Myanmar scholar and critic Josef Silverstein dies at 99

Professor Silverstein “was not an ordinary Western scholar or scholar,” Maung Zarni, a Burmese educator, scholar and human rights activist, wrote in a appreciation published online this month. On the contrary, he said, the professor was part of a race of international scholars who “chose to forgo access to the countries and peoples they studied – and cared about -” While they suffered under murderous military dictatorships ”.

After a coup in 1962, when the military, led by General Ne Win, replaced the civilian government, Myanmar, then known as Burma, cut itself off from the outside world to pursue what Ne Win called it a “Burmese path to socialism”. Many, including Professor Silverstein, have found the policy economically disastrous.

“Josef Silverstein was one of the few Western academics who really knew and spoke about what was going on in Myanmar and the terrible toll the military continued to inflict,” wrote Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch. in an email. “For this, he won admirers among the Burmese people and their supporters around the world, and the deep hatred of the country’s military dictators.”

His ideas have helped many journalists follow the twists and turns of turmoil in Myanmar, including the military massacres of protesters in 1988 and the more recent massacre of Rohingya Muslims.

“When we at The Associated Press were pressed to make intelligent and insightful comments on developments in Burma, someone in our office was saying, ‘Let’s contact Josef,'” wrote Denis Gray, Bangkok bureau chief. longtime news agency, in an email. “And he always succeeded.”

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