Social Scientist. v 5, no. 52 (Nov 1976) p. 30.

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Buddhism and Politics in South-east Asia


IN THE Buddhist countries of south and south-east Asia, with a single exception, independence did not transform existing fundamental structures. In Sri Lanka, Burma, Cambodia, Laos and South Vietnam, westernized elites came into power. In Thailand the uninterrupted continuity was assured. The transfer of power which followed the Second World War accelerated a series of social changes like the introduction of a ^welfare state5 in Sri Lanka. Only North Vietnam made a clean break with the past, charting out a completely different pattern for its polity and economy.

During the postwar period there was a marked increase in economic dependence on western capitalism in consonance with its powerful trend toward heavy monopolistic concentration. The war in Vietnam impinged oppressively on the Indochinese nations, and on Thailand as a consequence of the American military bases there. That all these nations commanded no real mastery of their economies and only an elite was profiting from the dependent economic system, was fraught with political impulses. In Sri Lanka it led to the youth insurgency of 1971. In Burma was precipitated the economic autarchy that the Ne Win regime tried to establish, without, it seems, much improvement of general welfare. Thailand showed a high degree of vulnerability to the

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