The book is quite a comprehensive study of the contemporary situation in Myanmar, covering domestic politics under the military regime, the institutionalisation of the Myanmar armed forces in the polity, the democratic and ethnic opposition, the state of the economy, Myanmar'sforeign relations with particular focus on India and China and the international pressure for democratic change.
Talking of the military regime, the author says that the armed forces, called Tatmadan has been running the state since 1962. From 1886 to 1923, the British directly ruled Myanmar from India, but this ended in 1937 when Myanmar was granted separate statute with a constitution and self-government. The Tatmadan has established a dominant role in Myanmar politics while its repressive policies continue to deter people from taking a confrontationist approach. The military has also built a civilian organisation in the form of the USDA through which its political ideology is projected to the people.
The long exercise of formulating a new constitution and getting it accepted through a referendum has been left by the wayside after the massive monk-led protests. While the protests were crushed with a heavy hand, international criticism and scrutiny have been intense with even China and the ASEAN telling Myanmar to respond to the demand for change.
Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in South-east Asia. Ironically five decades ago, it was the wealthiest in the region as it was a major exporter of rice and was endowed with rich resources. The country'seconomic development since the 1990s has remained largely concentrated in the urban areas and among the military families but overall development is sluggish due to poor social services, disease and poverty. As for politico-security dynamics, the military regime has strengthened its position vis-?-vis both the civil opposition and armed ethnic groups through accommodative, repressive and appeasement policies. Concessions given to ethnic insurgents may provide a framework for future relations between the Central Government and the ethnic minority states with necessary changes in the form of ceasefire agreements time and again.
As for foreign policy, Aung Suu Kyi represents a strong challenge for the junta'sforeign policy. Both at internal and regional levels, Suu Kyi has won support from democratic countries.
The junta regime was not prepared for the mid-2007 protest led by the monks. It has however, managed to re-establish control and the movement is no threat to its rule, either by internal protests or external pressures and sanctions. The protest has, however, resulted in intense international scrutiny and pressure, spearheaded by the US and European countries, with Myanmar figuring prominently in the current UN General Assembly session. The ASEAN is in despair and far from inclined to defend the regime. Even China (and Russia), who has steadfastly shielded Myanmar from any Security Council action, ?is clearly uneasy with the situation and has exerted pressure on the regime, albeit behind the scenes, to show some movement towards democracy.? The UN Secretary General'sspecial envoy for Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari met both the regime'sleadership and Suu Kyi. A minister has been appointed to liaise with her and with the UN.
He wants India to put pressure for normalisation of the situation in Myanmar. He says, ?India should support Gambari'sefforts to establish and maintain a continuing quiet dialogue with the Myanmar regime, to keep meeting Suu Kyi, and nudge the two sides towards reconciliation and democratic normalisation?India'spolicy of engagement since 1993 has tangibly improved India'sposition in Myanmar, but it has been slow.? In a final word, the author wants India to try to work with Japan to ?coordinate approaches to Myanmar? as Japan has a good image in Myanmar. The conclusions and recommendations of the study are principally directed at policy makers in India.
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