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LinkAsia | Nov 21
US President Barack Obama's historic visit to Myanmar drew jubilant crowds. But as contributor Kenneth Wong reports from Rangoon, many there believ...
To help us understand what’s going on in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, we are joined on Skype today by Dr. Zarni, a long-time Burmese activist, and a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics. Thanks so much for joining us today.
My first question is: who’s really in charge in Myanmar? Is it President Thein Sein, or is it the military?
The military, of course, you know, Thein Sein, is the front man on the stage, and that is what Aung San Suu Kyi has been dealing with. And nothing has changed since the election so we have the civilian facade of the military that still calls the shots from behind the scenes. They’re primarily motivated to solidify their nearly half-century grip on the country’s political institutions and economy. And I think there are two other factors that we need to take into account. One is the worldwide economic slump that is creating a negative impact on the Burmese domestic economy as well as the regional economies. The downturn is sending massive numbers of Burmese migrant workers back to the country, and reducing drastically the remittances that the Burmese send back to their families. So there is an economic time bomb in the country that is ticking.
Aside from these economic and social factors, are there any other factors that are driving the regime’s decisions right now?
Oh yeah, of course, you know, because they have been shunned by the West for the past almost 20 years, that they have been pushed into the fold of China, primarily. So the Burmese military that used to fight the Beijing-backed Burmese Communist resistance in the country is now overly reliant on China’s political protection internationally and economic investment and support across the border. So I think the Burmese military regime wants to re-balance the foreign relations so that they will be less reliant on the Chinese support and they will be less at the whims of the Beijing Communist Party.
Thank you Dr. Zarni we appreciate your time. Doctor Maung Zarni is founder of the 'Free Burma Coalition', and he writes and speaks about Burma and the military regime.