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Can Burma's Civil Society Find Its Voice Again?

The Burmese military is staging a comeback. Since the government launched its tentative liberalization process four years ago, the armed forces, the notorious Tatmadaw, have taken a backseat. Though it has members in key roles in all government institutions, it has refrained from fully exercising its coercive and all-encompassing constitutional prerogatives. But now the generals are signaling that they're no longer willing to keep a low profile, and instead hope to exercise the full extent of their power in the country's ethnic regions and in its parliament, in which 25 percent of the seats are reserved for military representatives. The army's Nov. 19 attack on a training facility of the Kachin ethnic rebel group -- which killed 23 cadets -- is a clear case in point. (In the photo above, an activist lights candles at a memorial to the attack's victims on Nov. 24.) At a moment when many Burmese are expressing growing dissatisfaction about the undemocratic nature of the military-imposed constitution, the generals are determined to show that they won't brook any further challenges to their authority. If things continue as they are, it's only a matter of time until the Tatmadaw decides to suppress public protests. The question thus becomes whether Burmese civil society is capable of pushing back.

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Democracy Lab Weekly Brief, November 24, 2014

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Christian Caryl reports from the scene of a car bombing in northern Iraq apparently perpetrated by the Islamic State. In his column for this week, Caryl looks at post-coup Thailand through the eyes of an exiled Thai political analyst.

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Muslims Discovered the Americas, Claims Turkish President

It is becoming increasingly painful to write about Turkey these days. Every week, there is a controversial incident or statement from Turkey that is difficult to explain to the American public. For this week's outlandish remark, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that the Americas were actually discovered by Muslims back in the 12th century, three centuries before Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic.

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Is Spain About to Embrace Chavismo?

When the late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez came into power in 1998, he saw in his movement an answer to capitalism and a solution to Latin America's soaring inequalities. Chávez's aspirations were clearly global, and he even had the gumption to list "preserving life on the planet and saving the human species" as part of his 2012 election platform.

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