Tragic Nation: Why Burma’s Democratic Experiment Collapsed

Amitav Acharya
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A decade ago, Burma was full of light and hope. Today, it has descended into darkness and despair. The once promising political and opening up of the country has been set back, possibly for a long time. How did this happen?
Why? Many outside observers are surprised by the developments, but it was predictable. For those watching Burma the February 2021 coup was in the making for some time. Its seeds were planted in the constitution, which created false expectations on both the military and the civilian parties that both sides are going to emerge as long-term winners. The political leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi, the determination of her supporters to gain absolute control of the country at the expense of the military, and the over-dependence on her by her party without a succession plan, were other contributing factors. The international community, including ASEAN, was blindsided by short-term business considerations.
ASEAN saw Burma’s entry into the regional grouping as a major geopolitical gain, without keeping an eye on the gathering political storm inside the country. ASEAN’s principle of non-interference led to lack a lack of concern for Burma’s domestic developments. This book will provide a timely and insightful account of the political situation in Burma, assessing why the country experienced the coup, what the implications are for the people of Burma and the Southeast Asian region, and what role the international community can play to prevent Burma becoming a failed state.

About the Author

Amitav Acharya is a distinguished professor and the UNESCO Chair in Transnational Challenges and Governance, School of International Service, American University, Washington, DC. His major works on Southeast Asia include: The Quest for Identity: International Relations of Southeast Asia (Oxford, 2000); Constructing a Security Community in Southeast Asia: ASEAN and the Problems of Regional Order, 3 edns. (Routledge, 2001, 2002, 2014), Whose Ideas Matter: Agency and Power in Asian Regionalism (Cornell and ISEAS, 2009); Civilizations in Embrace: The Spread of Ideas and the Transformation of Power (Singapore: ISEAS, 2012); The Making of Southeast Asia (Cornell and ISEAS, 2013); and East of India, South of China: Sino-Indian Encounters in Southeast Asia (Oxford, 2017). His articles and op-eds have appeared in International Organization, International Security, International Studies Quarterly, International Affairs, World Politics, Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, Washington Post, International Herald Tribune/ Global New York Times, Times of India, Australian Financial Review, and YaleGlobal Online. He has been interviewed by BBC, CNN, CNBC, and National Public Radio (NPR) and other world media.


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Tragic Nation: Why Burma’s Democratic Experiment Collapsed
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