Speaking about Myanmar, Professor Howe mentioned that it is a resource rich emerging economy in Southeast Asia, but remains one of the poorest countries in the region. Myanmar has experienced a complex set of conflicts between governments and people. Facing diverse challenges, including ethnic insurgencies and remnants of a colonial past, successive governments have emphasized national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the national unity of diverse ethnic nationalities. Myanmar is also vulnerable to natural disasters, of which Cyclone Nargis in 2008 was the deadliest ever faced by the country. Much has been expected of the new NLD government under its leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was a recipient of Nobel Peace Prize. She has found herself the subject of international criticism for allowing the continued persecution of one of the most vulnerable groups of people in the country, the Muslim Rohingya.
Human security and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) have been at the center of the debates concerning how best to engage successive government administrations, and best provide safe havens for the people of Myanmar, but the differences between “Asian” and “Western” understandings of related concepts have led to radically different policy proposals. Essentially the “West” holds a narrow view of human security. Very few countries want to put sanctions against the Myanmar government, whereas the Asian countries want to provide aid and development projects. The R2P raises few questions of whom to protect? Who will protect? and how to protect? Such questions are still open to debate.
Commenting on the paper, Professor Herman said the R2P is still state led. R2P being a collective notion, states should protect everyone under its jurisdiction and the role of regional organization also matters. In the case of Myanmar where it’s not working, ASEAN principles say not to interfere in the member countries internal matters.
During his time, Professor Christian mentioned that the term Human Security does not exist in European Union meetings, and he encouraged European countries to look into the conflict in a broader context. He even mentioned that Taiwan is the most democratic place in the East Asian region.
At the end, all the scholars that presented during the talk agreed upon the fact that all the countries in the region, including Myanmar, need to work need to put more effort into solving the crisis.