Myanmar began a transition in 2011 that ended almost 50 years of military rule. During the transition, a nationalist movement called for protecting Buddhism from an “Islamic threat.” Anti-Islam nationalism was not new in Burmese history, yet the timing of its resurgence deserves attention. I argue that the incumbents’ anticipated electoral weakness in transitional elections was the primary reason for its resurgence. The incumbents sought to maximize societal support, and they faced a strong contender, the National League for Democracy, whose probability of winning was high. Social opposition was also significant by the time military rule ended. In a campaign to pass reforms to better “protect” Buddhism, the incumbents used monks to cast doubt on the NLD’s ability to represent Buddhist interests and to recruit former regime opponents who were nationalists. The incumbents garnered wide support for the reforms, yet it was insufficient for an electoral victory.
Myanmar’s Transition and the Resurgence of Buddhist Nationalism: How Incumbents Seek to Hold on to Power
Marie-Eve Reny is a Hundred Talents Program Young Professor in the Department of Sociology at Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China. Her work centers on Myanmar and China. I thank anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback on earlier versions of the manuscript. I owe my interpreter and another person who helped us access informants a debt of gratitude for their time and support. I would not have been able to conduct as many interviews without their assistance. I am also deeply indebted to informants who shared their honest opinions with me. Email: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Marie-Eve Reny; Myanmar’s Transition and the Resurgence of Buddhist Nationalism: How Incumbents Seek to Hold on to Power. Asian Survey 3 December 2020; 60 (6): 1072–1089. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/as.2020.60.6.1072
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