Burma, Inc: Tycoons Rule as Junta's Puppets

Generals use elections, privatization to formalize oligarchs' power
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 15, 2010 5:46 PM CST
In this photo taken on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010, Myanmar junta chief Gen. Than Shwe, left, walks past a photo of former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in south China's Guangdong province.   (AP Photo)

(Newser) – Myanmar's ruling junta allowed the country's first elections in 20 years last week—so it could install a bunch of friendly oligarchs in the newly formed parliament, then give them first dibs in the government's firesale of state-owned entities. Unlike in China, privatization has not established an environment of open business competition; instead it's a means for the junta to reward their business allies in exchange for help running the economy they have ruined, Newsweek reports.

The only loosening of government signified by the elections, then, is the formal inclusion of the tycoons in the generals' circle of influence. “I don’t think the tycoons have any power yet over the SPDC, but they rank right below them, and certainly over the cabinet ministers,” says a Burma expert.

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