Setting the Stage:
The Crisis of 1988
and Its Origins
We in Myanmar were not prepared for the force and fury of the storm
[1988 revolution]. As the years rolled by, we had started to equate leth-
argy and lack of change with stability; speeches and notions with prog-
ress; excuses with reason; and manipulated statistics with the real facts.
Coups may be commonplace in the third world, but a military coup designed to shore up another military regime is unusual, although it has also occurred in Thailand.2 Although the Burmese coup of 1988 replaced the previous leadership with a new group of officers, it was not intended to shift power even among the military or between military factions. Rather, it was designed to continue military rule by other means. It took place with the acquiescence of the authorities.
On September 18, 1988, General Saw Maung, commander of the Burma Army, carried out a coup in support of a tottering military government that