The article briefly examines the reasons leading to the popular uprising in Burma in August 1988. Although Burma’s democracy movement was violently suppressed by an army coup, a discussion started among political observers as to what extent the uprising marked the beginning of a transition that will eventually lead to greater political liberties. While some observers took questionable "democratic" concessions granted by the military junta shortly after their seizure of power as an indicator for such a process, others argued that the uprising had mobilized large segments of the population to such an extent that a return to the status quo ante has become unthinkable. Applying a simple heuristic model that relates historical, political, socio-economic, ethnic, external and socio-cultural factors to the course of Burma’s political development, the article draws a gloomy picture of the country’s political future. Its political culture, ethnic polarization and unfavorable sociocultural constellations create almost insurmountable obstacles for a smooth transition to a more liberal political system. How thorny the way towards democratization in most developing countries actually is, may perhaps be best illustrated by the recent coup in neighboring Thailand, which - at least temporarily - has interrupted one of the more promising democratization processes in the Third World.