Event Summary: 

The Political Crisis in Myanmar: Panel Discussion with Emerging Myanmar Scholars

On February 24th, CAS partnered with Aruna Global South to co-host the panel discussion “The Political Crisis in Myanmar: Nuanced Perspectives on the Nation’s Past, Present, and Future.” The panel featured four emerging scholars with with indigenous and heritage ties to Myanmar: Than Toe Aung (MA student, Central European University), Ashley Aye Aye Dun (PhD student, Brown University), Jangai Jap (PhD student, George Washington University), and Htet Thiha Zaw (PhD student, University of Michigan). The panel was organized by CU Boulder PhD student Chu May Pang, and co-moderated with CAS Director Tim Oakes.

Coming just weeks after the February 1st coup in which Myanmar’s military overthrew Myanmar’s democratically elected government led by State Councilor Aung San Su Kyi, panelists discussed the various underlying factors driving the conflict, the situation on the ground in Myanmar’s cities, towns, and countryside, and the implications for Myanmar’s international relations as well as Southeast Asia’s security and democracy prospects more broadly. While comparisons with previous military takeovers in Myanmar were drawn, as well as earlier cases of popular resistance to the military, panelists stressed how the current crisis is different in several ways. One of these is the way social media and digital connectivity has now saturated Myanmar society. Another is the fact that democratic institutions have become more established. These have contributed to a level of resistance to the coup that was perhaps unanticipated by the military.

The panel featured a lively and lengthy Q&A session, with many audience members asking about the role of the United States in the crisis. While some of this discussed focused on the ways US intervention would be problematic, it also allowed panelists to offer concrete advice on how people can support democratic resistance in Myanmar. Some of those resources are included below:

Mutual Aid Myanmar (US):

Next GEN Myanmar (Australia): Instagram @nextgenmyanmar (including a linktree with more information on international and local organizations that accept donations.)

I Support Myanmar (Int'l):

People can also follow the podcast page chutoetoe on Facebook and Instagram for the latest updates on the situation in Myanmar.

CAS Event
Wednesday, February 24 at 9am MST

Organized by Center for Asian Studies & Aruna Global South

Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Su Kyi, President Win Myint, and other senior politicians were detained by the Tatmadaw (military) on the early morning of Feb 1 2021. Following the military coup, the Commander-in-chief General Min Aung Hlaing has taken over the nation's leadership with a claim to restore order and declared one year state of emergency. Since this day, the use of social media and internet has been banned in the country's large cities. Activists and ordinary citizens have been participating in various efforts to voice their resistance and concerns.​

Emerging scholars with Indigenous and heritage ties to Myanmar will discuss which events in the far and recent national pasts led to the current moment in Myanmar as well as what this historic moment will mean for the future of Myanmar from social, political, and cultural perspectives. There will be time for Q & A with the audience.
The panel will be in English
Free & Open to public.


Than Toe Aung is currently finishing his Masters in Critical Gender Studies at Central European University in Vienna, Austria. His thesis looks at the racist, sexist, and neo-colonial nature behinds sex tourism in the Global South. Interested in the intersection between activism, poetry, and writing, he started a poetry slam movement called “Slam Express” in his hometown Yangon in 2016. When he is not calling out white academics and INGO workers in Burma on their privileges, colonial attitudes and practices, he writes about the marginalization and oppression of Muslim minorities in Buddhist Burma. His interests also lie in identity, belonging, borders, migration, race, ethnicity, decolonization, (trans)gender, non-binary, and queer politics.

Ashley Aye Aye Dun is a writer and PhD candidate in English at Brown University. She specializes in Asian American studies and literature and gender and sexuality studies. In the past, she has been involved in diasporic activism concerning the persecution of ethnic and religious minorities in Burma/Myanmar. She is currently writing a dissertation on political turmoil and the notion of excess in Southeast Asian American literature. In general, women of color feminisms serve as a guiding ethos for her work.

Jangai Jap is a Ph.D. Candidate in the George Washington University’s Political Science Department. Her research interest includes ethnic politics, minority representation, public opinion, and Burma/Myanmar politics. Her dissertation aims to explain factors that shape ethnic minorities’ attachment to the state. Her research is supported by the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship and Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant. She holds a B.A. in Political Science and Judaic Studies from Yale University. She is originally from Kachin State and attended Burmese public school until 5th grade. 

Htet Thiha Zaw is a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. His research interests lie in historical political economy, education, and formal theory. Substantively, He is interested in understanding the development of education policy in colonial-era Southeast Asia and its relationship with anti-colonial resistance, focusing on British Burma. Another line of his research explores topics in international education policy, such as education efficiency and early-childhood education.

Download poster here.