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Civil-Military Relations in Transition: The Case of Myanmar

Sun, April 3, 10:45am to 12:45pm, Washington State Convention Center, Floor: 2nd Floor, Room 205


Transitions from military-led regimes to democratically elected governments are intricate matters. Although many states have adopted constitutions clearly subjugating the military to civilian dominance on paper, in reality constitutional limitations to military intervention in politics are routinely ignored. The access to means of coercion, the organizational structures of the military institution, the (mis)use of legitimacy claims and national ideology to allow for state-intervention, and the connection to external actor support through military aid, favor the military institution over civilian
counterparts in fragile democratization processes. The military is also logistically superior with regard to abilities to mobilize personnel and technology. After decades of military rule, Myanmar is going through a regime transition, culminating in the historic election on November 8th 2015. Years of traumatic experiences of military oppression have created a highly asymmetric civil-military relationship. With Myanmar as a case study, this paper argues that civil-military relations must be seen as an integral element in any democratic transition. This relationship in turn is negotiated and renegotiated as part of a legitimization process in which different actors through a variety of channels seek to control the means of power and force.


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