The State of Myanmar

David I. Steinberg

"Illuminate[s] every nook and cranny of a country that has been trying to hide from the world."
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Long isolated by rigid military rule, Burma, or Myanmar, is one of the least known, significantly sized states in the world. Possessed of a rich cultural history yet facing a range of challenges to stability and growth, it has struck the imaginations of those concerned not only with geopolitical or trade affairs but also with poverty, health, and human rights. David I. Steinberg sheds new light on this reclusive state by exploring issues of authority and legitimacy in its politics, economics, social structure, and culture since the popular uprising and military coup of 1988.

Exploring the origins of that year’s tumultuous events, Steinberg analyzes a generation of preceding military governments and their attempts to address the nation’s problems. He focuses on the role of the military, the effects of Burma’s geopolitical placement, the plight of the poor, the destruction of civil society, and rising ethnic tensions. While taking into account the importance of foreign observers as counterpoints to official views, suppliers of economic aid, and advocates of reform, Steinberg contends that ultimately, the solutions to Myanmar’s varied problems lie with the Burmese themselves and the policies of their government.

The paperback edition includes a postcript that reveals the most current and critical issues facing Burma since the publication of the original hardcover in March 2001. Steinberg brings readers up to date on the recent release of political prisoners, economic and military conditions, United Nations actions, and the complex, ever-changing relationship between Thailand and Myanmar.

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments



Statistical Profile

State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)



1. Setting the Stage: The Crisis of 1988 and Its Origins
The Coup of September 18, 1988
The Origins of the People's Revolution
Ne Win—From Sun King to Cardinal Richelieu?
The Inherited Economic Miasma
The Military as Caretakers
The Military as Socialists
International Reactions to a Reclusive State

2. The Social and Political Backdrop to the Crisis: Myanmar's Modern Heritage
Unrealized Potential
Transformational Events and the Military
State and Society in Burma
The Culture of Power
The Power of Culture

3. The Military and the Aftermath of the Coup
Military Perception and Roles
National Security Concepts
The Development of Dual Societies: Military and Civilian
Defense Spending
The Role and Rule of Law
Political and Human Rights

4. Mass Mobilization, Civil Society, and Orthodoxy
Mass Mobilization in Burma
Civil Society and Its Destruction
NGOs in Burma/Myanmar

5. Economic Changes: Progress and Regression
The Economic Maelstrom
Patterns fo Economic Change
The Future of the Burmese Economy: Problems and Prospects
Appendix A Selected Targets fo the Five-Year Plan (1996/97?-2001)
Appendix B 1999 World Bank Economic and Social Assessment Summary

6. Multiethnicity and the Burmese State
Appendix A Linguistic Groups of Burma/Myanmar
Appendix B Ethnically Related Rebel Groups in Burma, 1983-84
Appendix C Ethnic Cease-Fires as of July 1998
Appendix D Forces in Revolt (July 1998)

7. The Politics of Social Issues
The Destruction of the Educational System
The Status of Women
Narcotics and the Economy

8. Foreign Affairs: Myanmar as Regional Nexus
The China Factor
The ASEAN Issue
The United States and the Issue of Sanctions
Migration and Refugees

9. Foreign Assistance: Tensions and Needs
The Japanese Assistance Program
The U.S> Economic Aid Program
Multilateral and Other Donors
The Future Role of Donors in Myanmar
Appendix A Japanese Aid Projects
Appendix B Japanese Economic Assistance to Burma: Loans, Grants, Reparations
Appendix C U.S. Assistance Program Fiscal Obligations as of August 15, 1967
Appendix D Summary of Actual and Committed U.S. Assistance to Burma, 1950-66
Appendix E Official Development Assistance to Myanmar 1989-97
Appendix F The World Bank, Myanmar: Loans/Credit Summary

10. Conclusion: Burma/Myanmar—Its Future and the Dilemmas of Foreign Policy
Dilemmas and Current Conditions
Assumptions and Constraints
The Changed International Milieu
Future Prospects

Appendix I Economic Reform in Burma: Problems and Priority Needs. 1988
Further Reading
About the Author


"Illuminate[s] every nook and cranny of a country that has been trying to hide from the world.Foreign Affairs"—Foreign Affairs

"Well-written and easily digested."—Pacific Affairs

"This serious analysis should not be ignored."—Choice

"[Combines] excellent analysis with insight and sympathetic understanding to produce a compelling picture of the dismal Burmese scene and why both Burmese and foreigners have such difficulty trying to change it."—Morton Abramowitz, former Assistant Secretary of State and Senior Fellow, Century Foundation

"One of our foremost experts on Burma/Myanmar has produced an in-depth analysis of this reclusive state, interweaving the past and the present. Steinberg's work will be extremely valuable to those interested in modern Asia."—Robert A. Scalapino, University of California, Berkeley

"Steinberg has written the perfect kind of book for a new public policy debate about Myanmar. It is based on four decades of study and solid objective analysis. Fair minded and informative."— Ezra Vogel, Harvard University


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

David I. Steinberg is the director of Asian studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and a senior consultant to the Asia Foundation. He is the author of ten books, including The Future of Burma: Crisis and Choice in Myanmar (1990).

384 pp., 6 x 9

Mar 2001

384 pp., 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-0-87840-893-1
Mar 2001

384 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-58901-285-1
Mar 2001

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