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Burma/Myanmars Nonviolent Movement Failures: Why Resilience and Leverage Matter

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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Empirical research shows that nonviolent movements tend to be more effective than armed rebellion in influencing regime change, but in Burma renamed Myanmar in 1989, the people failed twice in overthrowing the military-controlled government. The 1988 student-led movement had nationwide support and incapacitated the government but fell short of severing the militarys control of the state. In 2007, the monk-led Saffron Revolution attracted greater international attention but had less domestic participation and crumbled under violent suppression. Using Kurt Schocks analytical framework for explaining the outcome of unarmed uprisings, which he describes in the 2005 Unarmed Insurrections People Power Movements in Nondemocracies, this thesis analyzes both movements in BurmaMyanmar in terms of their resilience and leverage. The comparative case studies of these failed movements show that they were unsuccessful because they lacked resilience due to fragmentation and a lack of leadership, and they lacked leverage due to the regimes unity and its capacity to pursue an effective repressive strategy against the opposition. This study concludes that the regimes unshakable solidarity was the main reason for the movements failure. Resilience is important for an unarmed uprising to amass support and build strength, but without leverage, its chance of succeeding is low.

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