IN THE PAST few weeks, the secretive nation of Burma suddenly landed on the world’s front pages, as small demonstrations by monks spiraled into massive protests and triggered a violent crackdown by the military government. Such an impromptu uprising surprised many observers. Searching for explanations, some have cited the rising price of fuel, which is subsidized in Burma; this summer, the regime allowed the price to skyrocket, adding to the economic misery of average Burmese people.
But behind the unrest also lies a larger explanation, one that makes the isolated country a critical test of foreign policy. Burma’s brutal ruling junta, which has long kept power through force and fear, is taking the next step and transforming itself into one of the world’s few totalitarian regimes.
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