Daniel Halliday
Sep 18 · Last update 13 days ago.
What lead 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 Myanmarese society?
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Longstanding and uncontrollable ethnic tensions
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Civil unrest nationally and internationally lead 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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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 lead 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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