The Relationship between Foreign Aid and Democratization in Myanmar in respect to Civil Society
Since 2010, Myanmar has been making a transition to a democratic country after 40 years under successive military regimes. The semi-civilian government led by President U TheinSein has been in charge of Myanmar since the democratic reform is carried out. After Myanmar's new government has carried out its democratic reform for 2 years, international assistance has come in Myanmar to assist Myanmar's democratization in 2012 unlike before 2010. Western donors who were not active in providing aid in Myanmar became enthusiastic to help Myanmar's democratization in various ways. Civil society in Myanmar is still small and informally organized to participate as a strong actor in Myanmar's democratization. Democratic aid to nurture civil society in Myanmar, which has been repressed for long time, became an important aid to strengthen democracy in Myanmar. This thesis will analyse the relation between democratic aid through civil society and democratization in Myanmar. It is based on recently completed in-country research involving document analysis and semi-structured interviews. The paper investigates what is the impact of democratic aid through civil society on Myanmar's democratization process. The findings of this thesis indicate that democratic aid was not delivered in Myanmar under the successive military regimes to impose democratization. Democratic aid has started to be delivered again after the Myanmar government started its process of democratization mostly due to domestic factors, such as people's dissatisfaction with the military governments. When western donors started supporting the democratization process in Myanmar, they provided democratic assistance to sustain local civil society organisations in Myanmar in order to act as a check and balance to the Myanmar government and to make it more accountable to the citizens. Democratic assistance towards civil society has been promoting the role of civil society organisations in politics, creating a platform for communication between the government and local civil society organisations to increase the all-inclusiveness in Myanmar's democratization process. With the democratic assistance from western donors, local civil society organisations became more developed and started working as one of the check and balance actors in Myanmar's politics. Thus, democratic assistance to civil society has increased the sustainability of local civil society organisations in Myanmar to participate in the democratization process. However, democratic assistance to civil society has only started recently, in 2012, and there are challenges in providing assistance to civil society to promote democratization. If those challenges can be avoided in delivering aid to civil society, the assistance towards civil society can have a better impact on democratization in Myanmar.