The Roots of Ethnic Conflict in Post-World War II Myanmar, Malaysia, and the Philippines


  • Brianne Dy University of British Columbia



The impacts of colonial history on present-day ethnic relations in Southeast Asia, a region known for its cultural and ethnic diversity, remain significant in understanding the sociopolitical developments within the countries of the region. This paper examines the historical origins and contemporary implications of long-standing ethnic conflicts in Southeast Asia, focusing on Myanmar, Malaysia, and the Philippines. I argue that these conflicts stemmed from colonial legacies and can be traced back to each country’s respective colonial periods, which took place at different points in history. From the imposition of territorial boundaries to racial classification and differential treatment, colonial policies resulted in enduring tensions between ethnic populations, which continue to shape ethnic relations in these countries today. British colonial rule in Myanmar fostered tensions between the Bamar majority and non-Bamar minorities, while in Malaysia, disparities between Malays and ethnic Chinese were fueled by British migration policies. In the Philippines, conflicts involving the Muslim minority in Mindanao originated from attempts by the Spanish at Christianization and subjugation, further exacerbated by American imperialism. Despite variations in colonial experiences and timelines, ethnic conflicts underscore the lasting impact of colonization on these countries’ present-day social and political dynamics.


Download data is not yet available.