Collective Democratic Control of the Armed Forces A Theoretical Understanding of the Current Structure of Myanmar Civil-Military Relations

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Ye Phone Kyaw


Under its 2008 Constitution, Myanmar is undergoing a political transition from a military regime to a more liberalized democratic and constitutional government. The current National League for Democracy government’s reforms are in stagnation, while debates on the political role of the Tatmadaw (the Myanmar military) as guaranteed by the 2008 Constitution continue. A widespread perception persists that civil-military relations in Myanmar lack civilian control and are a barrier to the reform processes. Such assumptions, however, are made in the absence of theoretical analysis. This article will argue that Myanmar’s constitutional government has the right to establish “democratic control,” while the Tatmadaw’s national political role remains significant. Democratic control of Myanmar’s civil-military relations is based on a “collective” rather than a “confrontational” approach—one that is called “collective democratic control.” The current stagnation in reform and in the national reconciliation process are the result of a lack of understanding of the existing structure of civil-military relations, rather than a lack of democratic control of the armed forces.

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Author Biography

Ye Phone Kyaw, International University of Japan

Ye Phone Kyaw is a PhD candidate in international relations at the International University of Japan. His article in this issue is based on findings from his doctoral research project in fulfillment of his PhD requirements. His research interests include international relations, military sociology, and Myanmar politics.