11th International Burma Studies Conference
“Envisioning Myanmar: Issues, Images, Identities”
The Myanmar Studies Programme at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) in Singapore partnered with the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the NUS Law Faculty’s Centre for Asian Legal Studies (CALS) to convene the biennale International Burma Studies Conference (BSC) 2014 in Singapore on 1-3 August 2014. ISEAS and FASS-NUS served as the main organisers, with ISEAS taking the lead coordination and administrative role. ISEAS, FASS-NUS and CALS all agreed to contribute SG$20,000 each to support the BSC 2014’s main administrative and logistics costs.
In recognition of the reforms in Myanmar which, starting from March 2011 to date, had encouraged and generated greater interest in Myanmar/Burma Studies, the theme for the BSC 2014 was identified as “Envisioning Myanmar: Issues, Images, Identities”. The theme recognises the various ways in which the country’s past, present and future are conceptualised and envisioned by scholars, stakeholders and other social groups within and outside Myanmar.
To highlight the theme, the BSC2014 organisers decided to convene Opening and Closing Panels for the conference rather than invite a single Keynote Speaker. The Opening and Closing Panel speakers comprised academics and practitioners from a wide range of policy and civil society organisations:
Over 250 registered participants attended the BSC 2014 over its three-day duration. Overall, the conference substance and organisation received positive feedback. Some conference participants felt that the conference registration fee (SG$300) was high, although the fee was comparable to the conference fee set for the BSC2012 at Northern Illinois University. The next BSC is scheduled for 2016 at Northern Illinois University, following the alternate rotation schedule. Australia National University has indicated an interest to host the BSC in 2018, subject to confirmation at the next BSC.
Generous sponsors supporting the BSC2014 include: the Asia Foundation, Yoma Strategic Holdings Ltd, Dr Saw Swee Hock, and Dr Baey Lian Peck. The Hanns Siedel Foundation sponsored some conference session speakers and has confirmed its interest to support the publication of an edited volume of the BSC2014 presentations that address the BSC2014 theme. The Tun Foundation Bank sponsored the conference bags. Sponsors and partners logos are also featured prominently on the BSC2014 conference website.
The BSC2014 attracted more scholars and students from Myanmar and from around the region, including Myanmar’s neighbouring countries such as India where interest in Myanmar/Burma studies is growing again. Most of the conference panel discussions were focused around the current reforms, the atmosphere and environment created by these reforms for change and further opening. The Rohingya issue was extensively discussed in various contexts – historical, political and anthropological. Discussions on the legal framework (or lack thereof) and the 2008 Constitution also drew considerable interest, including from U Soe Thane, Minister in the Myanmar President’s office. Minister Soe Thane attended the sessions related to the Constitution, taking the opportunity of his presence in Singapore for the 7th ASEAN-Asia Forum which took place on 1 August 2014.
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