Ne Win, Legacy of


Ne Win, Legacy of
   Although eulogized by his biographer, Dr. Maung Maung, for having almost single-handedly defended the country's national unity from communists, ethnic minority separatists, and street mobs, Ne Win's legacy is generally cast in highly negative terms. Continuities between the Ne Win era (1962-1988) and those of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC, 1988-1997) and the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC, 1997- ) include exclusive control of essential sectors of the economy by a Tatmadaw élite, either through state socialism or state capitalism, undermining competition and the ability of the economy to grow; a flourishing black market, including the drug economy; structural corruption; lack of the rule of law; routine abuses of power; an overly personal style of rule and concentration of power in a single "strongman" or group of "strongmen"; Burman (Bamar) chauvinism at the expense of non-Burman minorities; and Burma's continued cultural and social isolation despite the economic liberalization policies adopted in 1988 by the SLORC. Ne Win closed down Burma's civil society, and it has not been allowed to revive under his successors.
   By being insulated from, or insulating himself from, dissenting or objective points of view and demanding unquestioning loyalty, Ne Win ensured mediocrity in personnel and policy making (reflected in the Burmese saying lukaun lutaw, "good people are better than smart people"), in contrast to his authoritarian counterparts in other Asian countries, such as Suharto in Indonesia and Park Chung-hee in South Korea, who gave foreign-educated economic planners (technocrats) considerable autonomy. Although in recent years the SPDC leadership has tried to distance itself from the Ne Win legacy, especially mistakes made in economic policy, their very similar worldviews and policies continue to hinder democratization and economic development.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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