Few countries of Burma’s size - at 47 million it is now one of the twentyfive most populous nations in the world - are so little known. Yet few have aroused such deeply held passions. Renowned in the pre-colonial (that is, pre-1886) era as the ‘hermit’ kingdom of Southeast Asia, it has remained, until recently, a recluse in a region of dynamic change. During the more than quarter century of General Ne Win’s ‘Burmese Road to Socialism’ (1962–88), the country, once the world’s largest rice exporter, experienced steep economic decline, which left it one of the ten ‘Least Developed Countries’ (LDCs), with a per caput income of less than US$250, on a par with impoverished states in sub-Saharan Africa like Mali and Chad. Previously at the forefront of regional and international politics - it had been one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement in the mid-1950s - it became, under Ne Win, the great non-joiner, an introverted state dominated by a xenophobic military and a dictator swayed more by necromancy than normality.
KeywordsPolitical Reform Political Liberalisation National League Constructive Engagement Official Exchange Rate
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