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Democracy in Myanmar:International Balances,Domestic Instability, Rational Leaders

Author HeiDiWen(Stephen Reynolds)
Tutor YuXunDa
School Zhejiang University
Course International relations
Keywords Myanmar Democratization Neoclassical Realism SelectorateTheory
Type Master's thesis
Year 2013
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Myanmar’s recent thrust towards democratization took much of the world by surprise. While a small degree of reform was expected to take place with the elections of2010, almost none were able to foresee the loosening up of the military’s grip on power in2011and the monumental by-elections of2012where Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy were able to win43out of45contested seats in parliament. Why have these reforms taken place and why now? This paper attempts to analyze the effects that both internal and external factors have upon Myanmar’s democratization process. By assuming that Myanmar’s leadership is rational and self-interested, I make the case that initiating the democratic process is in the personal survival and financial interests of the ruling elite. At the same time, a democratic Myanmar is in the best interests of an international community that is looking to take political credit and find economic gain in an increasingly open and stable Myanmar, as well as the domestic population who desire personal and economic security. This study aims to measure what the causes of Myanmar’s democratization process are by interviewing residents and specialists of Myanmar and studying their perceptions of the reform process. The results of the interviews, while hardly conclusive, provide strong evidence suggesting that external balances of power, especially balances of economic power that are easily observable to the domestic environment, do have significant influences on Myanmar’s internal unrest which in turn pressures the leadership to strive for more effective ways to keep their populations under control and thus maintain power via revision of the political system.

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