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Suchak Patel asked: What is the meaning of the term ‘junta rule’ used in the context of Myanmar, and how is it different from a military regime?

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  • Akash Sahu replies: A junta regime is composed of military officers who seize ruling power in a country. It may be seen as a subset of military rule, as the primary institution driving a junta government is the military. The junta government led by military leader Min Aung Hlaing of Myanmar is a classic example. The Myanmar junta usurped power through a coup in February 2021, refusing to recognise the elections in which former State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) had a landslide victory.

    While a military regime may perpetuate through different forms of transition, the junta regime almost exclusively comes to power through a coup. In many countries that are autocracies, such as in West Asia, the military has a strong influence on the government, and in some cases, it may also be the de facto decision-maker, like in Pakistan. The military’s varying stake in the government, where they are not in power de jure, help sustain these autocracies for longer periods. But the rule of junta governments, as seen in Latin America and Africa, which came to power through a coup has usually been short-lived. Despite the military indoctrination of a superior–subordinate relationship, these junta regimes have often been toppled by rebellion or rivalry within the military.

    The legitimacy of the junta rule is questioned and challenged by actors in and outside the country. Given the uncertainty around their legitimacy, the junta regimes often indulge in excessive use of force and coercion to quell any rebellion. It also tends to get embroiled in civil wars in the face of increased domestic opposition. The junta regime in Myanmar is actively fighting ethnic militias and also the National Unity Government, composed of former NLD leaders, which has organised a People’s Defence Force against it. They have been classified as terrorist groups by the junta regime. It was earlier believed that the military regimes are more successful than the autocratic regimes in forging a sense of national unity among diverse peoples. But studies reveal that the use of force often aggravates ethnic tensions and, ironically, damages national unity. Thus, the junta regimes constantly struggle to maintain power and establish legitimacy, and are characterised by an unstable polity and economy.

    Posted on 21 June 2022

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.