Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2012

Publication Citation

19 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 121 (2012)


This Article examines the role that the Burmese diaspora plays from afar in influencing reform inside the country. It offers a brief history of the crisis in Burma as background for identifying the various elements of the diaspora: those on the run from the military; those in camps for internally displaced persons and refugees; migrant workers; leaders of the democracy movement active on Burma's borders; asylees; and professional activists with influence on the international community. The different groups use the different strategies available to them. The leadership on the borders is helping to lead the democracy movement inside the country; leaders outside the country, by contrast, try to lobby the United Nations and foreign governments. Unfortunately, these strategies sometimes conflict because the different groups must serve different agendas: the leaders outside the country must be especially responsive to the international community, and the leaders on the borders must be especially responsive to their followers inside Burma. The result is that the movement is often disunited at a time when unity is critical for dealing with the Burmese government. The Article ends with a call for the international community to change the incentives that it gives to the various diasporic groups so as to promote unity within the democracy movement.

Globalization and Migration Symposium, Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Bloomington, Indiana, April 7-8, 2011