Though dominated by the 9 November elections (see the separate chapter in this volume by Tin Maung Maung Than) for state/regional and national legislatures, most of the past year was devoted to the usual rounds of human life and governance. Nature played a large role, as always, and though the life of the first Hluttaw (legislature) under the 2008 constitution began in 2011 with great expectations, 2015 ended still with hard times for the government and people of Myanmar. While the economy continued to develop, though at a slightly slower rate than in recent years, and predictions of further growth remain strong, Myanmar is still some way off its goal of ending the poverty in which much of the population seek out a daily meal. Internationally, Myanmar continues to be courted by a number of countries, and despite criticisms and jibes, particularly from the bully pulpits of sanctimonious Western politicians, relations with the world remained remarkably friendly. The ally of none, Myanmar remains the friend of all.
Of course, for most of the population, it was local developments which dominated the year and, in addition to the election campaign, related social tensions, particularly over issues such as illegal immigration and the place of the various religious minorities in the predominantly Buddhist country, remained central to public discussions and, indeed, forced the government to respond with legislation of dubious significance other than as a sop to some enflamed Buddhist militants. Conflicts over land rights and usage also persisted, as did the perennial issue in Myanmar politics — the role of students in the management of the educational system. More importantly for the future of the country, the long-sought solution to the country's nearly seven decades of armed conflict in the name of ethnicity seemed little nearer resolution despite months of negotiations culminating in a truncated “nationwide ceasefire agreement” signed by the government and eight ethnically designated armed groups.
Student Politics Revisited
Historically, students have played, or have attempted to play, a significant role in Myanmar politics. The nationalist narrative is centred around student politics in the 1920s and 1930s. Some of the firebrands in recent politics got their training and inspiration from the left-wing student activists of the 1950s.