Making Enemies: War and State Building in Burma

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By Mary P. Callahan

Winner of the 2006 Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asia Studies

The Burmese army took political power in Burma in 1962 and has ruled the country ever since. The persistence of this government despite its poor economic performance, and in the face of protest by activist Aung San Suu Kyi has puzzled scholars. In this book, Mary P. Callahan seeks to explain the extraordinary durability of the Burmese military regime. In her view, the origins of army rule are to be found in the relationship between war and state formation.

Burma's colonial past had seen a large imbalance between the military and civil sectors. That imbalance was accentuated soon after formal independence by one of the earliest and most persistent covert Cold War conflicts, involving CIA funded Kuomintang incursions across the Burmese border into the People s Republic of China. Because this raised concerns in Rangoon about the possibility of a showdown with Communist China, the Burmese Army received even more autonomy and funding to protect the integrity of the new nation-state.

The military transformed itself during the late 1940s and the 1950s from a group of anticolonial guerrilla bands into the professional force that seized power in 1962. The army edged out all other state and social institutions in the competition for national power. Making Enemies draws upon Callahan's interviews with former military officers and her archival work in Burmese libraries and halls of power. Callahan's unparalleled access allows her to correct existing explanations of Burmese authoritarianism and to supply new information about the coups of 1958 and 1962.

Mary P. CALLAHAN is Associate Professor in the Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington.

Publication Year: 2003
268 pages, 237mm x 158mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-283-4, Paperback

NUS Press and Cornell University Press