Do you ever ask yourself “How Big a Success Is the Democratic Revolution in Burma?” Well, maybe you should. That’s the question Joshua Kurlantzick tackles in a review of three books that focus or touch on the Obama administration’s effort to democratize the formerly isolated southeast Asian country.

Hillary Clinton presided over the effort and discusses some of the details in her autobiography Hard Choices. And it turns out that it’s not easy to judge how much things have improved or what, if anything, Americans can expect to get out of the deal. There are still insurgencies raging, and the Muslim community may be suffering from genocide.

In Myanmar’s west, the end of authoritarian rule unleashed a fury of new inter-ethnic and inter-religious violence, primarily targeting the Muslim Rohingya population. According to a recent report by Yale Law School’s Lowenstein International Human Rights Law Clinic, the situation with the Rohingya provides “strong evidence of genocide.” Many of the attacks on the Rohingya appear to have been committed by hard-line Buddhist nationalist paramilitaries with links to or at least the tacit acceptance of the armed forces.

Some 130,000 Rohingya are now internally displaced, living in squalid camps that are more like concentration camps than harbors for refugees. Despite the NLD’s big victory in November, in western Myanmar’s Arakan State a hard-line anti-Muslim party took control of the provincial parliament, setting the stage for more anti-Rohingya legislation and violence…

…Aid workers with experience in western Myanmar expect new waves of anti-Rohingya violence this spring, and another exodus of the ethnic minority from their homes, with many trying to flee the country for Malaysia and Indonesia on rickety boats. The boats put out to sea with few provisions; according to reports in Reuters, many Rohingya die of dehydration onboard, or are picked up and sold into human slavery in Thailand and other countries in the region.

On the joyous November election day when NLD supporters thronged the party’s headquarters in Yangon, most Rohingya had little to celebrate: hundreds of thousands of them reportedly had been stripped of their rights to vote before the elections took place.

This may be an unfortunate unintended consequence of American efforts to bring an accountable government to the people of Burma, but it’s part of the record.

It may be a remote part of the world that, at least for now, has little impact on American lives, but this piece is very educational and will get you up to speed on how events have played out since President Obama visited the country in 2014.

Read the whole thing.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at