Global Insider: Myanmar’s Regional Relations

Thailand intends to close camps housing 140,000 refugees from neighboring Myanmar, in a decision announced shortly after Myanmar installed a new nominally civilian government following recent elections. In an email interview, Renaud Egreteau, a research assistant professor at the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, discussed the regional implications of Myanmar's new government.

WPR: Has the change in government affected domestic or foreign policies?

Renaud Egreteau: If a new civilian structure has replaced the former junta -- an army-controlled "State Council" as it has been known since 1988 -- changes in modes of governance, political practices and policies are yet to be seen. The 2008 constitution has created new levels of decision-making: For instance, a bicameral national parliament and 14 local assemblies were convened after the Nov. 7, 2010, elections, and a new executive administration was formed. But domestic and foreign policymaking remain purposefully dominated by the Myanmar armed forces. As they are currently facing an inevitable generational transformation, the leadership aims to control the pace and path of its internal transition, avoiding hazardous political shocks and external influences from the opposition or foreign powers. Therefore, no radical domestic or security policy changes can be expected until the transition is secured. Talk about the establishment of a "flourishing-discipline democracy" have been in the air since the early 2000s, and the Myanmar army is patiently trying to give substance to this emerging internal "praetorian" landscape.

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