Exits from Military Rule: Lessons for Burma

Issue Date April 2015
Volume 26
Issue 2
Page Numbers 86-100
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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.

About the Author

Zoltan Barany is Frank C. Erwin Jr. Centennial Professor of Government at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of Armies of Arabia: Military Politics and Effectiveness in the Gulf (2021). His 2007 book Democratic Breakdown and the Decline of the Russian Military was republished in paperback by Princeton University Press in 2023.

View all work by Zoltan Barany