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Clymer book examines history of U.S. diplomatic relations with Myanmar

November 16, 2015

Clymer bookNIU professor Kenton Clymer has authored a newly published book on the history of U.S. diplomatic relations with Myanmar, and it couldn’t be timelier in light of the historic elections unfolding this month in the country.

Clymer is a Distinguished Research Professor in the NIU Department of History and a leading scholar in the history of American relations with South and Southeast Asia.

Clymer will deliver a public talk on the new book, titled “A Delicate Relationship: The United States and Burma/Myanmar since 1945,” at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4, in the Thurgood Marshall Gallery of Swen Parson Hall.

The book will be officially launched a day earlier during an event at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. Clymer spent an academic year in residence at the Wilson Center while writing the book.

His intense interest in Burma was kindled in 1987 while he was in India, where he struck up a friendship with two young scholars, Michael Aris and his wife, Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of Burma’s independence hero, Aung San.

Aung San Suu Kyi has since become famous the world over for her courage and leading role in Myanmar’s pro-democratic movement.

Kenton Clymer in 2013 with a pedicab driver in Sittwe, Rakhine State, Myanmar

Kenton Clymer in 2013 with a pedicab driver
in Sittwe, Rakhine State, Myanmar

In 1989, she was placed under house arrest, and she spent 15 of the next 21 years in custody despite being awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1991. She was released from house arrest in 2011, and her party appears to have won a landslide victory in the latest national elections, held Nov. 8.

Clymer, who taught a course at Yangon University in Myanmar in 2013, resolved to write his new book while Aung San Suu Kyi was still on house arrest. It is the first comprehensive history of American relations with Burma/Myanmar since World War II.

The book addresses that country’s struggle for independence from Britain, armed communist and ethnic rebellions during the Cold War and U.S. efforts to suppress rebellion and drug exports to troops in Vietnam and to the mainland United States.

The book also examines the U.S. response to recent oppressive military regimes in Burma/Myanmar, the rise of dissident leaders within the country who struggled against these developments and the restoration of full diplomatic relations during the Obama administration.