Edited by Brian Bridges and Lok Sang Ho
Chapter 12: Challenging the Transitologist Approach: Myanmar’s Troubled Democratization Process
Paul Chi-yuen Chan and Simon Shen Myanmar continues to baffle political scientists and analysts worldwide for the resilience of its military regime and its resistance to the wave of democratization that swept the world in the 1980s. Although East and South Asia strive to provide a plethora of examples which rebuff the rosy picture that Western democracy will become the prevailing political system, most authoritarian regimes have made some important concessions and introduced, no matter how compromised they are, certain democratic reforms. Indeed, most of the factors conducive to the introduction of a democratization process – increasing costs for military maintenance, a lasting economic fiasco, widespread local mobilization, sweeping electoral defeat for the military-backed government, international boycotts and condemnation – have been present in Myanmar. However, the country is still standing on its own; its despotic government remains unscathed and the democratization process largely subdued. There is little chance of it following the paths of Taiwan and South Korea any time soon. The present situation began with the crackdown of the ‘people power’ uprising and the bloody coup d’état in 1988, in which the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) seized control of the country. Despite international denunciation, initially more covert anti-democratic tendencies were followed by SLORC’s outright nullification of the electoral result in 1990, in which the National Unity Party (NUP) was defeated. The popular opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was put under house arrest. Although there are signs that the military government initiated closed-door talks in 2001...
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