BoldBurma.doc - The Politics of Hope and Fear in Modern Burma Rachel Leigh Bold Monmouth College [email protected] Bold 2 The Politics of Hope and Fear in

BoldBurma.doc - The Politics of Hope and Fear in Modern...

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The Politics of Hope and Fear in Modern Burma Rachel Leigh Bold Monmouth College [email protected]
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Bold 2 The Politics of Hope and Fear in Modern Burma Abstract For nearly 50 years a ruthless and inhumane military regime has held power in Burma, also known as Myanmar. This government, which lacks legitimacy has through a variety of means, oppressed its people. Freedom of speech does not exist in Burma. Anyone caught speaking out against the regime faces imprisonment. Political prisoners in Burma face poor conditions and almost certain torture and death. Life for those outside of prison is not much better. The citizens of Burma are poor, and destitute. Some have been thrown out of their homes and forced to relocate to camps, others fearing conditions in the camps have fled into the forests or into bordering nations like Thailand. Burma is the number one recruiter of child soldiers in the world. The question here becomes, how has a government that lacks legitimacy and is so clearly corrupt and oppressive been able to retain power for so long? Related question is why democracy has failed to take root in Burma? The regime has managed to stay in power by using both terror and oppression of the opposition forces and by extending the institutional reach of the military into Burmese Society. Moreover the Burmese government’s isolationist stance and reliance on China as the main trading partner makes it difficult for international community to exert influence over the military regime. Two recent events in Burma demonstrate how it has retained power, the Saffron Revolution of 2007, and the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, are both events that had the potential to destabilize the military regime but failed to do so. I show the tactics used by the government to maintain its power over the people. The regime brutally repressed the rebellion by the Monks despite a great deal of attention by international community and the generally exalted status of the Monks in Burmese society. This example demonstrates the Junta’s continued fear of dissent, and perception of who and what kinds of groups constitute an enemy of the state. The second example is its reaction to the devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis. Immediately following the cyclone humanitarian assistance poured in from all over the world but it was widely reported that the soldiers in Burma gave aid to favored groups or didn’t distribute it at all. The Burmese government also turned away international aid agencies completely leading the international community to wonder if they could stand by and let this happen, or should the aid be taken into
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Bold 3 Burma forcibly if necessary. 2010 is an important turning point for the regime because constitutionally the military junta there must hold free elections this year, but have yet to actually schedule such elections. My research leads me to be uncertain about the future of Burma, and the correct course for it’s future, but hopeful that a growing understanding in the international community may eventually lead to real substantial reform.
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  • Fall '08
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