Papering Over the Cracks
covering burma and southeast asia
Saturday, March 23, 2019
Magazine

COVER STORY

Papering Over the Cracks


By Aung Zaw MARCH, 2006 - VOLUME 14 NO.3


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Burma’s military is riven by internal conflicts. Snr-Gen Than Shwe, however, seems completely unfazed

 

The Divided Army

 

Burma’s military leaders began expanding their army, navy and air force soon after crushing the nationwide democracy uprising in 1988. With the help of powerful neighbors and friends in the West, they began stocking up on new jet fighters, warships, tanks and ammunition. Today, Burma’s military is one of the strongest in the region.

 

 

The country’s once powerful rebel armies are now under control, and traditional opposition groups and student activists have been largely obliterated.

 

Despite this, Burma’s all-powerful generals have never quite lost their siege mentality.

 

Their incompetence in solving the country’s economic and social woes is causing alarm throughout the region. Faced with threats from new, urban opposition, pockets of insurgency and increasing international pressure, Burma remains isolated and the generals paranoid.

 

The hardline junta continues to rule the country with an iron fist, but cracks are beginning to show. The fact is that not all soldiers are hardliners or loyal to the current military leadership. Moderate forces do exist in the Tatmadaw (armed forces.)

 

Some inside the military are starting to look at leaders of other authoritarian regimes. They see people like Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and former Philippines leader Fidel Ramos—moderate, business-minded, ex-military men who have overseen significant economic development—and wonder who would be capable of playing such a role in Burma.



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