Winning by Process: The State and Neutralization of Ethnic Minorities in Myanmar.

AuthorEgreteau, Renaud

Winning by Process: The State and Neutralization of Ethnic Minorities in Myanmar. By Jacques Bertrand, Alexandre Pelletier and Ardeth Maung Thawnghmung. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2022. Softcover: 247pp.

In 2011, the eclipse of direct military rule in Myanmar rekindled hopes for an end to the ethnic conflicts that have plagued the country since its independence in 1948. A reform-minded government, led by a cohort of retired generals, launched peace talks with a multitude of ethnic and rebel actors. Ten years later, however, the military seized power again, sweeping aside the peace process and all other attempts at reconciliation, which led to a resurgence of war.

Winning by Process probes into the dynamics of that decade of peace parleys (2011 20). The book seeks to make sense of the complex process of negotiation that took place during the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) semi-civilian administration formed in 2011 and the subsequent National League for Democracy (NLD) government sworn in after the 2015 elections. It is a timely addition to the literature that combines the expertise of three well-established authors in the fields of ethnic studies and Southeast Asian politics. The authors' aim is to move beyond dominant and classic explanations of how to end civil wars: neither by military means, nor by reaching a political solution, but, they argue, by "winning by process" (p. 11).

The main contribution of this book is more conceptual than empirical. Many readers will already be familiar with the arguments about the extraordinarily complex ethnic structure of Myanmar's political landscape, the entrenched politicization of ethnicity inherited from colonialism (p. 41) or the reification of identity (p. 59). Despite solid findings derived from extensive, ethically grounded fieldwork conducted between 2014 and 2020 (some 174 interviews, plus focus groups and the qualitative observation of peace talks), Myanmar-watchers will not find any new or startling evidence about the much disputed, if not derided, peace negotiations run by both the USDP and the NLD. Rather, what is novel and compelling here--for political theorists and students of Burmese politics alike--is the original theoretical model designed by the authors.

Powerful actors in civil wars, they contend, can use a range of tools, strategies and methods to control and manipulate the process of negotiation, and ultimately still make political gains...

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