THE POLITICS OF AUTHORITARIANISM:
THE STATE AND POLITICAL SOLDIERS IN
BURMA, INDONESIA, AND THAILAND
M.A., University of British Columbia, 1990
B.A., University of Rangoon, 1961
A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE
REQUIREMENT FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES
(Department of Political Science)
We accept this thesis as conforming
to the required standard
Chao-Tzang Yawnghwe, 1997
This thesis investigates the impact of
military rule on the state and society by looking at three cases from the same
geographical region --
This thesis has found that there are three vital factors influencing the military's decision, having intervened, to stay on to rule the country. The most important factor is the emergence of an extraordinary military strongman-ruler. The second, and related, factor is military unity -- forged and maintained by the strongman-ruler and bound by the myth that the soldiers are the guardians and saviors of the state. The military supports the ruler and is in turn rewarded by him, and becomes a privileged class. Together they dominate and control other state and societal forces. In fact, while military-authoritarian states are highly autonomous from society, it is clear that the state is not well insulated from abuse by its own elites. The third factor is the extent to which the strongman-ruler is constrained by having to share power with an unimpeachable force (a person, ideal, or myth). This thesis has found that military rulers in
This thesis has also found significant variations in military-authoritarian states. They range from a nearly pure praetorian example to a tentative quasi-democratic set up -- resulting from historical circumstances combined with the vision, political will and astuteness of the strongman-ruler, his concern with his legacy, and the presence or not of an important constraining force. The military has played a dominant role in politics in
INTRODUCTION: SOLDIERS OR POLITICIANS?
THE MILITARY AND THE STATE
OF AUTHORITARIAN DOMINATION
OF AUTHORITARIAN DOMINATION
CHAPTER SIX: ................................................................................276
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION: THE POLITICS OF
B U R M A :
Abha -- Revered Father (a term used by soldiers in reference to Ne Win)
AFPFL -- Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League
Adipati -- Supreme Leader (a title adopted by Dr.Ba Maw)
Anya-Manya Th'bawtra -- Burmese Socialist doctrine (See SCME)
Bama Pri-Ma -- Bama Mother-country
Bama Tatmadaw -- The Burma Army (or Tatmadaw)
Baungbee-khyot -- Ex-military officer (Burmese slang)
BCP -- Burma Communist Party (the White Flag Communist of Thakin Than Tun),
BDA -- Burma Defence Army, the forerunner of the current Burma Army
BIA -- Burma Independence Army, the forerunnerof the current Burma Army
BNA -- Burma National Army, the predecessor of the current Burma Army
Bo -- (Bama and Shan), A military leader
Bogyoke -- (Military rank) General
Bogyoke-Wungyi -- General-Minister
BSPP -- Burmese Socialist Program Party, or Lanzin Party
Chaofa -- (Shan) Ruling prince
CPB -- Communist Party, Burma (Red Flag Communist of Thakin Soe).
DAB -- Democratic Alliance of Burma
Dobama Asi-Ayone -- We Bama Movement (Dobama)
DSI -- The Defence Service Institute
DDSI -- The Directorate of Defence Service Intelligence
Duwa -- (Kachin) ruling chief
KIA -- Kachin Independence Army
KKY -- ( Ka-Kwe-Ye): Homeguard units
KMT -- (Kuomintang): Nationalist Chinese of Chiang Kai-shek
KNU -- Karen National Union
LORC -- Law and Order Restoration Committee
Lu-Myo -- Race, nation, humankind
Luptha-Prithu -- The working people
MIS (Em-I) -- Military Intelligence Service
Mranma Sosheilit Lanzin Party -- The Burmese Socialist Program Party (BSPP)
NCGUB -- National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma
NLD -- National League for Democracy
NSA -- National Solidarity Association
NUF -- National Unity Front
NUP -- National Unity Party
The Panglong Agreement -- An Agreement signed in 1947, forming the basis of the 1947-48 Constitution of the Union of Burma
PBF -- Patriotic Burmese Force
Pri -- (or Pyi, Burmese) country
Prithu Hluttaw -- People's Parliament
Prithu-Yebaw -- People's Volunteer Organization (PVO)
Pyinnya-tat -- An educated person
Rakhine People's Liberation Organization -- A Rakhine rebel army
RC -- The Revolutionary Council (1962-1974)
SAC -- Security and Administrative Committee
Saw-phaya -- (Karenni) Ruling prince
SCME -- System of Correlation of Man and His Environment
SLORC -- State Law and Order Restoration Council
SSA -- Shan State Army
SNLD -- Shan National League for Democracy
Thakin -- (Burmese) Master, overlord
Union Party -- A political party led by U Nu (1960-1962)
USDA -- Union Solidarity Development Association
T H A I L A N D :
BPP -- Border Patrol Police
The Chakri dynasty -- The currently reigning royal house
Chart -- Nation
Chart Thai Party -- The Thai Nation Party
Class 5 -- Fifth graduating class of the Military Academy after the adoption of the West Point curriculum
CPT -- The Communist Party of Thailand
FFT -- Farmers Federation of Thailand
Isan -- The Northeastern region
ISOC -- Internal Security Operation Command
Kharatchakarn -- Officials, civil servants, bureaucrats
Luang -- A title bestowed on high official (no longer current)
Muang Thai -- Informal term for Thailand
Nak-phendin -- Those "uselessly weighing down the earth", a term applied to leftists and radicals in 1973-76
NAP -- New Aspiration Party (of Chaovalit Yongchaiyuth, the current Prime Minister)
Nawapol -- A rightwing organization of the urban middle and upper class
NSCT -- National Students Centre of Thailand
Phu-noi -- "Small" people; an "inferior", or subordinate person(s)
Phu-yai -- "Big" man; a "superior" person(s)
Prachachon -- The People
Prathet Thai -- Formal term for Thailand
Ramwong -- A popular folk dance
Rath Niyom -- Cultural Edicts of Pibul Songkhram
Red Gaur -- A rightwing para-military body of vocational students
Sangchat -- Nation-building
SAP -- Social Action Party
Sawasdi -- A term of greeting
Seri Thai -- The Anti-Japanese ("Free Thai") Movement
Siam -- The name of the country before "Thailand" was adopted in 1939.
UTPP -- The United Thai People's Party
Village Scouts -- A royal-sponsored civil-action organization
The Young Turks -- A radical officers group
I N D O N E S I A :
Abangan -- nominal Muslim
ABRI -- Angkatan Bersenjata Republik Indonesia, the current Armed Forces
Adat -- Customary law
Aksi Sepihak -- Unilateral action
BKR -- Bandan Keamanan Rakyat, a forerunner of ABRI
BAKIN -- State Intelligence Coordinating Body
BAKORSTANAS -- National Stability Coordination Board
Budi Utomo -- An early nationalist organization or movement
Bupati -- Regent, administrator
Dharma Wanita -- The official Women's body
DPA -- Supreme Advisory Council
DPR -- Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, Parliament
Dwi Fungsi -- Dual Function
Dwi-Tunggal -- Joint Leadership (of Sukarno and Hatta)
The Fifth Force -- A force of armed workers and peasants
Gerwani -- Women's Militia (of the PKI)
Gestapu -- The 30 September Movement
Golkar -- Golongan Karya, Functional Groups (the government's party)
Gotong Royong -- Mutual assistance
HANKAM -- Department of Defence and Security
Hizb'ulla -- Army of Allah
HMI -- Islam University Students Association
ICMI -- Association of Muslim Intellectuals
IGGI -- Inter-Governmental Group on Indonesia
Inkopad -- The Army's trading firm
IP-KI -- The League of Upholders of Indonesian Independence
KAMI -- Indonesian Students Action Group
Konfrontasi -- Confrontation with Malaysia, "Crush Malaysia" campaign
KOPKAMTIB -- Operation Command for the Restoration of Security and Order
KORPRI -- Civil Servants Association
KOTI -- Supreme Operation Command ("Crush Malaysia" campaign)
KNIL -- The Royal Netherlands Indies Army
KNIP -- Central Indonesian National Committee
KOSTAD -- Strategic Reserve Command
Laskar Rakyat -- People's Militia (of the PKI)
LBH -- Legal Aid Society
LPSM -- Institute for Promoting Self-Reliant Community Development
LSM -- Self-Reliant Community Development Institute
MANIPOL -- The Political Manifesto of 1959
Marhaenism -- Sukarno's Creed of the "Little People"
Masjumi -- The Council of Indonesian Muslim Associations
MKGR -- Family Mutual Help Association
MPR -- Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat, People's Consultative Assembly
Mufakat -- Consensus
Murba -- The Proletarian Party; a communist faction of Tan Malaka and Adam Malik
Musyawara -- Consultation
NASAKOM -- Nationalism, Religion, and Communism
Nekolim -- The forces of Neocolonialism, Colonialism, and Imperialism
NU -- Nahdlatul Ulama (Council of Muslim Scholars)
P4 -- Pancasila Indoctrination
Pancasila -- Five Ideological Principles
Pemuda -- Politicized youth, youth movement
Perhimpunan Indonesia -- The Indonesian Association
Pertamina -- National Oil and Gas Mining Agency
PETA -- Volunteer Force for the Defence of Java, a forerunner of ABRI
Petisi 50 -- Petition 50 group
PDI -- Indonesian Democratic Party (the non-Islamic party)
PKI -- Communist Party of Indonesia
PNI -- Partai Nasional Indonesia, or Indonesian National Party
PPP -- Development Unity Party (the Islamic Party)
PPPKI -- Permufakatan Perhimpunan Politik Kebangsaan (Committee for the Preparation of Indonesian Independence)
PRRI -- The Revolutionary Government of the Republic of Indonesia
Priyayi -- The official class (roughly, an aristocracy)
PSI -- The Socialist Party of Indonesia
Rakyat -- The People, the common people, the masses
Santri -- Strict or devout Muslim
Sarekat Islam -- The Islamic Union
Sekber Golkar -- Joint-Secretariat of Functional groups
SOB -- State of Siege; Martial Law
SOBSI -- Central Organization of All Indonesian Workers
SOKSI -- Central Organization of Indonesian Socialist Workers
Supersemar -- Letter of March 11 (1966)
TKR -- Tentara Keamanan Rakyat, a forerunner of ABRI
TKR -- Tentara Keselamatan Rakyat, a forerunner ABRI
TNI -- Tentara Nasional Indonesia, a forerunner of ABRI
TRI -- Tentara Republik Indonesia, a forerunner of ABRI
USDEK -- The 1945 Constitution, Indonesian Socialism, Guided Democracy,
Guided Economy, and Indonesian Ideology
VOC -- (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) The Netherlands East India
production of this dissertation, like all such labor, has been very rigorous
and difficult, involving years of thoughts, occasional "road-blocks",
and being "unlinked" from "real" life and
"normal" people. It could not
therefore have been completed without the kindness and support of many people,
especially my family: Nu Nu, Sawan, and Onjana.
First of all, I owe much to Professor Diane Mauzy who -- despite the inconveniences I must have caused, academically or otherwise -- has been long-suffering and kindly constructive, making my work much, much better. I also owe much to Professor R.Stephen Milne for his help and great wisdom. Much gratitude is owed to Professors John Wood, Phillip Resnick, Robert Jackson, and Terry McGee, members of my supervisory committee. I would also like to thank the "three pillars" of the department: Dory Urbano, Nancy Mina, and Petula Muller, who were always helpful and cheerful, and also the department's "higher-ups" for providing me from time to time with what is the life-blood of a graduate student, a Teaching Assistantship. I also owe much to fellow graduate students for their stimulating presence.
Because they contributed enormously to my intellectual growth, I am much indebted to Professors Alexander Woodside (History), Terry McGee (Geography), Y.C. Chang (Sociology), and to Lonny Carlile, especially, and Diane Mauzy, Philip Resnick, and John Wood (Political Science). They have not only inspired but have taught me well the art of rigorous analysis and the meaning of scholarship.
The works of scholars and analysts on the countries I have examined --
I am greatly indebted to the Department of History for the Frederic Soward Foundation Award in 1990, the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada for a doctoral Fellowship in 1991-1994, and the Canada-ASEAN Research Travel Grant, for a grant which allowed me to visit Southeast Asian again on a field research trip in 1993. In the above regard, my gratitude to the late Dr.Kernial Sandhu of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, and as well the Institute's helpful and cheerful staff, and Dr. Pat Lim, Mr. Tee Teo Lee, and a host of scholars and experts I have had the good fortune to interact with while at the Institute.
My research trip to
Last, but not the least, I am grateful for having an understanding wife, Nu Nu Myint, who gave, without any reservation, more than moral support, and to my son and daughter, Sawan and Onjana, for their excellent and undemanding behavior despite being full-fledged Canadian teenagers.
THE POLITICS OF AUTHORITARIAN DOMINATION:
THE STATE AND POLITICAL SOLDIERS IN
SOLDIERS OR POLITICIANS?
Political Soldiers in Burma, Thailand, and Indonesia
The purpose of this study which I have undertaken of the phenomenon of military intervention in three Southeast Asian countries -- Burma, Indonesia, and Thailand -- is to examine, one, what happens to the military, its leaders, and especial-ly to the state and society when the military intervenes and decides to stay and to re-organize the state? And two, how the political outcomes resulting from military intervention and its reorganization of politics in such states, which are not identical, can be explained?
phenomenon of soldiers’ intervention in politics and the business of the state
is not a very exceptional one in most of the
Burma, Indonesia, and Thailand, the men on horseback --to borrow the title of
Samuel Finer’s classic study
-- have been active, even dominant, in politics and the state for decades: from
1932 in the case of Thailand, and from the late 1950s in Burma and
Indonesia. In the last two, the armed
forces were from the onset as much political as military forces. They had their roots in politics, coming into
existence during World War II as nationalist "armies"; they were made
up of politicized (and needless to say, ambitious) young men mobilized by Japan
during World War II. The militaries subsequently mythologized
their role in the "independence struggle" and now see themselves as
creator-guardians of the state and "nation". After independence --
soldiers in the three countries have not merely dabbled in politics. They have been highly visible, often dominant
actors, frequently displaying a reluctance to leave the management of national
affairs to civilians. There is a need to investigate the military
in more depth in a way that acknowledges it as a prominent political
force. This study, then, will examine
the patterns of domination established by the military, its role in
consolidating an authoritarian relationship between state and society, and the
problems that have confronted the military as rulers, politicians, and state
managers. I hope to present a different
perspective on soldiers’ political involvement in
My aim is to situate the phenomenon of military intervention within a wider theoretical context. There have been many studies of military intervention, focusing on the military's motivation, opportunity, and modus operandi at the time of the coup d'etat. More recently, the focus of research has shifted to investigating civil-military relations as the key variable. Likewise, a considerable amount has been written in recent years about the "back-to-the-barracks" phenomenon. My interest, however, and the focus of this enquiry, is the question of what happens to the military and the state when the military leaders decide to stay in power and re-shape the state. How do these regimes consolidate and retain power? What are their goals and methods? What are their advantages and disadvantages? Why do the soldiers stay on in polit-ics? What kind of "new" states are created? Do they -- the military and the "new" states -- change over time? If so, how do they evolve?
agree with the more perceptive analysts of the military intervention phenom-enon,
such as Samuel Finer, Harold Crouch, and Christopher Clapham, who maintain that
the political orders established by the military -- that is,
military-authoritarian regimes and states -- are not identical, although they
are based primarily on, or are supported by, the armed forces, and are, in many
aspects, fairly similar. This being the case, I believe that an
examination of quite long-lived military-authoritarian regimes post-dating the
military’s capture of the state, can yield useful theoretical insights into
variations in these regimes with respect to the strategies of rule, the nature
of the state and its goals, the extent of military participation or domination,
and the military’s own degree of subordination to its chief and/or a military
Since the study is oriented toward making theoretical sense of military-authoritarianism and its effects on politics and society, much of the research is based on the interpretation and analysis of the very substantial body of scholarship on soldiers and "military regimes" in
The Third World Military: A View of Soldiers in Mufti
Through their close and protracted involvement in politics, soldiers in Burma, Indonesia, and Thailand – along with many other Third World countries – have brought about far-reaching changes. In the process, they themselves have also been changed. As armed politicians, state managers, and rulers, they are firmly ensconced in the structures of power; they have become prominent political actors. As rulers and politicians, I contend that they have shaped political and socio-economic land-scapes, often decisively. They have also been pivotal in determining the character of state-society relations -- more precisely, relations among state actors, and between rulers and ruled in the countries under study -- in Burma, Indonesia, and Thailand where, as stated, they have established quite durable military-authoritarian regimes.
It would be conceptually inaccurate in such cases to view soldiers simply as armed, professional state servants. Rather than military interventions into politics being limited forays, undertaken with specific aims, these interventions have in some cases, been quite open-ended in fact. Hence, the approach that views the military as intervening temporarily to "clean up the mess" made by civilian politicians does not always apply. The open-ended presence of soldiers in politics in some states cannot be reconciled with the implied assumption that these same soldiers will return to the barracks once specific objectives are attained.
this, largely as a result of Latin American experiences, a "return to the
barracks" literature has developed, attempting to explain the
"whens" and "hows" of military disengagement from politics. A few of the postulated preconditions
include: the professionalization of "praetorian" armed forces; a
higher degree of political institutionalization; the emergence of strong
civilian alternatives (and the concomitant ability of civilian politicians to
defuse the military’s fear of popular vengeance); the lessening of the kind of
threats that trigger coups; mounting or lessening economic problems; dissension
within the military; an institutional disposition to withdraw; external
pressures; and so on. Up to a point, these theories offer useful
generalizations about political soldiers and politics. However, as Robin Luckham notes, military
disengagement is often viewed as a kind of "intervention in reverse,"
assuming that the conditions favouring military disengagement are simply the
reverse of those that triggered coups in the first place. In this sense, the literature tends to
concentrate on pinpointing conditions for withdrawal and is appropriate when
the military either seeks to return power to civilian rule, or does not harbour
any goals for re-fashioning the state.
It is not so appropriate, however, for investigating cases where the
military leadership retains power and seeks to change the way the state
Harold Crouch’s observation on the long presence of the military in politics in
investigating military intervention, scholars have explained the phenomenon as
stemming from a number of factors. As
summed up by Crouch, they are, (a) the
values and orientation of many Third World soldiers, which hold that
participation in politics is not "abnormal", but is a
"national" or "revolutionary" duty; (b) the military's corporate interests, which
includes a sufficient budget allocation, appropriate housing, satisfactory pay,
and so on; (c) the personal interests of
senior officers in gaining the government's patronage network; (d) socio-economic conditions, especially in
countries with a very low level of economic development; and (e) the failure of civilian governments
to satisfy the expectations of the middle class and its demand for rapid
economic growth, and their failure to govern effectively and preserve stability -- which involve repressing communists or
other subversives. The widely argued
view that blames the failures of civilian governments for military takeovers
seems, to Crouch, "an excessively narrow view". He suggests that it is more useful to see
military intervention as arising from a "total situation" rather than
"the deficiencies of a particular group".
In this respect, it might be useful to be mindful of the very different kind of politics that transpire in the
In such "free for all" political struggles involving all groups or leaders in society, and even, or especially, those within the state sphere or government, for advantage, or more importantly, for dominance and power, soldiers are likely to be the most successful because they largely control the instruments of force, as Clapham notes. The struggle for power will invariably involve, I believe (as does Clapham), a contest for control of the state, since in a praetorian context, the state is the pivotal prize. In instances where the military is involved in political struggle, the prize -- the state itself -- will likely be won by the one who controls the armed forces of the state: the military strongman. Hence it is a mistake not to recognize the military as a potential political instrument of the military officer who commands the armed forces when it steps onto the political stage to take control of the state and impose its control and to re-fashion state-society relations.
Guardians of the Nation: Masters and Servants of the State
This study considers the military in politics from a somewhat different perspective. Central to it are three factors which, I argue, are crucial to the appreciation of the military as an interventionist political force. The first is the claim, commonly heard from soldiers in
The second factor is that, with rare exceptions like
The third factor is that the military is a force upon which the authority of new or weak governments may depend heavily. The very existence of the state, in its territorial-political aspect, is often dependent on the military’s coercive function, on its role as a "protector" and in containing or repressing (often with external assist-ance) "communist" and "secessionist" rebels, or repelling or detering foreign aggress-ion. Taken together, these factors mean that
The unique, structural position of the military as an armed body that is integral to the state and the nation, reinforced by its role as a "protector", and the military officers' self-image as the selfless, dedicated national guardians, has resulted in the defining, legitimizing, and rationalizing of the military's corporate interests in a way that makes it, Nordlinger argues, almost indistinguishable from that of the nation. The military's close self-identification with the nation, as J. Samuel Fitch points out, was further boosted when the cold war intensified. There occurred a redefinition of its role in
With the military in many
Military Intervention and the Re-Configuration of Politics and the State
Military intervention is a multi-dimensional, complex, and heterogeneous phenomenon -- made more so by differences in the underlying historical, geograph-ical, cultural, and socioeconomic settings. But there is a common feature. Political soldiers tend not to be predisposed to upholding a democratic order which allows for conflicts among groups, interests, and institutions. Democratic politics, which are "open" to societal interest groups and forces, are viewed as disorderly and harmful to the nation and national unity by soldiers, as noted by Gerald Heeger. I argue that soldiers tend to prefer a political order that is congruent with their vision of how pol-itics and society (or the "nation") are to be managed: that is, an authoritarian one. Thus we often have, in cases where the military intrude into politics and decides to remain on the political stage, a reconfiguration of state-society relations by the milit-ary's chief-and-ruler.
vision of politics that informs the military’s actions as builders and
manag-ers of the state is embodied in what Manuel Garreton calls "national
security" ideology. In this ideology, state and nation are seen
as forming a single living organism; they are "larger" or higher
entities that stand above individuals (who are viewed as "subordinate
subjects"). The concept of "national unity"
plays a key role. It is conceived of by the military as the absence
of conflict and dissent. Opposition to
the state, the government (especially one backed or dominated by the military),
and the armed forces -- all of which from this perspective embody the nation's
destiny and goals -- is viewed as damaging to national unity and as something
that must be prevented or punished. The ideal form of governance for soldiers is
-- as Garreton notes -- an authoritarian state order managed, protected, and
guaranteed by the military. The military
deems itself the "bulwark of the nation" and the bastion that stands
above social divisions, the group best qualified to define and defend the
national interest, and guarantee the nation's unity, and more importantly, its
historic continuity. After capturing the state, I argue that the
military -- more specifically, the military leader who becomes the ruler of the
state -- will either seek to return power to civilians quickly or, in line with
the national security ideology and associated statist orientation, will stay to
establish a non-democratic, authoritarian type "military
At this juncture, it is important to, one, heed Finer's observation which in effect states that it is difficult to make a hard distinction between civilian and military regimes as the latter tend to shade off by degrees into civilian authoritarian regimes. And two, it is important to be aware of the heterogeneity and range of what have been labelled "authoritarian" regimes. As Linz indicates, they are found in a variety of forms, in a wide range of economic, social, and cultural environments -- in Europe during the interwar years (1920s to the 1930s), in many post-independence "new" Third World states, and in the post-Stalin Soviet Union and Eastern Europe (until the late 1980s).
| Authoritarian regimes, which include military-authoritarian regimes, are to varying degrees non-democratic (or not very democratic). But, importantly, they are also different from, and at the same time share some elements and traits in common with, traditional absolute monarchical, or similar types, and to totalitarian regimes. Owing to a complex mix of elements, military-authoritarian regimes are not easily confined within neat categories: some may be very undemocratic, while a few may even be semi-democratic.
In one dimension, military-authoritarian regimes can be characterized by features found in what Carl Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski calls an "autocracy". A cardinal characteristic is the concentration of decision-making at the apex of the official hierarchy possessing "the highest power over citizens." There is an absence of other authorities who have "have sufficient power to compel the law-breaking rulers to submit to the law." Needless to say, also absent is a genuine opposition, a free press (except in rare cases, as for example, in
There is a strong emphasis, as David Beetham notes, on discipline and order, and an arbitrary and unaccountable style to the exercise of power. Importantly, military rulers will, through the employment of the military as a political instrument, reassert the authority of government (or the state) over society by removing the freedom of organized groups to pursue their interests independently of the state or its officials; impose "unity" by removing the political avenues for competition and conflict; and attempt to restore confidence in the ability and integrity of government by removing independent means for monitoring its actions. The military resolves the problems of democratic politics by abolishing politics altogether and immunizing "the state from the problems of society by elevating the state above society". In this regard, the military -- as the wielders of the legitimate means of coercion -- constitut-es the most important building block of authoritarianism. Its importance lies in its usefulness to ruling strongmen as a political instrument in making the state more autonomous and cohesive by excluding and de-politicizing the ruled, and also in intimidating the civilian bureaucracy and non-state elites, making them more easily co-opted, pliant, and loyal.
On another dimension, however, authoritarian regimes are distinctively marked by what
Another feature is that although political power does not devolve to the citizens and the rulers are not accountable to them, rulers might still be responsive to them. They will respond through sanctioned participating groups, such as the government's party, political parties that are not banned (but heavily restrained), state-sponsored associations (or corporatist-like, interest-representing bodies or "functional" groups), interest groups (cultural, economic, semi-political) tolerated by the state, and various "representative" and legislative assemblies (but controlled or manipulated by the executive). Further, in authoritarian regimes, there is usually found a constant proc-ess of co-optation of leaders which constitutes a mechanism by which different sect-ors or institutions become participants in the system. And there is in consequence a certain heterogeneity of elites, composed of some co-opted professional politicians, bureaucrats, technocrats, military men, religious leaders, and local notables, and even, in some cases, activists (such as former student leaders, trade unionists, peasant leaders, and so forth).
It is also important to bear in mind that we are dealing with states and regimes situated in the
The overall effect of limited pluralism and patrimonialism on authoritarian regimes is that the state, significant power-holders, and key officials are, in one dimension, quite highly autonomous from society, but are, in another dimension -- quite paradoxically -- not autonomous. They respond in a paternalistic or patrimonial manner to particularistic, private, informal demands or preferences of some groups and segments in society.
The Military, the Strongman, and the Consolidation of Authoritarianism
The changing role of the military once an authoritarian order is established is of theoretical interest. I argue that for the military to intervene successfully in politics, and importantly, for it to remain and dominate and, furthermore, to re-fashion the state-society order according to its preferences, it must first achieve a considerable degree of cohesion. As Clapham maintains, when there is no dominant leader, it is all the more likely that the military will not be able to stay on for long -- even if it intervenes -- and will likely hand over power to a new civilian government (although it might intervene again later). Cohesion is achieved when there emerges a military leader who is able to unite all military factions, or alternatively, eliminate rivals or troublesome subordinates.
Thus, after the military intervenes and captures the state, a person accepted by the important military factions as the leader, and who is primarily responsible for bringing the military onto the political center-stage, becomes the head of the military authoritarian state. However, all too often this person is given the standard label of being the "military dictator" or head of a "military junta" or "personal ruler". Person-al rulers are given much prominence in accounts of military and other authoritarian regimes. However, the label conceals significant differences between military strongmen; and the characteristics, goals, ambitions, power, and force of will of individual military strongmen are often not clearly delineated.
The relation between the military personal ruler and his military power base is not static nor uniform. I argue that it is a complex, dynamic, often shifting one. The relationships will vary among military-authoritarian regimes. To elaborate upon the general trend: as the military strongman proceeds to consolidate the authoritarian order and his dominance within it, he will tend to gain more personal power and authority. The military, which serves the successful strongman-ruler as a political instrument, will become subordinated to some extent to the man who is its chief and also the state ruler.
In many cases, the more the military ruler wants to transform the state to obtain greater legitimacy, or to transform himself into a leader-ruler of the nation as a whole, and not just of a segment, the more likely it is that he will want to "resign" from the military and present a civilian face. Being a "civilian" will invariably change his relationship with the military over time, as he increasingly seems less a military man. And as a relatively simple military regime evolves, or is transformed by the ruler into a more complex, sophisticated authoritarian order, the military’s position will also change in a number of ways. A new set of institutions and actors may emerge: the presidential or "palace" staff; a ruling or governmental party; a new hierarchy of representative-legislative bodies; a more professional (or professional-looking) bureaucracy, and so on. While still serving as the primary power base of the ruler, the military will, in such cases, be confronted with, and constrained by, other powerful players emerging from the new institutions, as well as favoured ministers; useful and influential techno-bureaucrats and advisors; and money-making clients and cronies of the president, his family, and kin group.
In other cases, however, the military's position may remain as dominant as it was in the early years of the regime. It will remain, next to the strongman-ruler, the most dominant force, and it will prevent non-military elites from gaining a hold over the levers of power. In still other cases, only the top brass will figure prominently in politics: soldiers, including most officers, will "return to the barracks" after their chief’s seizure of power.
polities where power is concentrated in the hands of one key leader, his
ability to manipulate and control subordinate leaders and factions within the ruling
circle is crucial. Such a ruler -- the
strongman-ruler in military regimes -- will often work to maintain the balance
of power via the politics of factionalism, especially within the armed forces –
the essential pillar of his support, but also a potentially dangerous one. To this end, he may carry out frequent purges
or transfers; restruct-ure the chain of command or operational procedures;
promote hard-core loyalists into top positions; sow distrust and rivalry among
top generals, among services, and even among loyal aides; or create special
surveillance units to spy on the officer corps.
He may reward military men with positions as governmental politicians
and party bosses, representatives, legislators, "czars" of
administrative and economic empires, ambass-adors, and so on. In all these ways, the strongman-ruler works
to dilute the officer corps’ cohesion and render it incapable of moving
politically against him.
At the same time, soldiers gain a vital stake in defending both the ruler and his authoritarian order. In long-lived, stabilized authoritarian states, soldiers are socializ-ed into their roles as defenders of the personal ruler and also come to appreciate that it is in their own best interest to do so. The person and role of the ruler are "mystified" -- identified with order, the state, nation, and the national interest. As the man at the centre of things, he becomes the only one capable of maintaining overall cohesion and balance against the back-drop of opaque, convoluted "palace politics" that tend to characterize military-authoritarian governance. In "mature" military-authoritarian states, the successful strongman-ruler tends to gain greater power vis-à-vis the military but, as noted, politics in such states is by no means static. With the passage of time, as authoritarianism becomes routinized, interaction between the military as an institution, the ruler, and other powerful state factions grows more complex.
Owing to the complexity of politics in military-authoritarian regimes, they will, as Finer indicates, exhibit as much diversity among themselves as civilian regimes. As Finer suggests, "military regimes" can be distinguished from one another through a classification system based on measurements along spectrums of different dimensions.
There are three measurements relevant to this study. First is a spectrum based on the extent of military penetration of the civil bureaucracy and the military's role in policy-making. The extent of military penetration as located along a spectrum is an indicator of the degree of authoritarianism being exercised in a state. The greater the penetration, the more authoritarian the state is likely to be; likewise, the smaller the penetration, the less authoritarian the state is likely to be.
Second is a spectrum based on the autonomy of the regime vis-à-vis political parties and legislatures. In this spectrum there are four broad focal points: (a) milit-ary regimes where legislatures and parties are suppressed; (b) regimes which hold elections but refuse to acknowledge negative results and prohibit the elected legislat-ure from convening; (c) legislatures and parties that exist as "simple ancillaries or appurtenances," that are quite autonomous vis-à-vis society; and (d) regimes with legislatures and parties that function democratically following competitive elections and are relatively free of military or state control. Again, (a) and (b) can be seen on the spectrum as most authoritarian; (c) as less authoritarian; and (d) as least authorit-arian for this dimension.
A third spectrum, related to (and inferred from) the second, is based on the autonomy and responsiveness of the state to society. There are three broad focal points here: (a) regimes with high autonomy that are not responsive to societal demands or aspirations; (b) regimes with relatively high autonomy, and yet are somewhat responsive; and (c) regimes that are relatively autonomous, and quite responsive to society. Likewise, (a) can be seen on the spectrum as most authorit-arian, (b) as less authoritarian, and (c) as least authoritarian in this dimension.
The spectrums mentioned above are broad categorizations representing certain dimension of regimes which can be identified and placed along a spectrum according to the criteria mentioned. The measurements of these spectrums are not mathematic-ally quantifiable, but neither are they simply intuitive. There will be a body of empirical evidence presented in the case studies to justify the measurements.
Spectrums allow for shades of difference to be noted. Many military regimes will fit in between the broad focal points described. For example, there may be military regimes that allow "limited autonomy" for parties and legislatures, and therefore would be placed somewhere between (c) and (d) on the spectrum , as depicted above. Also, spectrums allow changes -- and directions -- over time to be noted, by placements on the spectrum of regimes of the same country in different, important, years. This is useful for a country like
The importance of placing the regimes of
In this chapter, I have examined the conceptual framework underlying the phenomenon of political soldiers and their relations with the state. I have looked at the relationship between the personal ruler and the military, the nature of military-authoritarian orders and the military’s role within them, and the changes (notably in the military’s role and relative influence or autonomy) that occur in "mature" military-authoritarian regimes. The intent of this thesis is to examine military-authoritarian regimes in a way that draws out the wide variations in the way these regimes are organized and how the military is situated within them.
In the next chapter, I will consider the broader concepts and assumptions related to the military in power. In particular, I will focus on theories of the state, state autonomy, and state-society interaction. I will conclude by stating the main arguments of this dissertation.
MILITARY AND THE STATE
Introduction: The Military and the State
In the preceding discussion, the phenomenon of military intervention was exam-ined, with particular emphasis on the military which does not disengage from politics, but rather, to varying degrees, maintains its political control of the state. The military's actions were examined in terms of the political reorganization of the state. These actions have a powerful influence on the nature of state-society interaction. Because the military is involved in the restructuring of politics, it also affects the ways societal groups articulate interests and/or relate to the state, and because power is concentrated at the top, it increases the autonomy of the state. Consequently, the military normally maintains a highly autonomous authoritarian state order. However, as I have stressed earlier, military authoritarian regimes are not identical. Their characteristics will vary from regime to regime, as will the degree of authoritarianism, and the extent to which the state structures are autonomous.
To gain a better theoretical appreciation of the military’s role in politics, it is necessary to examine concepts that assist in understanding the state -- the ultimate structure of power and dominance in any state-society formation. Significant here are a number of key concepts relating to the state: the nature of state autonomy; the way power is organized or arranged; the particular forms of the state-society interrelation-ship; and, finally, changes in the patterns of domination or relative autonomy among elements within the state in military-authoritarian orders.
The State, Society, and the Autonomy of the State
There is a general tendency, when discussing the state, to apply the term rather broadly. For example, it is often used interchangeably with a territorially-bounded entity (colloquially, a country, or "nation-state"); a set of powerholders (the ruling regime or government); the bureaucratic machinery, its personnel, and a set of national institutions (executive, legislative, judicial); the overarching structures of power and domination; and so on. The wide application of the term may be confusing, but all these definitions seem valid, depending on the context.
For this purposes of this inquiry, "the state" is defined as an ensemble of power structures, manned and directed by power-holders and officials, situated within an internationally recognized legal-territorial space (sometimes known as the "nation-state"), and dominating another set of structures and relationships: the wider society. From this standpoint, the state is part of society, and society is part of the state. However, as Naomi Chazan notes, state and society can be analytically conceptualized as intersecting, interrelated, but potentially independent variables. The relationship between state and society is a complex, dynamic one. To better to understand how the state relates to society and vice-versa, it is important to study elements of the state in relation to forces within society, and also the reverse. In this thesis on military-authoritarian regimes, the military constitutes an important component of the state.
the heart of the politics of state-society interaction is the issue of state
autonomy, which will be examined next.
An especially well-known position on state autonomy is Karl Marx’s view
of the modern state as a committee for managing the common affairs of the
capital-holding class, the bourgeoisie. The state is merely a "loyal agent"
of capital. However, in a review of
Marx’s thoughts on the state, Bertrand Badie and Pierre Birnbaum assert that
different historical circumstances can produce different outcomes in the nature
and development of states. Thus,
although the Prusso-German empire,
view of the state as autonomous from or independent of society is advanced by
Eric Nordlinger in his analysis of state autonomy in democratic states, the
Gianfranco Poggi shares Nordlinger’s views. He notes that officials in democracies, having secured firm guarantees of tenure, pensions, and "the autonomy of their professional judgement", do assert their independence, and that the increased use of highly technical knowledge in administering a complex economy "leaves the mere citizen nowhere". Poggi sees public policy increasingly being replaced by bureaucratic interaction among self-regarding state interests and their allies in business (the "privileged parts of society"). For her part, Theda Skocpol notes that all states play a major role in forming and implementing policies, managing economic development, resolving extranational problems, and shaping class formations and social protests. It would seem, then, that the state everywhere has a high degree of autonomy, and society is somewhat powerless in its relations with the state.
The question that arises at this point is: if the state is increasingly autonomous, even in a democracy, how does a democratic state differ from an authoritarian or even "totalitarian" one? Is there, at bottom, no difference at all in terms of the state’s relative autonomy or independence from society? If there is, what is/are the differentiating feature(s)? To answer these questions, we must delve further into the various aspects of state autonomy.
Extrapolating from Skocpol’s discussion of state autonomy, the concept can be broken down in four ways. First, the state is autonomous relative to society because it responds to a dominant class, the bourgeoisie, more than to the "public". This is the conventional perspective of Marx and Marxian scholars in general. To a degree, it is also Poggi’s. Second, it is autonomous from privileged segments (the bourgeoisie, traditional notables, landowners, etc.), and responds to the need to achieve higher nationalist or "communitarian" goals. This is the ideal claimed by nationalists, author-itarians, and recently some Asian/ASEAN leaders. Third, the state is relatively independent of all classes and segments, and responds mainly to the policy preferences of state officials. This, more or less, is Nordlinger’s position (and that of Marx the sociologist). And four, it is relatively not autonomous, but responds to all, because the state is a site of contestation between groups that articulate different and conflicting interests. This is the view of the pluralist, liberal school.
the context of the autonomy-responsiveness axis, it is possible to consider the
phenomenon from another perspective: to what or to whom is the state
responsible or responsive? A useful
conceptualization in this regard is Nordlinger’s treatment of the state's
autonomy and responsiveness in terms of the autonomy relations of society and
the state (and state officials).
In Nordlinger's view, state autonomy rests on malleability, insulation, and resilience, among other factors. Less malleable or non-malleable states are those that are not susceptible or responsive to societal pressures. "Malleability", in turn, is determined by whether the state is separated by high (non-porous) or low (porous) "walls". In the former, officials will tend not to respond to, or will ignore, societal preferences. "Insulation" is an autonomy-maximizing feature. Nordlinger states that the most extreme type is represented by "sultanism," where the ruler is little concerned with responding to his subjects. Insulation is high in a state where officials do not depend on society for resources, but rely on coercive measures rather than upon support that is more or less freely given. "Resilience" is defined as the state’s capacity to counteract potential and actual societal opposition. The state is resilient when officials possess policy instruments that enable them to use a "carrot-and-stick" strategy to assert autonomy. The instruments at hand include the granting or withhold-ing of contracts, licenses, and exemptions; other discretionary behaviour, such as the speed or tardiness with which laws are implemented or ignored, the strictness or laxness with which regulations are enforced, and the like. The state will have a high degree of autonomy from society if the state is low in malleability, and high in insulation and resilience.
But the insulation, resilience, and malleability that account for the autonomy of the state are also determined, in Nordlinger’s formulation, by the availability to society of access to the state, and by the depth of a society’s intermediary institutions and associations -- i.e., the way power and state-society relations are organized. An inference can be drawn that the autonomy of the state and its officials rests, to a large degree, on the existence of these intermediary institutions and associations, their autonomy from the state and its officials, and their ease of access by society. Where they are nonexistent or not autonomous, and where accordingly their availability to societal forces is limited, the state will tend to be highly autonomous. Society, conversely, will be relatively non-autonomous vis-à-vis the state.
makes a similar point about state autonomy: namely, that it is not a simple
phenomenon, nor does it stand alone. It
is closely tied to two main factors. The
first is the situation of state actors.
Their organizational resources and policy instruments, their means of
utilizing power, their ideology, and their cohesion will influence their
propensity to assert state autonomy.
These, in turn, determine the extent to which the state and its
officials are autonomous from society.
The second factor is the strength or weakness of non-dominant segments
and/or powerful private interests (especially economic interests), together
with their degree of access to the state, i.e., via autonomous and accessibile
intermediary institutions and channels to the state. This will determine the degree to which the
state responds to or ignores them, which is indicative of the extent to which
the state preserves autonomy from society.
As Skocpol puts it, state autonomy is not "a fixed structural feature", but varies with the dynamics of politics. Those dynamics centre on the question of who, or what, has privileged access to the state and is able to move it in the desired direction. In other words, state autonomy is largely the function of political interaction or, simply, politics. It is, fundamentally, the way power and politics are organized.
The Democratic Institutionalization of Political Power
Democratic systems occupy one end of the spectrum, representing in ideal-typical form, at the extreme end, a pluralistic system where the state is responsive to society and not very autonomous from it. As discussed, the autonomy of the state hinges on (1) factors internal to the state, such as organizational resources and policy instruments, ideology or mind-set, cohesion of state elites, and (2) the availability of access to the state by social forces, i.e., the depth and autonomy of Nordlinger's "inter-mediary institutions and associations" that mediate state-society relations and interact-ions.
At this juncture, it will be useful to explore, briefly, some of the salient features of the state and how they relate to society. Skocpol, citing Max Weber, notes that states are compulsory associations claiming control over territories and people within them. Administrative, legal, extractive, and coercive organizations are the core of any state. States matter because of the power that enamates from them. States may formulate and pursue goals that do not reflect the demands or interests of social groups, classes, or society, i.e., they attempt to assert their autonomy from social groups. However, states are variably structured. The organizational configuration and structures of states, along with their overall patterns of activities, "affect political culture; encourage some kinds of group formation and collective political actions (but not others); and make possible the raising of certain political issues (but not others)". Some may be "embedded" in some sort of constitutional-representative system of parliamentary decision-making or electoral contest for key executive and legislative posts, and some others, as implied, may take in various forms of non-parliamentary or authoritarian arrangements.
States vary in their structures and the way they function for a number of histor-ical, economic, political and cultural reasons, including, as an important reason, the actions of key elites. Precisely because states do vary in their structures and in the way which political power is organized, it is possible to place along a continuum states exhibiting varying degrees of state autonomy. Like democracy and authoritarianism, state autonomy is not an issue of "yes-and-no", but a matter of "more-or-less".
In a state where political power is democratically organized and the state is compelled by its own legal requirements to provide social forces with relatively open access to politics and avenues of political influence, and more freedom of political action, the state will be (and is) relatively less autonomous from society, and more responsive to competing social forces. Poggi's thoughts on how political power is organized in a democratic polity help clarify the patterns of autonomy in different states and regime, which further our understanding of some of the key differences between democratic and authoritarian states.
Poggi’s inquiry into the nature of the democratic state begins with the notion that in any state-society order, political power is paramount with respect to other social power. Power -- the capacity to mobilize the energies of others, even against their will -- is grounded, in the political sphere, upon the possession of coercive capabilities. The state holds the legitimate monopoly over these. Since political power directly relates to the state, the way it is organized will define its nature, and thus the measure of its autonomy as well.
What characterizes a democratic state is the fact that political power is organized and institutionalized in a particular way. Present first is what Poggi terms "democratic legitimation": the state’s acknowledgement that it regards the citizens as the foundation of its rule and the "ultimate seat of all powers that it exercises." Second, he claims that a bond links the populace to the state via the notion of citizenship: a set of general and equal entitlements and obligations vested in individuals with respect to the state, as well as the content of society’s activity and outputs. Third, "the rule of law" exists. Law is brought into the "organization of political power [and] the modes of its exercise," establishing what Weber called "legal-rational domination." Fourth, opposition to the state, debates and contestation over policies, critical orientations, and expressions are legitimized and institutionalized -- indeed, they are regarded as productive. This in turn is linked to the idea of the public sphere: recognition of the rights of assembly, association, and petition. Fifth, there is the established institution of representative government based on free and fair elections.
An important point about the democratic institution of power is the situation of power-holders and officials. To coin a phrase, power-holders are "temporary tenants of power": they are required to seek popular mandates in competitive elections. Also, they are subject to removal by political-legal means if they abuse their power. Likewise, because officials exercise power on the public’s behalf, they are public servants, not masters. The state is not the "creature" of rulers and officials: the state is "separated," conceptually and institutionally, from officials and holders of power -- more accurately, from their personal preferences. In other words, the office is more important than the office-holder.
summarize, the principles and practices of states where political power is
democratically institutionalized establish the people (as citizens and
electors) as the basis of rule.
Political power is "tamed" and depersonalized. Citizens are able to protect themselves from
the arbitrary exercise of power through legal safeguards and their legitimate
right to participate in politics more or less independently of state
control. They are also able to make the
state respond, in varying degrees, to their pref-erences. The state-society interrelationship is
monitored and moderated by the legal sphere and legal-rational procedures,
binding on both rulers and ruled. Power
is institutionalized in such a way that state power -- and state autonomy -- is
moderated by countervailing forces in the public sphere.
The above discussion of how power is organized illustrates that how the state is structured affects, among other things, the pattern of autonomy relations between the state and society. It is wise at this point, however, to be aware that this portrait of the democratic polity, synthesized from Poggi’s work, is only a general conceptual one. Despite some fundamental similarities, democracies do differ. They range on the spectrum from the pure liberal democracy model to a more restrictive model of democracy that merges into the most mild form of authoritarianism on the spectrum.
The Authoritarian Configuration of Political Power
Historically, polities where political power is, in Poggi's definition, "democrat-ically institutionalized", are relatively new. By contrast, untamed political power --its arbitrary use and exercise, its manifestation in a mode of domination based on power held by officials or derived from heredity -- has been with mankind since the dawn of recorded history. It is also more or less the norm in the
Power, furthermore, is usually not de-personalized. It rests largely in the hands of personal
rulers -- to varying degrees, depending upon the ruler's ability to assert his
dominance and/or autonomy from subordinate power-holders, the military, and cliques
and factions within the ruling circle. Likewise, in the rest of the system,
bureaucratic power is not institutionalized in a rational-legal mode. Rather, it tends to be characterized by
particularistic, patrimonial relations that obscure the distinction between
public and private domains, and between public and private goods. The state and its power structures are
generally "semi-private" property, and are often used (or misused) by
power- and office-holders for private gain.
There is in such regimes, the removal -- but more commonly, the control and manipulation -- by bureaucratic elites of what Poggi calls the "public space" and inter-mediary institutions and associations: the means by which citizens participate in public affairs, and power-holders are pressured or made accountable. Subordinate segments ("the masses") are excluded, coercively depoliticized, and deprived of meaningful access to both the political arena and the state. Owing to such an organizational con-figuration and structures, the
At this point, it is important to note that authoritarian orders are not, as Friedrich and Brzezinski observe, based solely on coercion, repression, or violence. There also exists some version of consensus. It is only in the initial stage of their establish-ment, or re-establishment that such consensus tends to be lacking. Over time, they may develop some responsiveness and generate a viable consensus. (On the other hand, they may become more repressive). A broad consensus may emerge as the populace becomes accustomed to authoritarian rule, or as some segments are given, or discover, opportunities for personal advancement and gain. We might add to this list the idea of consensus based on an ideology, such as nationalism; on principles, such as constitutional monarchy; or on a founding constitution that is regarded as legitimate, and which the regime or the ruler might skilfully manipulate. Owing, therefore, to varying mixtures of coercion, repression, violence, rewards, and consensus, authoritarian orders may prove quite durable.
The Military-Authoritarian Order and the State Stratum
The shift from one order to another, especially from incipient democracies to an authoritarian one, particularly in the
As Gerald Heeger notes, political roles and position are redefined as roles within the bureaucratic hierarchy. The net result is the insulation of the state from society by a special, hierarchically-organized collectivity of state officials – the "state stratum". In the
Members of this stratum are differentiated from other strata by various privileges and entitlements. They are also imbued with a distinctive esprit de corps, often built around a strong "us-against-them" feeling towards the mass of the population. The existence of this stratum of state functionaries is crucial to the insulation and the non-malleability of the state, and enhances its independence (or autonomy) from society.
The Personal Ruler in an Authoritarian Order
In addition to the distinct stratum of officials referred to, the most prominent feature of Third World authoritarianism (including its military-authoritarian variant) is the phenomenon of personal rule. It is defined by Robert Jackson and Carl Rosberg as a system of rule predominating in a poorly institutionalized political arena. The system is structured not by institutions but by the political players themselves. It is a system where the formal rules of the political game do not effectively govern the con-duct of rulers or other political actors most of the time. Rather, political actions result more from personal power and private whims than are derived from established proc-edures inside institutions. Personal rulers are not linked with the "public", but to patrons, associates, clients, supporters and rivals, who constitute the "system". As such, political power is not checked by institutions and formal rules. Personal rulers are restrained -- if, and when, they are -- by the limits of their personal authority and power, and that of their patrons, associates, clients, supporters, and rivals.
The authors note, however, that although countries with a comparatively low level of social and economic modernization are especially susceptible to personal rule, relatively "developed" states -- even modern, developed states -- are not immune to, as they put it, "personal authoritarianism". Personal rule is, according to the authors, inherently authoritarian. It has given rise to "the narrowing of the public sphere and its monopolization by a single ruling party or a military oligarchy", under the direct con-trol, typically, of a dominant personality. This has transformed the political process into a private struggle for power and place. It is politics marked by intra-regime fact-ionalism and personal rivalry -- "palace" politics and "court" intrigues -- that revolve around the ruler who exploits, encourages, and manipulates division within a quite narrow circle of key subordinate leaders, so as to maintain both his personal dominan-ce and system equilibrium (or power balance).
In authoritarian orders established by military means, it is ordinarily the coup leader -- the officer who has managed to unite the military factions under his leader-ship, often the chief of the armed forces -- who emerges as the head of state. He is the pivotal player and, as the military regime is consolidated, his role evolves from that of a "military dictator" to the ruler of a more complex (and perhaps legitimate) authoritar-ian order.
Further in this respect, it is worthwhile heeding Heeger’s point that in a military regime, the armed forces as a whole seldom rule. More often than not, the state is "captured" by a military faction or a small group of plotters (in rare cases involving civilian colleagues). After the capture of the state, in cases where the military has not yet been unified by a strongman, there will tend to follow a period of often-opaque struggle between military factions and aspirants to personal power. Finally, a winner will tend to emerge; but it is also possible that intense military factionalism may never be effectively resolved, leading to a successor coup or coups, and sometimes to polit-ical disengagement -- a temporary or more enduring return to civilian rule.
The Strongman-Ruler and the Politics of Military Factions
After the capture of the state by the military, as a personal ruler dominating an authoritarian order that is well on the way to consolidation, the strongman-ruler will have to "tame the tiger" on whose back he rode to power: the armed forces. He will need to make it a more pliant instrument, which may involve turning it into a more professional, less overtly politicized body. This he may accomplish by playing factions off against each other; by appointing loyalists to strategic positions; by restructuring the chain of command; or by removing elite units from the operational control of the top brass. He will often resort to purges of actual or potential military rivals (usually senior officers, and those with an excess of ability or ambition). He will also keep top soldiers off balance, by transferring them or by compelling them to spy on each other.
The military may also be tamed by the provision of rewards, as noted in the earl-ier chapter. Rewards for the military as a whole may include bigger military budgets, more modern military hardware, the funding of pet projects, the granting of commerc-ial monopolies and other opportunities to accumulate wealth through the selling or "renting" of influence, bribery, corruption, and extortion. Officers may be given positions as government politicians, legislators, bureaucratic "czars," and the like, both to keep them busy and divided amongst themselves. Rewards also tie them more closely to the "great benefactor": the strongman-ruler. The provision of rewards and opportunities will entrench soldiers more deeply in the structure of power, giving them a personal stake in upholding both the authoritarian system and the preeminence of the ruler-and-benefactor.
strongman-ruler may also attempt to keep the military in check by creating new
centres of power headed by civilians who are wholly dependent on his
favours. He might even allow the
civilian bureaucracy or the governing party a degree of auton-omy from the
military, thereby offsetting the military’s role and influence with a net-work
of civilian ministers, bureaucratic czars, and governmental party bosses. Often the ruler will create special intelligence
agencies which are given wide powers both to sow fear among the populace and to
spy on members of the officer corps.
This phenomenon of the shifting relationship between the strongman-ruler and the military is well-documented in the literature on military regimes. It has, however, been insufficiently theorized. The gap in the literature seems to derive from a failure to appreciate the changes that occur in the role and status of the strongman-ruler vis-à-vis the military, as he becomes more of a "national" leader and presides over a more complex and mature authoritarian order.
Building Authoritarian Orders: Differing Strategies and Different Outcomes
As the pivotal figure in a complex authoritarian order, the strongman-ruler is further prodded to extend and consolidate his personal control and to legitimize the fact of his dominance. The particular strategy employed will depend on the psycho-logical makeup, skill, and style of the strongman-ruler. He may choose to construct a new order that is based on soldiers alone. He will then insert soldiers into the power structure with little regard for the former occupants (that is, civilian officers, techno-crats and previous political appointees).
In other cases, military dominance will be "diluted". For example, the ruler, while reliant on the military, will not only incorporate civilian officials into the new order, but also various technocrats, politicians, notables, and so on. A wider and more inclusive support base is the intended result. In the process, civilian bureaucrats may be made into reliable -- if at times coerced and intimidated -- supporters of the reorganized authoritarian order. In keeping with, as Linz notes, limited political pluralism that marks authoritarian regimes, as discussed, the ruler will build up a constitutional façade -- consisting of political parties, electoral processes, legislative-representative assemblies, and corporatist-style bodies like official trade unions, business councils, trade associations, and a variety of government-sponsored bodies that "represent" peasants, women, and so on. As the regime "matures," the façade may gain legitimacy, and actually come to function as quite a stable institutional framework for the new order.
strategy selected by the strongman-ruler to consolidate his position and
routinize authoritarian rule will, I maintain, shape the contours and
trajectory of the authoritarian order.
(It must be noted that a mixture of intervening variables -- econ-omic,
social, political, external -- is also brought into play; the way the ruler
reacts to them will play a large part in this regard.) Military-authoritarian regimes will therefore
vary widely in their structures, patterns of state-society interaction, and
relative auton-omy relations, and so on.
In some cases, the outcome may be a state that is autocratic, exclusionary, "strong" (in its capacity to repress, at least), and highly autonomous -- but weak in re-solving problems, and unable to win minimal acceptance from the wider society, owing either to poor economic performance, gross injustices, or increasing alienation. In others, the state may prove to be comparatively strong and stable politically and economically, enduring to, or beyond, the final years of the strongman-ruler.
In the longer run, or with the passage of years, however, these states may be faced with potentially serious problems. In cases where states practice some degree of democracy or where constitutional documents enshrine democratic principles, or rulers employ democratic rhetoric to legitimize their hold on power, the regime will be dependent on continuing and uninterrupted "performance legitimacy" to contain pressures for political liberalization. In cases where the state is unable to win minimal acceptance, the cost to the regime of maintaining power through coercion, in the absence of legitimacy, can be expected to keep rising. These potential problems will tend to be deepened by a range of new challenges. For example, there are those arising from regional or global power re-alignments, changes in society as a result of economic failure or success, growing tensions between rivals power factions in the ruling circle, and the physical or political weakening of the ruler himself. Also, the regime and the strongman-ruler may also be challenged by a popular, charismatic leader advocating a democratic alternative, or perhaps preaching a fundamentalist religious message that articulates growing popular resentment against (or alienation from) the regime.
Faced with these challenges, the entire authoritarian edifice may unexpectedly collapse (as may democratic structures for a different set of reasons). Alternatively, the military may violently restore authoritarian rule under a new strongman-ruler. In the absence of a strongman-ruler, there may be a period of coups and counter-coups as factions and aspiring strongmen battle for dominance. Or political stalemate may result, with neither the military nor the opposition winning a decisive victory. This can result in protracted struggle until one side achieves victory, or until a compromise of sorts is reached.
crucial point is that since the whole military-authoritarian order is kept in
balance by the skill of the strongman-ruler, it is highly vulnerable to a
succession crisis. This could also lead
to a crisis in the transition -- a transition from one state order to
another. Since most such orders are not
firmly institutionalized and, more importantly, lack established procedures for
succession and/or transition, the decline or death of a strongman-ruler can
constitute a dangerous political flashpoint.
The crises derive in large part from the personalistic nature of rule:
the close identification, over time, of the strongman-ruler with the government,
the state, the nation, or because his personal preferences largely influence,
or subvert, state policies. This
illustrates the extent to which the state’s high degree of autonomy relative to
society, and its low autonomy vis-à-vis the strongman-ruler, can result in
system instability, or at least considerable uncertainty.
The Pattern of Autonomy Relations in Military Authoritarian Regimes
The vulnerability of the regime to succession and transition crises suggests that the issue of the relative autonomy of the state is more complex than is sometimes acknowledged. The complexity suggests that a different category of autonomy relat-ions may obtain in authoritarian orders.
In the literature on state autonomy, debates have mainly centred on the degree of autonomy of the state versus society. They address the relative degree of autonomy of the state, or independence from society granted to state decision-makers, including high-ranking bureaucrats (including military officers where it applies), and technocrats (or techno-bureaucrats) working within the policy-making apparatus of the state (all of whom will, in the proceding passages, sometimes be referred to, for brevity, as "state officials"). It is however assumed that state officials are public servants and that their preferences are bound by the rational-legal, public-oriented norms. For example, the preferences of presidents, prime ministers, and cabinet ministers are assumed to be policy-related and in the public domain. Their private preferences and agendas are regarded as marginal to the policy preferences they champion and support.
It is, however, the view of this thesis that, just as state and society can be con-ceptualized as two intersecting, interrelated, but potentially independent variables, so can the state and its component officials be analyzed along similar lines. Although officials are of the state, if their private preferences largely determine the content of state outputs (i.e., corruption), then a situation arises where officials or key power-holders, and their preferences do not belong, conceptually, to the "public" state. In such instances, they can be conceived as being independent vis-à-vis the state.
regimes and states are distinguished by three interrelated characteristics
which illuminate autonomy relations between, on the one hand, the state (and
its institutions), and on the other, state officials (who make decisions within
the state's institutions). The first
characteristic arises from the transformation of political actors into
bureaucratic ones, as some politicians are replaced as representatives or
legislators by soldiers (and bureaucrats), as others are excluded or co-opted,
and as political parties are banned, manipulated, or neutralized. An almost completely "depoliticized
hierarchy of governmental organizations" is created as a substitute for a
more or less autonomous political arena. The explanation for this state of affairs
lies in the distrust of politics that many military and authoritarian leaders
exhibit, along with their strong dislike of social conflicts to which politics
is held to contribute. The distrust of political participation
extends, as Heeger notes, to regime-sponsored or -sanctioned political parties,
and even to its own party. The latter is usually insulated from
decision-making and not permitted to develop as an autonomous institution. It is used mainly to win votes, manage
political participation, and mobilize, theoretically, the "people,"
-- in fact the regime’s supporters. Its other function is to manage, manipulate,
and control the representative-legislative sphere (which serves also to provide
regime with a mantle of constitutional legitimacy).
Because the political arena and the institutions that mediate state-society inter-action are neutralized or controlled, the means by which society can influence or press-ure the state are abolished or radically reduced. The first characteristic contributes to making the state highly autonomous, or less "malleable" - in Nordlinger’s formulation - thereby increasing its "insulation" and "resilience." This malleability, though, is not as simple as Nordlinger presents it. In military-authoritarian states – in authoritarian orders more generally – the state is non-malleable only so far as the public is concern-ed. It may be exceedingly malleable if the private interests of key power-holders are considered: those of the strongman-ruler, the top brass, favored bureaucrats and their patron-cronies, clan members, and so on.
Viewed from this angle, the authoritarian state does not seem to have much autonomy, which leads us to a second characteristic of this type of regime: the erosion of the bureaucracy’s organizational integrity and autonomy. After the military’s seiz-ure of power, as politicians are replaced by bureaucrats, the bureaucracy --military, administrative, and political -- is increasingly brought under the personal control of the strongman-ruler, who holds all meaningful power. As a consequence, impersonal, rational-legal bureaucratic norms are displaced by operational modes and relationships based on patrimonial reciprocity, patronage bonds, personal obligations, and loyalty to immediate superiors -- above all, to the strongman-ruler.
A third characteristic follows from the second. With the whole bureaucracy becoming less rational-legal oriented, more patrimonial, personalistic, and particular-istic, the state’s policy outputs come increasingly to reflect the personal-patrimonial preferences (of state officials), rather than preferences bounded by rational-legal norms and a public-oriented agenda. The state then becomes the "creature" of the strongman-ruler and, to a varying extent, trusted subordinates (together with their respective personal networks and connections). The relative autonomy of the state is eroded to reflect the interests of those who exercise key power within it.
Due to these three characteristics, then, there obtains a pattern of relative auton-omy in which the state is (a) autonomous from society, and (b) more or less "captured" by, and made more malleable to, or non-autonomous from those who hold power or high state and/or military positions. The pattern of state autonomy in military-authoritarian orders is therefore more complex than it seems.
military-authoritarian states, the pattern of relative autonomy relations are
thus shaped by the shifting dynamics between three elements -- the state, state
officials (or key power-holders), and society.
As a consequence, the pattern of autonomy relations will differ not only
from those in democracies, but among, and also within, a particular
military-authoritarian order over time.
It will vary according to the ways in which the three elements -- the
state, officials or power-holders, and society
-- relate to one another within the system.
Military Intervention: The Questions, Concepts, and the Arguments
The inquiry into the military intervention phenomenon is chiefly prompted by concern (echoed by scholars like Kennedy, Louscher, and Crouch) about the unsatis-factory exploration and explanation of the great variety of roles the military may play, and the diverse political and socio-economic circumstances military actors find them-selves in after the state is captured. More plainly put, the study primarily examines what happens after the military seizes power. They are, first, why the military decides to stay on to rule and to reorganize political power; second, how (in what ways) the military decides to reorganize power; third, what kind of military authoritarian pattern emerges when the military chief becomes the state strongman-ruler; and fourth, how differences between, and within regimes, over time, are to be explained?
To help in the search for answers to these questions, I have constructed a theoretical framework built around existing concepts on military intervention and the state, state autonomy and relative autonomy; the organization and reorganization of political power in democratic and non-democratic polities; authoritarianism and milit-ary regimes, and authoritarianism and personal rule. I have, on this basis, synthesized a conceptual framework that looks into three interrelated issues (and questions pertin-ent to them): (1) the military and the politics of military intervention as they relate to the reorganization of power in the state; (2) the pivotal role of, and strategies employ-ed by, the military strongman in the reorganization of political power (and long-term outcomes), the relationship between the ruler and his power base in the military; and (3) the nature of military authoritarian orders, their structures (or organizational con-figuration); autonomy relations; the degree of authoritarianism exercised, and the dom-inance (or otherwise) of the military, in the countries examined -- Burma, Indonesia, and Thailand.
this framework, I will show that military intervention is a complex, often
protracted phenomenon involving the engagement and the use of the armed forces
to change the way power is organized.
The intention, as noted, is usually to render the state more
authoritarian, reinforcing its autonomy vis-à-vis society. The result is what we ordinarily term
"military regimes," and the implicit assumption we make is that
military regimes are similar enough that they are hardly worthwhile
I maintain, however, that despite the common features of military intervention and backing, these regimes do differ significantly. They vary in terms of the way the state is run, its nature and goals, the extent to which the military participates in governance and dominates the political sphere, and the pattern of relative autonomy relations. They also vary in the degree they are authoritarian: some may be highly authoritarian, some less so, and some may even be quasi-democratic (broadly defined).
The exact form of the reorganization of state structures and institutions in a military-authoritarian order will vary widely. This is because much depends on the goals, political will, and astuteness of different strongman-rulers who oversee the process in their respective countries. The degree of autonomy exhibited by the state will also largely depend on the varied systems of governance and control put in place by the strongman-rulers.
The strongman-ruler who assumes power with military backing indeed has a unique relationship with the military – he is, after all, its chief. But over time, he will tend to be transformed into a "state" ruler, and his bond with the military will almost invariably slacken. Accordingly, he will need to take action to maintain his dominan-ce over the military. At the same time, for the sake of legitimacy, it may be necessary or desirable for the ruler to "separate" himself from the military. It is not uncommon for a military-authoritarian regime to be converted into a "civilian"-led, military-backed regime, headed by the military ruler now clad in mufti. The significance of this change varies according to the goals and capabilities of the strongman-ruler. It may be purely cosmetic, or it may lead to efforts to subordinate the military in its political role, while at the same time seeking to avoid incurring its wrath.
If successful, the ruler’s attempts to subordinate and personally dominate the military will result in the latter becoming a safely co-opted, quiescent elite body. The military and its personnel will often be rewarded with positions in the state or in representative-legislative bodies (including perhaps the government-sponsored political party). If they are abundantly rewarded with budgets, projects, economic opportunit-ies, and the like, the military will likely accept without demur some reduction in its political role and influence. This will obtain provided that the ruler retains his mani-pulative skills and political savvy, and the military does not perceive itself as being "pushed out" in ways that injure its corporate interests and self-image as protector of the nation.
Further, in order to dilute the influence of the military, the strongman-ruler may attempt to co-opt other groups into the ruling circle, or recruit new supporters from among elite segments of society: technocrats, bankers, professionals, businessmen, local notables, and so on. Over time, as the state's structures changes shape, this may reduce the state’s autonomy vis-à-vis societal and economic elite, though this conseq-uence is often unintended and unforeseen. And attempts may even be made by the strongman-ruler and his subordinates (including those in the military) to obstruct and restrict the "opening" of the state sphere to individuals, groups and sectors outside its parameters.
is possible that in the long run, the autonomy of the state may decline in
military-authoritarian regimes and states.
To test this and other arguments advanced in these preliminary chapters,
I turn now to an examination of three Southeast Asian countries where the
military has been politically active and prominent:
BURMA: MILITARY INTERVENTION AND THE POLITICS OF AUTHORITARIAN DOMINATION
Introduction: The Politics of the State and the Military in Burma
Military rule began in Burma in 1962, and was dominated by Ne Win (Thakin Shu Maung) until the "people’s power" uprising of 1988. This was bloodily supp-ressed by the military, which has remained in power to the present. In this chapter, because of the prolonged presence of the military in politics and the important role it has played in shaping the contours of state-society relations and the political land-scape, the examination of the phenomenon of military intervention will go beyond the conceptualization of it as a response to crises, implicitly connoting limitations to the intrusion of the military into politics. Military intervention will be analyzed as one intertwined with the reorganization of power, the reconfiguration of state structures, and the re-ordering of state-society relations.
As mentioned in the preliminary chapters, military intervention occurs in complex, diverse historical, socio-economic, and political settings, and is triggered by diverse events and factors. Soldiers are motivated to intervene by a mix of factors -- in addition to a situation of "praetorian" politics characterizing the politics of many
The military in
The military Thakins, like their counterparts in
In 1957, when the AFPFL, ruling party, split into two camps and many cliques, the door was opened for soldiers to enter politics. "Young Turk" Brigadiers in the military stepped in as "caretakers" in 1958, to "save" the country from splitting -- as had the ruling party -- into two, but returned to the barracks in 1960. As will be examined, the first military's foray into politics was not led by the military’s chief, Ne Win, but by "Young Turk" Brigadiers who placed their chief, Ne Win, as head of a military caretaker government. Quite uncharacteristically -- to judge from his later performance -- Ne Win chose to rule as a constitutional military caretaker. Elections were promised for 1960. Even though the AFPFL (Stable) faction favored by the military was humiliated in these elections, the military kept its pledge -- given by its chief, Ne Win -- to return to the barracks.
1962, the military, unified by Ne Win -- after the purge of most "Young
Turks" Brigadiers prominent in the military-caretaking government --
stepped dramat-ically onto the political stage.
This time, it was led personally by Ne Win, now the undisputed leader,
and he meant business. As will be
discussed, he proceded to re-organize political power in an authoritarian
direction. Like Sarit in 1958 (in
Thai-land), he abrogated the 1947-1948 Constitution; abolished parliament;
banned political parties; detained the Prime Minister, U Nu, cabinet members,
the Chief Justice, Members of Parliament, leaders of non-Bama ethnic segments
(especially of the Shan), politicians (both of the left and the right political
spectrum), and so on; closed down papers and imposed censorship and, just three
months after the coup, had a number of protesting Rangoon University students
killed. In contrast to Sarit and
Ne Win’s military-run Lanzin, or BSPP (Burmese Socialist Program Party) state, was well in line with the authoritarian, nationalist-socialist Dobama creed. He reorganized political power and the order of state and society in ways that shut out not only the population at large, but also most non-military (or civilian) elites, both bureaucratic and non-bureaucratic, from the political arena and limited their access to the state. Laws instituted to promote and protect the "
In 1988, owing in large part to the extreme hardships associated with "socialist" economic failures and the monopolization of political and economic resources by the military, Ne Win’s state "of soldiers, for soldiers, by soldiers" was confronted and challenged by popular forces in a country-wide, urban "people’s power" uprising. Seemingly invulnerable, the BSPP state nonetheless collapsed almost overnight. The power base of the "old" regime, the military, did not collapse, however. It was still held together by Ne Win’s authority, or by fear of the leader. This, together with fear of popular retribution that might await them, spurred the military to carry out a bloody coup to re-establish military-authoritarian rule, and restore the status-quo ante and with it, the military's dominant place. This time, the military -- represented by the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) -- claimed it would hold onto power only to restore law and order and promote free-market economic development. Nearly a decade later, it still rules at gunpoint.
State and Society in
I stated in the theoretical framework that the military intervention in politics and the reconfiguration of the state-society order are closely linked. As a point of departure in the examination of the military as an armed political actor involved in the politics of the state, a brief survey of the nature of state orders and state-society relations in
genesis of the Burmese state in its modern form lies in the economic expansion
of the West and its political by-product, colonialism. It is a classic case of the flag inevitably
following trade, as John Furnivall notes. Over time, "planting the flag"
became a larger project involving the reorganization and restructuring of
pre-capitalist, agrarian societies, and the erosion of their political and
This led to the "modernization" and
"rationalization" of politics and governance to ensure a smooth ride
for capitalism. Furnivall’s comment that
the tropics were "colonized with capital" might be reworded as "
colonized with capital, for capital." The establishing of European colonies changed
the colonized entities in two main ways.
Old "kingdoms" were transformed into "modern"
territorial, political-administrative units along Western lines. Also, colonial methods of man-agement founded
on notions of market rationality, commercial efficiency, and so on, forcibly
imposed on "native" societies a European-capitalist universalizing
hegem-ony. Despite Robert Taylor’s view -- influenced by
nationalist rhetoric, perhaps -- that
British rule in
the way the British reorganized political power in colonial
Referring back to the discussion in the theoretical framework of the ways polit-ical power is organized to yield authoritarian or democratic outcomes, it can be said that the colonial state in
On the other hand, state officials were public servants in the real sense of the word. They were forbidden to be closely involved (or interfere) in politics or to use their office to advance their personal preferences. The state, in other words, was gen-erally non-malleable vis-à-vis officials’ private agendas. In this sense, the autonomy of the official class, from the Governor downwards, vis-à-vis both society and the state was moderated by legal-rational bureaucratic norms and the rule of law. Also, the gradual introduction of a more or less open, somewhat democratic political arena and a representative-legislative sphere from the 1920s onward, as noted, meant that the autonomy of the colonial state -- and its officials -- was moderated by their malleability by societal forces.
British may have been laying the foundation for
A Decade of Democracy: The State of the Moderate Thakins, 1948-1958
Power in post-war Burma did not devolve into the hands of the "old time" pol-iticians -- U Saw, Sir Paw Tun, U Ba Pe, U Pu, and so on -- who had been "trained" and were experienced in the ways of parliamentary politics and governance. It fell into the hands of the Thakins. They were politicized young men who emerged in the 1930s as extreme and impatient nationalists. They were the product of a time when the world was gripped by a severe economic depression; when anti-capitalist sentiments were as strong as nationalist ones, not only in the world’s peripheral regions but in
The Thakins -- from whose ranks sprang the military Thakins -- were mostly from the "educated" (pyin-nya-tat) sub-stratum. They were inspired by Saya San, by "past glories" of the Bama lu-myo (race), and as well by Karl Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, and other Western figures. They were politicized, too, by the dismal prospect of employment in the lower ranks of the colonial bureaucracy, serving the imperial power as school-teachers and clerks. It was these men who shaped
called themselves thakin ("lord"
or "master," a form of address used towards Europeans). They belonged to the Dobama Asi-Ayone,
the Dobama, "We Bama," movement. Their platform was independence, and their
version of nation-alism rested on negative sentiments -- anti-White,
anti-foreign, anti-capitalist. They
rejected liberal democracy, espoused a foggy notion of "national"
socialism, and held to a vague vision of a "golden past" that
depicted the Bama as a conquering master race (lu-myo), which dominated
and ruled over other lesser lu-myo, until it was defeated by the
British, and its kingdom disembered. |
As it was spelled out in 1941 by Aung San (then an obscure supplicant in Tokyo), the Dobama creed aspired to "a strong state ... [as] in Germany and Italy, [of] only one nation, one state, one party, one leader." It would be a state without parliamentary opposition or the "nonsense of individualism". In Josef Silverstein’s view, Aung San later repudiated the authoritarian statism attributed to him. None-theless, like their nationalists counterparts in
its authoritarian, unitary orientation, the Dobama was actually a loose-ly
structured political front, composed of shifting cliques and factions, headed
by leaders with diverse and changing beliefs. Among its leaders, some in time became
"moderate socialists," like Thakin, later General, Aung San, and
Thakins Nu (later U Nu), Ba Swe, and Kyaw Nyein, to name a few. Then there were staunch Marxists like Thakins
Soe, Than Tun, Ba Hein, and Thein Pe Myint, along with rightwing nationalists
such as Thakins Ba Sein, Tun Ok, and Shu Maung (Ne Win). The result was much jockeying for dominance
among Thakin groups and leaders.
The fortunes of war and politics determined that some became ministers, "national" leaders, and high officials, first in the Japanese-sponsored "independent state" during the war years (1943-1945), and later in post-independence
AFPFL emerged after the war as a formidable force. It was another broad nationalist front
organized by Aung San against the Japanese, which he dominated. Its members established themselves in the
structures of power (left vacant after the British retreat from
It was fortunate for the AFPFL that
"moderate socialists," AFPFL powerholders, like
"socialists" counterparts in
state’s structure was decentralized to a degree in the wake of the 1947
Panglong Agreement signed by Aung San and the Yawnghwe chaofa (prince),
Sao Shwe Thaike, and later the first Union President, along with other non-Bama
leaders. In keeping with the 1948
Constitution, based in part on the Panglong Agreement, non-Bama states enjoyed
some political-administrative autonomy.
Each non-Bama state had its own government, legislature, and its own administrative
setup. In this sense, the AFPFL state
was ethnically inclusive in that the rights and autonomy of larger non-Bama
ethnic segment were recognized and respected, in principle at least.
The recognition of ethnic diversity, or ethnic inclusiveness, went against the military's notion of national unity which is one that is based on, as discussed in the theoretical chapters, the notion of "one-ness", or the absence of conflicts (and diss-ent, or even differences). Likewise, the military in
However, although the non-Bama states were "autonomous", they were subordinated to the government of Bama Pri-Ma (the Bama mother-state), which was concurrently the government of the union: there did not exist what one might describe as a federal government. The quasi-federal/semi-unitary arrangement was a compromise that satisfied the moderate Thakins’ need to claim they had "recovered" all territories which were "lost" when the British administered the non-Bama areas as separate entities. On the down side, however, it did not satisfy in particular the military Thakin, who viewed the quasi-federal arrangement as detrimental to unity. At the same time, many non-Bama saw the "union" as a Bama ploy to "Burmanize" them and destroy their "national" identity.
On the whole, the AFPFL state was, in the way power was organized, democ-ratic in form and to a degree in content. It sought the institutional separation of the state, government, and powerholders, and kept open the political arena. There were many different and competing power centres, interest groups, and political parties, with one of the latter, the AFPFL, winning elections and exercising power. The ability of AFPFL leaders, especially U Nu, to maintain this complex state-society configuration in a more or less democratic environment for about fourteen years, despite extreme praetorian conditions and regular rebellions, is impressive.
appreciate just how impressive, it should be noted that on assuming power, the
AFPFL was everywhere challenged, and severely wounded by the loss of its most
vital asset, Aung San. His death
weakened the AFPFL’s cohesion as his charisma had cemented it. With Aung San went the AFPFL’s hold on the
majority of the milit-ary Thakins, both in the armed forces and in the party’s
private "army," the Pyithu Yebaw (PVO). Thakin officers in three of the four Bama
"class" battalions defected
to the communist Thakins, as did the PVOs.
An exception was Ne Win’s Fourth Burma Rifles, which included Maung
Maung, Aung Gyi, Tin Pe, Sein Lwin, "Em-I" Tin Oo, and
The AFPFL’s weakness emboldened communist Thakins to rebel soon after independence; their revolt lasted until the collapse of communism in the late 1980s. In turn, the many tasks which confronted AFPFL power-holders as rulers -- such as combating communism (or specifically, fending off communist Thakin rivals), keep-ing the country together, extending the reach of the state, repulsing foreign intruders, and so on -- resulted not only in their growing dependence on the military, but also in the expansion of the military's role and, correspondingly, its importance and political leverage. It also reinforced the military's perception of itself as an indispensible guardian-protector and savior of the state. This suggests the strengthening of factors that encourage, as discussed in the preliminary chapters, the military's propensity not only to intervene in politics, but also to "stay on", as theoretically discussed, to re-fashion the state and take on the task of ruling.
Next to the communist Thakins, the most serious challenge to the AFPFL state and power-holders was posed by the Karen. In 1948, a year after independence, the fragile truce patched up with the Karen following the wartime BIA massacres of Karens dissolved into Karen-Bama clashes. The "loyal" Karen who fought against the Japanese had, in a sense, won the war. But in its aftermath, they were faced with the prospect of being ruled, from their standpoint, by "deceitful" Bama -- by those who had betrayed not only the British, but their own Japanese mentors as well. Their position was desperate. U Nu and Saw Ba U-Gyi, the top Karen leader, tried to defuse the tension, but they could not prevent the Karen rebellion, which continues at a reduced level still today. The Karen were joined in revolt by the Mon, Pa-O, and Kachin mutineers.
the AFPFL’s problems with internal challenges, Chiang Kai-Shek’s defeat in
these many problems and internal wars, however, the AFPFL continued to respect
the parameters of parliamentary politics.
They held and won elections in 1952 and 1956. The 1956 vote was especially pivotal: the opposition,
the National Unity Front (NUF, a moderate leftist front) won 45 percent of the
popular vote and 47 seats. The NUF’s electoral gains convinced
significant "underground" elements that parliament was a viable venue
of politics. In 1958, responding to U
Nu’s "Arms for Democracy" program, they abandoned the armed struggle. By most indicators, it seemed democracy in
the other hand, although the AFPFL Thakin were more or less able to main-tain a
parliamentary, quasi-federal order until 1962, the commitment to democratic
process that they displayed was rather ambiguous. First, the AFPFL openly aspired to rule for
forty years. They stacked the
administrative apparatus, the military, state agencies, and even municipal
bodies with their supporters and clients.
This under-mined the state’s autonomy from key power-holders, undercut
the institutional integ-rity of the bureaucracy, and eroded democratic norms. Second, the AFPFL interfered in the politics
of the non-Bama states. Opposition
leaders and groups received help from the AFPFL, the military, or its
intelligence services (MIS, the Military Intelligence Service). The military was particularly active not only
in "mopping up" rebels, but in imposing its presence, via
"pacificat-ion" marches into the rural areas to intimidate the
non-Bama populace ("showing the flag", so to speak).
It also established garrisons, set up check-points, and in many areas took direct control of administrative functions. For example, in areas put under martial law, the military set up a hierarchy of Security and Administrative Committees (SACs), head-ed by the local military commander. The heads of the SACs, being military officers, held the balance of power vis-à-vis local civil officers, and reported to their superiors in the military chain of command. Thus, in the non-Bama states, the power exercised by military commanders over-shadowed those vested in local officers, and even the constitutionally vested powers of the non-Bama state governments. Moreover, MIS personnel busied themselves with "rooting" out "secessionists", and terrorized the non-Bama populace, so as to dissuade them from even harboring the idea of secession. The policy of "Burmanization" -- the central pillar of which was making Burmese (the Bama language) the official language -- predictably caused non-Bama much distress. It gave rise to suspicions that the "Bama" government had a hidden agenda aimed at cultural genocide. The apparent unwillingness or inability of the AFPFL to put a stop to atrocities by the Bama military further fuelled these suspicions.
the AFPFL’s professed adherence to democracy was undermined by its socialist
statism, as this was proclaimed in the 1947 Sorrento Villa Conference,
en-shrined in the 1948 Constitution, and reiterated in the 1952 Pyidawtha Plan. AFPFL socialism resulted in what one American
analyst called a "socialist economy" based on grandiose,
ideologically-driven planning. The implementation of some socialist
policies, the rhetoric portraying capitalism and capitalists as evil,
strength-ened the hegemony of this left-socialist world view. It kept alive the Dobama’s creed of
national-socialist authoritarianism, especially among military Thakins who,
like soldiers in
The First Military Foray Into Politics: The Military Caretakers, 1958-1960
Politics in any democratic polity are complex. In a multi-ethnic state like
The split stemmed from the fact that the AFPFL was a coalition of rival fact-ions led by AFPFL "bosses" like U Ba Swe, Kyaw Nyein, Thakins Tin, and Kyaw Tun. The split stemmed basically from competition between AFPFL factions (or party "empires" and party "czars") over the spoils of office and power, and jockeying among top leaders to get their respective loyalists appointed to strategic party posts. Such intra-party conflicts are common to many political parties. What made them deadly was that U Nu, regarded as standing above the factions, ended up joining the Clean camp. The split paralyzed the government: all of the national and sub-national state machinery were filled by the AFPFL’s allies, clients, and supporters. Anyone of importance was sucked into the fray: politicians, civil servants, mayors, editors, businessmen, even the third Union President – U Win Maung, a Karen. With the ruling party and its member organizations split, the bureaucracy paralyzed, and even society-based institutions divided into Stable and Clean camps, it seemed the government and the state itself were in danger of splitting asunder.
In 1958, as the theoretical discussion
of the previous chapters would predict, the military, feeling its privileged
place in the state hierarchy threatened along with the state itself, intervened
in the political sphere. The military
intrusion was led by "Young Turks" Brigadiers like Aung Gyi, Tin Pe,
Maung Maung, Than Sein, Hla Myint, and others.
Well-informed Burmese with good military connections insist that the
young Brigadiers who "persuaded" U Nu to hand power over to Ne Win --
did so without Ne Win's order or direct involvement. As such, the intervention took on the
complexion of an "aid to civil power" operation by the military at
the request of the Prime Minister, to restore stability and prevent the
break-up of the country. It did not lead
to the reorganization of political power -- which is in agreement with the
theoretical discussion where I stressed the importance of a military
strongman-unifier, who must transform the military into a cohesive political
The official -- and U Nu's and the military's -- version is that U Nu, worried by the party split which affected the whole country, especially the elite segments in government, politics, even societal associations, made use of a clause in the const-itution allowing for the appointment of a non-MP to the government, to invite the armed forces chief, Ne Win, to assume temporary control. There was, officially, no "coup". However, there were troops and armoured cars posted at strategic points in Rangoon for several weeks, and there were as well checkpoints manned by soldiers in full battle gear on the outskirts of the capital, again, for several weeks. The fact of the matter may lie in-between those who believe that the Brigadiers staged a coup, though indirectly, and the official version.
The situation was complicated by the struggle -- at its height then -- between two ruling factions, and Aung Gyi was close to U Ba Swe, the co-leader of the Stable faction that failed to oust U Nu from government. Moreover, U Nu's decision to "invite" Ne Win in as a caretaker was made soon after a visit by Maung Maung and Aung Gyi -- but not much is known, up to now, about what was actually said and what transpired. The decision to hand over power to the military was U Nu's, and his alone. It came as a surprise to most cabinet members. According to Richard Butwell, U Nu had no choice but to agree to hand over power: the choice was between inviting the military to power, or "inviting" a coup. It was, as Dr. Ba Maw, a very prominent Burmese former mentor of the Thakins, put it, a "coup by consent".
Soldiers ruled as caretakers for two years. Compared with the second intervention in 1962, though, they performed well. Especially praised was the encouragement of capitalist development, as provided for in the 1959 Burma Investment Act. It offered domestic and foreign investors a 20-year guarantee against nationalization; looser restrictions on the importation and repatriation of capital and earnings; and exemptions for new investors from custom duties and taxes for three years. All of this was drastically reversed in 1962 -- when Ne Win gained undisputed control of the military and was able to reorganize the state in accordance with his "Burmese socialist" agenda.
The soldiers-caretakers launched "annihilation" operations against insurgents, and as in
What is of particular theoretical relevance about this first military intervention is how different it was from the second. It came more in the form of an "aid to the civil power," rather than a seizure of power. Parliament was only suspended; political parties were not banned. In fact, Ne Win insisted on obtaining a parliamentary mandate to rule as head of the caretaker regime. The administrative machinery of the state was neither seized nor subordinated to the military. And, importantly, the military caretakers chose to recognise (in form at least) the autonomy of the non-Bama states, as constitutionally provided. In the appointment of new heads for these states, for examples, they accepted candidates chosen by the state legislature. Unlike in 1962, there was almost no change in ministerial-administrative personnel at the state level.
Further, as promised, Ne Win held an election in 1960, and handed power over to U Nu and his Union Party (formerly the Clean AFPFL), which had won a landslide victory. Ne Win thus gained fame as a "no-nonsense" statesman-soldier. He so impressed the outside world with his competence and professionalism that he was nominated for the prestigious Magsaysay prize, which he declined. His image as a constitutional, professional soldier was further boosted when he dismissed the "Young Turks" who figured prominently as military caretakers -- Maung Maung, Kyi Win, Aung Shwe, Tun Sein, Chit Khaing, and others. This also restored U Nu’s trust in Ne Win. Lulled by a sense that parliamentary democracy had been restored, legislators, politicians, and community-communal leaders went about their business as usual. No one then realized the magnitude of the change in the balance of power at the heart of the state that the AFPFL split had brought in its train. Surprise was thus the order of the day when, in the pre-dawn hours of
An explanation of the differences between the first and second military inter-vention may lie in the actions that Ne Win took following the announced handover of power in 1958. He insisted on being "elected" by the parliament in October 1958, to effect a legal transfer of power for a year. Again in September 1959, parliament was convened to extend his tenure for a year further. His concern for constitutional legal-ity can be interpreted as actions of a politically unambitious professional soldier, or alternatively as those of a military chief unprepared to try to run the country -- the former interpretation contradicts his later actions.
Knowledgable Burmese maintain that the Tatmadaw was then dominated by "Young Turk" Brigadiers, who were ambitious, capable, and did not hold Ne Win in awe, as would those who followed them. They believe that had Ne Win been in undis-puted control in 1958, it is likely that military rule would have lasted much longer. That this is likely the case is reinforced by Ne Win's dismissal, before his 1962 coup, of the "Young Turks" who were prominent in the caretaker regime, and the dismissal soon after of Aung Gyi, one of the masterminds of the 1958 "handover", and leader of a strong Tatmadaw faction.
The analysis indicates support for the theoretical observation advanced earlier that effective, prolonged military intervention that results in the reorganization of political power depends to a large extent on the military being unified by a strongman; and if an undisputed strongman is lacking, the military will most likely restore civilian rule -- if only temporarily.
As shown, military intervention in 1958 did not lead -- as it would in 1962 -- to the reorganization of political power and the state. Ne Win had not at the time become what he was to become two years later: the undisputed, military strongman-unifier. Therefore, upon being handed power in 1958 by the "Young Turks", Ne Win -- most uncharacteristically -- played the role of a professional, constitutional leader and reluctant military ruler. He saw to it that elections were held in 1960 as he promised, and led his soldiers back to the barracks.
Ne Win’s Bama Tatmadaw: The Power Centre Within the
Although the military seized complete control of the state only in 1962, its history is inextricably linked to politics. In this context it is worth noting that the notion of the military as a specifically-organized coercive arm of the state, subordin-ated to the civil power and led by an apolitical officer corps, is quite novel in many Third World polities. As Dorothy Guyot notes, the Tatmadaw was at its inception a "political movement in military garb": its founders and leaders -- the military Thakins -- were politicians first and foremost.
The Tatmadaw’s history is shaped primarily by politics. It originated in the plan of a Japanese intelligence officer, Colonel Keji Suzuki (
But the plan for a Burmese guerrilla force was shelved when
After a few months, the Japanese disbanded the BIA, now filled mostly with new Thakin recruits, many of whom were little more than drifters. Thereafter, the Burma Defence Army (BDA) was formed from selected BIA members. In 1945, when Aung San and the Thakins turned on their Japanese sponsors shortly before the Allied victory (after
The above account of the various "armies" shows that from 1942 to 1948, mil-itary Thakins commanded or served in four differently-composed and -organized forces. Only a handful served in all of them; of these, only a few served in the post-1948 armed forces. As such, the conventional view of the Tatmadaw as a direct descendant of the "armies that fought for independence" is inaccurate. The current Tatmadaw is essentially the child of Ne Win and the Fourth Burma Rifles who stood by the AFPFL in 1948. Nonetheless, the military has persisted with its claim that it expelled both the British and the Japanese, "winning" Burmese independence, and therefore it is the rightful guardian of the state and nation.
But there is no questioning the debt AFPFL power-holders owed to the military Thakins in the first fragile years of independence. It was the Tatmadaw, its ranks reinforced by Chin, Kachin, and Shan recruits, that blunted the offensive capabilities of both the communist Thakins and the Karen. In this it was assisted by friendly governments, including the
Even though the military quickly became an autonomous centre of power, one crucial to the survival of AFPFL Thakins prior to the 1958 AFPFL split, its chief and future strongman-ruler was apparently not very engaged politically. Ne Win led the high life of wine, women, and pleasure. He attended the races regularly; travelled abroad for the nightlife and horses; was involved in scandals with European callgirls and local starlets; broke up the marriage of Daw Khin May Than, a prominent social-ite, and then married her, though he was already married  As such, he commanded little in the way of public esteem, and almost no Thakin superior – not U Nu, not Kyaw Nyein, not Ba Swe – thought of him as a threat or rival.
On the other hand, top brass such
as Aung Gyi, Maung Maung, and Tin Pe, those who believed in the Dobama creed
and the founding myths of the military, resented the civilian Thakins. In their view, those who had not risked their
necks in the independence struggle, civilian Thakins and others now enjoying
the "fruits of independence", were necessarily less capable, less
patriotic, and "unrevolutionary." As true believers, they were unhappy with
two main features of the AFPFL state.
One was its underpinnings of parliamentary democracy, which they saw, like their Thai and Indonesian counterparts, as a dangerously unstable system that would only hamper the state’s ability to perform its tasks. Accordingly, the Burmese military hardly welcomed the outcome of the 1956 elections, which gave the moderate-left NUF a full 45 percent of the votes. The military was also deeply suspicious of U Nu’s "Arms for Democracy" program, which included the 1958 surrender of a number of rebel armies and their embrace of parliamentary politics. Soldiers (and analysts like Frank Trager) viewed this as "crypto-communist" subversion, and saw the need for the military to step in and "save" democracy and the nation. For the military, the years of democracy under the AFPFL were years of incompetence, corruption, and weakness that demonstrated the inability of the state to counter the communist threat.
The other aspect of the AFPFL state that fuelled military disgruntlement was the semi-federal arrangement between the centre, the Bama mother-country, and the non-Bama states. This constitutional arrangement was seen as encouraging "narrow" non-Bama nationalism. In
The military’s growing disenchantment with the AFPFL state, and its wider distaste for democratic politics, was matched by its growth as an autonomous centre of power, a "state within a state." First, military officers had usurped administrative-political power while conducting military operations in "insecure" areas of the non-Bama states and the Bama hinterland itself. They exercised wide administrative powers as heads of the SACs, and enjoyed authority over regular civilian administrat-ors. Second, the MIS, responsible for rooting out "enemies of the state," had grown very powerful thanks to its key role in the internal war. It was accountable to Ne Win alone; he personally supervised its staffing and operations. Third, not only was the military well-funded, and its members and their families well cared-for by the state; but it had also become, by the mid-1950s, an economic powerhouse. Its Defence Service Industry (DSI), headed by Aung Gyi, enjoyed non-profit status and ready access to foreign currency and investment capital (both foreign and domestic). It was also exempted from all fees and customs duties. Over time, it became an econ-omic empire dominating the "modern" sector – shipping, banking, imports-exports, hotels and tourism, and so on.
The first military intrusion into politics, from 1958 to 1960, was a sign of things to come. However, although the AFPFL split and the "caretaker" interlude signified a radical shift, with power flowing from the hands of civilian power-holders into the hands of soldiers at the very core of the state, few seemed to grasp the deeper implications. After the 1960 elections, political actors continued to participate in "normal" politics, unaware of the vulnerability of the democratic arena itself. Non-Bama leaders, mistaking U Nu’s popularity for strength, came up with the Federal movement to redress imbalances between the centre and states. Worse still -- and foolishly, in hindsight -- U Nu went ahead with his most divisive election promise: making Buddhism the state religion. The non-Buddhist segments of society, including Christianized Chin, Kachin, and Karen, rallied in protest.
In politics, it goes without saying that what is "normal" depends on who defines what is "normal" and how it is defined. For soldiers, whose vision of a "normal" politics is a hierarchical order managed by those who know best (as Manuel Garreton notes), parliamentary politics was abnormal and dangerous, and promoted and exacerbated social conflicts. Democratic politics in 1960-62 was decidedly "overheated." U Nu appeared directionless and often disengaged, his party wracked by internal squabbling. Widespread political disorder -- as perceived by the military -- gave it an opening to spring its political surprise on a March morning in 1962.
The analysis, above, highlights the observation in the opening chapters that military intervention is bound up with the the military's role in the state and its affairs, and that it is connected to its vision of how state-society relations is to be ordered and political power organized. The military in
The military's expanded role and dominance that resulted, reinforced not only the military Thakins' self-image as guardians and protectors of the state, but also their dislike and distrust of democratic politics. Likewise, they viewed the "Federal" movement as a threat to "national unity" and an attempt to dismember the country. U Nu's poor performance after the 1960 elections and the protests against making Budd-hism the official state religion, convinced the military Thakins that it was time to re-configure state-society relations and re-arrange the way power was organized.
Ne Win’s Military-Socialist Authoritarian State, 1962-1988
Ne Win’s coup ended fourteen years of parliamentary politics. It also trans-formed the status of the non-Bama states, from co-dependent and theoretically coequal entities to tightly-controlled units of a centralist state. The new state order was one in which political, administrative, and legislative bodies at all levels were occupied and controlled by military officers responsible only to their superiors in the chain of command. A politically closed, ethnically exclusive, highly authoritarian "socialist" state was imposed. The state-society arrangement was classically authoritarian, with power concentrated in the hands of officials (i.e., military officers, in particular), politics shut down, and dissent forbidden.
This second military intervention was clearly different in scope and direction. This time it was led by Ne Win, now the undisputed strongman. He not only dominated the armed forces, but had won his political spurs (along with international accolades) as a stern, effective military "modernizer" -- a leader who had outperform-ed the politicians. Ne Win was prepared, indeed determined, to take sole charge of the state. As Aung Gyi (second in the hierarchy in 1962) put it, "the Bogyoke" -- Ne Win himself -- "planned, manoeuvred troops, gave commands, and everything else."
It has been suggested in the theoretical discussion that after the military captures the state, political centre of gravity shifts towards the one who unifies the military under his command and becomes the head of state. In keeping with this prediction, Ne Win set about reorganizing political power to conform to his own agenda, founded in part on the Dobama creed: a centralized, authoritarian "socialist" order, to be achieved by "Burmese methods" and cast in a "Burmese mode." Once Ne Win ordained a "uniquely Burmese" path to socialism, Aung Gyi’s rival, Tin Pe – advised by Ba Nyein, Chit Hlaing, and a monk, U Okkata – concocted the doctrine of Anya-Manya Th’bawtra (the System of Correlation of Man and his Environment, or SCME), on which ''Burmese socialism'' was to be built. Although touted as based on a non-Marxian "objective dialectical realism," it was in Moshe Lissak’s words, a "hazy elaboration," whose uniqueness rested on oversimplified generalizations of both socialist and liberal principles, and Buddhist principles as well.
During the first few years of military rule, Ne Win and the Revolutionary Council (RC) seemed amply aware of their lack of legitimacy. Undoubtedly, the killing of protesting university students on
In an effort to improve its image, the RC made periodic overtures to the armed opposition. In 1963, it invited Thakin Soe’s Red Flag communists and Thakin Than Tun’s White Flag communists (the BCP, later the CPB) for "peace talks." These proved unproductive when it became clear that Ne Win was interested only in the rebels’ surrender. In 1968, Ne Win released U Nu, Ba Swe, Kyaw Nyein and other prominent political prisoners, and asked thirty-three of them to share their suggest-ions on national unity. The majority recommended a coalition government, the restoration of an open political arena, and negotiations with armed rebels. But Ne Win ignored the advice he himself had solicited. General amnesties were pro-claimed in 1963, 1974, and 1980, but were largely ignored by the rebels.
The alienation from the regime of AFPFL leaders, civilian elites, and "under-ground" forces tells only part of the story, however. Another important consideration were Ne Win’s characteristics as personal ruler. He was an autocrat and a tyrant, as these terms are deployed by Robert Jackson and Carl Rosberg: an autocrat because he dominated the state completely and was able to prevent the emergence of rivals, and a tyrant because in addition to unrestrained power he also controlled the only viable instrument of rule – the military. Ne Win’s vision was of soldiers leading a vanguard party of the "uniquely Burmese" socialist revolution. The very idea of an apolitical, professional military was dismissed by the Vice-Chief of Staff, Sun Yu, as "most harmful to the people."
Ne Win's "new" order was one where the political sphere was encapsulated with a single, military-run vanguard party. Reflecting the military’s aversion to democratic politics -- as suggested in the theoretical chapters -- the goal was to create "orderly politics" that denied participation to "unruly, divisive" elements. Justificat-ion for the military’s monopolization of power was found in the idea that, because of its "historic" role and "sacrifices," only the military could serve as the tried and tested guardian of the nation.
The Revolutionary Council (RC), employing the state’s coercive capacity, set out to exclude most of society from the political arena. It outlawed all political parties and organized groups; nationalized or shut down newspapers; imposed con-trols and censorship over all manner of publications; and imprisoned activists and politicians from the political right and left alike. After clearing the political decks in this fashion, the RC then established a ruling party, the Mranmah Sosheilit Lanzin party, or BSPP. Its function, in theory, was to control the articulation of interests and to aggregate demands deemed acceptable; to manage political participation; to mobilize the population; and to oversee the work of the organs of state.
In 1974, a constitution to enshrine the single-party state order was adopted after a symbolic plebiscite. In accordance with the theoretical premise advanced earlier, the constitution signified a shift in the centre of political gravity towards the military strongman-ruler. In form, the new order was a one-party edifice. In line with the principle of democratic centralism, the BSPP, claiming to represent the luptha-prithu (working people), penetrated and controlled all executive, administrat-ive, legislative, and judicial bodies right down to the level of the township councils. In reality, however, the BSPP was a hollow shell. Unlike
To prevent the party from ever challenging the military and Ne Win, it was kept on edge by frequent purges. For instance, in 1974, when the Taze town party branch in upper
An even worse fate was visited upon civil servants. Instead of running the state administrative and regulatory machinery, they became the "errand boys" of under-qualified military placed above them. In this respect, Ne Win differs significantly from the Thai strongman-rulers and
The legislative branch fared no better. The Prithu Hluttaw (parliament) and a hierarchy of people’s councils were never really invigorated. The top brass selected the candidates, mostly former military men. Ne Win, of course, stood at the zenith of this selection process. "Legislators" acted out their roles according to scripts written by the military men in control of the assemblies. In exchange, they could take advan-tage of various perks, including access to scarce goods that could be converted into small fortunes on the black market.
With reference to the theoretical chapters of the new patterns of autonomy relations in military-authoritarian orders, the above analysis suggests the emergence in
On the other hand, the BSPP state was not insulated from Ne Win and the military – in the sense that the state's institutions were highly malleable by Ne Win, and after him, by subordinate military power-holders, and in varying degrees, by military officers holding party or state positions. In other words, the BSPP state was almost solely responsive to the preferences of the ruler and the military. And being narrowly-based in this fashion, it was cohesive, and strong in its coercive capacity.
Ne Win: Personal Rule and the Politics of Authoritarianism
The BSPP Order, as Mya Maung puts it, was one where "an all powerful milit-ary elite [occupied] the top social layer, [with] some lesser elites clinging onto the coat tails of the military commanders, [while] simple folks survive[d] in the base layer as subscribers to the capricious laws and dictates of the military rulers." Notwithstanding the green uniforms at the top of the hierarchy, though, the military was neither all-powerful nor fully autonomous. Rather, it was highly submissive toward and dependent upon one man.
Like successful personal rulers in
These purges at the top meant that hundreds in the patrimonial chain, at times a thousand or more, were also sacked and/or imprisoned. In keeping with Ne Win’s reputed paranoid tendencies, moreover, officers with "the right stuff" – those who foolishly showed signs of ambition or independence – were weeded out, sent to the various fronts as cannon-fodder. Those whom Ne Win trusted and liked were, just as arbitrarily, rewarded with high and lucrative posts in the BSPP state-party hierarchy.
Ne Win’s style was replicated in the military chain of command: there, too, merit and performance mattered little. The key to getting ahead, to avoiding frontline duty, to preserve oneself from being sidelined or dismissed, was to curry favour with patrons and superiors. This meant providing them with regular cash payoffs or "tributes," obtained through the misappropriation of public funds, plunder, extortion, bribes, and blackmarket dealing in contraband goods or narcotics. For example, those posted to Mogok and Hpa-kan, noted for rubies and jade respectively, were expected to provide gems and cash "tributes." Wives of officers were and are required to run errands for the wives of superiors, thereby promoting their husbands’ careers. The tribute-based, patronage-oriented system regarded offices and ranks as opportunities to be fully exploited. The notion that rank and position were not personally owned was an irrational one in the patrimonial environment of the BSPP and post-BSPP military.
Within this patrimonialized and de-institutionalized hierarchy of domination, Ne Win stood supreme. Like the kings of old, his every whim was law. Ministers and generals trembled before him like children or personal retinues, and he treated them as such: insulting, assaulting, and dismissing them at will. Cabinet meetings were rare. Instead, ministers and high officials were summoned to join a circle of his tea-sipping, rustic cronies. Direct instructions were seldom issued. Rather, the acolytes had to guess Ne Win’s wishes from the meandering talks he delivered on every topic under the sun. Many decisions were, to say the least, idiosyncratic-ally arrived at – based on numerology or astrology, or personal whims. These included the decisions to discontinue the teaching of English in schools, and then the abrupt reversal of the policy (in 1962 and 1980 respectively); the change of the traffic system from left-hand to right-hand drive, in 1972; and the demonetization of certain kyat notes and their replacement by odd-numbered denominates (kyat 15, 25, 35, 45, 75 notes -- and, the 90 kyat note, the number nine being a lucky number). With such power at his command, Ne Win could have emulated Sarit and Suharto, and made a degree of positive contribution to his country’s well-being. It is
An important key to Ne Win’s control over both the military and the population at large was the MIS, accountable to him alone. The agency was empowered to censor mail, tap phones, spy, conduct searches, make arrests on mere supicion, detain without warrant or charges laid, imprison without trial or formal sentencing, torture, maim, and kill with impunity.
No one was safe, not even the agency’s own personnel -- they were spied upon and frequently purged. The MIS kept tabs on prominent figures inside and outside the military, providing the strongman-ruler with a handy weapon against foes and challengers, real or imagined. MIS spies were attached to military units, with the information obtained filed away for future use. Thus, the MIS effectively paralyzed not just the military brass but the entire officer corps, prevent-ing the emergence of autonomous power centres. Owing to the untrammelled use of its arbitrary powers, the MIS gained the image of being all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-seeing. That was enough to depoliticize the general population, causing them to fear and shun politics.
At least for the armed elites, however, servile loyalty generally had its compen-sations. Prime among them was Ne Win’s "cradle to grave" welfare system. He was generous with the state resources at his disposal, and his "generosity" earned him the status of Abha (Revered Father) among soldiers. A small example of this generosity was the fact that the houses of current and former senior officers are his personal "gifts" to them. Loyal officers were made ministers, ambassadors, heads of party and state bodies, legislators, judges. They received the usual perks – freehouses, cars, the best medical services, foreign travel, and imported luxuries. Their power was constrained only by Ne Win. Access to "special privileges and sanctioned corr-uption" put the armed elites at the mercy of the "Revered Father" and his MIS.
For ordinary soldiers, standing above the law represented a huge upward leap for poor rural youths or unemployed urbanites. They could swagger and throw their weight around without fear of disciplinary action. Even for serious crimes like rape, looting, and assaults they were seldom disciplined. Victims, of course, had no avenues of redress: lodging complaints against a soldier was tantamount to suicide. Moreover, in addition to these "in-house" benefits, common soldiers had access to scarce fuel (gasoline, kerosene), medicine, ammunition, and army-issue goods: uniforms, boots, blankets, rice, cooking oil, tinned milk, sugar. These could then be sold on the blackmarket to middlemen, who would sometimes resell the same goods to the rebel opposition.
Given Ne Win’s almost sole reliance on the military to consolidate authorit-arian rule and his personal dominance, and given too the use of state resources to preserve personal control, there occurred changes in the nature of the state and its institutions, as suggested in the theoretical framework. The above analysis shows -- in line with the theoretical observation made concerning the state, its autonomy, and its insulation from society -- the emergence in Burma of a state-society order where (a) both strongman-ruler and the military became so closely identified with the state that their interests (personal and corporate) could not easily be distinguished from the those of the state or its institutions; (b) the military became a highly cohesive, but thoroughly patrimonialized stratum of armed officials, thereby effectively insulating the state from society; (c) as a result, the autonomy of the state vis-à-vis the private preferences of the military and Ne Win was greatly eroded; and (d) although the state’s coercive-repressive capacity was considerably strengthened, its ability to implement its goals and resolve economic and social problems, or capacity to gain legitimacy through performance, was drastically weakened, thanks to its patrimonial and non-institutional mode of functioning.
The BSPP’s main goal, a socialist society, remained unattainable. Instead, as will be shown, the socialist economy was penetrated by outside capital, and pervaded by the private interests and agendas of the officials (mainly military) who were responsible for making socialism work. Furthermore, due to the state’s weak problem-solving capacity, only one ready instrument existed to meet challenges and opposition from societal forces below: brutal repression.
The BSPP State, Socialism, and State-Society Problems
Ne Win’s establishment of a closed and narrowly-based state-society order reduced politics to a single leader, a single ideology, a single party, a single path, and a single vanguard body – the military. As noted, though, this posed problems of its own. The state's insulation, coupled with the decay of its institutional capacity, made it less able to achieve its proclaimed goals. The BSPP could only fail in its stated goal of uplifting the luptha-prithu ("working people"), the supposed foundation of its regime. After promising the masses a greater political say in a series of highly-publicized peasant-worker rallied in the mid-1960s, the regime turned against them. Workers in state enterprises were taught bloody lessons when they staged strikes in the Insein work-shops (1967), the Chauk Oilfields (1974), and the Sinmalaik dock-yards (1975). In all cases, strikers were met with massed firepower. The peasant-ry was scarcely better off, as David Steinberg has argued. "Socialist" agriculture turned out to mean the forced sale of prooduce at fixed prices. In 1981, almost nine out of ten rural families were living below the poverty level (US $40 a month), and one in four had become landless. Far from being liberated from landlords, peasants were delivered into the hands of a more powerful one – the BSPP state.
The regime also failed to end rebellions, despite thousands of annual skirmish-es and regular offers of amnesty. Sporadic peace talks took place, but the demand for unconditional surrender proved futile. Moreover, a problem of truly global import -- the production and export of opium and heroin -- linked to the armed rebellion in Shan State, and remained unresolved.
Most significantly, Ne Win’s state failed to keep its promise to create "a new world" of prosperity. The coup-makers, alluding to a Bama-Buddhist spiritiual aspir-ation, promised a world without the social suffering that stems from human wants or the inability to meditate because of an empty stomach. The regime contented itself, instead, with passing laws: the Law to Protect the Construction of the Socialist Economy and the People’s Corporation Law, both in 1963; the 1964 Law to Protect the Construction of the Socialist Economy; and numerous others. It also chose to decree all private economic actvity illegal. All enterprises, shops, hospitals, schools, newspapers, printing presses, cinemas – even corner kiosks – were nationalized.
But because the state maintained only a low degree of autonomy from the priv-ate interests of the military-socialist personnel who staffed it, the agencies created to facilitate "socialism" – the people’s store and corporations and banks – scarcely functioned as they were intended to. Everything produced, procured, or distributed by the state found its way into the "illegal" economy, where it was resold at a profit by military-socialists, their families and cronies. Military socialism meant misman-agement, corruption, and severe shortages, together with the growth of an informal economy that overshadowed the formal (and formally socialist) one.
Ordinary people constituted the base of this economy, engaging in all manner of buying and selling of scarce goods and services. Next up the ladder came the financiers, money lenders, currency dealers, providers of security at depots and on trade routes, transporters within and across the state’s boundaries. Further up were the major financiers, often overseas Chinese with links to the local Chinese commun-ity; warlords of the Chinese KMT; and the commanders of rebel or homeguard "arm-ies" (the KKY/Ka-Kwe-Ye), who controlled trade routes and taxed passage along them. Then, there were the protectors to ensure that formally "illegal" transact-ions took place unmolested -- MIS and BSPP-military personnel who oversaw the "socialist" economy and at the same time profited from the "non-socialist" one; and, finally, the officials and entrepreneurs of adjacent countries involved in the cross-border trade in contraband and narcotics.
This dual economy – "socialist" and moribund on the one hand, and on the other, the informal and thriving "non-socialist", "illegal" economy -- greatly benefitt-ed external financial interests and those domestically who controlled the varied means of accumulation. For the majority of the population the blackmarket was a blessing mixed with costly risks. It offered some relief from chronic shortages of goods, but at inflated prices. It provided many with jobs as hawkers of contraband wares and providers of illegal services, but also put them at risk as "economic insurgents." Some earned income as poppy cultivators, but were at the mercy of the state and local loan sharks. Many were forced into dangerous employ as soldiers in rebel or KKY armies, coolies on trade routes (which would take them through mine-fields and thick jungle), petty smugglers, drug pushers, or prostitutes in Thai brothels. For the majority, then, the dual economy brought with it the worst excesses of socialism and capitalism.
Adding to the hardships and restrictions that pervaded the BSPP state, was the exclusion of the ruled from the political sphere and all access to the state. Armed struggle, together with the "unlawful" protests that occurred on an almost annual basis, became the only ways of making demands and articulating interests. Once again, violence was the only response on the state’s part to these societal demands and dissent.
The strength of Ne Win's BSPP state lay in the cohesion of its narrow, highly-militarized base; its high degree of insulation and non-malleability by society; and its control over the apparatus of coercion and repression. Its very strength, however, resulted in an atrophying of its capacity to resolve problems in positive and constructive ways, and it became the kind of state which, as indicated in the theoret-ical framework, was not able to gain minimal legitimacy, or build a broader elite consensus -- one that extended beyond Ne Win's military power base. Thus, as will be seen, when mass firepower failed to drive peaceful protesters from the streets of Rangoon and other cities in 1988, the regime collapsed -- in a large part because non-military elements deserted their posts.
The Fall and Reconstruction of Authoritarianism in
Prior to 1988, institutional decay and state-society dysfunction were obscured by a patina of austere strength and autocratic control. Many were misled into think-ing that, despite, the familiar litany of woes, the BSPP order harmonized somehow with the cultural and political values of the Bama majority. In fact, though, popular resentment had been building under the seemingly stagnant, placid surface.
The event that tipped the scales was a demonetization in 1987 (following one in 1985) which wiped out nearly all savings. Protests erupted in
Students initiated the uprising, but by mid-1988 the protesters included people from all walks of life, former leaders (including ex-military brass), police and soldiers, and the surviving "Thirty Comrades," contemporaries of Aung San and Ne Win. The military, it seemed, was beaten. The spotlight now shone on Aung San Suukyi, daughter of Aung San, whose name the regime had long exploited as "father" of the Tatmadaw and the "socialist revolution."
Amidst the euphoria, Saw Maung and Khin Nyunt (head of the feared MIS) staged a bloody "coup." Thousands were killed. One scene, showing cowering teen-agers being picked off systematically by military snipers, was captured on video-tape and shown world-wide. To wash away the stain of violence that had shocked the world, the new junta, SLORC, promised multi-party elections and a transfer of power to civilians. Elections were held in May 1990, under restrictive conditions. Despite the constraints, despite the ample resources of the recycled BSPP (the National Unity Party, or NUP), and despite Aung San Suukyi’s detention under house arrest, her NLD (National League for Democracy) won 392 out of 485 seats. Its ally, the SNLD (Shan National League for Democracy), claimed 23; the NUP won only 10 seats. Most damning of all was that the NUP lost even in pre-dominantly military areas such as Dagon and Hmawbi townships and the Coco-Gyun naval base.
But SLORC refused to step down. It declared it would rule until a new constit-ution was promulgated. In early 1993, it called a "National Convention." Elected MPs were coerced into participating, along with other handpicked delegates. Judging from its frequent, unexplained postponements, however, things have not been going well for the regime. Stiff opposition appears to exist to the junta’s overriding objective: the legitimation of the military’s role in politics along the lines of
Still, there are differences from the previous era of military rule. Because neither Than Swe nor Khin Nyunt really dominates, changes in the modus operandi have been evident within the military-cum-ruling stratum. In the context of an "open" economy, the absence of the much-feared strongman has meant more freedom of action for bogyoke-wungyis (general ministers) and the top brass. Now they can enrich themselves without fear (of the "Old Man"). The result has been an "open season for corruption" and the rise of what Burmese call "capital-less capitalists": children and kin of former BSPP and current military bosses. The patrimonialization of the state, or the relative non-autonomy of the state and its institutions from the private agendas of power-holders and high officials, seems even greater.
The Military Junta and the Politics of Transition
The situation in
Despite the 1988 uprising and many changes, the Burmese state remains "of soldiers, for soldiers, by soldiers." The SLORC generals who are now in control have three alternatives to choose from. One is to restore the old authoritarian status-quo: a state order similar to the one Ne Win presided over, with political power monopolized by the military, with the state insulated from non-military elites and societal forces, but highly malleable with regard to the private agendas and personal interests of power-holders and their allies.
Another option is to widen the support base of the still-authoritarian state, by co-opting and selectively empowering civilian elites. For example, bureaucrats, technocrats, and the more important economic and commercial figures could be brought into the ruling circle and made a part of decision-making processes. This would entail counter-balancing, even subordinating, the military to some extent to a new ruling bloc that consists of a mixture of military and civilian power factions, all held in check by an astute and skilful strongman-ruler along the lines of Sarit or Suharto. Yet a further option is for the military reach a compromise with what one diplomat called "an unmovable obstacle" -- Aung San Suukyi, whose nationalist pedigree is impeccable and whose personal safety seems quite assured, given that she is linked by blood to Aung San, mythic founder-hero of both modern
The first alternative is one the junta has not yet abandoned. The most central problem remains the absence of a clear strongman who can unify the military and prevent coups and counter-coups as armed factions compete for dominance. As mentioned at a couple of points, the absence of such a unifier can lead to intense intra-military conflict, and possibly to the military’s withdrawal from politics, in orderly fashion or otherwise. (Ne Win engineered an orderly withdrawal in 1960 when he believed his grip on the military was uncertain.).
At present, the military and SLORC generals are unified by the residual author-ity of Ne Win, and by the necessity of hanging together lest they hang separately. Recently, with Ne Win (who is nearing ninety) declining physically, General Maung Aye is reported to be manoeuvring to become the next strongman. He is currently third in the SLORC hierarchy after Khin Nyunt and Than Shwe. Though it is uncon-firmed, he is also reported to have been behind the "mob attack" on Aung San Suu-kyi’s motorcade in November 1996. He is also said to be in control of the most hard-line segment of the USDA (the Union Solidarity Development Association), a milit-ary-sponsored "mass organization" that is slated to become the military’s political party, as Golkar once was in
If Maung Aye is successful, change is
unlikely. Like Ne Win, he can be
expected to depend in large part on the military to maintain his power and
personal control. It is uncertain,
though, whether his power-play will be successful. Much depends on whether he is able to win
over MIS cliques, factions close to SLORC chairman General Than Shwe, and the
cliques of fence-sitting ''business generals,'' the bogyoke-wungyis
The second alternative – widening the support base of authoritarian rule via selective inclusion – is apparently Khin Nyunt’s strategy. He has been primarily responsible for some of the SLORC’s successes in this area, and is well-regarded by SLORC’s newly-vigorous foreign patrons and defenders: the leaders of China, Sing-apore, Thailand, Malaysia, and other governments of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Among Khin Nyunt’s succcesses, two stand out as being of special strategic significance. The first is that he has won for SLORC the acceptance of some moneyed elements of society by initiating the transformation of
Second, credit is due to Khin Nyunt for a move that enabled SLORC politically to outflank the DAB (Democratic Alliance of Burma) -- the opposition front led by the Karen and Dr. Sein Win (who is Aung San Suukyi’s cousin). Khin Nyunt neutralized the non -Bama resistance "armies" in the alliance by co-opting their military leaders. The move has weakened the DAB and simultaneously boosted SLORC’s image as a "peacemaker." It has also allowed SLORC to concentrate on keeping the deeply-alienated Bama majority in line. Khin Nyunt’s success in this area, though, is largely due to a number of fortuitous circumstances. After the BSPP’s sudden demise in 1988, its most formidable foe, the White Flag CPB, also collapsed in the wake of mutinies by non-Bama units. The dissolution occurred just as SLORC was desperately seeking allies. Fortunately for the junta, Chinese authorities stepped in and persuaded the junta and the CPB mutineers to agree to a cease-fire. In exchange, the non-Bama, ex-CPB warlords were given a free hand to exploit border trade and "development." A similar deal was struck in 1993 with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), again with Chinese help.
It seems that with Khin Nyunt's partial recognition of important economic-commercial elements and non-Bama military leaders, the groundwork is being laid for a "softer" and relatively more inclusive military-authoritarian order, so long as Khin Nyunt's views prevail. The "National Convention", the body established to formulate a new constitution, could bring this order about by opening the political arena in a limited way, such as in Suharto's
It is not clear, however, that the "Indonesian model" – a quasi-multiparty arrangement dominated by the government party, Golkar – is exportable, and it may not be possible for SLORC to establish a system that works in a similar fashion to that of Indonesia, or to emulate Suharto’s successes. Moreover, there has not yet emerged in post-1988
There are other obstacles. For one thing, the domestic commercial class that benefits from SLORC’s "open economy" is at best a "fair weather" ally. Many comprising this class are of dubious political value, being either former "economic insurgents", ex-communists, alleged drug kingpins, overseas Burmese investors with roots and interests elsewhere, or what local people call the "new Burmese" – Chinese from
The third obstacle is the emergence of a highly credible, popular, and internationally-respected challenger, Aung San Suukyi. She is the daughter of the fabled Bogyoke (General) Aung San, the father of independence and the Tatmadaw, whose name has been exploited by Ne Win and the military to bolster their own legitimacy. She remains a formidable obstacle to the attainment of SLORC’s goal of prolonging the military’s monopoly of power, and, by extension, wealth.
In its attempt to resolve the problem of succession and transition, the military has set in motion a process to legalize and institutionalize the role of the military in politics through a new constitution being slowly formulated by the "National Convention", which first convened in 1993. From this exercise, SLORC has to accomplish two major interrelated tasks: first, to organize power in such a way that the state will not only be strong in purely a coercive-repressive capacity, but also in terms of legitimacy based on the ability to solve problems and to remedy the country’s many ailments; and second, to deal effectively, using a minimum of force, with challenges arising from society, particularly the aspirations for a democratic alternative being articulated by Aung San Suukyi. Because of who she is, and what she represents, the challenge she poses to the military is the most difficult one for junta to overcome. As such, the best possible option for the military would be to come to terms with the democratic opposition.
One important development is Aung San Suukyi’s "unconditional" release, granted in July 1995. It is said this was ordered by SLORC chairman Than Swe and his trusted aid, Kyaw Sein, deputy head of the DDSI (Directorate of Defence Service Intelligence). This has led to hope that there will eventually be a dialogue between the junta and the democratic opposition in order to start addressing
It is difficult to predict
As I have shown in this chapter, the military in
The Tatmadaw has always closely identified itself with the state and viewed itself as the creator, guardian, and savior of the state and national unity. Mainly because the new state was challenged by armed rebellions (communist, and ethnic) at independence, the role of the military, in both combat and non-military spheres, expanded rapidly. This in turn reinforced the military's view of itself as indispensible to the existence of the state and nation.
The pattern of military intervention in
In the military-authoritarian state set up by Ne Win, state-society relations have been characterized by a state that is highly autonomous from society. The state in
OF AUTHORITARIAN DOMINATION
Introduction: The Military
and the Politics of Authoritarian Domination
The military claimed -- with some validity, unlike in
During the early life of the independent state, politics were complex and turbulent. There was dissension over how the new state was to be organized politic-ally; how state-society relations were to be ordered; and who would do the ordering. There was very little consensus on these questions: the military had its vision, but so did the PKI, the Islamic forces, the socialist, and various prominent elites.
This examination of the military in Indonesian politics will highlight some of the key themes of military interventionism discussed in the theoretical chapters.
This section will investigate the pattern and nature of military intervention and the evolution of state-society relations in
In the pre-colonial times of what is now known as "
By the mid-1600s, Mataram had fallen apart. By the early 1670s, it had been replaced as the dominant power by the Dutch East India Company (VOC). By the 1760s, the VOC was supreme. The remnants of the divided Mataram were constituted as vassals, along the lines of the princely states in
The Dutch occupied the Netherlands Indies for over 180 years, and their policy evolved along with local conditions and changes in the mother country. With the VOC’s collapse at the end of the 1700s, a series of Governor-Generals set about "defeudalizing," rationalizing, and modernizing the colony. They established a net-work of inter-island transport, including railroads, and introduced a modern infrastruct-ure in areas like banking, telegraph communications, and newspapers. The result was a more vigorous, efficient export-based commercial economy. Entering the twentieth century, the Netherlands Indies was, speaking in general, a single administrative-political-economic unit, and an integral part of the world economy – but as a colony.
Dutch rule was not as direct as British rule in
Still, colonial modernization brought radical change in its train. Administrative unification, together with the influx of Western ideas of freedom and democracy, national independence, and popular sovereignty, soon gave rise to nationalist sentiments. A "national" society had indeed been created, one that spawned among the elites a sense of belonging and togetherness.
The earliest nationalist stirring was spearheaded in 1908 by the Budi Utomo organization, an advocate of Javanese nationalism and traditionalism. Led by "progressive" priyayi, it took a moderate line in opposing the Dutch. Next came Sarekat Islam, founded in 1912, with roots in the Islamic Trade Association and an agenda aimed at undermining the economic dominance of the Chinese. It grew into a sort of mass movement, and by 1918 claimed almost half a million members. Also prominent among the more radical groupings was the PKI, formed in 1920 -- making it one of the oldest communist parties in
More significant in this early associational life was the Indonesian Association, founded in the 1920s by students in
Despite the populist orientation embodied in his Marhaen ("little people") doctrine and Pancasila (Nationalism, Humanitarianism, Democracy, Social Justice, and Belief in God), Sukarno was not a democrat. He subscribed to the ideas of nationalists such as Ki Hadjar Dewantoro (an educator-nationalist and prince of the royal house of
The attraction of a nationalist-statist ideology for anti-colonial leaders is under-standable, the more so for someone like Sukarno who had to fight for sovereignty and, at the same time, acquire and hold onto power. He favoured a political order in which the ruled were represented by functional groups, "guided" by leaders (or a leader) who knew best what the true national interest was. As in so many other instances, it is ironic that a movement that promised the ruled a greater voice in politics and the state should give rise instead to authoritarianism, first Sukarno’s, then Suharto’s.
The Military and the Politics of the Struggle for
In 1944, a nationalist umbrella body was formed, the Indonesian Preparatory Committee for Independence (PPKI). Sukarno was its head and Pancasila its guiding principle. This later was transformed into the Central Indonesian National Comm-ittee (KNIP), which acted as a quasi-parliament until the elections of 1955.
In September 1945, a month after
The story of Indonesian independence grows more complicated with the Dutch attempts to reimpose control. Between 1946 and 1948, the Dutch launched numerous military offensives, interspersed with agreements that they promptly broke. Their final campaign was the attack in December 1948 on the Republican capital,
The struggle for independence was not waged by a united movement. Friction regularly arose in dealings between Sukarno, Hatta, Sjahrir, Amir Sjarifuddin, Tan Malaka, and the PKI leadership. Tension was also evident between civilian leaders like Sjahrir and Amir, and the military led by Sudirman. There were also intra-military disputes over the shape of the new armed forces that saw PETA square off against Dutch-trained officers like Abdul Haris Nasution.
The most serious task for the new
"government" led by Sjahrir and, nominally, Sukarno, was constructing a
national armed forces out of the patchwork of politicized armed bodies. Again, there was little agreement between
civilian and military leaders, and within the military itself, as to how the
institution was to be organized.
Civilian control was another sticking point. The conundrum was deepened by the fact that
the leadership of the nascent armed forces consisted largely of
Japanese-trained PETA officers. Like
In response, Sudirman moved closer to Tan Malaka, a key opposition figure. Soon the army was embroiled in civilian politics. At the instigation of his followers, some officers staged an abduction of Sjahrir – the "July 3 Affair" – in the hope that Sukarno would appoint Tan Malaka to the government. This, one might say, was the military’s first intrusion into politics. Sukarno instead demanded Sjahrir’s release, then won over Surdirman by declaring the Tentara Republic Indonesia (TRI) to be the state’s sole legitimate armed force and by appointing him its chief.
The civilian-military struggle also touched on the crucial question of how the politicized militias (laskars) were to be dealt with. The military wanted some put under its command and others disarmed, but there was dissension over exactly how this would be carried out. Thus, when Nasution, acting under Sudirman’s orders, tried in September 1948 to "rationalize" the military in preparation for the expected Dutch offensive, a bloody, futile resistance broke out, waged by communist militias and allied units who refused to disband. The "Madiun Affair" ever since has been depicted as a communist "stab in the back" to the Republic.
It was fortunate that the Dutch chose not
to go on the offensive at the time of the Affair. They did so in December, however, capturing
The period between independence and the installation of the "Guided Democracy Order" in 1959-60 was marked by the struggle among party leaders to gain the upper hand in an open arena of parliamentary politics. Parallel conflicts also arose between civilian power-holders and soldiers, and among the various military factions vying for control of the armed forces.
A parliamentary system was adopted in accordance with the provisional 1950 Constitution. The responsibility of day-to-day governance rested with a Prime Minister and cabinet under the guidance of a figurehead President, Sukarno. Thus, for the first decade of independence, Sukarno was "pushed upstairs". Politics was dominated by party leaders who sought the suppport of different social sectors. As Leo Suryadinata notes, the PNI (Partai Nasional Indonesia, close to Sukarno) enjoyed the support of civil servants and the priyayi class (mostly abangan or nominal Muslims). The Masjumi drew support from Muslim landlords, traders, and modern-minded intellectuals, while the Nahdatul Ulama (NU) targeted more orthodox santri Muslims and commercial elements in the smaller towns of central and eastern Java. The Socialist Party of Indonesia (PSI), meanwhile, secured a following in the army and civil service, while the PKI -- the only legal communist party in
With his death, Nasution, Simatupang, and other Dutch-trained officers came to occupy the top positions, intensifying intra-military tensions and contributing to the general political instability. Nasution’s attempts to reform the military, and also to stake out a place for the military in politics, generated opposition from several quart-ers. Politicians opposed the military’s role in political-administrative affairs, which, thanks to the State of War and Siege (SOB) decree, the military exercised with special alacrity in "insecure areas", similar to the situation in Burma. Ex-PETA officers, meanwhile, opposed Nasution’s restructuring plans, which involved replacing them with better-trained personnel. Finally, Sukarno himself disliked and distrusted Nasution, as we shall see below.
Nasution’s absence from the scene did not lead to the subordination of the military to civilian authorities. Behind the "27th June Affair" lay the machinations of Defence Minister Iwa Kusumasumantri, a Sundanese and follower of Tan Malaka. The Affair centred on the appointment of a new Chief-of-Staff (KSAD). Simbolon, the most senior officer, was unacceptable to Iwa, who saw him as Nasution’s man. Iwa therefore appointed Bambang Utojo. But Zulkifli Lubis, the Acting KSAD -- Iwa's former ally and foe of Nasution -- refused to step down. He declared that the army represented the whole nation and would fight attempts by politicians to politicize it to advance sectarian goals.
Just when Nasution seemed doomed to obscurity following his dismissal and electoral humiliation in the 1955 voting, Sukarno appointed him Chief of Staff in November 1955. Each seemed to recognize that he needed the other to attain a comm-on goal: the abolition of parliamentary politics and the establishment of a more "Indo-nesian" political order. Their relationship proved mutually beneficial. Nasution’s support secured for Sukarno a power base that he could personally command, and use to establish the Guided Democracy order. Sukarno’s support boosted Nasution’s legitimacy and gave him a firmer grip on the military. This he consolidated in a round-about, complex fashion by eliminating military rivals and challengers.
Upon his reappointment, Nasution embarked
on a scheme to professionalize the military structure, which meant transferring
those who were "setting themselves up as warlords." This stirred further opposition to Nasution
within the military.
The most serious challenge took
the form of a series of regional revolts, led by all the
The revolts exploited widespread
anti-Jakarta sentiments which coexisted with a strong sense of
enabled leaders like the Sultan of Jogjakarta (a Javanese) and Hatta (a
Sumatran) to band together to isolate the extremists. It also assisted Nasution (a Batak) in maintaining
contacts with rebel leaders which, in turn, helped to moderate secessionist
demands. Overall, the revolts proved a blessing in
disguise for Nasution, ridding him of troublesome officers. Furthermore, Sukarno’s nationwide declaration
of martial law (imposing a State of
Of theoretical relevance here is how the military’s lack of cohesion inhibited its ability to intervene in politics and undermine parliamentary rule. The "17th October Affair" resulted instead in Nasution’s dismissal by Sukarno, who was adept at manip-ulating disunity within the military. The "27th June Affair" also failed to change the system substantially. Paradoxically, it was the concerted effort by dissidents -- military, regional, and political – to oust Nasution via the string of regional revolts that ended up strengthening his hand. The revolts turned him into precis
ely the kind of
strongman-unifier that, in alliance with Sukarno, could override the
parliamentary system and impose a more authoritarian "Guided
Democracy" order. This early
military intervention in politics confirms my contention that for military
intervention to be effective, a prominent leader must arise to unify the
military. It also lends support to the
idea that the military usually intervenes as the political instrument of
authoritarian leaders like Nasution and Sukarno in
Despite Sukarno’s charisma and symbolic standing, he did not, as noted, exercise power directly in the first post-independence years. He stood "above politics" as President and supreme leader. His relations with other power-players, as with Field Marshal Pibul’s in
Sukarno’s turn towards direct personal rule did not really represent a new direction for him. He often expressed disillusionment with "Western democracy" and parliamentary politics. As David Reeve notes, he had always favoured the notions of "Indonesian democracy" and "democracy with leadership" that early nationalist thinkers had advanced. These revolved around governance and decision-making strategies that would represent "functional" groups, not through open party competition, but by musyawarah and mufakat (consultation and consensus). He felt the system of parliamentary politics and governance had been imposed on him by political parties and rivals; he resented his role as "a maker of speeches, a host at official receptions, and a man to whom ambassadors presented their credentials." Nor should it be forgotten that Sukarno was, at least for rhetorical purposes, a pseudo-revolutionary Marxist, as his NASAKOM formula (Nationalism, Religion, and Communism) attested. His "revolutionary" leftist orientation drew him into a closer relationship with the PKI, with the latter becoming, over time, the second pillar of the Guided Democracy state.
The military, of course, shared Sukarno’s distaste for politicians. As Sukarno moved away from supporting parliamentary politics, the military began to assert its own anti-democratic views more forcefully. Nasution, for example, blamed disorder, instability, and the ongoing regional revolts on "cow-trading" politics. He rejected the "Western European model" and proclaimed that soldiers would not become the "dead tools" of government. He also reiterated his "
Despite the antipathy and mutual suspicion between these two leading figures, then – and despite the ideological distance between the leftist "revolutionary" and the staunch anti-communist – their strategic goals converged. Ironically, as noted, it was a crisis within the military, the regional revolts, which strengthened the duo’s position politically. The revolts gave Sukarno grounds to extend martial law throughout
The kind of state-society order that Sukarno desired was outlined in his Kon-sepsi formula. He envisioned supreme power as lying in a "servant-leader" who embodied the people’s aspirations. Below him would be a cabinet of gotong-royong (mutual assistance) in which all parties would be represented, including the PKI. A National Council of functional groups would represent workers, peasants, intellectuals, women, and adherents of religious faiths (Muslim, Protestant, and Catholic).
In May 1959, the Constituent Assembly – elected in 1956 and composed of party politicians – rejected Konsepsi and Sukarno’s call for a return to the 1945 Con-stitution. Nasution, now Chairman of the Supreme War Authority and in full control of the military, banned all political activity and urged Sukarno to adopt the 1945 Constitution by presidential decree. In early 1960 did exactly that. He dissolved the Constituent Assembly and brought the era of parliamentary rule to a close.
This analysis of the roots of the Guided Democracy state testifies to a fund-amental shift in the prevailing mode of interaction between state and society. Intermediary institutions, those that stand between the state and society, hitherto had not been directly controlled by state officials. Now they were remodelled and replaced by institutions and bodies directly linked to state officials or key power-holders, and subject to their control. Thus was established a state-centric configuration that boosted the state’s autonomy from society, but also made it less insulated and autonomous from dominant social actors, which lends support to the observation made in the theoretical framework with respect to the reorganization of power in non-democratic or authoritarian orders.
The reorganization of power in this instance was achieved by Sukarno in what might be described as a "presidential coup". On the face of it, this would seem to disprove the argument that military intervention and the authoritarian reorganization of power are different sides of the same coin. But since Sukarno and Nasution, shared a common goal, and since it was Nasution that actually initiated the move towards authoritarian rule by banning all political activity and calling from adoption of the 1945 Constitution by presidential decree, the argument might provisionally be allowed to stand. The events of 1959-60 might best be seen as an indirect intervention by the military in Indonesian politics.
Guided Democracy Politics, 1960-1965: Sukarno, the Military, and the PKI
In the Guided Democracy order, although dominant, the military was kept in check by Sukarno, who was a master at political manipulation. In 1960, for example, he separated Nasution from his power base, the key Siliwangi Division, replacing him with Ibrahim Adjie, a Sukarnoist whose morals Nasution disdained. He appointed Nasution’s old foe, Hidajat, as deputy Defence Minister. He successfully exploited inter-service and personal rivalries (for example, those between Nasution and Air Force General Suryadama, and later Omar Dhani). And he reduced the power of the Defence Ministry to that of an administrative centre, rather than the command-and-control apparatus envisioned by Nasution.
In June 1962, Sukarno kicked Nasution upstairs, appointing him Chief of Staff and forcing him to turn over the post of Army chief to Ahmad Yani. The latter was, according to Harold Crouch, Nasution’s main rival, and had a warm relationship with Sukarno. Nasution’s position eroded further when Sukarno established the Supreme Operational Command (KOTI) with himself as head and Yani as Chief of Staff. The KOTI was responsible for executing governmental and economic programs, as well as combatting counter-revolutionary forces and the Nekolim.
Despite Nasution’s sidelining, however,
the military’s position as a whole was firm.
The forces that had tended to challenge it – especially civilian parties
and pol-iticians – had been "tamed," or co-opted into the Guided
Democracy framework. Its rivals, the PSI
and Masjumi, had been expelled from the political arena because of their
opposition to Guided Democracy and their involvement in the regional
revolts. As well, the SOB decrees
Sukarno imposed to counter the revolts served to buttress military power;
Sukarno’s foreign adventures – the
Sukarno’s notion of functional-group representation was in fact a godsend for the military. It was in line with the armed forces’ distaste for parliamentary politics, and dovetailed also with its self-image as a functional group. That image, sanctioned by Sukarno in 1958, was later legitimized in Suharto’s New Order via the Dwi Fungsi (Dual Function) formula. The military thus affirmed it's status as a socio-political grouping, one responsible for both defending and developing the nation. This reinforced its mystique as "guardian of the nation".
The functional-groups concept enabled the military to build a civilian base, known as Sekber Golkar (the Joint Secretariat of Functional Groups). In essence, this was an anti-PKI front composed of over ninety functional groups – the forerunner of Golkar, the government’s party which today dominates the representative-legislative sphere of Suharto’s New Order.
In the Guided Democracy years, however, the Sebker Golkar did not enjoy dominance. It could only compete with other fronts affiliated to political parties and the PKI. All of them competed for the favour of Sukarno, the man at the center of things. This arrangement can be contrasted with
In the bid between power players in Sukarno's order, the PKI seemed to be gaining more influence owing to its ideological affinity with the "President for Life". Sukarno, for example, endorsed the PKI’s proposal to "nasakomize" the military through the dispatching of advisory teams to ABRI. He even supported arming work-ers and peasants as a "Fifth Force", threatening the military’s monopoly over the legitimate means of coercion. Owing to Sukarno's growing pro-PKI stance, the military, ABRI, felt, as Nasution puts it, "pushed into a corner."
However, despite ABRI's growing unease with Sukarno’s increasing close alliance with the PKI and by the spectre of a communist triumph, the PKI was actually in a desperate "race against time". Crouch notes that the ideological affinity between Sukarno and the PKI was not mirrored by a significant PKI presence in the state sphere, and its position was still far from secure. The military, by contrast, was firmly entrenched in the state apparatus, as we have seen. In addition, the struggle between the PKI and the military over the "functional group representation" sphere of the Guided Democracy order was still unresolved. The PKI’s fronts -- which included the Central Organization of All Indonesian Workers (SOBSI), the BTI (a peasant front), the League of People’s Culture (LEKRA), and Gerwani, a women’s front -- were all challenged by military-backed fronts, just as the latter felt threatened by the PKI’s organizing efforts.
The PKI’s ascent, like that of its military nemesis, was a difficult one. After being nearly decimated by Nasution and the Siliwangi Division in a skirmish that became known as the "Madiun Affair" of 1948, the party made a comeback, winning 16 percent of the popular vote in the 1955 general elections. Led by Dipa Nusantara Aidit, it chose to support Sukarno in all his endeavours. In return, it gained the latter's protection from its bitterest foe, the military, and from socialist and Islamic rivals as well.
Most scholars have seen Sukarno’s attitude toward the PKI as prompted by political expediency, or by a desire to outflank the military and Islamic forces. There is certainly much truth in this evaluation. What also needs to be considered, though, is the close ideological affinity between Sukarno and the PKI. It made sense for the PKI to support a sympathetic and all-powerful ruler like Sukarno. After the 1955 elections -- the only genuine elections in
Equally valuable to the PKI was the actions Sukarno took against parties and fronts linked to ABRI or otherwise anti-PKI. In 1960, for example, Sukarno banned the League for Democracy, an anti-communist front drawn from the ranks of Masjumi, PSI, NU, and IP-KI (a party with close ties to the military). In the same year, he banned the PKI’s (and the military's as well, ironically) political rivals, the Masjumi and PSI, for different but rather good reasons – their involvement in the regional revolts. In 1964, The Body for the Upholding of Sukarnoism (BPS), a front led by Trade Minister and Murba leader Adam Malik that opposed "nasakomization," also was banned. Thanks to Sukarno’s active assistance and Guided Democracy politics, then, it can be said that the PKI gained a great deal of capital from its junior partner-ship with the "Great Leader", while the military increasingly came under ideological and political siege from Sukarno and the PKI.
The PKI gained further support among Java’s rural poor with its aksi sepihak, or unilateral actions -- peasant seizures of land considered already distributed under land reform laws of 1959 and 1960. These often-violent actions polarized the rural areas along class and religious lines: landowners and rural elites were mostly santri, or orthodox Muslims, and largely affiliated with the NU, while the poor were mostly abangan (nominal Muslims). PKI gains in this area, though, were offset by growing fears of lower-class violence and "Red terror." Many members of the socio-economic elite were pushed away from Sukarno and the PKI, and into the arms of the military,
Still, if ABRI enjoyed a "competitive edge" over its rival and enemy, the PKI’s long-term prospects were quite encouraging, given its closeness to the leader on which all actors in the Guided Democracy state depended. Things seemed even rosier when Sukarno’s relations with ABRI worsened as a result of the latter’s alleged foot-dragging on "nasakomisation" and the "Fifth Force". Sukarno even accused military leaders of becoming "reactionary". Adding fuel to the fire was Sukarno’s accusat-ions that Nekolim forces planned to assassinate him together with Dr.Subandrio and Yani, and that a coup by a CIA-backed "Council of Generals" was in the planning stages.
Unfortunately for the PKI, Sukarno
vomited and collapsed while receiving a Sekber-Golkar delegation. This spawned speculation about his health and
rumours of impending coups and power struggles.
Tensions increased; the balance of power was growing unsettled as mutual
suspicions deepened among the twin pillars of Sukarno’s order, the PKI and the
military. This set the stage for the
dramatic and traumatic violence that exploded in late 1965.
The above analysis of the Guided Democracy state lends credence to the assertion in the theoretical framework that in an authoritarian order, military or otherwise, the political centre of gravity shifts towards the personal ruler, who holds the lion’s share of power. In the Guided Democracy order, this was Sukarno. He was in almost complete control of the state and its institutions, which largely became extensions of his will and vision. In this sense, the state was non-autonomous, malleable, and not insulated from Sukarno’s preferences.
We have seen that Sukarno was able to maintain quite a stable surface balance, despite the mutual antagonisms of the two pillars. ABRI’s entrenchment in the state apparatus was offset to a large extent by the PKI’s ideological closeness to Sukarno. But the fact that his two powerful subordinate forces were implacable enemies proved destabilizing at a deeper level. As it transpired, doubts about Sukarno’s health trigger-ed the kind of crisis of succession and transition to be expected, given the earlier discussion of the vulnerability of authoritarian systems when the ruler is weakened, physically or otherwise.
The “Succession” Crisis: Gestapu and the Birth of Suharto’s
Soon after Sukarno’s collapse, on October 1, the Gestapu (30th of September Movement) staged its coup attempt. It was led by Colonel Untung of the Presidential Guard and "radicals" from the Diponegro and Brawijaya Divisions. Yani and five top generals were killed, along with Nasution’s daughter and an aide. Nasution himself narrowly escaped death. Inexplicably, General Suharto, head of the counter-coup reserves (KOSTRAD), but not one of the Council of Generals, was not on the hit-list. This oversight proved fatal.
Untung announced he had acted to pre-empt a coup by a CIA-backed "Council of Generals," to safeguard the President, and to purge ABRI of corrupt "power-mad generals". He proclaimed a Revolutionary Council, which he headed, and which included the Air Force’s Omar Dhani, Sukarno’s protégé and Foreign Minister Subandrio, the Navy chief, and other pro-PKI figures. Sukarno’s name, however, was absent. In this respect and others, Gestapu is a mystery that has generated considerable debate. The official version is that it was a PKI plot to split the army and secure its position after the death or incapacitation of Sukarno. The roles of Sukarno and Suharto are also intriguing. Was Sukarno involved in the coup, or did he know about it, and if so how much? Was Suharto simply an innocent beneficiary?
Suffice it to say that by the second day,
Suharto, with Nasution’s advice and with minimal fighting, had regained
control. Nasution was, for the most part, in shock:
he had been injured while escaping from the team sent to abduct and kill him,
and his daughter had been mortally wounded.
Sukarno was now in an awkward position.
He had gone to Halim Air Base, the coup headquarters, along with Omar
Dhani (who had openly endorsed the coup), Subandrio, Aidit, and other PKI
That night he made for his palace
Taking advantage of public horror at the
murder of the generals and Nasution’s daughter, the military set out swiftly to
destroy the PKI. It joined with other
anti-PKI elements – Islamic parties and youth organizations, the right wing of
the PNI, and old political foes, along with anti-communist intellectuals and
students. Its anti-PKI camp-aign
included a televised exhumation of the dead generals, and a public funeral for
them and Nasution’s daughter. Soon mobs
looted and gutted PKI offices and property, first in
Whatever their character and extent, the
massacres served the New Order rulers in a number of key ways. First, it rid them of their main rival, the
PKI. Second, as Julia Southwood and
Patrick Flanagan suggest, the trauma turned survivors into "obedient
collaborators and victims",
and made many of those involved in the kill-ings the "partners in
crime" of the regime. The bloodbath
allowed New Order power-holders to present themselves as standing guard over
society to prevent a replay of the traumatic events. The slaughter thus provided the regime with a
negative kind of legit-imacy: as noted in the theoretical discussion, the fear
of disorder and bloodshed may induce a degree of acceptance of authoritarian
control, given the likely alternatives.
With the PKI annihilated, ABRI was the only significant force left. The time was near to get rid of Sukarno. Ironically, Sukarno then precipitated his own downfall. Misjudging his popularity, in early 1966 he dismissed Nasution as Defense Minister and ABRI Chief. In response, Ali Murtopo, an intelligence man and hard-core Suhartoist, stepped up his support for anti-Sukarno students who had taken to the streets under the banners of the Islamic University Students Association (HMI) and the Indonesian Students Action Group (KAMI). He orchestrated mass rallies together with attacks on Subandrio’s Foreign Ministry and the Chinese Embassy. The climax came on
Thus emboldened, Suharto took decisive action. He dissolved the Presidential Guard, arrested Sukarnoist ministers (including Subandrio), and formed a new cabinet with himself as Defence Minister. The Sultan of Jogjakarta was brought into the cabinet to lend Suharto an aura of legitimacy. He also forced the PNI (Sukarno’s informal power base) to hold a special congress under the eyes of the Siliwangi Division. This ensured that a Suhartoist chairman was "elected."
Next, Suharto purged the military of Sukarnoists. His own loyalists -- Sumitro, Dharsono, Surono, and so on -- were appointed as commanders of the Siliwangi, Diponegoro and Brawijaya Divisions, respectively. The civil service and the National Front were also purged. The final blow to Sukarno was delivered by none other than Nasution, as Chairman of the Provisional People’s Consultative Assembly (MPRS), the "king-making" body of the 1945 Constitution. In March 1966, this body stripped Sukarno of his title of President for Life. Later, symbolizing his total disempower-ment, he would be called to account for his role in Gestapu and "the economic and moral deterioration of the nation." In March 1967, the MPRS named Suharto as Acting President, officially withdrawing the mantle from Sukarno. The formal transfer of power was effected a year later, when Suharto was confirmed as President.
Of theoretical relevance in this discussion of the crisis and Suharto’s rise to power is the fact that the military establishment did not initiate the intervention, nor could it have. Its leaders were not united enough to move against Sukarno. They, especially Yani, had accepted Sukarno as a supreme leader, whatever differences existed over the role of the PKI. Finally, its place in the Guided Democracy regime was secure. Moreover, the military had no pressing reason to intervene. It would not necessarily be threatened even by Sukarno’s death or incapacitation. Actually, it was the PKI that stood to lose if any such misfortune befell Sukarno. One might surmise from the ease with which the top brass were eliminated in the Gestapu that they were not expecting trouble, much less contemplating a coup of their own at that point.
On the other hand, Gestapu itself was, strictly speaking, an act of military intervention. After all, it was carrried out by a military faction. It may thus be viewed as an attempt by a segment of the military to reorganize political power on behalf of a political leader or leaders – Sukarno and perhaps some PKI figures (probably without their full knowledge or involvement).
Gestapu suggests that military intervention is a phenomenon that is closely tied to the politics of the state, and as discussed theoretically, it will be ineffectual if carried out by a divided military or in the absence of a strongman-unifier. It also serves as further evidence that authoritarian orders, being dependent on the balance of forces that the ruler establishes, are vulnerable to system instability whenever the ruler shows signs of physical or political decline.
Regarding Suharto, he cannot, unlike
The Military and the Golkar Formula: The Simplification of State-Society Politics
The contours and structures of Sukarno’s Guided Democracy were intrinsically authoritarian; thus the transition from Sukarno to Suharto did not involve fundamental changes in the way power was organized. In fact, Suharto was careful to preserve the form and structures of the "old" order as set out in the 1945 Constitution. The same basic structures of political power obtain in his "New" Order: namely, a strong presid-ency; a largely "elected" legislative body or parliament (DPR); and the representation of regions and relevant functional groups, symbolized by the MPR (People's Consult-ative Assembly).
Both Sukarno and Suharto based their rule
on the 1945 Constitution and the five principles (or pillars) of
Pancasila: Belief in One God,
Humanitarianism, National Unity, Social Justice, and People's Sovereignty. It was primarily meant as a unifying
doctrine. Both leaders used Belief in
One God to thwart Islamic goals, and National Unity was an overriding
preoccupation. Both leaders honored the
other principles more symbolically than in practice, and they were able to
manipulate all the pillars to serve their strategies of rule. But in this respect, Suharto was the more
skilful political craftsman, and he was more successful in implementing an
authoritarian state under the 1945 constitution framework.
After Gestapu, Suharto was faced with the task of firming up a badly-shaken authoritarian order. Fortunately, there was at that time no one to challenge the legitimacy of Sukarno’s hegemonizing-legitimizing formula, built around the 1945 Constitution and Pancasila, which all elite groups -- including ABRI and even the PKI -- had accepted as a "sacred" legacy of the revolution and integral to Indonesian nationhood. Carl Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski have pointed to this feature of authoritarian orders: that some degree of consensus may coexist with coercion. The constituting of the New Order was no easy task, however. It involved rearranging forces to restore a balance among the constellation of state factions. It also meant "taming" forces unleashed by Gestapu, especially Islamic forces, which had become politicized during the transition period.
Suharto’s main problem at this juncture
was how best to engineer the entrench-ing of what was then his only power base
– the military – in the New Order’s political arena, where it could serve as a
controlling and stabilizing force. The
politically sophisticated solution was a remodelling of the functional-group
representation prin-ciple provided for in the Constitution. The Sekber-Golkar, used to counter the PKI
during the years of Guided Democracy, was revived. It became Golkar, the govern-ment’s party,
and was placed under ABRI control (though this control slackened over time, as
explored below). Golkar as the electoral
machine of the regime. Its overriding
function was to win votes and seats, and thus allow ABRI and Suharto to control
the representative-legislative sphere.
To this point, it has been successfully employed in six elections –
1971, 1977, 1982, 1987, 1992, and 1997 – that have served to stabilize and
legitimize the New Order.
Golkar underwent several organizational reformulations before it was decided that Suharto, as chief supervisor, would be the supreme head. He was empowered to dictate or veto any Golkar appointment. Next in line came a Leadership Council consisting of a central executive board, along with executive boards from the provinces and regencies (administrative units). The chair and other top positions on these boards were held by active or retired ABRI men. Later they would pass to anyone particularly favoured by Suharto and ABRI.
As Reeve notes, Golkar is a versatile vehicle facilitating ABRI’s entry into politics and state institutions. It also facilitates the movement of ABRI men among posts in the military, the Golkar leadership, and the representative-legislative sphere. Conceptually, Golkar can be likened to the Burmese Socialist Program Party (BSPP). Both were the instruments of the military and, ultimately, the ruler – Suharto and Ne Win respectively. Certain differences should not be overlooked, however. Suharto did not permit ABRI totally to dominate Golkar (and over time the military has ceased to dominate it), whereas the BSPP was simply a powerless façade for military rule.
Worse still for ABRI’s power prospects, Suharto strengthened the civilian presence in the upper reaches of the New Order power structure. At the end of 1993, he selected Harmoko as the first civilian chairman of Golkar – formerly ABRI’s political fief. Harmoko is said to be an ally of Habibie -- Suharto's protege (and Minister of Research and Technology) -- and a rising star himself. In addition, two of Suharto’s children – his daughter Tutut and son Bambang Trihadmodjo – were named vice-chair and treasurer of Golkar, respectively. Suharto clearly is attempting to build up a civilian-Islamic bloc through Habibie and others, as well as to strengthen the civilian component of Golkar. He is trying to consolidate Golkar’s position as a political party that is able to withstand ABRI’s pressure and influence and which operates in the manner of, say, Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). If he is successful, the sophisticated authoritarian order Suharto has so cleverly constructed may be maintained and even more firmly institutionalized. In the future, presumably, Golkar will be led by his children and whichever ABRI figures or factions can be won over as allies.
Golkar’s importance in the New Order scheme cannot be overemphasized. It ensures the closure of the representative-legislative sphere to societal forces. In addition, Golkar’s ability to fill representative-legislative bodies at all levels with a majority of loyal members has enabled ABRI (and ultimately Suharto) to dominate the MPR – the nation’s supreme body, which elects the President and draws the broad outlines of state policy. Without Golkar, ABRI would not easily have been able to assert its control over the representative-legislative sphere and politics more generally. In short, the Golkar formula has enabled the New Order state to maintain an apparently open political arena, and to rule constitutionally while effectively marginalizing opposition parties and forces (like the Islamic groups) that might, given the opportunity, challenge the regime.
Unlike Bama and Thai strongmen,
therefore, Suharto has succeeded in establishing restrictive control over a
state-society framework that in principle is somewhat open and pluralistic --
key to creating a subordinate but nominally pluralistic political arena lay in
Suharto’s ability to "simplify" politics. In this he was assisted by a succession of
versatile aides: among them, Ali Murtopo, Sumitro, Sudomo (a naval admiral),
and Benny Murdani. In 1973, disparate
and competing political parties were merged into two "opposition" or
"minority" parties, with very little chance of one day becoming a
ruling or majority one. The result was
two parties in permanent opposition, divided by their different views and
platforms, and composed of squabbling camps and factions. This made them highly vulnerable to the
blandishments and threats of Suharto’s aides and their handpicked men in the
DPR and MPR. Further restrictions were
imposed on campaign platforms and the use of certain symbols (the Kaaba,
for example); other laws forced the adoption of Pancasila as the only
creed. Thus these parties became, as
intended, shadows of political parties.
The Military: The New Order’s Dominators, Stabilizers and Dynamizers
Apart from this "simplification" of politics, the military exerted control over the population by dominating the public institutions with which ordinary people had to interact on a daily basis: the administrative machinery of the state. Civil servants were forced to join Golkar or functional groups such as the Civil Servants Corps (KORPRI), and to swear loyalty to the state. This meant they had to cut their ties to other parties and join Golkar. ABRI’s reach extended still further, in the form of a military-dominated hierarchy of extra-administrative bodies that oversaw (and intervened in) administration down to the village level. Public servants and policy-implementing bodies were thereby deprived, to a large extent, of autonomy. Noteworthy here is that although soldiers could be said not to monopolize administrative bodies as in the past, the fact remains that ABRI is able to intervene when and where desired. It has the clout to prevent actions that run counter to its interests or threaten its overall dominance. In the early years, the presence of ABRI in the administrative sphere was almost as conspicuous as with the BSPP in
The ABRI further sought to impose control through surveillance and coercion, another feature that resembled
Control of the press is seen as particularly important to the regime’s control over society. It is exercised in many ways, including outright banning. More common is a telephone call requesting editors not to print certain articles or report on events, on pain of having the publication’s permit revoked or subscriptions cancelled. Another is the "press briefing", where the press is given the "facts" of certain events. Fear and self-censorship are the results, as well described by Adam Schwarz. Largesse may also be provided: an air-conditioned secretariat for the Indonesian Journalists Association; soft and long-term loans; cash favours or "envelopes"; substantial governmental subscriptions; free airline tickets for pilgrimages to
ABRI’s success in entrenching itself in the state, and its position above society, have shaped the contours of the relationships that constitute the New Order. First, its dominance has given soldiers the opportunity to become decision-makers, "legislators" in local assemblies and the national parliament, political managers and "politicians" in Golkar, and important administrators and policy formulators, as well as business man-agers. As Andrew MacIntyre and Jamie Mackie note, ABRI is allocated one-fifth of parliamentary seats, in addition to the "elected" but military-nominated Golkar MPs. Its members also hold important posts in key ministries (Home and Justice, for example) and the position of secretary of state. The military exercises "wide powers of supervision and control over local officials and societal organizations throughout rural society."
Second, military control of
political-administrative offices have allowed top officers to use the state
apparatus and political power to amass wealth. As a consequence, an entire class has emerged
whose standing is based almost solely on political power and/or state
connections – a common feature of such authoritarian arrangements, as noted in
the theoretical framework. A case in
point is Suharto himself. Michael Vatikiotis
claims he used his position as commanding officer of the Diponegoro Division
and, later, as President to accumulate about US $2-3 billion; these were
1990-91 figures and were projected to grow rapidly. The key to this wealth has been business deals
or connections with Chinese cukong-entrepreneurs such as Liem Sioe Liong
and Kian Siang (Bob Hassan). Other generals – for instance, Ibnu Sutowo,
and even dissidents like Jasin, Sukendro, and Dharsono – have obtained state
favours and used them to generate wealth. According to Murdani, a former Defence
Min-ister and once a close aide to Suharto, an ordinary retired general could
easily make US $1-2 million through contracts and tenders. ABRI’s dominance is such that, in Schwarz’s
words, it would have been the envy of soldiers of several Latin American
Third, and most important, the fact that the military wore three hats -- those of soldier, politician, and administrator -- knitted the four million civil servants together under military tutelage. The result has been a relatively cohesive state stratum of armed and unarmed bureaucrats. In the three decades since the birth of the New Order, members of this stratum have formed a cohesive social web, a "sub-society" separated especially from lower social strata. One might add that, as in other
Members of this state stratum have also established links with elites in other spheres: businessmen, professionals, and intellectuals, as well as local notables and community leaders. The regime’s carrot-and-stick strategy of co-option, combined with the social and patrimonial linking of the official class to other societal elites, has created a national "elite network" and an important degree of consensus. Certain rules of the game have been established, based on not rocking the boat too vigorously, or seeking support outside elite circles (for example, by championing the cause of sub-ordinated social strata). Such linkages, rules, and points of consensus are vital to the stability of authoritarian orders. Non-state elite groups gain access to state resources; state elites live very comfortably, partly as a result of their extra-state connections. Like the Thai strongmen-rulers, then, but unlike Ne Win and the Tatmadaw in
Suharto and the Politics of Personal Domination
The view presented here of New Order Indonesia as a military-dominated polity is not meant to suggest that it is a military state – though in many ways it is that as well. ABRI is certainly the main pillar of the New Order. But it stands at the pinnacle of a state in which power, control, and key resources derive from the president and his close aides. In his amassing of personal power, Suharto’s brand of authoritarianism is similar in many aspects to Sukarno’s, Ne Win’s, and the version implemented by Thai strongmen-rulers -- Pibul, Sarit, Thanom, and Praphart.
Still, Sukarno and Suharto do differ,
notably in their personalities and visions.
Sukarno was impelled by a vague "Marxism" and a
populist-nationalist romanticism which saw national politics as part of a
struggle of the world’s downtrodden against global exploitation and
oppression. His enemies were more
external than internal:
It is to Suharto’s great credit that he was able to restore and preserve an authoritarian order in a situation in which disparate forces, each with its own agenda, intruded into politics and sought to extract benefits from the new man at the centre. The situation was dangerous, but provided Suharto as pivotal power-player with the opportunity to exploit these forces and the prevailing climate of anxiety. He benefitted from the trauma of a "mass insanity": the communal killing throughout
Suharto seized the opportunity to remodel and refine the Sukarno system. He focused his attention on the principle of functional group representation. He used Golkar, which ostensibly existed to represent these groups, as a means of entrenching his power base in the military, politics, and the state, and the military's in politics. It was also the method by which he dominated the legislative-representative arena, neutralizing political parties and Islamic forces. Suharto loyalists – aides such as Ali Murtopo, Sumitro, Darjatmo, Amir Murtono, Sokowati, and Sapardjo – consolidated Golkar through their patient legwork, and steered it to victory in the first New Order elections of 1971. With a majority in the new parliament (DPR), the Suharto group moved to simplify and re-structure the political parties, reducing them to two – the PPP (United Development Party) and PDI (Indonesian Democratic Party)– which were no match for Golkar.
The remodelling of the representative-legislative assemblies, the DPR and MPR, eroded whatever functional purpose they might have served. As Vice-President Adam Malik put it, a parliamentarian’s life came to consist of the "four D’s" (in Bahasa Indonesian): clock in, collect your pay, sit back, and keep quiet. Despite some more recent tendencies towards independence among legislators, the power of the representative-legislative bodies has been effectively circumvented, and deliberations skewed in favour of those who control Golkar – Suharto and ABRI. To clarify parliamentarians, especially those in the military and Golkar fraksi (division), have debated and expressed concerns over specific issues, and delayed some government bills. They have even campaigned against the government in connection, for example, with public lotteries and increase in electricity prices. But, as McIntyre points out, the DPR (parliament) has been unable to change government policy, and its ability to constrain government actions remains very limited, however.
After establishing unchallenged hegemony in this sphere, Suharto moved swift-ly to tame the only force left that was capable of challenging him. Well aware of ABRI’s history of insubordination, he set out to set his personal stamp on its function-ing. First, he rallied those who had dutifully served him, largely in an intelligence or special-operations capacity. The "special aides" (for example, Murtopo, Sumitro, and later, Murdani) were drawn into the inner circle, and charged with managing "general and specific affairs". That meant their jurisdiction and power were unlimited – or rather, limited only by Suharto. They also moved into key positions within ABRI, the ministries, security and intelligence bodies, economic and development agencies, and the Golkar machinery. Because they owed their status to Suharto, he was able effectively to play one off against the other. This "palace polit-ics" kept the "palace generals" divided. The man at the centre, ever vigilant, could clip the wings of excessively ambitious up-and-comers.
Suharto likewise moved to rid ABRI of rivals and potential challengers, like
ABRI was also restructured to diminish the power of those in the formal chain of command. A series of military reorganizations reduced the autonomy of the Air Force and the Navy, bringing them under the control of the Department of Defence and Security (HANKAM). This, in turn, was always controlled by a Suharto loyalist. The operational capacity of Area Command was likewise reduced. Crack units were placed under HANKAM and came to form part of the Strategic Reserve (KOSTRAD) and the Secret Warfare Force (Kopassandha), both under loyalist direction.
Suharto also initiated what Jenkins has
called a system of "doubling-up of functions", wherein powerful aides
hold each other in check. In the late
1970s, for example, Chief Mohammad Jusuf, who served as ABRI Chief, Minister of
Defence, and head of HANKAM, had Murdani and Sudomo as deputies. Sudomo, as head of KOPKAMTIB, had Murdani and
Yoga under him; Murdani also served as Yoga’s deputy when the latter headed
BAKIN. All were granted direct access to
Suharto, turning the strongman into their chief manipulator and arbiter.
ABRI as an institution was kept happy and busy through the political openings provided to active and retired personnel alike. This opened up new career paths and avenues of influence for military men, who served as Golkar functionaries and appointed or "elected" members of the DPR and MPR. In addition, as noted, soldiers held positions in ministerial bureaucracies, the judiciary, the military-territorial administration, the civil administration, and the state enterprises – Pertamina, Bulog, Inkopad, Perhutani, Berdikari, and the state banks. Top-echelon soldiers were well-positioned to grant or withhold permits, licenses, contracts, credits, and protection to local entrepreneurs (mainly ethnic Chinese) and domestic or foreign entrepreneurs. In exchange, top ABRI men would receive a share of the profits, commissions, board memberships, and jobs for family members and clients. Being so well-rewarded, these figures were unlikely to risk their future prospects by moving against a ruler who had become their father-benefactor. This is a useful reminder that while disgruntled or idealistic officers might arise to challenge the status quo, the vast majority tends to be occupied taking advantage of the opportunities the military system has to offer to risk challenging the system. The pivotal role of Suharto, the military strongman-ruler, as described above, is in agreement with the theoretical observation that states that military-authoritarian rulers play a pivotal role in the re-structuring of the state and that to a large extent they determine the configuration of power among state elements, and in particular, the military's position within the system.
And yet challenges to Suharto did arise within ABRI. The earliest, albeit indirect, occurred in 1973-74. It was rooted in the rivalry between intelligence men: Sumitro of KOPKAMTIB and Juwono of BAKIN, on the one hand, and Suharto’s staffers Murtopo and Humardhani, on the other. The challenge coincided with turbulence linked to Islamic protests against the Marriage Bill, which gave non-Islamic groups an equal voice in marriage and family-related matters. A rice crisis and student protests against the technocratic economic strategy and Japanese "domination" added to the volatile brew. Sumitro and Juwono sympathized with the protesters and their attacks, not just against ABRI’s Dual Function doctrine, but against corrupt members of the elite, including those close to Suharto and his wife. Typical of the opaque "palace politics" that predominate in authoritarian orders, there were even allegations that the students had been egged on by the Sudomo-Murtopo clique and used to discredit Sumitro. The climax was widespread rioting and the "Malari" incident, followed by repression, mass detentions, and the muzzling of the press. An important consequence of "Malari" was the purging of Sumitro and his group, which marked Suharto’s rise to full supremacy. No subsequent challenge to Suharto has ever arisen among officers on active duty. Nor have elite challengers sought to forge linkages with subordinated elements in waging their intra-military or intra-elite battles.
Opposition to Suharto emerged again in the late 1970s. This time it was led by former generals, with Nasution at the forefront. They were eventually joined by well-known former leaders like Mohammed Hatta (co-founder, with Sukarno, of modern
The challenge by Nasution and the others seemed to gain adherents in the inner circle, including Adam Malik, Generals Alamsjah, Jusuf, and Widodo. The last two produced the Jusuf "blue book" and the Widodo Papers, which sought to redefine ABRI as a force that stood "as one with the people," independent of the government of the day and particular power-holders. They advocated the reduction of ABRI’s involvement in non-military affairs, and proposed that it be placed above all political groups, including Golkar.
But the opposition withered when Suharto lashed out, warning ABRI would have to "choose friends", and that "enemies" would be isolated and destroyed. The ease with which Suharto was able to overcome this challenge indicates just how strong he had become, and how pervasive was his aura of power and invulnerability.
The President’s dominance was further reinforced in 1983, when a substantial number of officers reached retirement age and Benny Murdani was made the new ABRI Chief. He set about "rationalizing" ABRI’s command structure, further central-izing control in the hands of Suharto loyalists. As Schwarz, Vatikiotis, and others have pointed out, increasingly, ABRI brass found themselves outside the decision-making loop. A case in point is Suharto’s appointment of General Sudharmono, whom ABRI disliked, as Vice President in 1988. Sudharmono was viewed by ABRI, while chairman of Golkar (1983-88), as building a rival civilan power-base through the diversion of tenders and contracts to non-military clients and cronies. ABRI’s attempts to block his "election" as Vice-President in 1988 proved futile (although it was able to replace Sudharmono with it's candidate, Wahano, as Golkar chairman in 1988). This is not to say ABRI has not been able, subtly, to assert a degree of autonomy. For instance, it did manage to get its choice, Sutrisno, selected as, Vice-President for the 1993-98 term (before Suharto made known his choice).
The absence, as Schwarz and Vatikiotis
note, of credible opponents within the military in the 1990s has meant that
Suharto can largely ignore the military’s political opinions. As part of his effort to gain wider support,
Suharto has worked to mend fences with a faction of "political
Islam". In December 1990 he
sanctioned the establishment of the Association of Muslim Intellectuals (ICMI),
led by a rising protégé, the Minister of Research and Technology B.J. Habibie. Significantly, not a single ABRI man
attended Habibie’s inauguration.
Suharto followed this up with a
1991 pilgrimage to
Suharto is very much in control of ABRI. According to one long-time observer, all military promotions receive the President’s personal approval. Suharto also handpicks the heads of the military services and the police. He has final say over who commands KOSTRAD (the Strategic Reserve), the
Suharto has, as a personal ruler, certainly been an astute observer and manipulator of his lieutenants and clients. He has also taken great care to cultivate the loyalty, cooperation and support of groups within an oligarchical ruling circle. And at the time, he has been quite successful in eliminating their autonomous political power and influence. In the context of personal rulership style as discussed by Robert Jackson and Carl Rosberg, one might describe Suharto's rulership style as that of a prince and an autocrat. Small wonder that William Liddle refers to Suharto as the "Indonesian king".
The distinction between public and
private spheres in strategies of rule is essentially a Western concept. But it not a concept that can be easily
ignored. On the other hand, the notions of
"mandate of heaven" and divine right that once justified personal
rule lack legitimacy nowadays. All
contemporary states, including Suharto’s, formally subscribe to the notion that
the state and/or government are public institutions serving the common good. In
As indicated by the analysis, above, Suharto's New Order state is, unlike Ne Win's BSPP state, a complex military-authoritarian state. It is also quite a distinctive one, being more open than many such orders. There are three political parties that "compete" in periodic, regular elections, and there are legislative assemblies that debate issues, elect the chief executive, and lay down state policies. On the other hand, however, the configuration of state-society interaction and the pattern of relative-autonomy relations in Suharto’s New Order evince all the central characteristics, as Heeger notes -- and discussed in the theoretical chapters -- of military-authoritarian orders.
These include: (a) the transformation of political roles and actors into bureau-cratic ones; (b) key powerholders’ increasing personal control over the political-administrative bureaucracy and state institutions; and (c) the erosion of rational-legal bureaucratic norms throughout the polity and their replacement by personal, particular-istic practices. There obtains a pattern of autonomy relations where the pre-eminent ruler enjoys the greatest degree of relative autonomy vis-à-vis the state and its institutions. Possessing a somewhat lesser degree of autonomy are military men and other subordinate power-holders. Thus, both Indonesian state institutions and Indonesian society enjoy less autonomy vis-à-vis Suharto and subordinate key officials. The state is more malleable, less insulated, and more responsive to state officials (especially Suharto); it is the opposite where society is concerned.
The Problem and Politics of Transition:
We have seen that the New Order state is, on balance, Suharto’s creation and most responsive to him. His authority and influence is firmly anchored in the state, and extends into the political sphere as well. This situation is inherently unstable, as the discussion in the theoretical chapters (Chapter 2, in particular) suggest -- more so when the strongman-ruler is in physical decline and/or, with the passage of time, approaching the end of his rule. Like all men, Suharto is mortal. The fact that he is not a dynastic ruler means that whatever stability and legitimacy he has won for both the Presidency and New Order institutions could be reversed without him at the helm.
A further complication is Suharto’s seeming unwillingness to designate a military man in active service as his successor, which keeps both aspirants and analysts guessing. As Vakiotis notes, all vice-presidents either have been ABRI men not on active command, or civilians. This is true of the Golkar chairmanship as well. Suharto’s strategy here apparently aims to ensure that his grown children, who head vast economic "empires", are protected into the future. Knowledgeable sources in
As Suharto’s departure from the scene looms closer,
The more complex capitalist economy has given rise to a small, but vibrant "middle-class" stratum and has engendered the hope that authoritarianism might be diluted by the new stratum’s aspirations for greater participation and more rights. It has been argued, for example, that the "new"economy gives greater space to organized business interests to exert their influence. Bargaining relationships have arisen, as Andrew McIntyre suggest, between the state and some industry groups -- especially in the insurance, textile, and pharmaceutical sectors. Further evidence of the new middle-class assertiveness is the proliferation of NGOs representing those adversely affected by existing development policies. Among these are the Legal Aid Institute (LBH), the Democracy Forum, the Institute for the Defence of Human Rights, a state sanctioned labor union (the SPSI, or the All Indonesia Workers Union), and an independent, not legally registered labor union, along with a range of non-profit social and charity concerns. Recent years have also seen the rise of numerous small self-help groups under such umbrellas as the Institution for Promoting Self-Reliant Community Development (LPM) and the Self-Reliant Community Development Insitute (LSM). As Liddle cautions, however, most of these NGOs are tiny and resource-poor.
Another line of argument is
possible. Despite economic
"modernization," Mackie stresses that both the middle class and the
bourgeoisie are small and hetero-geneous; the bourgeoisie, in addition, is
mostly ethnic Chinese.
The rural and urban propertied
class is prevented by state elements from intruding into politics or exerting
political power. Given the nature of the middle class and the
hierarchical social order, not to mention the social structures that shape
political culture, hopes for a middle-class-led democratic transition may be
Future state-society arrangements in
For ABRI, the challenge is more or less to maintain the status quo. It would like to regain some of the dominance it has lost under Suharto recently. Mostly, ABRI wants a successor chosen from its combat ranks (not officers from the legal or bureaucratic sections, like Sudharmono). Its worst nightmare would be a successor whose power-base is in the civilian sectors of Golkar or the bureaucracy, or -- worse still -- one beholden to political Islam. This scenario would almost certainly invite military intervention. The political game in
Introduction: Military Intervention and State-Society Politics
The military has had a dramatic presence in the politics of
authoritarian regime was not, as will be discussed, a simple military
dictatorship. Pibul retained the King as
a constitutional monarch, as means to provide his regime with legitimacy. Pibul's military rule with a constitutionarch
monarch -- the "Pibul system" -- permitted, in
Pibul was ousted from power in 1944 by Pridi Banomyong, the regent and the head of the anti-Japanese Free Thai movement. Pridi presided over a period of "democracy" or civilian rule but it lasted only three years. The military returned to the political stage in 1947 and re-installed Pibul as Prime Minister. This coup represented an attempt by the military, discredited by being on the losing side of the war, to dis-lodge civilian politicians who had gained footholds in the state under Pridi.
1957, Sarit Thanarat staged a coup against Pibul -- or against a rival military
clique, the Phin-Phao clique, as will be discussed. He was much more authoritarian than Pibul,
and established a more cohesive military-authoritarian order. Like Ne Win, he abolished representative
institutions and he restricted popular access to the state. Unlike Ne Win, however, Sarit co-opted the
civilian bureaucracy and, like Suharto, he developed a more cohesive
military-civilian bureaucratic base.
Sarit had little regard for the democratic forms -- legislatures,
competitive elections, and so on -- which had come to be associated in
successors, Thanom Kittikachorn and Praphart Charusathien, continued the
"Sarit system" and ruled as military dictators. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was
growing pressure for political participation from below. This pressure stemmed from economic
development under military tutelage and American aid. The Thanom-Praphart regime fell in 1973,
following a student-led mass uprising and a royal intervention by the King to
stop the bloodshed. When the
Thanom-Praphart military-authoritarian regime was toppled in 1973, the military
lost much of its political cohesion due to the absence of an effective authoritarian
strongman. After 1973, there was a
protracted period of transition and struggle.
This period was marked by a series of rather ineffectual military
interventions, violence, and intense conflict involving military factions,
civilian elite groups, subordinate forces, and palace factions, and the
King. For the first time in Thai
history, political elites, both conservative and radical, attempted to mobilize
the masses and win their support.
Subsequently, a substantially "democratic" order, with an open political arena, and legislative sphere, was established. This civilian interlude was presided over by Sanya Thammasak, Kukrit Pramoj and Seni Pramoj. This proved to be a politically turbulent period and consequently the military intervened again in 1976 under the leadership of Admiral Sangad Chaloryu. The military installed Thanin Kraivichien -- an authoritarian, staunchly anti-communist, and royalist civilian -- in power. He was deposed one year later by "Young Turk" officers, who put General Kriangsak Chomanand in power. In 1980, the Young Turks, the "king makers" of those years, replaced him with General Prem Tinsulanonda.
The post-1973 years, until the 1992, were marked by a struggle to define the shape of the political contours of the state. The struggle was won by the King and Prem, who favoured a democratic, constitutional order. Nonetheless, in 1991, after a decade of parliamentary rule initiated by the King and Prem, the military, led by Suchinda Kraprayoon, stepped onto the political stage once more to topple the civilian government of Chatichai Choonhavan, a former General. The military, however, was forced to step down when Suchinda had himself named Prime Minister following elections, and this resulted in public protests in May 1992 and a royal intervention by the King.
What is distinctive about Thai politics is that the political arena was, until the 1970s, characterized by an absence of the phu-noi, the small people or subordinated segments. Politics was dominated, until 1973, by the phu-yai, the big men -- especially by military strongmen-turned-rulers. In contrast, in
characteristic of Thai politics in regard to military intervention, especially,
is that, unlike in
Coups D'etat and the Politics of the State in
The patterns of military intervention in
The cycle of coups, military rule (or rule by military strongmen) and "Thai-style" parliamentary rule indicates that for all its energy, the military (or the strongman-ruler) has never been able to close down the political arena completely. Nor has it, as in
The military has had to be content with the capture of the crucial government ministeries or to hold power without assuming full responsibility. Also, it has had to respect the operational autonomy of the civilian bureaucracy, and share power with societal elites -- after the 1980s, with economic-business elites. In terms of state-society relations, the military's dominance has been and continues to be constrained by a constellation of civilian bureaucratic and non-bureaucratic elites. Nonetheless, one might also say that it has also succeeded in maintaining a system of authoritarian rule or, according to Carl Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski, an autocracy.
the ideological break with absolutistism in 1932, it is interesting to note
that the Revolution did not disrupt the
initiatives set in motion by royal reforms, particularly the centralization and
concentration of power in the hands of rulers and officials. This continuity has resulted in the
consolidation of a kind of state-society order termed by Riggs and others as a
"bureaucratic polity". What has been "normal-ized", not
withstanding the 1932 Revolution, is the entrenchment of armed and unarm-ed
bureaucrats in politics. Military coups
and the manipulation of electoral processes have been, as Chai-Anan notes, the
primary forms of bureaucratic involvement in politics.
The numerous instances of military interventions, fifteen in all, makes the Thai military the most politically energetic of the armed forces examined. In contrast, there were only three interventions in
frequency of coups has created an impression that
greater complexity of military intrusion in Thai politics, compared to
Inquiring closely into the dynamics of Thai coups, they seem to fit roughly into four categories: 1) coups geared toward the reorganization of political power to make the state more authoritarian and to establish (or reestablish) military dominance; 2) coups arising from attempts to resolve problems and contradictions arising because of the democratic forms adopted by ruling military strongmen themselves and their unreformed inclinations favoring authoritarian rule; 3) coups aimed at restoring order or "saving" the state from a crisis; 4) coups stemming from factionalism between aspiring military strongmen, or arising from intra-military politics. These factional struggles usually occur when the personal ruler is suffering a political or physical decline, or alternatively when there is not a military strongman to unify the army or maintain an intra-military balance. These categories, however, are not exclusive. Coup plotters are usually motivated by mixed motives.
The first category of coups is well illustrated by the 1932 Revolution led by the Promoters. In theory, its goal was to reorganize political power in a democratic mold. Indeed, the regime attempted to present itself as effectuating a transfer of power from the king to the "people". In actuality, however, it resulted in the transfer of the monarch's power to non-royal military rulers: from the king and the aristocracy to the military ruler and civilian bureaucrats. The following coups may also be included in the first category: the 1933 Bhahon-Pibul coup which resulted in Pibul's dominance as the strongman; the 1947 Phin-Phao-Sarit coup against Pridi, aimed at restoring authoritarianism and military dominance; Sangad's coup, with the support of the Young Turks, against Seni in 1976 which restored authoritarian rule under Thanin, a civilian; and the 1991 Suchinda coup against Chatichai which terminated parliament-ary rule and attempted to restore the military's political dominance. One might also include in this category the Young Turks' coup attempts against Prem in 1981 and 1985.
In the second category of coups, strongmen-rulers strike against their own governments. This type of coup is aimed at circumventing the slow and sometimes difficult semi-democratic processes which the military strongmen have adopted to try to legitimize their rule. The second type of coup is illustrated by Sarit's coup against his protege Thanom in 1958, and Thanom's coup against his own government in 1971. Both coups were directed against difficult-to-control parliamentarians.
The third category of coups involves the restoration of order or "saving" the state from a crisis or protecting the state during a transition from one order to another. In this category, one could include Admiral Sangad's coup, with the Young Turks providing the muscles, in 1976. Sangad's coup followed a period of open, unstable, democratic politics and the massacre of student protesters by Village Scouts and the Border Patrol Police (see below). In addition, the 1932 "revolution", which entailed a transition from a monarchical to commoner joint civilian-military rule, and the 1933 Bhahol-Pibul coup, which signalled a transition from the provisional regime to a more "permanent" military order, could also be included in this category.
fourth type of coup involves intra-military politics and rivalries between
aspiring strongmen. These factional
struggles usually, but not always, occur when the military ruler is suffering a
political or physical decline or when there is not a military strongman-unifier
to maintain a balance between military factions. The following coups could be included in this
category: the 1951 Navy's "
reference to the subordination of the military to its chief-turned-ruler, the
Thai case seems to contradict this theoretical observation most of the
time. The evidence, however, indicates
that military strongmen, with the exception of Prem, fall -- if they do -- for
reasons other than because of a coup against them. During Sarit's rule and until he died, and
that of his co-successors, Thanom and Praphart, there were no coups, except the
ones they themselves staged in 1958 and 1971 respectively, as noted above. The Thanom-Praphart team was not overthrown
by a military coup; it was ousted due to a number of non-military,
socio-economic and political factors, as will be discussed, and because the
King could no longer support them.
General Krit Sivara's refusal to crack down on the protesters also
played a significant role. Pibul had to
step down in 1944 because he had supported the Japanese, but he was not
over-thrown by a military coup. From
1947-57, Pibul was, strictly speaking, not a ruling strongman, but more of a
compromise figurehead leader of rival military factions vying for control.
Prem (1980-86), was the only strongman-ruler who has had to overcome two coup attempts, both by the Young Turks, in 1981 and 1985. As a democratizing (non-authoritarian) strongman, he was intent on ending
From King to Commoners: The Modernization of an Autocracy
Hong Lysa notes, Taksin and Rama I were compelled to stimulate the economy in
order to obtain needed resources. They
were aided to a large extent by trade with China and an inflow of Chinese
immigrants skilled in commerce, trade, shipping, navigation and other
professions. Because of their dependency on the external
environment, the Chakri kings were aware of the powerful forces reshaping their
world. They were particularly alert to
the dangers and opportunities extant in the Western desire for trade and
commerce. Unlike the kings in
opening of the kingdom had far-reaching consequences. The reforms achieved what the colonial powers
new state was given what Thongchai Winichakul calls a "geo-body" -- a
bounded territory conforming to the European concept of modern statehood. The new state was defined and guaranteed by
The royal reorganization of the state meant that there was an enlargement of the state as more common people were recruited. Thus, there arose a new body of hierarchically organized men paid by and dependent on the state, what we might call the state stratum. Because of its advantaged position and solid organizational struct-ure, the state stratum quickly became the most powerful interest group in the king-dom. Their only rivals were their masters -- the monarch, princes, and the nobility, who were few in number.
Although reforms strengthened the monarchy, there emerged in time signs of elite discontent. Even as early as 1886, a petition was submitted to the king by some Western-educated princes and officials urging the adoption of a constitution. There also arose conflicts in elite circles, between high and middle bureaucrats, with the latter feeling that promotions were blocked by the former, who were primarily princes and nobles.
reign of Rama VII (Prajadhipok, 1925-1935) was not a happy one. His reign fell in the turbulent inter-war
years and coincided with the depression.
Faced with diminishing revenues, rising expenditures from the steady
expansion of the state and the spectre of national bankruptcy, the king reduced
the budget of all ministries, including defence, in 1926 and 1930. He also imposed a salary tax in 1932. These measures affected the core interests of
bureaucrats who were increasingly frustrated and disenchanted with royal
absolutism. This bureaucratic discontent
established the context for the 1932 Revolution. The manifesto of the Promoters, as the
revolution-aries were called, was bold and brave. It accused kings of treating the people as
animals and it asserted that
The revolution, however, was staged by a small group of official insiders. It did not involve the great mass of the Thai people. The most prominent figures of the revolution were Pridi, Pibul, Bhahon, Song Suradej, Ritti Arkhane, Prasas Pittaya-yudh, Khuang Aphaiwong and Thawee Bunyaketu. Hence, although the revolution had all the verbal trappings of a real one, it did not result in an order based on the people as promised. However, the decision to retain the King as a constitutional monarch, as one who reigns on behalf of the people, had an enduring consequence.
Although most revolutionaries establish republics, the Promoters did not. This was a wise step. After the revolution, the monarch served as a mediator in the frequent intra-bureaucratic, intra-elite struggles. The new role of the monarch as the constitutional ruler also had the effect, ironically, of making the monarchy more or less the guarantor of a constitutional order increasingly based on democratic forms. The monarch's evolving position as a supporter of democratic constitutionalism has made it difficult for any strongman-ruler since Sarit to ignore utilizing some democratic procedures. On the other hand, the autocratic aspects inherent in the monarchical form of government have also served to legitimize authoritarianism and thus the rule of strongmen.
democratic promises of the Revolution could not be fulfilled for many
reasons. First, the People's Party was
really a political club and did not possess organizational depth. Like political parties in
It was during the early years of the post-absolutist state that the threat of communism was raised. For the next five decades, the military used this fear as a handy pretext to intervene in politics. The spectre of communism stemmed from Pridi's socialistic "Economic Development Plan". He proposed the issue of state bonds in exchange for private property, and the employment by the state of citizens via a nation-wide co-operative scheme. It ran into stiff opposition and was dropped. Pridi was subsequently labelled a communist and surpassed by Pibul, his military rival. Pridi, however, played a major role in drafting
In 1933, Bhahon and Pibul, respectively the commander and deputy command-er of the armed forces, staged a coup, signifying the ascendancy of the military Prom-oters. Pibul's position was further strengthened when he put down Prince Bowaradet's coup attempt later that year. Pibul held the real power in the Bhahon regime from behind the scenes. He assumed de jure power when he was named Prime Minister by the new assembly in the elections of 1938. With the military as his power base, he proceeded to consolidate his position. He purged a number of potential rivals, impris-oned real or imagined foes, including several princes, and executed a few suspected plotters. After 1938, he was so powerful that he was widely regarded as an uncrown-ed monarch.
was very much influenced by ultranationalistic, authoritarian European regimes
and Japanese militarism --as were the young military Thakins in
Pibul's cultural reforms and nation-building efforts were very successful because signs of it are still evident today. Indeed, he contributed immensely to the modern national identity. He inculcated a sense of "Thai-ness". On the other hand, as Chai-Anan notes, the creation of national identity is, analytically, more than a benign sangchart or "nation-building" exercise. The ordering of state-society relations -- the relative degree of state autonomy, the distribution of power, and the structure of political relationships -- involves the questions of who defines national identity and how it is defined. Thus, the creation of a national identity cannot be divorced from the ideological location of the state and the ruling or official stratum. As Chai-Anan argues, Pibul's nation-building exercise represented a project by military and bureaucratic elites to impose a form of nationhood based on supposed ethno-cultural "qualities" of the Thai "race" and to marginalize the democratic principles and the state-society order promised in the 1932 revolution.
Pibul's nation-building strategy made the Thai "race" the centerpiece of the state. Bureaucratic officials were regarded as the vanguard of the Thai nation-state and they were thus elevated above ordinary citizens. The nation, state, rulers, and the bureaucracy became merged into a single mystical entity. This fabricated entity, along with the political-cultural elevation of the state and its leaders, legitimized and normalized the authoritarian order. Political decision-making became an exclusive prerogative of the national vanguard. In short, Pibul's national formula, rather than being merely a scheme of a copycat Fuhrer or a statesman-like bestowal of Thai-ness, served to provide the bureaucratic elite, including the military, with a convincing ideology for the exercise of power, however unaccountable. Politics was once more, to quote Ruth McVey, "relocated in the state sphere, making it the main theatre of politics".
projection of himself as a warrior-leader of a "martial race"
invariably led him to translate his militaristic-nationalistic postures and
drum-beating into action. His first
incursion into modern war was in 1941, when he challenged French claims to
disputed territory along
second military escapade was less fortunate. As World War II spread to
above indicates that the state in
The Rollback of Pridi's Incipient Democracy: Pibul's Post-War Order
Pibul's alliance with
was ousted by a coalition led by Pridi in 1944 and a new government headed by
Khuang Aphaiwong was established. By the
end of the war, the Free Thai were, as Thawee Bunyaketu claimed, able to field
a -- more or less "invisible" -- 12,000 man guerrilla force. The anti-Japanese stand of the Free Thai
movement (and assistance given to Allied agents) and the post-war support of
post-war Free Thai civilian rule represented an incipient opening for
subordinated forces to participate in politics and the affairs of the
state. Pridi's Free Thai followers were
less state-oriented, and many of the post-war politicians were from the
northeast region of Isan, who were regarded with some derision by the
move towards democracy and parliamentary rule was particularly vexing to the
military leaders who fell with Pibul at the conclusion of the war. These leaders were known collectively as the
"Young Lions". They played
pivotal roles in the authoritarian reorganization of the state and restoration
of military dominance. They were, to
name the prominent ones, Phin, Phao Sriyanon, Sarit and his proteges, such as
Thanom, Praphart, and Krit. They, like
civilian leaders were grappling with the complex tasks of post-war
reconstruction and lawlessness resulting from the demobilization of soldiers of
Pibul's army and Seri Thai fighters, disgruntled officers plotted
coups. They were aided by an unexpected
national trauma -- the death of young Rama VII (King Ananda) in June 1946. Rama VII died from a gun-shot wound but it was
not clear if the King had been murdered or had committed suicide. Pridi, who became prime minister after the
1946 election, was unable to solve the mystery -- although eight years later,
three of the King's servants were executed for his death. Pridi's reputation as a communist did
not help, and he resigned amidst charges of regicide. The Young Lions were
November 1947, the military staged a coup, led by Phin, Phao and Sarit. The coup ended the short interlude of
democracy and spelled the beginning of over two decades of military dominance. The coup-makers announced that they stood for
"Nation, Religion and King."
They claimed to have acted only to uphold military honour, solve the
assassination of the king, and rid the country of corruption and communism. Pibul, who escaped being imprisoned as a war
criminal because of Pridi's refusal to humble a fellow Promoter, was installed
as Prime Minister by the coup leaders.
Pibul was this time not the "Great Leader", but a ruler
squeezed between powerful rivals, namely Sarit and Phao. His position, however, was enhanced when the
his collaboration with
friendly relations with the
In addition to the election scandal, there were others: the Phin faction was allegedly involved in a one-billion baht timber concession linked to the Bhumipol Dam project; the government was accused of covering-up a serious drought in the Isan region by attempting to bribe Isan MPs with 53 million baht; and there were articles criticizing the monarchy in a newspaper financed by Phao. The public was disillusioned by the arbitrary use of power displayed by the governing elite, the unfettered competition for the spoils of office, and their constant obsession with money. In September, Sarit resigned as the Defence Minister and disassociated himself completely from Pibul and his regime. Sarit was thus astutely positioning himself to assume office by exploiting the public disenchantment with the political system.
above analysis indicates that military's incursion into politics in 1947 was,
as suggested in the theoretical discussion, propelled, as in Burma and
Indonesia, by the military's perception that disorderly elements and forces
(usually portrayed as communist), were endangering the stability of the
state. This perception was height-ened
by the suspicious death of King Ananda.
The incursion of the military was aimed, as suggested in the theoretical
framework, at "saving" the state, restoring order, and reestablishing
Field Marshal Sarit: The Consolidation of Thai-Style Authoritarianism
Sarit was a soldiers' soldier but he was also a consummate politician. Until he was ready to seize power in 1957, he remained in the background, quietly reorganiz-ing the military and making it his personal instrument of power. The military thus became subordinate to Sarit, the new strongman-ruler. It remained subordinate, moreover, to Sarit's co-successors, Thanom and Praphart.
Sarit was better able to gauge the public mood than his rivals. He knew what he wanted and he obtained it by manipulating the public's anti-regime sentiments. He attempted to legitimize his usurpation of office by claiming that he acted on the behest of the media and in the people's interests. He also claimed to be defending the constitution and democracy from the corrupt phu-yai, the political big men. Finally, he presented himself as the man best able to stop communism, which he warned endangered the monarchy, Buddhism, and Thai values -- the usual "Nation, Religion, King" formula. In effect, he echoed the promises of the 1932 Revolution to bolster his position.
Before he was ready to seize power, Sarit cunningly left the task of restoring public order to Phao, his arch rival and the chief of police. Phao's support base was the powerful paramilitary police force, whose strength rivalled that of the army, largely as a result of American aid. Phao was pivotal in the regime's consolidation of power: he destroyed the Seri Thai, eliminated potential rivals, repressed the opposition, and generally struck fear in the populace by police terror. Hence, Phao reaped popular hatred and scorn, but not Sarit.
Sarit was adept at exploiting, but also enhancing, the crown. Soon after coming to power, Sarit obtained a royal appointment as "Defender of the Capital". In contrast to the 1932 generation, Sarit had genuine respect for the monarchy. He also correctly assessed that it was, as a fount of legitimacy, an asset rather than a threat. Sarit created an aura of glamour and romance by associating his rule with the pomp and ceremony of the monarchy. His task was made easier by the presence of the dynamic young King, Bumiphol Adulyadej, and his vibrant consort, Queen Sirikit.
After seizing power, Sarit was content to leave the Pibul system of state-society relations in place for a time. After purging Phao's followers and reorganizing the Navy and Air Force, he left the country for an entire year to receive medical attention abroad. In his absence, he left the task of ruling the country to his protege, Thanom Kittikachorn. Thanom, however, proved unable to cope with Parliament, both on the government and opposition sides. His government, Sarit's clients in particular and the military in general, was in danger of being dislodged from power by Parliament.
October 1958, Sarit returned to
was deeply conservative, obsessed with order, neatness, spiritual and physical
cleanliness and propriety. He regarded
democracy, with its contending parties and politicians, competing thoughts and
conflicting prescriptions, as untidy and dangerous. His vision of political order was
hierarchical. The nation and
govern-ment, chart and ratthaban respectively, were located at
the apex of his worldview, followed by the official or Kharatchakan
class, and the people, the Prachachon, at the base. In this paternalistic vision, rulers and
officials were like wise parents who, for the sake of order, were obliged to
promote the well-being of their children, the people. This pattern of rule -- the Ramkhamhaeng
model -- was based on Luang Wichit's reconstruction of Ramkhamhaeng's
was a true believer of the Ramkhamhaeng ideal.
He toured the country frequently and he became conversant with the
concerns of "the people", the phu- noi or the small
people. He strove to alleviate their
hardships. For example, he lowered
electricity, water, telephone rates and school tuition fees and he abolished
fees for other social services. He tried
to improve public transit and he provided free textbooks and health care. He ordered the navy to supply consumers with
cheap coconuts and he encouraged the development of open-air markets in
Sarit also pledged to eliminate a plethora of socially undesirable elements. He made it a point to be on the scene of big fires and personally "investigated" their causes. In consequence, he had five Chinese publicly executed for arson. His fixation with fires may have stemmed from a personal quirk, but it also successfully portrayed him as a protector-avenger of the people. In addition to arsonists, Sarit identified a number of groups as undesirable -- hooligans, drug-pushers, addicts, prostitutes, pedicab peddlers, beggars, lepers, unrepentant politicians, supposed Isan separatists, non-conforming intellectuals, critical thinkers or writers, alleged commun-ists, hippies and stray dogs. Undesirable elements were often arrested and many were dealt with decisively.
The success of Sarit's leadership formula can be gauged from the fact that a yearning for a Sarit-like leader still prevails in some quarters. Sarit is remembered fondly by many people as a firm leader who cared for the phu-noi, despite posthum-ous revelations of his corrupt ways. After his death, it was learned that he had accum-ulated a fortune of over $20 million, owned shares in forty-five enterprises, possessed vast land-holdings, and maintained a harem of wives.
The most important contribution Sarit made to Thai politics was, what Thak calls, "a dualistic type of leadership": the King (and the monarchy) was elevated as a sacred embodiment of the nation and its glorious past, while the strongman exercised real power. As the monarchy remained popular in many segments of Thai society, Sarit's ability to reconcile the monarchy with non-monarchical personal rule provided him with a significant degree of legitimacy. In this regard, he was much more successful than Pibul. It was very difficult for the opposition to mobilize the people, especially the peasantry, against a regime identified with the monarchy.
The promotion of the monarchy as a unifying symbol situated above politics was a brilliant strategy which allowed Sarit to exercise power as if he were a king. But the use of the monarchy has also had its disadvantages for would-be strongmen. Over time, the monarchy has increasingly come to be associated with constitutional rule -- as opposed to military dictatorship. The notion of a constitutional monarchy, especially the notion that soldiers, including military strongmen, are servants of the crown, subverted the military's claim to a monopoly of power. This constrained them from pushing aside other servants of the crown, particularly the civilian bureaucrats, and also other subjects of the King. It may even be argued that the monarchy, paradoxically, kept the quasi-democratic promises of the Revolution alive. This eventually led to the political eclipse of the military when the monarchy over time accumulated much de facto power and the King became, as will be discussed, the savior of the country at a time of great turmoil and communist victories in adjacent countries to the East.
The above account supports the suggestion offered in the theoretical analysis regarding the pivotal role of ruling strongmen in shaping the contours and structures of military-authoritarian regimes. The centrality of military strongmen will yield -- because of differences in strategy adopted, personal character and agenda, styles -- different kinds of military regimes. The regimes established by Pibul and Sarit were vastly different. Although they both accepted and honored the constitutional monarchy, they manipulated it in different ways, just as Sukarno and Suharto worked with the 1945 Constitution in different ways. Although Pibul ruled as the chief officer of the King, he did not rejuvenate the monarchy, as did Sarit. However, Pibul's late regard for constitutional principles when he was losing power provided social forces a certain degree of autonomy from the state and consequently a certain ability to influence the state. In short, the state was somewhat malleable during Pibul's tenure. This is the crucial feature of the "Pibul system".
contrast, Sarit ignored democratic forms of governance. His regime was personalistic and dictatorial,
perhaps even despotic. His power base was the official stratum, the kharatchakarn,
both armed and unarmed, especially the former.
Sarit projected himself as a father-ruler of the phu-noi, and they
consequently revered him. One might even
say that, in many ways, he usurped the role of the monarch. He could not, however, and did not want to,
eliminate the monarchy because he relied upon it to boost his legitimacy and
sanction his grip on power. The pattern
of state-society relations that emerged during Sarit's rule was mixed. On the one hand, his state was highly
repressive; social forces were provided no space to articulate their
concerns. In this regard, Sarit's state
may be considered highly autonomous from society. On the other hand, Sarit was also responsive
to the needs of the business class and the underprivileged segments of Thai
society, albeit it in the most paternalistic manner.
The 1973 October Revolution and the Fall of the "Sarit System"
Sarit recognized the value of economic development. He adopted a two-pronged strategy. The private sector, foreign and domestic, was entrusted with economic growth along the profit-making route, while the state provided security and the institutional infrastructure. The first five-year National Economic Plan was adopted in 1961. The government created the Board of Investment and the Industrial Development Corporation to oversee the development process. The introduction of the Industrial Investment Promotion Act encouraged and protected investments through tariffs, tax holidays, and lower duties. In the interest of a stable investment climate, the state prohibited strikes and unions. The state also provided roads, a national communication network, and educational infrastructures. Most importantly, it undertook anti-communist rural development projects to enhance security, protect commerce and investment, and to facilitate their expansion beyond
a result of Sarit's anti-communist development initiatives,
After Sarit's death in 1963, his co-successors, Thanom and Praphat, continued ruling with the "Sarit system". However, the "Sarit system" without Sarit was quite different, as will be shown. As the theory predicts, it is the strongman-ruler, rather than the system, which is pivotal. In 1968, the constitution earlier promised by Sarit was finally promulgated. An election was held and won by the regime-sponsored UTPP (United Thai People's Party). Thanom was selected as the non-elected Prime Minister, as allowed by the new Constitution. The new constitution signalled a return to the "Pibul system". However, as in 1957-1958 when he ruled temporarily, Thanom again proved unable to manage his own MPs. Thus, in 1971, he staged a coup against himself. He immediately dissolved Parliament and banned political parties. In short, he re-established the "Sarit system".
Sarit system, however, no longer "met the needs of the present, and
certainly did not promise to meet those of the future". Economic development had changed the
socio-economic landscape. The inflexible
political structure of Thanom’s regime, like Ne Win's rigid BSPP structure,
only fueled resentment. The middle
classes, which had attained a comfortable lifestyle in the new economy, were
particularly disenchanted. Educated
youth, in addition, were increasingly troubled by dismal employment
prospects. They also became skeptical of
the "Nation, Religion, and King" formula that the regime continued to
propagate. Youth disenchantment with the
At the same time, conservative elites became concerned with the prospect of an indefinite power monopoly by the Thanom-Praphat clique. The grooming of Thanom's son, Narong, as successor, was seen as a possible non-royal dynasty in formation. This prospect was regarded as a presumptuous challenge to the monarchy. Military men were also alienated by the Narong factor. They believed that their careers were being blocked by Narong's ambitions and the rise of his clique. Thanom's regime was unable to manage these contending factors. The regime began to unravel in October 1973 when the left-leaning and quite radical National Students Centre of Thailand (NSCT) organized protests against despotic rule. The students demanded the termination of military rule and insisted upon the adoption of a democratic constitution. In short, they called for the fulfillment of the ideals of the 1932 Revolution.
The student's protest precipitated a violent confrontation with the regime. Much blood was shed but the violence was mercifully cut short when King, in effect, exiled the tyrants. Thanom's fate was sealed when Krit Sivara and Prasert Ruchira-wong, the commander of the army and the chief of police respectively, refused to repress the protests. After the crisis, the King appointed Sanya Thammasak, a former supreme court justice, as interim Prime Minister.
above account highlights the themes discussed in the theoretical chapters concerning
the possible outcomes of protracted military-authoritarian rule. When the state becomes too autonomous from
society, it may become less able to resolve the challenges posed by economic
change. The emergence of new social
groups resulting from economic development may place new demands on the state
that the regime is unable to meet. Over
time, furthermore, intra-elite tensions and rivalries may develop. Thanom and Praphart were not unifiers as
Sarit had been, and the military was increasingly divided.
The analysis here shows that the Thanom regime was unable to accommodate the demands of middle class students. Conservative elites and military factions were alienated by the Narong factor. In short, the Thanom regime was unable to maintain its ruling coalition nor coopt new social groups. The regime thus collapsed.
Thailand in 1973-1976: The Intrusion of Society into Politics
The three years after the fall of the Thanom-Praphart regime were turbulent years. They were marked by the "intrusion" of long suppressed, newly politicized subordinated forces -- peasants, urban labour, and students -- into politics. This democratic interlude began when the King appointed a National Convention to function as an interim governing assembly. In 1974, a new constitution was adopted by the interim National Assembly, and an election contested by 42 parties was held a year later. Seni's Democrats won the most seats but he was unable to form a stable coalition. Instead, a coalition headed by Seni's brother, Kukrit Pramoj and his Social Action Party (SAP), was formed. He skilfully managed to maintain order in an increasingly polarized society.
After 1973, the military was, as Chai-anan observed, like a firm without "its president and executive vice-president". It was divided into factions: the Krit faction; the Air Force-Navy faction of Admiral Sangad (and Air Chief Marshals Dawee Chulasap and Kamol Dechatunga); Thanom-Praphat loyalists led by Yos Thephasdin; and the Supreme Command faction of Kriangsak and Saiyud Kerdpol. The military, however, was in disrepute after years of corrupt rule and it now found itself excluded from politics. It was in no position, especially with the reduced American presence after the withdrawal from Vietnam, to assert its dominance openly.
task of maintaining order fell on the shoulders of the monarchy -- in
particular -- and royalist leaders, the civilian bureaucracy, especially the
Ministry of the Interior, the police and special military-security agencies. All of these agencies were linked to various
palace factions. The realignment of
global forces in the region complicated the task of maintaining order. After the Americans lost the war in Vietnam,
Thai conservatives feared that communism would triumph throughout the
region. Conservative fears were
heightened when the King of Laos was forced to abdicate and was imprisoned and
slain by communist leaders. They were
convinced that Thailand would be the next domino to fall to communism. As these fears were raised, the Thai economy
worsened. American aid fell from $39
million in 1973 to $17 million in 1975.
The withdrawal of American troops stationed in
the aftermath of the toppling of the "Sarit system", the hitherto
subordinated forces took advantage of their entrance in to the political system
to press their demands. The subordinated
forces were led, or encouraged, by university students, especially the
NSCT. Student activists were
iconoclastic, and sceptical of the prevailing "truths" imposed upon
Thai society by the ruling elite. They
were inspired by ideals of a society free of exploitation and corruption, and
embraced the thoughts of Jit Phumisak, an early Thai Marxist. They were pivotal in enlarging access to the
political arena to previously excluded groups.
Consequently, labour unions organized frequent, and often violent, strikes to improve wages and working conditions. Kukrit consequently enacted laws to protect labour and he increased the daily wage rate. The peasantry also began to organize and defend their interests against local officials, moneylenders, landlords, and the Bangkok-centric policies. They formed the first nation-wide peasant organization, the Farmer's Federation of Thailand (FFT). Kukrit responded to their demonstrations and petitions by implementing various rural reform laws. Rural elites were naturally highly alarmed by the emergence of peasant activism.
With the military sidelined and discredited, the monarchy was forced to become in active political player in the political arena. The monarchy's main concern during those uncertain years was to prevent the rise of communism. Its most crucial task was to win over the middle classes and the peasant masses. This was vital in view of the challenge posed to the state by the emergence of radical student and peasant organizations. In those precarious years, the King and Queen toured the country widely to touch base with the peasants. The King also worked closely with the civilian bureaucracy and the less visible agencies of the armed forces, especially the Internal Security Operations Center (ISOC) and the BPP (Border Patrol Police, a paramilitary police force), and made effective use of military-owned radio and television stations. The King consequently succeeded in rallying the "patriotic silent-majority".
The royal palace, furthermore, sponsored or sanctioned the formation of right-wing mass organizations dedicated to the defense of "Nation, Religion, and King." These organizations included the Nawaphon, the Red Gaur, and the Village Scouts. The Village Scouts were the most important of these organizations. Its role was to mobilize the peasant masses in support of the state -- or as put to the peasants, in defence of the monarchy. Village Scouts units were organized and supervised by the Ministry of Interior, and led by village headmen, the rural elites, and rural school teachers. The organization was unabashedly nationalist. It promoted Thai culture, and endeavoured to eliminate foreign communist influences. Most notably, it warned of the dangers of Chinese-Vietnamese-Khmer communism and other treasonous lackeys or nak-phendin, i.e., "those uselessly weighing down the earth".
The upper segments of society, with much to lose from the political intrusion of subordinated forces and the strengthening of the left, rallied around the King and the "Nation, Religion and King" formula. Under royal leadership, military and bureaucratic elites orchestrated a mass mobilization campaign to win back the populace. Their campaign relied upon jingoistic, anti-communist slogans which, as noted above, portrayed students and other activists as communist dupes and anti-monarchical (and hence, anti-Thai).
mobilization of society by elites and counter-elites gave rise to a highly
polarized political environment. This
political polarization, coupled with sporadic violence, provided the military
another opportunity to intervene in the political system. In January 1976, Krit, the leader of the
dominant military faction, demanded that Kukrit call new elections. Kukrit capitulated and after the elections,
Seni formed a new government with Krit as the Minister of Defense. Krit appeared to be position-ed as the
emergent strongman, but he unexpectedly died.
In October of 1976, Seni was deposed by Admiral Sangad Chaloryu after a
had been placed in an untenable situation by Thanom's return. On the one hand, the King had granted Thanom,
now a Buddhist monk, royal refuge. On
the other hand, however, student activists demanded his immediate expulsion. The students organized a protest at
above analysis demonstrates that the collapse of the Thanom-Praphart order in
1973 was quite different from the regime changes in
military intervention in 1976 was an attempt to restore order and authoritarian
rule. However, the 1976 coup was
supported by radical Young Turks, who, as field grade officers, were not part
of upper echelon of the military hierarchy.
Because they did not control the armed forces, they were unable to
re-establish the military's political dominance, nor re-establish the
"Sarit system" -- as suggested in the theoretical analysis. The best they could do was play the role of
"king-makers", as will be shown below.
The Politics of Transition in the 1980s: The Monarchy, Prem, and the Young Turks
Thanin Kraivichien, who the military installed in power in 1976 -- and who was the King's choice -- proved to be a disaster. He was a fanatical cold-war warrior, obsessed by perceived communist threats. He cracked down on peasant and labour leaders and anybody else who looked like a communist. Thanin's approach intended to generate more American aid, frightened domestic and foreign investors. Even the conservative elite became uneasy with Thanin, who seemed to be relying too heavily on the departed Americans, who had by this time become disillusioned with fighting a land war in
In March 1977, Chalard Hiransiri attempted to topple Thanin, and remove Admiral Sangad's faction from the dominance it enjoyed. Chalard's failure, however, did not deter others who were disillusioned with Thanin. The Young Turk officers, who were instrumental in putting Thanin in power in 1976, were now determined to oust him. They constantly lobbied their military superiors to remove him. In October 1977, they finally staged their own coup and installed Kriangsak as the new head of government.
Young Turk phenomenon represents quite a fundamental change in the power
configuration of the Thai military.
After 1973, the balance of power gradually shifted downward to regiment
and battalion commanders, while general officers became less powerful. As Chai-Anan notes, this change was a result
of a fragment-ation of power at the apex of the military and the politicization
of field grade officers. The Young
Turks, furthermore, were generally impatient and less subservient officers. They had served in counter-insurgency
campaigns and fought in
The ideology of the Young Turks was quite contradictory, which explains their rude impact on politics. They shared a purported concern for the underdog. Their radicalism, however, was subverted by their structural position -- and conviction -- as special guardians of the state. They believed the state stood above politics and they accepted the sacred Trinity of "Nation, Religion, and King". They also believed that military intervention in politics was a normal part of their professional duty. Thus, the politicization of the Young Turks and their perceived duty to enter politics to sweep away corruption, made them a force to be reckoned with in this time of political uncertainty. They were particularly prominent for about a decade, from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s. They acted more as king-makers and spoilers rather than as rulers. They were instrumental in putting Thanin, Kriangsak, and Prem in power. However, they failed to dislodge Prem in 1981 and 1985, when he was perceived as betraying their ideals. The political role of the Young Turks was complicated by their reverence for the monarchy, and by the fact that Prem was their mentor.
Thai politics in the 1980s was dominated by a conflict between the monarch and Prem on one side and the Young Turks on the other side. The conflict was not so much about basic values -- Nation, Religion, and King -- but about the organization of political power and the methods to bring about political change. The Young Turks were firmly wedded to the notion of political change via coups, despite their supposed loyalty to the crown. By contrast, the crown increasingly preferred orderly change by constitutional means.
In the early years of his reign, though, the King was unable to uphold the constitution or to prevent coups. He often legitimized coups by recognizing strongmen-rulers after they seized power. However, by the 1970s, the King and Queen had survived many military strongmen and numerous constitutions. In the October Uprising of 1973, the King finally had sufficient influence to intervene and resolve the crisis. The King's interventions in 1973 and 1976 greatly boosted his stature and reinforced the impression that monarch was the nation's saviour.
monarchy also played, as noted, a pivotal role in rallying the state stratum
and the socio-economic elite in the years following the collapse of the
"Sarit system". The King
As mentioned, the monarchy by itself could not always prevent coups or oppose extraconstitutional actions. The king has had to accept many political actions of the military as fait accompli. The limitations of the King's power in this respect were evident with Suchinda's coup against Chatichai Choonhavan in 1991, and the toppling of Suchinda's technically constitutional government by extra-constitutional mass action in May 1992. The monarch's ability to guarantee the constitutional order is also, to a quite large extent, dependent upon the availability of a leader who understands intra-military politics. Prem, who became prime minister in 1980, was precisely such a man. Although a military man -- in fact, a defacto military strong-man-- and very soft-spoken and seemingly apolitical, Prem was a superb politician. He successfully juggled the diverse interests of contending political parties, various parliamentary coalitions, cabinet cliques, and competing military factions during his eight-year tenure as Prime Minister. He also remained loyal to the crown, which earned him full royal support.
It was precisely Prem's skill as a politician which caused the Young Turks to turn against him in 1981. The Young Turks were disturbed by what they viewed as political instability flourishing under Prem's leadership, especially allegations of government corruption surrounding sugar and oil purchases. They were also highly displeased by the extension of Prem's tenure as Army Commander (Prem was re-appointed by the King at the request of General Arthit Kamlangek). They were further angered by the appointment of Sudsai Hasdin to the cabinet -- Sudsai was a personal friend of Prem, the godfather of the ultra-rightist Red Gaur, and regarded by the Young Turks as a corrupt opportunist. In short, the Young Turks believed that they had been sidelined from the political process.
April Fool's Day 1981, the Young Turks staged a coup with a force strong enough
to vanquish any opponent they encountered.
However, the Royal family, with Prem in tow, flew to Korat, leaving the
Young Turks in precarious occupation of
The above account lends strong credence to the theoretical observation which holds that military intervention will be unsuccessful in the absence of political cohesion forged by a military strongman-unifier. The Young Turks were the most dominant, most cohesive, and most dynamic military faction to arise, and for a while were able to "enthrone" the leader of their choice in the seat of power. But they were unable to reorganize power as the military in the past had been able to do. The difference was that the military under authoritarian leaders, such as Pibul and Sarit, was unified. The man chosen by the Young Turks, Prem, as their mentor and leader, proved, however, to be a different kind of strongman -- as will be shown below.
Prem and the Politics of Military Factionalism
Prem regained power after the counter-coup, but the military continued to believe it had a duty to assume the reins of political power to protect the nation in times of crisis. The military's political views are contained in orders No.65/2523 (1980) and No.66/2523 (1982). The line drawn in the West between civilians and soldiers was viewed as artificial. As in
The defeat of the Young Turks in 1981 was not interpreted by the military as a significant watershed in state-military relations. Instead, it was understood by Suchinda's Class 5 group in a conventional manner. They viewed it as an opportunity to fill positions vacated by the Young Turks. Indeed, after saving the regime, they believed it was their turn to shape politics. Suchinda's group, unlike the Young Turks, were conventional soldiers and they cultivated linkages with the phu-yai. By 1984, its members controlled all key divisions, while some served in the upper echelon of the state apparatus, for example, as top aides in the Prime Minister's Office and the ministries of interior and defence. In short order, the Suchinda group became indispensable to the top military brass, especially Prem and Arthit, but also to Chaovalit Yongchaiyuth and Pichit Kullavanij.
In addition to having to deal with the "Young Turks", Prem also had to maintain control over the military as a whole. Prem's tenure was made more difficult by the rise of Arthit, the hero of the 1981 counterattack against the Young Turks. By 1983, Arthit was Army Commander and concurrently Supreme Commander. Sarit and Thanom were the only men who had previously held both positions concurrent-ly. For Arthit, a soldier of humble background, this was a remarkable achievement. Many people expected that Arthit, a strongman-in-the-wing, would become the next prime minister. There was wide speculation that Arthit was being groomed for such a role by a palace faction. This impression was reinforced by his daily television appearances, often with members of the royal family. Arthit was not the only big man lurking in the wings. Prem also had to contend with veteran leaders Kukrit, Chatichai, Kriangsak, and Parmarn Adireksan, among others. While he was fending off potential rivals, Prem also had to manage the normal political instability generated by squabbling parliamentarians and politicking cabinet ministers. Severe economic problems were also emerging, such as a chronic government deficit, a balance of payment problem, falling commodity prices, sluggish investment, and a global economic downturn.
September 1985, Prem was challenged by a coup attempt by Manoon Rupekachorn, a
cashiered colonel and a leader of the Young Turks. Manoon timed the coup superbly: Prem was on a visit to
Manoon coup is thus, like
displayed an uncanny ability to foil the military and to prevent soldiers from
assuming power. He also managed to
govern without employing the military to solve problems (although his
government included some appointed military and civilian members). Prem proved to be a particularly skilled
player of intra-military politics.
Although he owed his position initially to the Young Turks, he
subsequently cultivated close ties with their main rivals, Suchinda's Class 5
group, and he also successfully controlled Arthit's ambition to become the next
Prem deftly played these three factions against one another. For example, the coup attempt by the Young Turks in 1981 was foiled by Arthit and Suchinda's group. Prem also pitted Chaovalit (a Prem loyalist and later, mentor of Suchinda's group) against Pichit (a staunch Arthit supporter). Arthit's bid to extend his tenure as army commander for the second time, which Prem was reluctant to grant, was opposed by his former allies, the Suchinda group, and in 1986, with Chaovalit's and Suchinda's support, Prem dismissed the increasingly ambitious Arthit.
Prem's mastery of intra-military politics was such that he was able to keep the military in the barracks and control their political ambitions. He must therefore be credited for laying the groundwork to end the Thai political tradition of alternating unstable parliamentary rule with authoritarian military rule. However, he received little reward for his accomplishment. Instead, his tolerance for the vicissitudes of parliamentary politics and his willingness to negotiate political solutions -- his democratic orientation -- earned him the reputation of being indecisive, dull, and weak.
In the Thai case, the reorganization of political power in a democratic direction was accomplished by two actors with different but complementary political resources. Prem, on the one hand, had the ability to manipulate and control various political factions in the military. On the other hand, the King, who worked closely with Prem, provided the source of legitimacy. His distaste for coups and a general preference for parliamentary politics, coupled with Prem's ingenuity, increased their autonomy from the military. This enabled the King and Prem to foil the military's attempt to re-assert itself and reorganize political power in an authoritarian direction.
shown this far, the trajectory of politics in
The Military and "Soft" Democracy: Suchinda's Coup and Aftermath
Prem retired in 1988 following elections, and was succeeded by Chatichai, leader of the Chart Thai party, as head of a coalition government. The military, it seemed, was willing, as Yos Santasombat notes, to leave the field of politics to "professional politicians". Many politicians were businessmen linked to a complicated web of patrons and clients inside and outside the state structures. A number of politicians were involved in shady business deals. Indeed, prominent members of Chatichai's cabinet were tycoon financiers who were tainted with scandals. In fact, his cabinet was frequently referred to as the "buffet cabinet", for "browsing on the tastier parts of the economy". For example, the minister of the interior, Banharn Silpaarcha, was accused of conducting shady deals in connection with the skytrain mass transit project in
free-market policies were appreciated by big business and industry, but
long-term issues were ignored, however.
Education and health services were not improved. Problems related to land tenure, rural
dislocation, and environmental degradation were allowed to accumulate. Industrial pollution, chaotic traffic,
floods, and overcrowding in
The public, tired of political corruption, welcomed the coup, but Suchinda's position was evidently not very strong. For one thing, there was some doubt about Suchinda's standing with the King. The coup leaders felt compelled, with the King's urging, to appoint a civilian prime minister, Anand Panyarachun, who was adamant that soldiers not be involved in politics. Anand also vetoed a request for a large arms purchase, and ensured that fresh elections were held in 1992 as promised.
downfall came soon after the 1992 elections.
After promising that he would never accept the prime ministership, he
did so on being nominated by a pro-military parliamentary coalition. Suchinda's acceptance violated the broad
consensus established following Prem's tenure that a Prime Minister should be
elected. Although Suchinda was appointed
by Parliament, it did not sit well with the public, especially in
seemed to be undoing the democratization process previously initiated by Prem
and the King. Anti-Suchinda forces soon
coalesced and widespread protests broke out in May 1992. The protests gathered strength when the
former governor of
The military's intrusion into politics under Suchinda's incompetent leadership was a disaster. The military was further humiliated by Anand during his second stint as caretaking Prime Minister in 1992-93. He swiftly dropped the four top Class 5 leaders from their positions. The military's acceptance of Anand's appointment by the King also suggests the military may have finally realized that the King is opposed to its participation in politics. Also, the fact that the public accepted the King's choice of a non-MP, Anand -- after mass demonstrations against a non-elected Prime Minister -- shows the credibility and esteem accorded to the King, and indicates the extent to which the King has become a pivotal political force.
The King has now truly become a "father-of-the-nation" figure and, for most Thais, stands as a sacred symbol of the Thai state and nationhood. He has become a force with whom almost all groups and actors in society -- the military, the bureaucracy, political parties and their respective leaders, social leaders, business-financial elites, religious figures and leaders, peasants, students, even reformers -- are linked. He represents, and tries to speak for, all Thais. In this respect, one might say that the King has gained a position of pre-eminence to which all military strongmen everywhere aspire, but rarely attain. In an ironic way, the decision of the "revolution-ary" Promoters in 1932 to retain the monarchy as a powerless, legitimating device, and Sarit's rejuvenation of the institution in the late 1950s and early 1960s, has served to undermine the system of rule by military strongmen, and military-authoritarianism, the subject of this study. Unless the King for some reason wants it (for example, to save the monarchy from a republician reformer), it is now very unlikely that another strongman like Sarit or Pibul, or the kind of system which they employed, will emerge again in
The Consolidation of "Thai Democracy" and the Politics of Business Elites
It seems that a state-society order based on democratic electoral politics has been stabilized in the 1990s, as can be seen from the constitutional, albeit frequent, changes of government. A coalition led by Chuan Leekpai and the Democrats governed without much disturbance from the military, until it was replaced, via an election in 1995, by a new coalition headed by Banharn's Chart Thai. The Banharn government was replaced after an election in 1996 by a coalition headed by Chaovalit, a former military chief, and his New Aspiration Party (NAP).
Although the ghost of military intrusion has possibly been put to rest, the expectations of further democratization engendered by the May 1992 "people's power" uprising have not been fulfilled, in the opinion of Kusuma Snitwongse. Chai-Anan even argues that the victory of the middle class over the military cannot be interpreted as a fundamental break with authoritarianism. Rather, the realignment of politics in a more open democratic mold represents a compromise between the military-civilian components of the state, on the one hand, and top elements of the capital-holding elites, on the other hand.
Benedict Anderson's thoughts on "Thai democracy" are illuminating. He argues that Thai democracy is a system that mostly serves the interest of "the all ambitious, prosperous and self-confident bourgeoisies". Electoral politics "maximizes their power and minimizes that of their competitors" and best protects their interests against both the state and popular forces. Moreover, the democratic system gives provincial businessmen the opportunity" to short circuit the Ministry of the Interior's powerful, territorially-based hierarchy" by becoming MPs and ministers. Finally, since the most crucial resource in democratic politics is money, a commodity that the capital-holding elites hold in abundance, they can hope to buy political power.
politics has become a politics of spoils, with political entrepreneurs
jockeying for power and for the benefits that accrue from the control of
ministries and state projects. Political
reforms have been blocked by deeply entrenched bureaucratic forces. Indeed, the bureaucratic elite has forged
profitable linkages with the business community. A new, and potentially insidious, governing
arrangement seems to have developed. The
business elite, which controls the Thai economy, now dominates the open
political institutions, parties and Parliament, and this elite rewards its
allies in the bureaucracy from private payrolls. Politics has become, as Sulak Sivaraksa, a
veteran human rights leader and long-time democrat, puts it, kanmuang
turakij, which means roughly "politics for businessmen, by
may be an exaggeration, but not too far from the truth either.
The picture of state autonomy in
Many people in
CONCLUSION: THE MILITARY AND THE POLITICS OF AUTHORITARIAN DOMINATION
The Diversity and Complexity of Military Intervention and Authoritarian Regimes
Soldiers in Burma, Indonesia, and Thailand have participated in politics and related processes in roles that are "normally" associated with politicians and political parties. The armed forces, by being deeply involved in politics and the socio-economic affairs of the state, have become the power base and political instrument of their respective chiefs and strongmen-rulers.
Military leaders who have "captured" the state have established authoritarian orders which they believe are most congruent with their goals and vision of state-society order. As David Beetham found, they imposed an authoritarian domination of the state over society by removing the freedom (or autonomy) of organized groups to pursue their interests independently of the state. Typically, power is concentrated in the hands of the strongman-ruler, trusted subordinates, or the bureaucracy, as noted by Carl Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski, Fred Riggs, Juan Linz, Gerald Heeger, and Beetham. Importantly, intermediary institutions that mediate state-society relations are abolished or manipulated and marginalized by the state.
The country studies (Chapters 3-5) show that military intervention occurs in complex, diverse historical, socio-economic, and political settings, and is triggered by diverse events and factors, in line with the observations of Christopher Clapham, Edward Feit, T.O.Odetola, and others. That political orders established by the military and its chief-turned-ruler are not identical, as Clapham, Samuel Finer, Harold Crouch, among others, note, has also been shown in these chapters. Although "military regimes" are authoritarian, this thesis has shown that the complexity and degree of authoritarian control exercised by the state varies from regime to regime. It has also been found that these regimes vary not only in the degree of authoritarianism imposed, but also in the extent to which the military is autonomous vis-à-vis other state actors and elites, and relative to social forces.
I have examined the phenomenon of military intervention in
Four interrelated questions that are crucial to understanding military rule have been posed in this thesis. They are, first, why the military decides to stay on to rule and to reorganize political power; second, how the military decides to reorganize state power; third, what kind of military authoritarian pattern emerges when the military chief becomes the state strongman-ruler; and fourth, how the differences between, and within regimes, over time, are to be explained?
Military Intervention, the Politics of "Staying On", and the Reorganization of State Power
With respect to the politics of military intervention, I have found, in agreement with Crouch, that the phenomenon is related to what he calls "the total situation" of politics, where the military is a participant in a "free-for-all" struggle for power, dom-inance, control, and advantage, within a Huntingtonian "praetorian" environment. In this struggle, the prize is the state, and, as Clapham observes, it is almost inevitably won by the military.
I have found, first, that the military stays on to rule because of its close identification, and self-image as, the creator, guardian, protector, and savior of both the nation and the state, and as well, as Samuel Fitch notes, the redefinition of its role expressed in terms of "national security" imperatives, broadly defined. The subsequent extension of military activities into non-military spheres, combined with the perception of its indispensibility, and/or perceived threats to the state itself or national unity, strongly compell it to take charge of, and run, the state and the political arena. In consequence, it is more closely linked to the "new" state, serving as its power base and the political instrument of its chief-and-ruler and his regime. Once in charge of the state, the military gains one more incentive to "stay on": the perquisites of political and economic power and enhanced status. Effective intervention and the military's ability to reorganize power is, however, contingent on its political cohesion, forged by a military strongman-and-unifier.
As shown, however, military intervention has not always led to the reorganiz-ation of political power as desired. In
I have found that the Thai case highlights a situation where military intervent-ion, in the absence of an authoritarian strongman-unifier, does not lead to the reorgan-ization of power or the state. The military was not unified between the fall of Thanom and Praphart in 1973 and Krit's death in 1976. After that, Prem, a de facto military strongman and yet democratically inclined, refused to restore military author-itarian rule. Thus, despite their importance as "king-makers" and "spoilers" from 1976 to 1985, the Young Turks were not successful in restoring authoritarianism or the military to political dominance.
Secondly, regarding the question of how the military reorganizes the politics of the state, I have found that the organizational configuration of the state is restructured by the military so that political roles and institutions are transformed into bureaucratic ones. These are then usually placed under military control, or tutelage. Typically, the military regime seeks to limit participation by closing or restricting intermediary institutions and societal associations. This results in high state autonomy vis-à-vis society, and, correspondingly, the low autonomy of society relative to the state. However, military rulers -- Ne Win, Suharto, Thanom and Praphart -- have also set up political parties (or ruling parties) aimed at controlling, channeling, and limiting political participation, while at the same time, using them to gain legitimacy (with varying results).
However, in contrast to the BSPP regime, Suharto's New Order has allowed for a degree of what
In Thailand, the military's endeavors to reorganize political power in an author-itarian direction were, I have found, constrained by the institutions of the constitution-al monarchy, which the Promoters and Pibul, the first military strongman, accepted because the monarchy was (and is) the font of legitimacy, and is held to be by the majority of Thais as a mystic embodiment of Thai nationhood. There are, therefore, found in
The Thai military, unlike its counterparts in
Military Strongmen as Rulers, and the Military and Authoritarian Regimes
With reference to the question of what kind of military authoritarian pattern emerges after the military captures the state, I have found that in military-authoritarian regimes, as observed by Heeger, the armed forces as a whole do not rule. It is the military strongman-ruler who exercises significant power, while the military plays a pivotal role as the subordinated political instrument and primary power base of the regime and the ruling strongman. The military is therefore dominant relative to societal forces, but its dominance vis-à-vis other state elements will vary -- being contingent on the vision, goals, and strategies of ruling strongmen to consolidate first, their personal control of the state, and second, the state's control over society.
The relationship between the military chief-turned-ruler and the military, in terms of their respective autonomy, or dominance vis-à-vis the other, has been found to be a dynamic one. The military-authoritarian regimes investigated -- being basically systems where the military leader-rulers are personally dominant -- share many features in common with the system of personal rule, as theorized by Robert Jackson and Carl Rosberg, among others. As discussed in Chapter 2, this system is characterized by a political arena where rules and institutions do not effectively govern the conduct of rulers and other political actors. There obtains a situation where the system is structured by the politicians themselves, in particular by the person who wields the most power -- the personal ruler or, in "military" regimes, the strongman-ruler. In this respect, I have found that
I have found that the relationship between the strongman-ruler and the military is contingent on the personal skills of the military ruler in playing intra-military politics -- in rewarding, manipulating, purging, and shuffling subordinates, thus diminishing their ability to mount any challenge to the ruler. It is also shaped, as I have maintained, by the strongman's agenda, his vision, goals, and style, and hence it varies from regime to regime. In this regard, in Burma, the relationship has, as found in Chapter 3, been mutually close, with the military remaining highly dominant, despite the "civilianization" of the ruler, Ne Win. In
Regarding the re-shaping of the state by strongman-rulers, in
In comparison, Suharto has, as mentioned, been a much more astute, sophisticated soldier-politician. He did not abolish the constitutional framework of the "old order", but reorganized power by manipulating its provisions. Primarily reliant on the military, Suharto was careful to entrench the military in politics through "constitutional" and "institutional" channels, interpreting and using the provisions of the 1945 Constitution. The vehicle he chose was Golkar, the government's large, civilian- and military-based, bureaucratically-organized party. Golkar enabled Suharto and the military to manipulate the political arena and control the legislative sphere, ensuring a quite high degree of dominance for ABRI, relative to other constitutive elements of the state and also to other social-political groups and segments. Golkar's dominating presence in the political arena and the legislature, coupled with the "floating mass" concept that disallowed politicking in the rural areas, has resulted in the depoliticization of a large part of society. I have found that Golkar is not a mass party, but rather an election vehicle for the government.
The examination of the New Order state shows that Suharto has made effect-ive use of Golkar. Its electoral "successes" have given the New Order regime a semblance of legitimacy and a "civilian", more inclusive, and "democratic" mantle. Over time, it has also established Suharto's stature as a somewhat inclusive, broad-based, "father of the nation" type of ruler, and has ensured his many terms as Presid-ent. In recent years, as the regime "matured" and Suharto's position solidified, Golkar officials, along with favored ministers, bureaucrats, and technocrats have been used to counter-balance the military's dominance. This development underlines the shift in the hitherto very close relationship between Suharto and his military power base.
I have found that ABRI's dominance in the bureaucratic sphere, compared to the early years of the regime, has been somewhat diluted. However, it still maintains a territorial, quasi-administrative framework, and in this aspect, the military is still more or less involved, especially, at the local level in administrative affairs. Military personnel also control, or are present in, the many state agencies, especially those dealing with security and commerce.
With reference to the relationship between the strongman-ruler and the mil-itary, the inquiry shows, that successful strongmen-rulers -- Ne Win, Suharto, Pibul, Sarit (and co-successors) -- dominated the military, and ensured its subordinant status by a system of purges, surveillance, transfers, promotions, appointments to high or lucrative positions, ample budgets, funds for projects, and opportunities to make money or engage in business and commerce. Importantly, they juggled and shuffled military positions, and manipulated and exploited personal rivalries and interpersonal tensions, even among and between close aides and loyalists. However, soldiers in
In the Thai case, the frequency of coups and coup attempts seems to contradict the subordinant status of the military to its chief-and-ruler. However, I have found that the soldiers have been, for the most part, loyal to ruling strongmen. There have, nonetheless, been occasions when the military has decided not to defend unpopular ruling strongmen being challenged by other forces, especially those who have lost royal support, such as Thanom and Praphart (and their designated successor, Narong).
Of the Thai strongmen, only Prem has been actually challenged by segments of the military: the attempted Young Turks coups in 1981 and 1985. This was because Prem was a democratically-oriented strongman who opposed military intervention and who was engaged in restoring parliamentary politics.
State Autonomy, Military-Authoritarianism, Differing State-Society Configurations
Concerning the differences between military-authoritarian regimes and within regimes over time, I have found that the variations stem largely from the differing patterns of autonomy relations. They differ in terms of the extent to which the state dominates and is autonomous from society, and/or is unresponsive to society. They also vary in the pattern of autonomy relations between, in particular, the strongman-ruler and the military, and the military and other non-military elements of the state. The differing patterns shape not only variances between regimes, but also within regimes over time. Finally, owing to the different patterns of autonomy relations established, long-term regime outcomes also vary.
The subject of state autonomy lies at the heart of state-society relations, in particular, relationships between and among elements, classes, groups, and so on, that co-exist and interact politically within a "nation-state". It is about who dominates, and to what degree; how dominance is imposed; and what structures regulate, constrain, or facilitate dominance. Likewise, it also concerns the questions of who exercises greater or lesser degrees of relative autonomy, how autonomy is obtained, and what the structures are that limit or reinforce autonomy of various actors, groups, institutions, and so forth. Further, it is, as Theda Skocpol implies, linked also to resp-onsiveness -- the responsiveness of the state to societal demands, and vice-versa.
Skocpol, Finer, and Eric Nordlinger argue that state autonomy (or obversely, society's autonomy from, or relative to the state) is contingent on two factors. These are, first, factors internal to the state (i.e., the will of state actors or elites to assert autonomy and the resources available to them in this regard), and second, the avail-ability and autonomy of intermediary institutions and channels to societal forces.
The second factor is in turn dependent, as Skocpol maintains, on how the state is configured organizationally. In military-authoritarian states and regimes, where power is concentrated in the hands of the strongman-ruler and the military, and where intermediary channels are subdued or monopolized by state elements (in particular, by the military), the state will be more or less, and in varying degrees, rather highly autonomous. The military-authoritarian state is one that is, in Nordlinger's words, non-malleable by, and highly insulated from society.
The country studies (Chapters 3-5) show that the pattern of authoritarian domination and autonomy relations established in each case is largely contingent on the political sophistication of the ruling strongman: particularly, his appreciation of the complexity of politics and the recognition of the need to win wider support, beyond his primary military power base. As found, in
In some cases, owing to considerations of legitimacy, ruling strongmen have clearly been constrained by their respect for, and the utility of certain constitutional forms, and have worked within such structures. In
The above factors -- the political sophistication of ruling strongmen and the constraints on him -- resulted in the construction by military rulers of quite convinc-ing, stable institutions that bequeathed an aura of legitimacy and constitutionalism to the military-based regimes. This enabled them to win over important non-military elite elements, both within the state sphere and in society. Thus they accomplished several important goals: one, they created an elite consensus (and wider public support); two, they retained the military as their political instrument and pivotal power base, and three, they counter-balanced its dominance at the same time.
There are however ruling strongmen who are of rudimentary persuasion and who are not constrained by considerations of legitimacy or pre-existing constitutional forms. As the investigation of military intervention and rule in
However, like the "Sarit System" in the time of Thanom and Praphart, Ne Win's military-dominant regime was, as found, incapable of responding constructively or positively to problems, or to challenges that emerged over time. The reliance on repression, combined with its inability to win legitimacy through performance, result-ed in the quite sudden collapse of the regime when confronted with a country-wide, "people's power" uprising in 1988. However, brute military force again won the day, and SLORC -- the current regime -- is, like Ne Win's, a straight-forward military regime. But with Ne Win declining physically, the junta's (and the country's) future is uncertain.
The future also seems more and more uncertain in