Contemporary Myanmar, located in Southeast Asia, is a geographically and ethnically fragmented nation undergoing a contested process of state-led centralization and reform. Since the dissolution of the colonial state of Burma in 1948 (the name Burma was retained until 1989), minority ethnic groups pushed to mountainous and heavily forested terrain along Myanmar’s borders have contested encroachment by the religiously Buddhist Bamar (Burmese) central state, located primarily in the lowland Irrawaddy River basin and delta. Myanmar has also been shaken by other conflicts between state and society, most notably that of the pro-democracy 8888 (August 8, 1988) Uprising.

Historically, this volatile internal security environment has spurred Myanmar’s leaders to take a neutralist and isolationist position in world affairs. The country’s rule by military junta from 1962 to ...

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