Journal of Social Sciences

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Southeast Asia is one of the most interesting spots for democratization in the world today. The regional diversity is made up by: Indonesia, the world's third largest democratic nation, the Philippines, Asia's oldest democracy, and the consolidated democracies of Malaysia, Thailand, and other types of authoritarian rule. Besides this diversity, the transition from authoritarian rule to democracy in the region also attracts academic attention. Myanmar and Indonesia are good examples of the political transformation from the authoritarianism under the military government to democratic forms of government. However, after the resignation of Ne-Win in 1988, Burma still remained a military dictatorship, while Indonesia, after 21 years (1967-1998) under the authoritarian Suharto-led New Order government, successfully transitioned to a democratic society. The aim of this paper is to explore the different patterns of political transitions under two military dictatorships in Southeast Asia. This qualitative paper draws on documentary review, historical narratives and the critical analysis of theories in authoritarianism, democratization from different perspectives, including political culture, economic growth and crisis, political elites, class conflict, civil society and globalization. The paper found that the military junta, civilian leadership, economic development, social class, and political leaders are key factors that led to the different paths in democratic transition in the two countries. This comparative study seeks to understand the dynamics of contemporary democratization in this rapidly changing region, and contributes to improving the knowledge of authoritarian regimes in Southeast Asia.

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