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Report 261 / Asia

缅甸:若开邦的政治

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 若开邦当下情势混杂了一系列恶性因素,其中包括根源深长的中央政府与边陲地区的紧张关系、针对穆斯林少数族裔的社群间及宗教间的严重冲突、以及极端贫困和发展欠缺。这引发了2012年的大规模暴力事件以及随后爆发的零星冲突。政治气氛已然处于高温状态,并可能随着缅甸2015年底全国大选的逼近而继续升高。若开邦的形势对缅甸政治转型的整体成功形成了重大威胁,并在政府亟需国际支持和投资之际,使其声誉严重受损。制定任何政策方案的前提是意识到任何简单办法或者快捷途径是不存在的。若开邦所面临的问题根源于数十年的武装暴力、威权统治以及国家——社会冲突。这场危机已经波及全邦以及其中的所有社群。化解危机需要一个持续和多角度的解决方案,并需要在过渡时期提供至关重要的人道主义和保护性干预。

 对若开邦局势的失败处理将会造成全国性影响。缅甸正在将自身重塑为一个与各少数民族和平相处、尊重多元化的更加开放的社会,狭隘且歧视性民粹主义的萌芽将会成长为巨大祸根,为政治解决数十年武装冲突,包括建立一个联邦国家,造成严重困难。

 若开邦最大的族群是信奉佛教的若开族,穆斯林在少数民族中为数不少,其中包括得不到缅甸政府和若开邦承认的罗兴亚人。国际上趋向于将若开族一概视为暴力极端主义分子,而忽略族群内存在的多种观点、忽视若开族本身也是一个长期受压迫的少数民族这一事实、并且很少试图去理解他们的想法和顾虑。这样的态度显然于事无补,因为其强化了若开族四面受敌的心态,并且将复杂现实简单模糊化,而对这一现实的准确把握是寻求可持续解决方案的必要条件。

 与缅甸其他少数民族类似,若开族人的积怨源于长期遭受政府歧视、对本民族事务缺乏政治控制、经济边缘化、人权受侵犯以及在语言和文化表达上受到的限制。然而若开族人积累了数十年的怨愤已经开始变形。自从向新政府的转型以来,在重建社区和重新树立民族身份的过程中,许多若开族人日益将人口数量对比视为最直接和明显的威胁,并由此担心将在自己本邦中成为少数民族。且不论有理与否,此类担忧在若开族社群中无疑十分强烈。

 多年来,穆斯林社群在社会和政治生活中被日益边缘化,而罗兴亚人受害尤甚。很多人长期得不到完整的公民权利,致使生存手段和生活水平严重受损。目前有人正试图通过立法剥夺他们的公民权,此举可能成为导火索。罗兴亚人视公民身份为仅存的与政治的联系纽带和影响政治的手段,失去了公民权,他们很可能得出政治大门已经关闭的结论,并可能由此走向非暴力反抗,甚至有组织暴力的路径。

 缅甸政府当下应对方案的核心包括一个核实无身份证明的穆斯林的公民身份的试点项目,以及一个在更大范围内应对政治、安全和发展问题的“行动计划”,但两者都存在严重问题。政府和若开族人社区拒绝使用“罗兴亚人”这个名称,罗兴亚人同样强烈地反对“孟加拉人”这个称呼,这成了一个死结。这一问题还未得到解决,对穆斯林人的公民身份核实项目就已经开始进行,大部分罗兴亚人可能采取抵制。

 行动计划设想将被授予公民权的人迁移到新的定居点,而非返回他们原本的家园,此举有可能会强化种族隔离。那些被确定为非公民,或拒不接受核实的人,可能会在达成解决方案前不得不暂居营地,这实际上可能会是很长时间。另外,许多穆斯林可能会被赋予入籍公民身份,因此得不到完整公民身份所具有的保障和多项权利。

 公民身份本身并不能自动提升穆斯林人口的权利。卡曼族的困境就是很明显的例子,他们从出生就拥有完整公民身份,而且其土著群体身份也获得了承认,但是由于他们的伊斯兰信仰,许多人被限制在难民营中,没有自由迁徙或返回家园的可能。由此可见,公民身份是改善权利的必要条件,而非充分条件。终结包括迁徙限制在内的歧视政策,改善安全环境与加强法治也同样必不可少。

 若开族佛教徒和穆斯林社区的需求与期望很可能无法调和,缅甸政府因此面临重大挑战。在此环境下,必须在保护穆斯林的基本权利和自由的同时,寻求缓解若开族担忧的途径。打击极端主义思想和仇恨言论的努力也同样重要,否则当下任意表达仇恨观点并据此行动而不受惩罚的大环境将无法得到改善。暴力的倡导者和实施者必须被及时抓捕归案,这在目前很少发生。及时执法不仅能维护正义,还有助于政治稳定和提升实现和平解决方案的可能性。

 政治解决方案可能不会立竿见影,即便如此也不能无所作为。危机的解决不仅对若开邦,而且对全缅甸都至关重要。防止极端主义暴力需要立即启动有公信力的程序,向若开族和穆斯林社区证明政治道路是存在的。更广泛地说,除非缅甸成功地塑造新的国家认同感,以包容这个国家极具多元化的文化、种族和宗教,否则就与全国范围的和平与稳定继续无缘。与此同时,国际社会也必须继续向弱势群体提供亟需的人道主义援助和保护,这可能会持续数年。同样关键的是解决若开邦所有社群都面临的长期贫穷和欠发展问题,公平和有针对性的村级社区发展项目尤为重要。

 仰光/布鲁塞尔,2014年10月22日

Protesters in Beirut voice rejection of the ruling political elites of all sects, 20 October 2019. CRISISGROUP/Heiko Wimmen

Preventing State Collapse in Lebanon

Lebanon’s socio-economic and financial crisis accelerated greatly in the first half of 2020. The government resigned after the Beirut port blast, compounding the disarray. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2020 – Autumn Update, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to coordinate continued emergency assistance and revitalisation of key infrastructure, create reforms roadmap, boost civil society, and pool and coordinate emergency funds.

This commentary is part of our Watch List 2020 - Autumn Update.

Lebanon’s socio-economic and financial crisis accelerated greatly in the first half of 2020, pushed along by the COVID-19 pandemic, dramatised by the catastrophic explosion in the Beirut port on 4 August, and marked throughout by massive job and income losses. The government resigned six days after the port blast, compounding the disarray, though it had hardly been effective in addressing the country’s problems previously. At the end of August, President Michel Aoun, acting with broad parliamentary support, appointed Mustapha Adib as prime minister, but disagreement over cabinet posts has stymied efforts to form a new government. On 26 September, Adib withdrew amid apparently irreconcilable differences among political blocs, making it highly improbable that a new government can be formed soon.

The likely consequences will be three-fold. First, the enduring vacuum of political leadership will delay urgently needed reforms and external assistance, such as an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Secondly, in the absence of an IMF bailout, large numbers of Lebanese as well as substantial portions of the Syrian refugee population (more than one million people) will slip into food insecurity and poverty. Thirdly, the state’s capacity will erode, not least in the security sector. As state control recedes and ungoverned spaces expand, turf wars may break out between political groups in some areas and between criminal networks in others, and illegal migration will increase.

To meet urgent humanitarian needs, and to fend off yet another state failure in the eastern Mediterranean basin, the EU and its member states should:

  • Continue providing emergency assistance that directly reaches people in need through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and the EU Humanitarian Air Bridge. Programs could include disaster relief for victims of the port explosion (eg, “cash for work” to repair dwellings before winter).
     
  • Prepare to extend and expand support to prevent a serious humanitarian crisis, particularly if a solution to the political stalemate remains elusive; plan for long-term assistance directed at poor communities (Lebanese and refugees) that aims to create jobs and improve infrastructure; provide equipment to upgrade public hospitals and support for Lebanese entrepreneurs to boost exports and substitute imports.
     
  • Offer substantial assistance for revitalisation of key national infrastructure (in particular electricity generation) on the condition that the Lebanese government, once formed, establishes proper legal and regulatory frameworks for the sectors involved and transparent procurement, recruitment and planning procedures.
     
  • Draw up a roadmap of concrete reforms that a new Lebanese government should undertake to receive EU assistance, such as reaching preliminary agreement with the IMF, legislating to safeguard the independence of the judiciary, and passing anti-corruption and public procurement laws together with necessary implementation decrees.
     
  • Boost the capacity of Lebanese civil society organisations to participate in public policymaking and to increase government accountability. 

  • Distance itself from any U.S. attempt to influence Lebanon’s political processes for the sake of regional politics (eg, the U.S.’s “maximum pressure” policy aimed at squeezing Iran) and pursue an inclusive approach that enlists all major political actors in Lebanon, including Hizbollah, in the reform process.

Government Crisis

In the port explosion’s aftermath, French President Emmanuel Macron stepped in to urge that Lebanon fast-track the substantial reforms necessary to unlock external assistance, in particular an IMF package and some of the funds pledged by donors at the 2018 CEDRE conference. After the government resigned on 10 August, he also pushed for the quick formation of a new government backed by all political forces. On 31 August, on the eve of Macron’s second visit to Beirut, a broad majority of the Lebanese parliament nominated Lebanon’s ambassador to Germany, Mustapha Adib, as prime minister. Macron’s initiative stalled due to a combination of domestic competition and external pressure. As distrust runs deep, Lebanese actors, in particular Hizbollah and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, battled over nominations of ministers to secure influence in the new cabinet, making Adib miss the two-week deadline proposed by the French president. Ten days later, he resigned. In reaction, Macron blamed all sides, adding he was “ashamed of Lebanon’s political leaders”, said he would give them a few more weeks to get their act together, but also pointedly criticised Hizbollah, asserting it “can’t be at the same time an army at war with Israel, an unrestrained militia against civilians in Syria and a respectable party in Lebanon”.

Uncertainty about the U.S. attitude toward Macron’s initiative – coupled with Saudi pressure on Hariri to adopt a tough stance toward Hizbollah – almost certainly further complicated the bargaining. Washington had expressed qualified support for the effort as a whole, but took exception to the French president’s explicit recognition of Hizbollah as a central and legitimate part of the Lebanese political system. The U.S. considers Hizbollah a terrorist organisation and aims to clip its wings as part of the “maximum pressure” policy against Iran and its allies. On 8 September, the U.S. Treasury imposed new sanctions on Lebanese politicians allied with the Shiite Islamist party, and seven days later Secretary of State Michael Pompeo warned France, while visiting Paris, that “efforts to resolve the crisis in Lebanon would be in vain without immediately tackling the issue of Iran-backed Hezbollah’s weaponry”. On the other hand, U.S. officials have indicated that their position vis-à-vis a new government may hinge on a distinction between Hizbollah having a “presence” in it or exercising “dominance” over it. 

The uncertainty created by signals from Washington has been compounded by the approaching U.S. elections. Lebanese politicians may prefer to wait to see if President Donald Trump wins or whether Washington moves closer to the French position under a Biden presidency. 

What is clear is that greater polarisation and renewed confrontation risks – as it has done repeatedly over the past fifteen years –provoking a breakdown in the political process and violence. Government formation, IMF negotiations and urgent reforms – all pre-conditions for badly needed external assistance – would become impossible. The social crisis would get still worse and state capacity dwindle faster.

Social Crisis

The collapse of the Lebanese currency and economy sped up in the first half of 2020. The loss of summer tourism revenue due to the COVID-19 lockdown was a further blow, followed by the 4 August port explosion, whose resulting damage cost between $3 and $5 billion, according to the World Bank. Lebanese citizens had already lost access to their savings as a result of informal controls local banks have enacted since late 2019 in response to capital outflows and their own severe lack of liquidity. Now citizens have also lost a significant part of their income to runaway inflation (110 per cent annually as of July). Since early 2019, some 350,000 private-sector employees (out of a total work force of 1.8 million) have been laid off and many more have been furloughed or suffered pay cuts as businesses, facing declining purchasing power and evaporating credit, scaled down or suspended operations. 

The situation is bound to deteriorate further: the Lebanese Central Bank is burning through its remaining foreign exchange reserves and its governor has warned that by year’s end, he will have to stop the policy of subsidising fuel, food and medicine imports by providing foreign exchange at a highly preferential rate. Scrapping the subsidies would cause yet another huge spike in inflation. Already, 55 per cent of Lebanese live below the poverty line and 23 per cent in extreme poverty; Save the Children estimates that in Beirut alone, more than 500,000 children “struggle to survive”. Among Syrian refugees, some 90 per cent of households are food-insecure, and negative coping mechanisms, such as child marriage and child labour, are common. Without substantial external assistance, the threat of widespread food insecurity is real. As a result of the misery, migration pressure is increasing. Thousands who have legal residency elsewhere or hold foreign passports have begun to leave. A Western diplomat in Beirut told Crisis Group: “Everybody I know is leaving”. Illegal migration by sea to Cyprus is on the rise.

Deteriorating State Capacity and Control

With revenue collapsing and access to financial markets cut off, the Lebanese state will soon be unable to fund ministry budgets or increase salaries to make up for state employees’ lost income caused by runaway inflation. Crucial state services would accordingly erode, particularly in the health sector. As public resources dry up, the capacity of some political actors to keep their constituents loyal by offering access to such resources (eg, by securing public employment) and their related ability to enforce social control will recede. Predatory and criminal networks could fill the gaps. 

Overstretched and underpaid security forces might be able to prevent some such developments, but not necessarily for long, and some of their personnel might have no choice but to find additional sources of income. Their professionalism would suffer further, as would the functioning of security institutions. Turf wars among local armed groups may become a daily occurrence and could scale up once groups driven by sectarian and political motivations become involved. Some parts of the country could turn into de facto ungoverned spaces, and some may even become safe havens for jihadists or organised crime. Security forces might also no longer be able to patrol the coastline and curb migration to Cyprus, which is less than 200km away.

A Role for the EU, with France in the Lead

European capitals have a strong interest – and a major role to play – in preventing the Lebanese state’s collapse. After the port explosion, France took the lead in mobilising support for Lebanon through two donor conferences (one held on 9 August, the second planned for October) and pushing the Lebanese leadership to adopt a reform roadmap. France is uniquely positioned to spearhead this effort, as it enjoys credibility with actors across the Lebanese political spectrum. Failure to form a government represents a serious setback for the French initiative; at this point, however, there is no viable alternative to Macron’s approach and, as he recognised, any solution will need to include Hizbollah – together with its Shiite ally, Amal.

Whatever happens with the French initiative, countries like Germany, Italy and Sweden should scale up their humanitarian assistance. Lebanon needs funding and technical capacity for major infrastructure projects (such as in energy, water and garbage disposal) and reconstruction in areas affected by the port blast. Through such projects, donor countries could insist on the establishment of new governance standards (eg, transparency in planning, procurement and disbursement of funds). Donors could also expand existing programs that seek to create jobs for Lebanese and refugees alike by improving local infrastructure and agricultural production, as these places will likely be the first to experience food insecurity and the failure of already feeble state services and control. They could also boost the capacity of Lebanon’s already well-developed civil society by facilitating its inclusion in planning procedures and access to information related to projects implemented with EU participation, so as to create new mechanisms of participation and public accountability. The private sector could be another avenue to explore, as increasing domestic production would reduce unemployment and the balance of payments deficit, substituting for imports that drain foreign currency reserves and creating a source of foreign currency through exports. 

Europe should assume a unified position vis-à-vis the U.S. and the Gulf Cooperation Council and urge that international assistance be conditioned on progress on reform, and not tied to U.S. and Gulf Arab strategic considerations.

Donors could better coordinate their assistance by pooling resources under a common instrument such as a dedicated EU Trust Fund. Europe should also assume a unified position vis-à-vis the U.S. and the Gulf Cooperation Council and urge that international assistance (in particular, an IMF package) be conditioned on progress on reform, and not tied to U.S. and Gulf Arab strategic considerations, such as disarming Hizbollah, diminishing the group’s influence in Lebanon and ending its activities in the region. The objective should be to prevent another failed state in the eastern Mediterranean, not to score points in a geostrategic competition.