Myanmar’s Military Junta Is Losing Power

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The impending demise of Myanmar’s military junta illustrates that autocracies can be brittle and that democratic transitions can be resumed. But even though resistance forces will likely overthrow the regime, they will require meaningful support from regional powers to reconstitute a viable pluralistic state.

BANGKOK – As autocratic leaders gain influence, if not power, in more countries than proponents of democracy care to count, Myanmar is a remarkable exception: its military junta appears untenable. In fact, Myanmar’s people are putting their lives on the line to break the generals’ grip on power and reclaim their future.

After nearly a half-century of military dictatorship, starting in 1962, a decade of political liberalization, economic reform, and development progress followed, lasting from 2011 until 2021. But Senior General Min Aung Hlaing seized power from Myanmar’s re-elected civilian government on February 1, 2021, triggering a civil war in which young people, ethnic-minority armies, civilian leaders, and a defiant population have been fighting the regime. More recently, resistance forces – waging what they now call a “revolution” – have scored a series of battlefield victories, turning the tide of the conflict.

But it is one thing to defeat Myanmar’s military; it is quite another to reconstitute a viable pluralistic state with popular legitimacy in an ethnically fractious country. Moreover, Myanmar’s deadly internal conflict could drag on for months as the military makes its last stand around major cities and towns, including the capital of Nay Pyi Taw, relying on air power, armor, and artillery to survive.

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Thitinan Pongsudhirak