Josef Silverstein, Scholar and Critic of Myanmar, Dies at 99

Josef Silverstein, a scholar and outspoken critic of Myanmar’s repressive navy leaders over a turbulent half-century, died on June 29 at his house in Guilford, Conn. He was 99.

His son, Frank, mentioned the trigger was problems of dementia. His spouse, Marilyn (Cooper) Silverstein, who was additionally his editor and collaborator, died eight days earlier.

Professor Silverstein, who taught worldwide relations and Southeast Asian research at Rutgers University in New Jersey, targeted on democracy and human rights in Myanmar each as a tutorial skilled and as an on-the-ground adviser to opposition teams.

Because of his criticism of the navy management, he was denied entry to Myanmar for many of his profession. As a consequence he continuously met with insurgent leaders alongside the borders with Thailand and China, advising them on the ideas of federalism and constitutional regulation.

Professor Silverstein “was no run-of-the-mill Western expert or academic,” Maung Zarni, a Burmese educator, tutorial and human rights activist, wrote in an appreciation printed on-line this month. Rather, he mentioned, the professor was half of a breed of worldwide students who “chose to forego access to the countries and peoples they studied — and cared about — as they endured under murderous military dictatorships.”

After a coup in 1962, when the navy, led by Gen. Ne Win, changed the civilian authorities, Myanmar, then often called Burma, shut itself off from the skin world to pursue what Ne Win referred to as a “Burmese way to socialism.” Many, together with Professor Silverstein, discovered the coverage to be economically disastrous.

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

His insights helped maintain many journalists on observe by way of the twists and turns of Myanmar’s turmoil, together with the navy massacres of protesters in 1988 and the newer slaughter of Rohingya Muslims.

“When we, at The Associated Press, were pressed for some intelligent, insightful comment on developments in Burma, someone in our bureau would say, ‘Let’s contact Josef,’” Denis Gray, the information company’s longtime Bangkok bureau chief, wrote in an electronic mail. “And he always came through.”

On Feb. 1, a navy coup ended a interval of quasi-democracy in Myanmar that started in 2011, when parliamentary elections and different reforms have been launched. And the navy’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters has continued.

“I know how devastated he would be knowing of the events which have taken place since Feb. 1,” Mr. Gray mentioned of Professor Silverstein. “He was always looking forward to the day of real democracy for Burma.”

In March 2013, after the pro-democracy chief Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was launched from twenty years of home arrest, Professor Silverstein was prescient in warning concerning the political compromises she would possibly make.

“To the outside world, nothing has really changed with her; she is Suu Kyi and all the beautiful things that go with it,” he instructed The New York Times. “She is essentially making herself irrelevant. We have not heard Suu Kyi talk as Suu Kyi.”

Since then Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi has upset her supporters overseas, notably by failing to talk out in opposition to the navy massacres of the Rohingya minority.

Josef Silverstein was born in Los Angeles on May 15, 1922, the center little one of Frank and Betty (Heymanson) Silverstein. His father ran an Army-Navy retailer in Hollywood, and his mom was a gross sales affiliate at Bullock’s division retailer in Los Angeles.

Professor Silverstein spent a lot of World War II and the Korean War at sea with the service provider marine, signing on after Pearl Harbor and serving within the Atlantic, Pacific and Middle East conflict zones.

In 1952, he earned a bachelor’s diploma at the University of California at Los Angeles, the place he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He went on to pursue a Ph.D. in political science within the Southeast Asia research program at Cornell University.

His introduction to the nation that will devour his life got here in 1955, when he acquired a Fulbright Scholarship to journey to Rangoon, the capital (now Yangon), and full his analysis for his doctorate, which he acquired with honors in 1960.

His first tutorial appointment was to Wesleyan University in Connecticut, the place he taught political science from 1958 to 1964. He then moved to Rutgers, the place he was on the school till he retired and grew to become a professor emeritus in 1992.

He took leaves of absence to be a Fulbright lecturer at Mandalay University in Burma in 1961 and at the University of Malaya in Malaysia in 1967. In 1970, he took a two-year go away to function director of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

Professor Silverstein’s publications embody the books “The Political Legacy of Aung San” (1972), “Burmese Politics: The Dilemma of National Unity” (1980) and “Burma: Military Rule and the Politics of Stagnation” (1977).

In addition to his son, Professor Silverstein is survived by one other son, Gordon, and a granddaughter.