Burma’s Junta Built to Last

In the aftermath of the apparent transfer of nuclear technology and know-how from North Korea to Burma, the latter, reports Bertil Lintner at Asia Times Online, could soon be penalized with more international sanctions.

The prospect of that happening — and already deep dissatisfaction over the close relationship with a pariah regime like Pyongyang . . . is reportedly stoking resentment among the Myanmar officer corps. Other officers like Sai Thein Win [who provided the Democratic Voice of Burma with photographs and documents] may therefore be waiting in the wings for an opportunity to defect and shed more light on Myanmar’s deep and dark nuclear secrets. [To them] Myanmar’s experiments with nuclear technology and missiles amount to little more than a waste of money in a country that desperately needs more funds dedicated to public health and education.

But don’t elections scheduled for October offer hope of reform? In a review of a biography of the junta’s leader, Gen. Than Shwe, elsewhere at Asia Times Online, Lintner writes . . .

A new generation of pundits. … believe a hitherto unknown generation of Young Turks and other supposed closet liberals within the military will come to the fore and push the country in a more democratic direction. … In all likelihood, however, foreign pundits will be proven wrong yet again. Benedict Rogers’ highly readable new book [Than Shwe: Unmasking Burma's Tyrant] shows why Myanmar’s military, even with Than Shwe’s imminent retirement, has no intention of giving up power any time soon.

At Irrawaddy, Aung Zaw explains.

In an interview with a US television journalist on April 14, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong predicted that Burma’s ruling generals will not easily give up power. … “If they are out, it’s not just that the country and the government have changed, bu ‘Where do I go and which jail would I be in and [what about] my children and my jewels and my billions?’” he said. … [Than Shwe's] real concern is likely to be the loyalty of young army officers [who] may come to the fore in reshaping Burma as their roles change between being members of the armed forces or parliament. … [He] must ensure that his most trusted lieutenants take over the reins of both the new government and the armed forces so that his family and fortune will be protected.

Lintner sums up. “Whether Myanmar holds elections this year, next year, or never, all the structures he put in place signal that the military is geared to remain in power for the foreseeable future.”