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Lt Kol Suhaimi Hj Shamsuddin

Lt Col Suhaimi Hj Shamsuddin was commissioned into the Malaysian Army as an

Infantry Officer in the Royal Malay Regiment on 20th Dec 1991. He has a Diploma in
Strategic and Defence Studies from University Malaya, Bachelor (with Honors) in
Law from University Technology Mara Malaysia and Master in Law (with
Distinction) from University Malaya. He has served in various fields as an infantry
officer and had been with the Army legal department for more than 16 years as
military prosecutor, legal advisor and Judge Advocate. His last appointment prior to
MAFDC was as the Chief of Staff in 12th Brigade HQ in Wardieburn Camp Kuala
Lumpur. Previously he was the Commanding Officer of 21st Royal Malay Regiment
and the Staff Officer Grade 1 in the Army HQ in the Ministry of Defence.


Myanmar has embarked into a remarkable change since their democratization and
reforms in 2011. The arrival of the countrys first civil-democratic elected government
after more than five decades in April 2016 presented themselves with a historic
opportunity to consolidate the democratization process and reformative programs,
encouraging ethnic peace and reconciliation, and promoting the rule of law and
human rights. However, since Myanmar had been plagued by decades of armed
conflict between the Tatmadaw (Armed Forces), and ethnic groups, establishing peace
process and addressing human rights violation issues among the stakeholders have
been the biggest challenge of the present government. EU, who initially was assertive
on the issue of human right issues, imposing economic sanctions, and political
isolation on Myanmar for the last two decades due to the rampant violation, had
finally lifted the sanction and isolation in 2012. Despite the recurring human rights
violation reports, EU decided to re-engage Myanmar constructively through soft
power approach in order to support and financially assist Myanmars reformative
programs, and development. EUs perplexing posture had invited criticism among
scholars and member states alike since the approach which was adopted neither
would guarantee the peace process, nor would it consolidate the multi-ethnic
nationalities in defusing the human right violation issues in Myanmar. Thus, the
objective of this project paper is to examine and analysed the causes of the changing
of posture by EU, the impact of the constructive engagement approach towards the
peace process, the political and socio-economic reforms and development; and the
accomplishment of this approach in defusing the human right violation issues in
Myanmar. To achieve these objectives, this qualitative study adopted the conceptual
framework based on neo-realist theory by understanding the current geo-politic
posture of Myanmar, and what are the intervening factors that triggered its
behavioural changes that had indirectly allured EU to change their posture in re-
engaging Myanmar instead of pursuing the economic sanctions and political isolation
adopted earlier. This paper also discussed about the impact, effectiveness, and
challenges of the current approach adopted by EU, and the capacity of EU itself as a
new global player especially in fostering human right values. The conclusion of this
paper will proof the theoretical analysis adopted, and the findings based on approach
adhered, and how much it has succeeded in defusing the human right abuses in

The growing awareness of human rights violations around the world has become a
dominant phenomenon attracting attention in international communities, regional
organization and non-state actors including Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO).
Human rights are widely considered to be the fundamental moral obligation required
as a person and are a useful means to help achieve human dignity in contemporary
international relations. Prior to 1945, despite the rhetoric of universality, the relation
between an individual and the state was a matter for that state alone. The state is
sovereign in an almost absolute sense, exercising supreme legal authority within its

Human rights abuse is a term used when an actor violates any fundamental
human rights related to the protection of human rights under the national or
international law. The issue of abuse and violation of human rights in Myanmar under
the governance of Military Junta Regime (later referred as the Regime) have long
been considered as among the worst in the world. For decades, minority ethnic
groups in Myanmar had faced persecution and been subjected to discrimination and
abused. Thousands of villages comprised of minority ethnic groups have been
destroyed, many burnt, razed to the ground, and their inhabitants displaced. Despite
the condemned and warning by international communities for Myanmar to urgently
pursue legal and institutional reforms that discriminate ethnicity and religion, the
Regime had failed to adhere and had even ignored any actions to prosecute or punish
the individuals responsible for hindering further human rights violations from
escalating. Such posture emulates the Regimes unwillingness to defuse the issue
since they have been succumbing to international pressure; thus, rampant violations
continued without impunity. After five decades of intimidation and human rights
violations, Myanmar has received little attention from the international communities.

For more than two decades, European Union (EU) had been imposing the
hard power approach by implementing the traditional punitive mechanism such as
economic sanctions and political isolation against Myanmars government for failing
to adhere to the basic principles governing human rights values as governed under the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). EU had even recommended the
same approach by sponsoring the Myanmars Human Right Resolution against abuse
of human rights by Myanmars regime through UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC)
and UN General Assembly (UNGA) since 1990. Though initially, EU was assertive
and their resolutions were widely adopted by the majority of member states including
the United States (US), but the implementation was not collectively imposed by all
member states. By late 2006, EU again officially urged the UNGA to collectively
impose international sanctions and isolations towards Myanmar since the present
autonomous sanction and isolation imposed by EU member states were ineffective as
it was not unanimously implemented. China and Russia, however, threat to veto the
resolutions since they claimed that Myanmar was not a threat to international peace
and security, and such action had a significant effect on Myanmars economic and
social security. In addition, they argued that the resolution violates the principles of
non-interference in internal affairs and national sovereignty of a nation.
Since then, EUs hard power promotion began to deteriorate when majority
of the states that initially support the initiative realized that the hard power approach
of economic and political sanctions and isolations were not effective since its
implementation was not unanimous and other powerful nations who were reluctance
to impose the sanction had continuously exploit Myanmars resources in pursuit of
their own national interest. Thus, political and economic interest seems to take
precedence over human rights concerns. By early 2012, due to the current posture of
world communities, coupled with regional states approach to embrace Myanmar
through the ASEAN-Way by not directly encroaching into Myanmars domestic
affair but instead engaging the Regime through liberal constructive engagement;
finally in May 2012 after some successful efforts by the ruling government towards
political reforms in Myanmar, EU decided to change their posture by embracing the
liberal approach of constructive engagement and suspending the diplomatic isolation
and economic sanctions imposed earlier.
After the tragedy in Rwanda and the Balkans, the international communities
began to seriously debate whether the traditional hard power approach by imposing
total economic sanctions and political isolation are still relevant. There were also
growing concerns over how to react effectively when citizens human rights are
grossly and systematically violated. Finally, in 2011, the United Nations formulated
and pronounced the Doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (R2P). Under the doctrine, it
was stated that if a state had violated the human rights of its citizens, other states not
only have a right, but an actual duty to intervene to protect the rights of the
oppressed. This was vigorously embraced by the United Nations in justifying the
decision to invade Libya to topple Colonel Gaddafis regime on the ground of human
rights in 2011. Thus, alternatively human right violation in Myanmar could be
engaged under different mechanism that could be considered effective such as the
Doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) as imposed on Libya or prescribing to
International Law governing human rights protection (through International Court of
Justice as applied in the Balkans against individuals who violated the principles of
human rights, or consented such abuses) if the political isolation and economic
sanctions imposed had failed to deliver the expected outcome. Thus, despite the
reports of human right violations in Myanmar, EUs decision in 2012 to change their
posture by actively engage Myanmar through liberal constructive engagement (later
referred as soft power approach) was due to some positive political reforms in
Myanmar, was considered as perplexing since the effective mechanism such as
Doctrine of R2P and International Law could have been adopted. Since 1990, EU had
been seen to be assertive and refuse to compromise in mitigating the human right
issues, and these divine values had been embedded in their foreign and trade policy.

The following objectives have been set in order to study, understand and analyze the
changes in EUs posture especially after 2012 in defusing the human right violations
in Myanmar.

a. To evaluate and understand the reasons that influences and encourages the EU
to change their posture, and choose to embrace the soft power approach
toward Myanmars government.

b. To examine the impact of the soft power approach by EU and other

International communities on Myanmars politic, economy and social issues.

c. To analyze the effectiveness of the soft power approach adopted, and to

suggest the alternative plans to any shortcoming of the approach embraced.
Myanmar had long been plagued by ethnoreligious tensions, riots, and armed
conflicts. Her history is quite complicated due to the ethnic diversity in all the
provinces. Due to the multiplicity, their citizens, especially because the record of
those peoples has largely been effaced, western scholars had frequently deliver
inaccurate historical perspective of the nation. The Burmans was considered
historically to be the countrys most powerful ethnic group, in which they are in
control the politics, and central ruling government. The term Burmanization refers to
the centuries-old, ongoing effort by majority rulers to create a unified or
homogeneous Burma through policies that rewards assimilation, and punishes the
expression of cultural, linguistic, and religious difference. The continuous animosity
towards other ethnic minority groups, especially Rohingya was due to religion and
ethnicity. The Rohingya were denied their citizenship because the military regimes
distrusted the Rohingyas integrity towards the country. This happened during the
period when Japanese were occupying Arakan (now known as Rakhine) in 1942 from
the British government, where the Rohingya supported the British and the Rakhine
Buddhist were supporting the Japanese. During Myanmars independence, the
Rohingya sought for Muhammad Ali Jinnah to incorporate the Rakhine into East
Pakistan (now known as Bangladesh). The differences in political ideologies gave
them negative impact to the Rohingya which had distant them from the Rakhine
Buddhist community.

When EU decided to change their posture in 2012 by constructively engaging

with the current ruling government through soft power approach, in order to support
and assist the reformative programs, many scholars feared that EUs current posture in
assisting Myanmars political, economic, and social reforms would not deliver the
expected promise of consolidating ethnic nationalities, and federalism with the aim to
defuse the human rights violation issues in Myanmar. Till date, since EU had changed
their posture towards Myanmar, the approach had yet to deliver any fruitful outcome
as timely expected; and reports of human right violation towards the ethnic minority
groups had even escalated, especially in Rakhine state towards the Rohingya.


Ineffectiveness of the UN, especially the United Nation Security Council (UNSC) in
interfering and preventing any violation of human rights, and providing protection
against those being abused, were vocally questioned by world leaders especially after
the Rwandas and Kosovos tragedy. Despite the rest of the worlds devotion to accept
the Doctrine of R2P towards the protection of its population from genocide, war
crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity, the failure of the UNSC and
UNGA to achieve a collective consensus on Myanmars human right abuses had
lamented the worlds obliviousness to the situation. Due to the failure of the
international communities to achieve a unanimous decision, any attempt to impose
political and economic sanctions effectively to pressure Myanmars government to
improve the human rights situation remained faltered.

Though the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) and

Human right NGOs are gravely concerned at the systematic and increasingly severe
violations of individual, political, economic, social, and religious rights in Myanmar;
no one in the international arena had directly reacted to the out-cry compared to the
actions taken towards Muammar Gaddafi (UN imposed unanimous sanctions against
Libya from 19922003, and later invaded Libya in 2011 which was led by US, and its
coalition forces under the R2P doctrine to topple Gaddafis regime) . Through the rise
of International Justice, a fresh approach had emerged, which acted as an alternative
to the sanctions. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has the jurisdiction to decide
the case of human rights violation brought before them. However, in the case of
Myanmar, the major powerful nations have been seen interfering and reluctant to
allow ICJ to adjudicate. This was due to the enormous political and economic interest
that existed towards Myanmars rich natural resources. UN were shadowed by its own
Security Councils decision and the veto votes by the permanent members, especially
China and Russia. This seemed to be ineffective, and they had fail to be impartial to
serve its member states due to the veto power vested to these selective states. It
seems that there was a form of inconsistencies in action by the UN and the
international communities on nations that had violated human rights in their respective
states. These led to a situation where human security challenges in Post-Cold War era
had become more complex and ambiguous.


The European Union (EU) was founded on a shared determination to promote peace
and stability, and to build a world founded on respect for human rights, democracy
and the rule of law. This universal and indivisible value were the cornerstone of the
EU, and recently was strengthened by the ratification of the Charter of Fundamental
Rights of the EU. This was done in order to promote the principles of fundamental
freedoms, democracy, and rule of law. The member states of the EU are convinced
that the primary duty of the international community is to promote and uphold this
divine concern. For this reason, the EU pays special attention to respecting human
right both inside and outside the boundaries of the union. Adhering to human rights is
expected not only from a state that wishes to join the EU but also from all EU trade
and cooperation relationship with third countries. In order to prevent violations of
human rights, the European Union not only prioritizes dialogues, cooperation, and
sanctions but also supports an immediate intervention, if needed.

As the EU considers all human rights to be universal, they had translated that
promotion of human rights should be universal in nature. Respect for human rights
and fundamental freedom is at the core of the European Union. According to the
EU Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy, The
European Union was founded on a shared determination to promote peace and
stability and to build a world founded on respect for human rights, democracy and the
rule of law. Without exceptions, the EU aims to promote human rights in all areas of
its external relationship, and it will particularly integrate the promotion of human
rights into trade. The entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon in December 2009
provided several radical changes in EUs approach to human rights, arguably
transforming the EU into a new type of human rights actor. EU is now considered to
have reached the high point of its engagement with human rights as it codified its
commitment to put human rights, democracy, and the rule of law at the heart of its
internal and external policies. Thus, EUs approach towards third world country like
Myanmar either political or trade relationship appears to adhere to the spirit of abiding
by the human rights principles, values, and norms. For decades Myanmar has been
subjected to a vast range of restrictive measures due to failure to uphold certain human
rights standards.


The European Community imposed the first Common Foreign and Security Policy
(CFSP) sanctions on Myanmar in 1991. This was based on the coordinated EU
member states foreign policies and following the report of Human Rights Watch
(HRW) on the failure of Myanmars military junta to respect the result of the
democratic elections in that year. The report expresses concern over the continuing
detention of prisoners and political activist without proper trial, human rights
violations on ethnic minorities, as well as the violence in the Rakhine State that
involved the Rohingya and Buddhist minority groups. The sanctions imposed were all
in-line with the United States decision to impose trade embargoes in response to the
Myanmars military juntas suppression towards protesters, and detention of political
prisoners. EUs posture in dealing with human rights violation issues in Myanmar
reflected its commitment and devotion as a new international actor in promoting the
human rights norms and practice among nation-states in international relations.

Initially, EU was very robust in its approach towards Myanmar on the issue of
human rights violation, and refused to compromise on the issues. They had continued
to impose restrictive measures on Myanmars government; even after Myanmar had
gained their ASEAN membership in 1997. However, from 2006 onwards, the hard
power approach started to ease and had been more relaxing, especially after Cyclone
Nargis which saw over 140,000 people died, and affected 2.4 million people in May
2008. Nargis was taken as a major turning point towards the end of military rule and
beginning of the reform process. Since then, Myanmar had continued to demonstrate
its disdain for political reforms and fundamental human rights guarantees and the rule
of law. Undeniably, ASEAN self- determination approach of non-interference and
engaging the member state through constructive engagement saw significant changes
in Myanmars geo-politic. In response to the positive attitude portrayed by the new
civil government under President Thein Sein since 2011, EU finally decided to
suspend and later lift the economic sanctions and political isolation imposed earlier as
a sign of welcome and to promote political and economic reforms in Myanmar.
Another reason for EUs changing posture was due to lack of unanimous support in
UNGA to promote collective restrictive actions against Myanmar by all member
states, thus causing the sanctions and isolation practices imposed by EU to be
ineffective in the long run. However, despite EUs noble commitment to put human
rights, democracy, and the rule of law at the heart of its internal and external policies,
commercial and trade seem to take precedence over human rights concerns base on
EUs economic interest. Due to Myanmars rising relative economic and political
importance, EU member states became more reluctant to pursue the human rights
agenda, since other nation states who continued to embrace Myanmar had exploited
Myanmars resources for their national economic interest. Thus, findings on economic
and political interests supports the idea that it does possess a significant amount of
influence on EUs approach in promoting human rights on third countries.
Western democracy and EUs human rights approach in solving Myanmars
human right issues initially seem rhetoric and had not supplied the solution to these
problems. Years of escalating isolations and sanctions have instead left the regime
firmly entrenched in power and the general population was still suffering from
deepening poverty. Each year, Myanmar's human and natural resources are further
eroding, and the prospect of turning the situation around is becoming less likely.
Sanctions and isolations alone when applied in tandem do not guarantee any
significant outcome as predicted. This is because it was not imposed consensually by
all nations. An alternative approach that emphasizes a more pragmatic effort to bring
together a deeply divided society and promote socio-economic development as the
basis for longer-term political change should be considered. Sanctions and isolations
seem to do more harm to the population, especially if the effect of the sanctions and
isolation directly had deprived the populations right too proper livelihood and
increased the poverty level among the discriminate ethnic groups. Thus, imposing
sanctions and isolations without unanimous consensus and enforcement by the whole
international communities is not effective especially if the nation imposed
continuously received economic and political assistance from other powerful nation
to maintain its survivability.
EU realizes they need to change their traditional posture and invest in soft
power; the power of enticement to persuade other actors to follow their examples and
a policy of universal human rights; through constructive engagement in order to foster
democracy and respect for human rights in Myanmar. Due to the complex
ethnopolitical situation on Myanmar, any aggressive action (such as imposing the R2P
Doctrine) towards Myanmar will bring more harm to the population in the long run.
Thus, being a new global player, EU needs to firstly enhance trust and unity of action
among the member states in order to earn the acceptance by external actors and other
international organizations. The effectiveness of EUs posture depends not only on its
resources and capabilities but also by the level of influence and enforcement it can
impose within its organization structures to ensure unification of actions within its
member states. EU too must ensure the coherence of their actions, both internally and
externally to avoid the negative perception being seen impartial in their actions
towards any third countries in promoting human rights. Thus, EUs decision to change
their posture towards Myanmar should be seen as a strategic move in order to assist
and encourage Myanmars government to pursue democratization and reforms with
the aim of defusing the human right violation issues that had been plaguing Myanmar
for decades. EUs noble commitment and focus to promote peace and stability and to
build a world founded on respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law;
denotes EUs desire to be an efficient global player in promoting human right values
in international relations.


Myanmar has commenced on an impressive path of political and economic reforms,
deflecting from five decades of the tyrannical rule of the civil government, Union
Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) under President U Thein Sein came to
power in early 2011. The government intend to introduce a bona fide democracy and
thus, some prudent steps have been undertaken towards establishing a more open and
equitable society. The government desire and commitment to advance towards the
spirit of national openness and reconciliation in the country's multi-ethnic society was
reflected through the three-pronged reform programs and a comprehensive process
that comprises of democratic (political), economic and social reforms, and long term
multi-ethnic peace process. However, Myanmar knew to overcome the legacy of
conflict, poverty, oppression and weak institutions will be a long painful process.
Decades of economic mismanagement and isolation have led to deep-rooted economic
and social breakdown. Citizens' confidence in the state's capacity to deliver have
eroded and been undermined due to the vicious political malpractice. Thus, the peace
process and ceasefires need to be expedited to re-build confidence and trust among the
population to facilitate sustainable development in remote minority areas since it
would be the key drivers for economic and social development in Myanmar.

EU is strongly supportive of Myanmar's democratic and economic reforms and

is committed to safeguard this progress and extend the cooperation with the
Myanmars government on human rights reforms process. To ensure that the best
international standards are met, EU launches the EU-Myanmar Task Force in
November 2013, to allow a structured regular Human Rights dialogue, especially on
issues of mutual interest to be discussed openly and constructively between the
conflicting parties. EU has allocated USD 757 million in development aid to assist the
economic and social development and encourage peacebuilding support, making the
EU one of the biggest donors to Myanmar during the transition period. In July 2013,
Myanmar was reinstated as a beneficiary of the "Everything but Arms" initiative
under the EUs Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which allows Myanmars
traders to enjoy free access to a European market. EU too had been working in tandem
with the government to combat human right abuses and had been providing huge
humanitarian assistance either financially or through active participation in political
dialogue with ethnic groups in order to facilitate the peace process and improved the
independence of the judiciary and access to justice.

EU had been encouraging the government to adopt a more constructive

approach, and had been providing advisory and financial assistance since 2012 to
address the problem of poverty and sustainable development in other minority ethnic
areas, This strategic effort by EU was planned based on the assumption that by
eradicating poverty, improving sustainable development, building human capital
through sound education system and good governance, it could indirectly win the trust
and the heart and mind of the population, thus awareness on human right issues that
had been dwelling for decades could be inculcated among the population effectively.
However, since EUs intervention and support towards Myanmar in 2012, the changes
and reduction in the human right violation cases were not significant as expected as
reported either by UN official agencies or NGOs. Soft power approach adopted by
EU on Myanmar although does have a significant impact on Myanmars politic,
economic and social affair but however, little was achieved in the development in
defusing human rights violation issues especially towards minority ethnic groups.
Thus, EU should continue to engage the stakeholders in a more robust and direct
manner to ensure the effectiveness of the current approach adopted in order to achieve
its ultimate objective; resolving the human right issues permanently in Myanmar. EU
too should diligently utilize the financial assistance and political influence as a tool to
allure the Myanmars government to abide by the spirit of rule of law and principles
of UDHR.

Myanmar has traveled a long way towards democratization, but the journey is far from
success. The transitions in Myanmars political reforms and the democratization
process in recent years can be seen as a positive development towards peace and as a
catalyst towards ending ethnic conflicts. However, this political reform is at great risk
of deteriorating if human rights and the right to equal treatment under the law are not
honored and protected. Due to this unprecedented development and to avoid
Myanmars democratic reform from deteriorated; EU has opened a new chapter in its
relations to assist Myanmar into a modern democracy. The assumption democracy
will be the solution of Myanmars ethnic conflicts that causes human right violations
had been widely debated and criticized by scholars. Democratization, if not prudently
practice may also trigger new conflicts through political competition between political
rivalry that subsequently produced winners and losers during the election. Thus,
democratization alone does not guarantee a viable solution to Myanmars ethnic

As long as Myanmars persistent ethnic conflicts remain unsolved, it will

linger as Myanmars main political challenge. It is unlikely to see an ethnically
divided country like Myanmar to achieve democratic transitions without conflict.
Without a political compromise that involves all ethnic groups, there will be little
hope for lasting peace. In order to accommodate the aspirations and demand of the
ethnic groups, the preconditions with regards to self-determination of minority
populations, equal fundamental rights and the establishment of a federal union with
genuine political representation; need to be considered urgently. In order to achieve
this, an inclusive political process which includes active participation of three power
centres that include the present ruling government and the Tatmadaw (Armed Forces),
the ethnic and rebel armed groups and the civil society including the opposition
parties. All these stakeholders need to negotiate and consolidate the issues and
demand without prejudice.

The militarys failure to abide by President Thein Sein ceasefire orders in

Kachin State in 2012 had tarnished the peace initiatives with the ethnic armed groups
causing mistrust and skeptical view towards the government efforts and commitment
to the peace dialogue. Thus, the ability of the ethnic groups and the present democratic
government to reach a peace understanding and unite on a common platform for the
future of Myanmar is therefore in doubt. Regime survivability of the Tatmadaw is the
main reason for the failure since they are wary of the competency of civil politics.
There is a fear of the disintegration of the union if the ethnic groups achieved
extensive concessions on the issue of federalism and self-determination in political
negotiations from the present government. The Tatmadaw believed that this will affect
their present prerogative and legislative power in Myanmars parliament. Presently,
the Tatmadaw who occupied 25 % of the parliamentary seats, and has a veto on
constitutional changes and retains three key ministerial posts (Home, Defence, and
Border Affairs). The Constitution even guarantees the impunity of the previous
Tatmadaw leadership since it stipulates that no proceeding may be instituted against
them in all circumstances. Thus, the succession of the reforms and democratic
progress rely on the understanding and cordial relationship between the ruling
government and the Tatmadaws regime survivability.

In general, though the outlook for total peace is uncertain, but democratic and
economic progress in Myanmar seems to be relatively good. The reforms since 2012
has brought some impact on Myanmars democratic and socio- economic progress in
most parts of Myanmar. Thus, the current political opening and dialogue is the best
opportunity since last five decades for ethnic minorities to achieve political
concessions. By engaging in the political dialogues and peace negotiation, they would
have the chance to raise ethnic grievances, improved the socio-economic conditions
and take part in defining Myanmars political future. Hence, current reforms must be
taken into consideration and without democratization, the likelihood of peace and
prosperity can never be achieved, and repeated human right violence and ethnic
conflict will continue to plague Myanmar forever.

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