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Southeast Asian Affairs 2005 MYANMAR IN 2004 Why Military Rule Continues Kyaw Yin Hlaing Since it took power, the current military government of Myanmar has been beleaguered by several opposition forces. Its legitimacy has been questioned by a majority ofthe people, the international community, several political parties formed by the participants ofthe Four Eights democracy movement,1 and veteran politicians who have been involved in Myanmar politics since colonial days. The military's hold on the country has also been challenged by several insurgent groups. At the same time, the junta is believed to be riddled with internal power struggles, a view seemingly confirmed by the abrupt dismissal in October 2004 of the powerful intelligence chief and then Prime Minister Khin Nyunt and the discharge of his entire intelligence corps. Because Khin Nyunt was the architect of the 7-point road map2 for democratic transition in Myanmar and ceasefire agreements with insurgent groups, his dismissal was accompanied by rumours that the first step of the road map, the National Convention3 (resumed in May 2004 and adjourned in July 2004), would not convene again and that the ceasefire agreements would break down, with rebels returning to thejungles to resume their armed struggle againstthe government. Therefore, several observers read Khin Nyunt's dismissal as a signal of instability in the junta. Yet, although the incident did highlight internal tensions between senior officials in the government, thejunta did not appear to be a government that was on the verge of collapse. Apart from detaining some senior intelligence officials, the junta was found to be conducting its business as usual in the remaining two-and-a-halfmonths of the year. It announced that the National Convention would be resumed in midFebruary 2005 and that it would abide by all ceasefire agreements. As 2004 came to an end, senior government officials publicly noted with confidence that the Kyaw Yin Hlaing is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, National University of Singapore. 232Kyaw Yin Hlaing government would continue to rule the country without Khin Nyunt and his powerful intelligence apparatus. Why is the junta still in power? Why did the tension between the intelligence and army units not lead to the break-up of the regime? Both questions will be addressed in this paper by an examination of the internal structure of the Myanmar Tatmadaw (armed forces), and thejunta's interaction with opposition parties, insurgent groups and other major societal actors. In order to fully understand the complex nature of the junta's continued rule in Myanmar, one should consider the internal dynamics of the opposition parties, exiled pro-democracy organizations, ethnic insurgent groups, and other societal forces that affect the junta. The Impact of the Intelligence-Army Factional Struggle on Military Rule While it has always been the most organized institution in the country, the Tatmadaw has never been considered monolithic. It has always been perceived as fraught with internal factional and power rivalries. The dismissal of Khin Nyunt and the entire intelligence corps was doubtlessly a major political event in Myanmar. Despite the uncertain political climate of the country, however, the military does not seem to be on the verge of collapse. In this section, I will explain why the recent factional struggle in the junta did not lead to its break-up. In fact, the power struggle between the army and intelligence corps was of a long-standing nature. A local analyst noted that this struggle broke out whenever the intelligence chiefwas appointed to an important position in the government, bypassing army officers who were senior to him.4 When the military took power in 1988, Khin Nyunt was made Secretary-I of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) which was renamed in 1997 as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). He was the mostjunior member ofthe SLORC. However, his control of the intelligence corps meant that he was privy to all manner of information, which he could control and use to his benefit. Using both his positions as Secretary-I of the SLORC and the head ofthe intelligence corps, he was able to successfully consolidate his position in the government. Accordingly, some senior military officers were disgruntled...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1793-9135
Print ISSN
0377-5437
Pages
pp. 229-256
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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