being carried out.

The feedback we received from the participating students were as follows:
"I was able to fully understand the situation, including the course of history, which you would not know just by watching the news."
"It was a great opportunity to be able to listen to the lecture of a professor who is deeply involved in the research on Myanmar."
"I felt it was necessary to deepen the understanding of rights and activities related to democracy."

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