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Myanmar: Civil–Military Relations in a Tutelary Regime  

Marco Bünte

Myanmar has had one of the longest ruling military regimes in the world. Ruling directly or indirectly for more than five decades, Myanmar’s armed forces have been able to permeate the country’s main political institutions, its economy, and its society. Myanmar is a highly revealing case study for examining the trajectory of civil–military relations over the past seven decades. Myanmar ended direct military rule only in 2011 after the military had become the most powerful institution in society, weakened the political party opposition severely, coopted several ethnic armed groups, and built up a business empire that allowed it to remain financially independent. The new tutelary regime—established in 2011 after proclaiming a roadmap to “discipline flourishing democracy” in 2003, promulgating a new constitution in 2008, and holding (heavily scripted) elections in 2010—allowed a degree of power-sharing between elected civilian politicians and the military for a decade. Although policymaking in economic, financial, and social arenas was transferred to the elected government, the military remained in firm control of external and internal security and continued to be completely autonomous in the management of its own affairs. As a veto power, the military was also able to protect its prerogatives from a position of strength. Despite this dominant position in the government, civil–military relations were hostile and led to a coup in February 2021. The military felt increasingly threatened and humiliated as civilians destroyed the guardrails it had put in place to protect its core interests within the tutelary regime. The military also felt increasingly alienated as the party the military had established repeatedly failed to perform in the elections.

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Organized Crime in Foreign Policy  

Niklas Swanström and Christina Wenngren

Transnational organized crime is part and parcel of the modern, globalized economy. The black market has irrefutable influence over both economic and political structures. It corrodes, corrupts, and coopts the institutions with which it comes into contact. Features that arise as a side effect of organized criminal activity also impact economic, social, and political developments. Isolated approaches aimed at counteracting criminal networks have proved ineffective, necessitating a fresh perspective on foreign policy-based solutions. A central difficulty of researching organized crime is the opaque nature of criminal networks, whose members prefer to operate in the shadows. The underworld does not owe accountability to any outsiders, nor do crime syndicates generally file tax returns. International bodies like the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime are forced to rely on the reports of member states, which are often subject to distortion. This makes accurate assessment of the extent and impact of organized crime difficult, to say the least. Part of what makes the black market difficult to combat is the malleable approach of criminal networks. They employ a variety of strategies to pursue their illicit activity and will quickly adapt to the given strength or weakness of their host state. These strategies manifest themselves as either evasion, confrontation, or infiltration of state institutions. All of these strategies undermine legitimate sociopolitical structures, making it imperative to implement effective foreign policy initiatives that fight the trade as a whole.

Article

The Politics of Prosecuting Genocide and War Crimes in Asia  

John Ciorciari

Delivering justice for genocide, war crimes, and other mass atrocities inevitably presents steep political challenges. That has certainly been true in Asia, where relatively few such international crimes have been prosecuted. Many Japanese were tried for war crimes following the Second World War, but for decades thereafter, the region saw only a few ill-fated efforts to advance justice for mass crimes. Some political space for accountability opened after the Cold War, enabling the creation of tribunals in Timor-Leste, Cambodia, and Bangladesh to address some of the many instances of impunity in Asia. Some observers have welcomed these trials as important efforts to advance accountability in a region rife with impunity. Still, the design and performance of these tribunals have reflected the difficulty of subjecting politically empowered or protected actors to justice. In each instance, trials have focused on suspects defeated at the ballot box or on the battlefield, prompting charges of victor’s justice. In other cases, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar, even mounting an accountability process has proven a formidable challenge. In a region where Westphalian sovereignty and the norm of noninterference are strong, the will of incumbent domestic authorities remains the political linchpin for accountability efforts. In Asia as elsewhere, prosecuting international crimes requires exploiting windows of political possibility, although typically at the cost of accepting highly selective justice.