1 December 2011


Dr Gareth Price

Senior Research Fellow, Asia-Pacific Programme


  • In November 2011 Burma's National League for Democracy decided to reregister as a political party and return to electoral politics. Yet while changes to the Burmese political landscape over the past year appear dramatic, the cause of the different moves and their likely impact remain contested, both within the country and internationally.
  • It seems that the Burmese military hopes that Western sanctions will be lifted, suggesting that it hopes to dilute Chinese influence. This provides significant opportunities for the West, and for the US in particular, to effect change. 
  • At the same time, the West needs to be careful not to antagonise China, which remains the country with the greatest leverage over Burma.
  • If reformers within Burma's military are constrained by hardliners, the West should offer early rewards to encourage continued reform. If, however, the lifting of sanctions is the end-point envisaged by the military, the West must be clear on the conditions that need to be met before policy towards Burma is recalibrated.