San Francisco, April 3, 2013 — On April 2, Asia Foundation president David D. Arnold joined California State University, Sacramento, and World Affairs Council Sacramento Chapter, for a discussion on “Burma/Myanmar in Transition: Lessons on Reform and Democracy from Across the Region.”
Democratic transition in Burma (also known as Myanmar) has, despite ongoing violent ethnic conflicts, been surprisingly rapid and encouraging. The world is watching in anticipation to see whether these developments will result in greater political participation and economic opportunity for the nation’s people. However, difficulties abound for Burma as it confronts the profound challenge of moving away from fifty years of authoritarian rule to one of a growing democratization.
At the program, Mr. Arnold shared insights from his recent visit to Burma, where he met with government leaders, including President Thein Sein and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Taking a long view of Burma’s path forward, he presented on three critical areas and challenges ahead for the country, including: strengthening governance institutions, growing a culture of democracy, and managing subnational conflict. Mr. Arnold also shared examples from The Asia Foundation’s long history of working with Asian leaders to strengthen reform, democracy and development efforts across the diverse Asian region, including democratic transitions in Indonesia, Mongolia and Vietnam. Mr. Arnold said he was hopeful, as The Asia Foundation re-opens a resident office in the country: “Over the years, the Foundation has worked with virtually every Asian country that has undergone a democratic transition. Based on decades of experience, we believe we are now in a unique position to make an important contribution in Myanmar.”
The evening closed with a moderated roundtable and Q&A featuring Mr. Arnold and program moderators Pattaratorn Chirapravati, Director of Asian Studies Program at California State University, Sacramento, and James Rae, Associate Professor, Department of Government, Asian Studies Program at California State University, Sacramento.