New Mandala just published an op-ed I wrote about Burma’s nascent economic reforms. In it, I try to frame Burma’s elite politics in light of what we know about political institutions. I’ve always been a bit skeptical of the argument that Burma’s reforms are solely a response to foreign pressure and this article was intended to highlight the domestic incentives for reform.
One important aspect of my analysis is that I do not assume anything about the preferences of any of Burma’s political elites, particularly whether they want democracy or not. After all, I don’t know them personally (well, except for Aung San Suu Kyi). However, I do assume that politicians do seek higher political office, which I think can either support a cynical or idealistic interoperation of events. Either way, I argue that there are enough political incentives to sustain the reforms, at least so long as they don’t directly impinge upon the military.