In a new book review at the JCA publisher’s site, Ashley South discusses the sympathetic book authored by Robert H. Taylor, General Ne Win: A Political Biography (DOI:10.1080/00472336.2015.1126758). It is published by Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
While referring to the book as “a fairly orthodox political biography” and “somewhat indulgent,” South writes that it “is nevertheless a comprehensive and valuable contribution towards the literature on modern Myanmar.”
South notes that Taylor “frames the history of Myanmar/Burma since independence through the work of the British colonial administrator and scholar, J. S. Furnivall, and particularly his concept of the ‘plural society’.” He observes that, for Taylor, the “great challenge of Burmese statesmanship and history has been to unify the country around a coherent and compelling national idea, transcending the particularities of ethnicity or social class.” However, for all of its repression and expense, Ne Win’s “project” ultimately failed.
South states that the “marshalling of facts and historical scholarship is impressive,” albeit with little on “military matters, such as the military’s successful if brutal counter-insurgency strategy” and the “striking omission” of “anything but the most superficial
acknowledgement of the Ne Win regime’s human rights abuses.”
The review concludes by recognising Taylor’s book as “by far the most authoritative account of Ne Win’s life, embedded in a useful history of Myanmar from independence until 1988.”