Science, Tech & Environment

Critics question Burmese leaders' power

(Tell us first what the chief characteristics are of the Burmese government?) The Burmese military is an institution with a poorly educated leadership, not concerned with cooperation or diplomacy, faces a strong democratic opposition, has faced insurgencies from ethnic nationalities and their decision making processes are opaque. (Do they consider themselves devout Buddhists?) Yes and if you look at their response to the Saffron Revolution of last year, there was a huge concern that when the Hunta started attacking the monks, this signaled the final straw in the erosion of their legitimacy. (Why is it then that the Burmese government has been able to hang on?) Most of us were surprised at how large the protests became. The Hunta responded to it with arrests and repressive tactics. (This is a clip of how a US government official characterized how the Hunta is responding to the cyclone. She was saying this is not a government that sees itself as a servant of the people. In a situation like this, is it possible that people will feel as emboldened as last year?) They're different. Last summer, the protests were started by student activists. The problem with the government is there already is very little infrastructure so the government was ill equipped to handle the disaster from the get go. I'm not sure if the government is weakened. (Help us understand the mind of this military government�how is it able to turn down offers of assistance from the international community?) Burma is a resource rich country which has started to find significant oil and gas reserves. So they've not had to produce wealth and they have their own institutions that come out of the military.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

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