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Recruitment of the Burmese political elite in the second Ne Win regime : 1962-1967 Parchelo, Joseph John

Abstract

This thesis examines the recruitment of the political elite in Burma from 1962 to 1967, the first five years of the second Ne Win regime. The political elite is defined as consisting of officers of the rank of Colonel or higher, and civilians who hold administrative or party offices similar to those held by these high-ranking officers. The aspects of recruitment considered are (1) the extent of representation of ethnic groups; (2) the extent of achievement orientation; and (3) the nature and scope of recruitees' experience in dealing with the leadership of minority ethnic groups. These recruitment variables are chosen for their relevance to political development, and this will be demonstrated by consideration of some of the implications of elite recruitment practices in Burma for the development of equality, system capacity, and structural differentiation. Research into the ethnic origins and career experience of the current Burmese elite was conducted by a review of the existing literature and secondary historical sources, as well as a survey of the English-language press of Burma and foreign periodicals for the years 1962 to 1967. The Burmese periodicals surveyed were The Guardian (daily) and Forward (fort-nightly); and the non-Burmese periodicals were The New York Times and the Far Eastern Economic Review. Use was also made of a Who's Who in Burma, published in 1961. It was found that according to the rank of offices held, the Burmese political elite is by no means exclusively military. The military component of the elite consists of a large proportion of the veterans of the Burma Independence Army, which has comprised the officer corps of the Burma Army since shortly after Independence. Many of the administrative offices continue to be held by veterans of the colonial Civil Service, although their superiors are Army officers. In addition, many posts in the single Army-sponsored party are held by veterans of former extremist "left-wing" parties. Very few positions in the current regime are held by former political leaders. It was found that representation of ethnic groups other than the Burman majority was very low, being restricted to 2 out of 54 from the military component and 9 out of 44 of the civilian component, 6 of the latter being Ambassadors. The current elite is shown to be considerably less representative of minority ethnic groups than that of the civilian governments, and this difference is partly explained by institutional changes. The extent of achievement orientation in recruitment is considered by an examination of the formal education and professional experience of elite members. It is shown that the level of formal education of the current elite is at least slightly lower than that of the civilian governments, with less than half holding university degrees. The period in question also shows a decline in the professionalism of the military as compared to the period of civilian government and to the military Caretaker Government of 1958 to 1960. This is explained as a consequence of the recruitment to party and administrative posts of former "oppositionist" politicians, which has upset a balance between professional and political orientations in the military. The experience of elite members is also found to include service as military administrators in minority ethnic group areas, a position not conducive to the stimulation of attitudes of equality and non-discrimination. This, then, eliminates a possible substitute for ethnic group representation in the elite. It is concluded, finally, that none of these recruitment practices are conducive to further political development in Burma, but constitute part of a defensive posture oriented towards counter-insurgency, minority-group regulation, and the short-run political security of the elite.

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