The Military’s Still in Charge

BY BERTIL LINTNER

Why reform in Burma is only skin-deep.

Since ex-general Thein Sein assumed the presidency in March 2011, foreign observers have generally appeared optimistic that Burma is on its way toward some kind of liberal democracy. The only snag seems to be the ongoing conflict with ethnic rebels in Kachin, Burma’s northernmost state, which has been explained as local commanders acting with “an unusual degree of autonomy.” Either that, or people question the president’s ability to control the military during the country’s democratic reform. Some foreign analysts have argued, however, that the outside world needs tosupport Thein Sein’s “reformist” government against so-called “military hardliners.” 

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