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A commitment to new and innovative work on South East Asia.

ISSN 0967-828X (print); 2043-6874 (online)

Editor: Dr Rachel Harrison,
Dept of the Languages and Cultures of South East Asia, SOAS, University Of London

This journal is covered by Thomson Reuters in the Arts & Humanities Citation Index, and Current Contents/Arts & Humanities.

This journal is indexed in Scopus

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Other Sites Of Interest:

AAS Association of Asian Studies

ASEASUK Association of South-East Asian Studies

Cornell University Publications: Southeast Asia Program


Lontar Foundation

Royal Asiatic Society

SEARC Southeast Asia Research Centre

SEAS Society for South-East Asian Studies

SOAS Centre of South East Asian Studies

Editorial coverage

Published quarterly by IP Publishing on behalf of SOAS. South East Asia Research includes papers on all aspects of South East Asia within the disciplines of archaeology, art history, economics, geography, history, language and literature, law, music, political science, social anthropology and religious studies. Papers are based on original research or field work.

SOAS is the leading centre in this field in Europe and one of the most prestigious centres of South East Asian studies in the world.

Submissions - Notes for authors

Please send papers to Dr Rachel Harrison, Dept of the Languages and Cultures of South East Asia, SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG, UK. E-mail: rh6(at)soas.ac.uk.

Length and presentation of contributions

Papers may be submitted as e-mail attachments in Word or in hard copy. The text should be double-spaced and, for hard copy submissions, an electronic copy in Word should also be supplied on a disk or CD. Papers should preferably be in the range of 6,000-8,000 words long, and no more than 10,000 words.

The title page should contain the full names and addresses of the authors, their professional status or affiliation and the mailing address to which correspondence should be sent. As this page will not be forwarded to referees, the title of the article (without author names) should be repeated on the first page of the text.

An abstract should be provided, comprising 100-150 words. Between 3 and 6 keywords should appear below the abstract, highlighting the main topics of the paper. The text should be organized under appropriate cross-headings (not numbered paragraphs).

A citation should preferably be by footnote, but the Harvard system may be used. The following style should be applied to references:

  • Books:Peter Zinoman (2001), The Colonial Bastille: A History of Imprisonment in Vietnam, 1862-1940, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.
  • Journal articles: Martin van Bruinessen (2002), 'Genealogies of Islamic radicalism in post-Suharto Indonesia', South East Asia Research, Vol 10, No 2, pp 117-154.

If the Harvard system is used, the author's surname should appear first (Zinoman, Peter) and textual citation should take the form '(Zinoman, 1990)'. For textual citations, where there are two authors please use the word 'and', not the ampersand (thus: '(Smith and Jones, 2012)'. Where there are more than two authors, please use the first-named author only, followed by 'et al' in italics (thus: Smith et al, 2012).

In the case of a reference in a footnote to a work already cited, the note in which the full citation is given should be stated, with the use of 'supra': for example, 'Zinoman, supra note 9, at p 90'.

Tables and illustrations should be presented on separate pages at the end of the text: they will be placed as close as possible to the first textual reference to them.

South East Asia Research uses British spelling throughout (thus 'colour' not 'color'), with the '-ize' verb suffix (thus 'organize' not 'organise').

Prior Publication

Articles are received on the understanding that they are original contributions, and have not been published officially, either in print or electronic form, or submitted for publication elsewhere. In this respect, ‘discussion’ or ‘working’ papers, conference presentations and proceedings are not considered to be official publications, unless they have been formally deemed so by conference organizers, or presented as edited works through recognized publishing channels. If in doubt, authors are asked to draw the attention of the Editor to any prior dissemination of the paper in their letter of submission. Please note that articles should not be posted on personal Websites or social networking sites before or after submission.


 All papers submitted for publication are subject to a 'double blind' review; that is, the anonymity of both author and referees is maintained throughout the reviewing process.

Author Checklist for Final versions

Editorial Board

  • Editor: Dr Rachel Harrison, Dept of the Languages and Cultures of South East Asia, SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG, UK.
    E-mail: rh6(at)soas.ac.uk
  • Regional Editor: Professor Tony Day, Independent Scholar, Singapore, and CT, USA.
    E-mail: samdayweiss(at)gmail.com
  • Book Reviews Editor: Dr Ben Murtagh, Faculty of Languages and Cultures, SOAS, London, UK. E-mail: bm10(at)soas.ac.uk.

Editorial Advisory Board

  • Professor Peter Boomgaard
    KITLV, Leiden, The Netherlands
  • Professor Anne Booth
    SOAS, University of London, UK
  • Professor Chua Beng Huat
    National University of Singapore
  • Dr Angela Chiu
    SOAS, UK
  • Professor Penny Edwards,
    University of California, Berkeley, USA
  • Professor Michael Herzfeld
    Harvard University, USA
  • Dr Mark Johnson
    University of Hull, UK
  • Professor Benedict J. Kerkvliet
    Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
  • Professor V.T. King
    University of Leeds, UK
  • Dr Gerry van Klinken
    KITLV, The Netherlands
  • Dr Joseph Chinyong Liow
    Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
  • Dr Tamara Loos,
    Cornell University, USA
  • Dr Michael J. Montesano
    Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore
  • Dr Pavida Pananond
    Thammasat University, Thailand
  • Professor Michael G. Peletz
    Emory University, USA
  • Professor Bambang Purwanto
    Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
  • Professor Vicente L. Rafael
    University of Washington, USA
  • Dr Kostas Retsikas
    SOAS, UK
  • Professor J.D. Rigg
    National University of Singapore
  • Dr Mandy Sadan
    SOAS, UK
  • Professor Henk Schulte Nordholt
    KITLV, Leiden, The Netherlands
  • Professor John T. Sidel
    London School of Economics and Political Science, UK
  • Dr Thitinan Pongsudhirak
    Chulalongkorn University, Thailand
  • Professor Thongchai Winichakul
    University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
  • Dr Ben Tran
    Vanderbilt University, USA
  • Dr Sarah Weiss
    Yale-NUS College, Singapore
  • Dr Jack Yeager
    Louisiana State University, USA
  • Professor Peter Zinoman
    University of California at Berkeley, USA

June 2014 issue (VOL 22, NO 2)

Guest editors: Nicholas Farrelly, Nick Cheesman, Edward Aspinall and Trevor Wilson


163 Introduction

171 The elements of surprise: assessing Burma’s double-edged détente

Dan Slater

183 Thinking about transitional justice in Myanmar

Ian Holliday

201 Law fuckers, cultural forgers and the business of youth entitlement in Yangon, Myanmar

Jacqueline Menager

213 What does the rule of law have to do with democratization (in Myanmar)?

Nick Cheesman

233 The soldier and the state: the Tatmadaw and political liberalization in Myanmar since 2011

Maung Aung Myoe

251 Cooperation, contestation, conflict: ethnic political interests in Myanmar today

Nicholas Farrelly

Book reviews

267 Islamisation and Its Opponents in Java: A Political, Social, Cultural,and Religious History, c. 1930 to the Present, by M.C. Ricklefs
(reviewed by Kevin W. Fogg)
270 Trafficking and Human Rights: European and Asia-Pacific Perspectives, edited by Leslie Holmes
(reviewed by Kai Chen)
272 The Asian Tsunami: Aid and Reconstruction After a Disaster, edited by Sisira Jayasuriya and Peter McCawley
(reviewed by Monica Lindberg Falk)
275 Democratization and Civilian Control in Asia, by Aurel Croissant, David Kuehn, Philip Lorenz and Paul W. Chambers
(reviewed by Marcus Mietzner)
277 The Authority of Influence: Women and Power in Burmese History, by Jessica Harriden
(reviewed by Tharaphi Than)

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Title: The elements of surprise: assessing Burma’s double-edged détente

Author(s): Dan Slater

Abstract: If anything is more surprising than Burma’s recent adoption of democratic reforms, it is that military rule lasted so long without such reforms in the first place. This article considers this paradox from both a country-specific and comparative-theoretical perspective, and argues that both perspectives are essential for analysing Burma’s uncertain reform process as it unfolds or unravels. It portrays the top-down reform process as one of double-edged détente between the ruling Tatmadaw and its internal rivals as well as its external critics. This détente is inherently fragile because it rests on the current regime’s confidence that democratization will produce neither serious instability nor even its own decisive defeat. Events that shake the Tatmadaw’s ‘victory confidence’ and ‘stability confidence’ should thus pose the greatest risk that reforms will be stalled or reversed.

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Title: Thinking about transitional justice in Myanmar

Author(s): Ian Holliday

Abstract: In recent decades, transitional justice has featured on the political agenda of many post- authoritarian states. In Myanmar, where a partial but palpable transition is currently taking place, accounting for a dark past and securing a democratic future are key demands of opposition groups. However, elite-led reforms implemented after a March 2011 switch to quasi-civilian rule pay little attention to justice. This article thus surveys the possibilities for transitional justice in Myanmar, highlighting six major options: criminal prosecutions, a truth commission, a lustration programme, a reparations programme, a memory project and symbolic measures. Procedurally, the paper argues for local leadership supported by external engagement designed to ensure that basic global standards are met. Substantively, it explores tensions within transitional justice and across the wider reform process when such an agenda is pursued. To close, it holds that, while transitional justice may take years to gain a secure foothold in Myanmar, robust foundations should be laid now.

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Title: Law fuckers, cultural forgers and the business of youth entitlement in Yangon, Myanmar

Author(s): Jacqueline Menager

Abstract: Myanmar’s rolling political and economic transition is being shaped by profound generational change. Little attention has been paid to the priorities and politics of the new generation of youth. This article seeks to explore the construction of Myanmar’s elites as a homogenized, unitary, uncontested group through a close examination of elite youth. The article challenges some basic preconceptions about Myanmar’s elites. Three primary youth cohorts are appraised and situated in the transition: the entitled business elite, the cultural forgers and the resistant forces. All three groups are privileged in Myanmar society, where their power struggles see efforts to assert degrees of cultural supremacy. Drawing on ethnographic research in Myanmar, the article offers insights into the role of elite youth in Myanmar’s future and their perceptions of the present shift of national political and economic policies.

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Title: What does the rule of law have to do with democratization (in Myanmar)?

Author(s): Nick Cheesman

Abstract: Talk of the rule of law is today ubiquitous in Myanmar. But what does the rule of law mean? And what does it have to do with the country’s nascent democratization? One way to conceptualize the rule of law is in terms of substantive legal equality. Burmese farmers and activists mobilizing through the lexicon of law to defend agricultural land against intrusive state projects engage with the rule of law in this sense. Another way is as a language of public and state security. Demands for the rule of law in response to violence in Myanmar’s west correspond with this usage. Whereas in established democracies the rule of law as equality complements the rule of law as security, in a democratizing state the two are not necessarily compatible. The rule of law as an idea associated with substantive legal equality contributes to Myanmar’s democratization, whereas when associated with public and state security it potentially undermines that democratization.

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Title: The soldier and the state: the Tatmadaw and political liberalization in Myanmar since 2011

Author(s): Maung Aung Myoe

Abstract: The government of Myanmar is today publicly committed to building a ‘modern developed democratic nation’. It has initiated a number of measures aimed at political and economic liberalization. This article examines the military’s perception of the ongoing process of liberalization. It argues that, on the basis of mutual understanding and smooth relations between the government and the military at both individual and institutional levels, the military is likely to continue its support for the political liberalization measures initiated by the President and supported by the National Assembly. However, the military is not yet prepared to tolerate any structural changes that would undermine its national political role, the basic principles it has laid down for national unity, or its institutional autonomy.

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Title: Cooperation, contestation, conflict: ethnic political interests in Myanmar today

Author(s): Nicholas Farrelly

Abstract: In the period of social and political transformation that followed the election of President Thein Sein, ethnic politics remained a major preoccupation for the Myanmar government, ethnic peoples and the international community. Explaining the varieties of ethnic political interests that are emerging requires a new analytical framework in which the nascent electoral system is given adequate attention. This article argues that cooperation and contestation are now vying with conflict as primary drivers of ethnic politics. To account adequately for the interaction of these concepts, the article introduces various pieces of evidence concerning the different manifestations of ethnic political interests today. It describes an ambiguous situation in which the overall pattern of ethnic politics is changing rapidly. The challenge remains of fully reconciling Myanmar’s diverse peoples and including them in one political system.

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