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The Democratization of Burma
In Burma, the Military Still Looms Large

In Burma, the military isn’t giving up power all at once. That’s the underlying message in this story from Reuters:

A Yangon court, for the second time this week, laid additional charges dating from 2012 against a former monk and leader of Myanmar’s Saffron Revolution, a member of his legal team said on Thursday.

The new charges against Nyi Nyi Lwin, better known by his ordination name, Gambira, came just one day before he was set to be released following an arrest in January for allegedly entering Myanmar illegally from neighboring Thailand.

The charges were brought by the Government Administration Department, which like many government organs is still controlled by the military.

Almost three months into Aung San Suu Kyi’s (unofficial) leadership, most of the news out of Burma has been about how the new government is managing contentious problems with the Rohingya minority. That means we haven’t been hearing much about how the actual transition from military leadership to democratic governance is going. In this case, no news might be good news—an indication that tensions are being managed quietly.

But the case against Gambira is a reminder that the military lurks in the background, and that very few people know its motives and plans. It’ll be important not to lose sight of how the military wields its still-powerful bureaucratic influence in the weeks and months to come.

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