Daniel Halliday
Sep 18 · Last update 10 days ago.
What led to such long military government rule in Myanmar?
Myanmar has been under some form of military government since 1962. Why has the military had such a long standing influence over the governing of this country, and what effect has this had on Myanmar's society?
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The Buddhist influence on politics
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Longstanding and uncontrollable ethnic tensions
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Civil unrest nationally and internationally led to long term stability paranoia and military rule
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An opportunistic coup d’état, followed by decades of economic mismanagement and totalitarianism
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The Buddhist influence on politics

Buddhism plays such a fundamental role in the lives of the majority of people in Myanmar, so much so that its influence on politics and the country’s transition to democracy cannot be discounted. In his book ‘Buddhism, Politics and Political Thought in Myanmar’ author Matthew Walton has argued that the nature of the Buddhist influence on Myanmar’s political landscape is often oversimplified, as Buddhism is often painted as an apolitical moral framework. Buddhist thinking in Myanmar is more of what Walton describes as a “moral universe” and various ideas are often used to justify differing political ends, monks being directly political active in both the 8888 uprising and the Saffron Revolution contrasted with the more recent rise of Buddhist nationalism and violence toward the Muslim minorities.

budsas.org/ebud/whatbudbeliev/229.htm

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Longstanding and uncontrollable ethnic tensions

Ethnic issues were a problem even before Myanmar gained independence, with Aung San being assassinated while trying to deal with ethnic tensions in 1947. From the time of independence from British colonialism Myanmar had an abundance of armed ethnic and communist groups both unhappy with the newly formed independent government. A long history of ethnic violence has fed into a state of civil war, but despite movements for peace ethnic tensions are the one constant that even lead to genocide in Rakhine State. The Myanmar government recognises 135 distinct ethnic groups comprising of 108 different ethnolinguistic groups.

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Civil unrest nationally and internationally led to long term stability paranoia and military rule

Fear of civil war and disintegration as a nation following independence lead to the beginning of military rule in Myanmar. Instability in Vietnam and Laos following deep political divides in each country and perceived inadequacy of Myanmar’s civilian government to survive internal or external threats, lead to the military’s justification for martial law. Military rule in the name of stability thus caused continuing civil unrest which served in turn to justify military rule.

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An opportunistic coup d’état, followed by decades of economic mismanagement and totalitarianism

Ne Win’s government was a totalitarian regime that took power in 1962, following a brief period of democratic independence following the Second World War. Ne Win took control of the media and nationalised all businesses and means of production, aiming to implement soviet style central planning and nationalisation. This lasted until 1988 and allowed Myanmar to come one of the poorest states in the world. This set the stage for military rule in Myanmar, and keeping the people extremely disenfranchised allowed for subsequent military governments to hold on to a large amount of power, something that continues presently.

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