Burma Rolls The Dice

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 27 2012 @ 8:37pm


Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson think the recent elections were an attempt by the government to solidify military rule, not transition to democracy:

They hope to manage this, make the regime look more respectable. But it is a gamble for them, they may fail. If they do, it will be much harder now to use repression like they have in the past, so we were just arguing that the transition was more hopeful than the status quo, where a really successful attempt to overthrow the military might just have led to civil war. Now there is more hope for change, though of course if there is change, the military still intends to be able to influence it. But again, this is probably better than the previous situation.

In a follow-up, they compare the risks inherent to the Burmese opposition's strategy to the Arab Spring's mass demonstration model:

Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya (and hopefully Syria) chart one path for the fall of a repressive extractive regime: a revolution deposing the regime — peacefully or violently, largely depending on the reaction of the regime. Burma shows another: the regime itself gradually letting go of the reins…Both the Arab and the Burmese paths towards more inclusive institutions come with serious pitfalls.

The Arab path opens the way to another group coming to power and re-creating yet another extractive regime as has been the case with many of the post-colonial governments that overthrew the colonial regimes after World War II or the Bolshevik Revolution that kicked out the czarist regime in Russia — both the military and the Muslim Brotherhood our candidate would-be usurpers in Egypt, for example.

The Burmese path risks creating the appearance of change without real change, and is also vulnerable to a reversal down the road if the new cadre of the military, still completely and forcefully dominating Burmese institutions, wishes to change direction.

Recent Dish on Burma's transition here, here and here.

(Photo: A supporter cheers on Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi as she visits her constituency on the occasion of festivities surrounding the country's new year in Kawhmu outside Yangon on April 17, 2012. Suu Kyi was elected in the recent April 1 parliamentary by-elections in a Kawhmu constituency. By Soe Than Win/AFP/Getty Images.)