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Exits from Military Rule: Lessons for Burma

From: Journal of Democracy
Volume 26, Number 2, April 2015
pp. 86-100 | 10.1353/jod.2015.0024



How to turn an army that ruled over the state into a loyal servant of a democratic state? This essay answers this question by examining three different experiences—South Korea’s unqualified success, Thailand’s failure, and Indonesia’s partial success—in order to ascertain their usefulness for Burmese democracy activists. Although Indonesia’s path seems the most reasonable and promising, all three of these countries were in many respects—e.g., vulnerability of the regime; economic development; strength and unity of the opposition; engagement with the outside world —far better off at the time of their transition than Burma. Therefore, the Burmese generals’ willingness to exit the country’s political stage in the foreseeable future is highly doubtful.