Setting the rules for survival : Why the Burmese military regime survives in an age of democratization

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  • Kyaw Yin Hlaing


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-291
Journal / PublicationPacific Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009


Regardless of its growing unpopularity, the ruling military junta in Burma remains far stronger than any of its foes in the country. This article probes how the junta managed to remain in power for such a long time. The answer lies in the informal procedures that governed the way leading members of the junta dealt with their differences and disagreements with their colleagues. Deriving from the rules of engagement within the military established by former military dictator Ne Win, two features came to epitomize the organizational culture of the Tatmadaw (armed forces). The first of these is the maintenance of incriminating evidence against senior members of the military in the event that they fall out of favour or need to be disciplined. The second feature of this culture that has now taken root is the observance of discrete domains of operation. This latter feature allows for the dissipation of tension between officers who are unable to get along well with each other. Importantly, it also prevents a senior officer from acquiring sufficient power to challenge more senior officers within the Tatmadaw hierarchy. Once certain rules became established norms of the Tatmadaw, they came to influence the actions and strategies taken by military officers. The rules that governed the ways military officers interacted with the colleagues they did not get along with and the incentives the Tatmadaw as an organization has created for its members have kept it together. Therefore, regardless of external and internal pressures, the army remains the most organized institution in Burma and appears to be more unified now than ever before. © 2009 Taylor & Francis.

Research Area(s)

  • Burma, Historical institutionalism, Military regime, Political struggles, Rules for survival, Tatmadaw