Burma’s ‘saffron revolution’ and the limits of international influence
The demonstrations in September 2007 were the most significant civil protests seen in Burma since the ill-fated pro-democracy uprising of 1988. The military government's brutal response to the latest unrest prompted an unprecedented level of diplomatic activity and a rare consensus on the need for political change. Since then, however, efforts to resolve the crisis have withered away, underlining the international community's inability over the past 20 years to make a significant impact on the situation in Burma. Neither the principled approach of some countries and organisations, nor the more pragmatic attitude adopted by others, has persuaded the regime to abandon any of its core positions. Indeed, by demonstrating the international community's continuing disagreement over Burma, and the limited policy options available, the lack of concerted action since the protests has probably encouraged the regime's obduracy and increased its confidence that it can survive external pressures. An appreciation of the generals' threat perceptions may help the international community to understand the regime's intransigence, but it is still difficult to see what policies can be effective against a government that puts its own survival before accepted norms of behaviour and the welfare of its people. Real and lasting change will have to come from within Burma itself, but the events of 2007 suggest that this is a distant prospect.
Australian Journal of International Affairs