1st Edition

New Answers to Old Questions Myanmar Before and After the 2021 Coup d’État

By Aaron Connelly, Shona Loong Copyright 2024

    Outside Myanmar, the 2021 coup d’état has often been portrayed as the end of a hopeful period for the country. In this Adelphi book, however, Aaron Connelly and Shona Loong argue that the Aung San Suu Kyi government that preceded it was a false dawn, unlikely to fulfil the international community's aspirations for a stable, peaceful and strong Myanmar. Instead, the movement opposing the 2021 coup holds much greater promise – despite the bloody conflict that dominates the news today. 


    Connelly and Loong survey three fundamental relationships that have shaped Myanmar before and after the coup – between the military and the state, between the majority Burmese and ethnic minorities, and between Myanmar and the world – to explain how opposition to the coup has shifted all of them in a more liberal, pluralist and cosmopolitan direction.


    Organisation of this book
    Why Myanmar matters

    Chapter One: The relationship between the armed forces and the state
    The origins of the Tatmadaw
    The emergence of the NLD
    Tatmadaw–NLD accommodation
    The NLD in government

    Chapter Two: The relationship between the centre and the periphery
    ‘Race’ during British colonisation
    Ethnic relations before independence
    Insurgencies in Cold War Burma
    Solidarity, ceasefires and co-optation
    The USDP and NLD years

    Chapter Three: The relationship between Myanmar and the world
    Positive (and negative) non-alignment
    Foreign relations under the SLORC and SPDC
    Partial liberalisation under Thein Sein
    Aung San Suu Kyi as State Counsellor

    Chapter Four: The relationship between Myanmar’s past and its future
    From peaceful protest to armed resistance
    Myanmar’s new chapter

    Three scenarios
    Western disengagement, Asian fears
    Deeper currents
    A closing window of opportunity



    Aaron Connelly is Senior Fellow for Southeast Asian Politics and Foreign Policy at the IISS. Based in the Singapore office, his research focuses on Indonesia, Myanmar, ASEAN, and US policy in the region. Prior to joining the IISS, Aaron was the first director of the Southeast Asia Project at the Lowy Institute in Sydney. Earlier in his career, he worked as a Fulbright scholar and visiting fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Jakarta. He is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.


    Shona Loong is Associate Fellow for Southeast Asian Politics and Foreign Policy at the IISS. She works on the IISS Myanmar Conflict Map microsite, contributing analyses and shaping its overall direction. Shona holds a DPhil in human geography from the University of Oxford and is currently a senior scientist in political geography at the University of Zurich. Her research focuses on conflict, peacebuilding, and the politics of development in Myanmar and its borderlands.

    ‘A significant contribution to understanding the complex and inter-related dynamics at play in Myanmar today’.

    Dr Marty Natalegawa, former foreign minister of Indonesia


    New Answers to Old Questions provides a clear-eyed and concise assessment of how the coup and its aftermath have shifted perceptions and attitudes inside and outside Myanmar.’

    Moe Thuzar, Senior Fellow, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute


    ‘Aaron Connelly and Shona Loong have a deep knowledge of Myanmar and its complexities. They have written a timely book on this tragic country.’

    Professor Tommy Koh, National University of Singapore


    ‘This is a must-read assessment of one of Asia’s most troubling strategic and political crises. The authors remind us that there is a narrow window of opportunity when greater support to the democratic resistance in Myanmar could lead to a much better future. Their practical insights about how best to respond should be looked at seriously by policymakers in the region and from around the world.’

    Professor Nicholas Farrelly, University of Tasmania