Re-thinking Myanmar's political regime: military rule in Myanmar and implications for current reforms

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39 Citations (Scopus)


The Myanmar military has long dominated national politics as well as the state apparatus since first coming into power in 1958. Despite a series of challenges to its rule, the military has been able to constantly re-invent itself while re-asserting its dominance over society. Cycles of popular protests and dissatisfaction with military rule have not led to regime change nor weakened the military as a unified institution. The latest incarnation of the nominally civilian government has introduced a series of liberalising reforms that have dramatically opened more socio-political space for opposition and non-state actors to participate in national politics. Despite the somewhat optimistic outlook of a more liberalised Myanmar in the future, the institutional design and historical legacy of the military's role in state-building have ensured that it has enough 'reserve domains' to maintain its prominent role within any foreseeable future governments in Myanmar. By tracing the historical development of the Myanmar military regime, this paper argues that current reforms were introduced as a strategy for the military to ensure its continued survival as the primary political actor in Myanmar.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-261
Number of pages15
JournalContemporary Politics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • authoritarianism
  • military regime
  • Myanmar
  • tatmadaw
  • transition


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