YANGON, MYANMAR -- This country's ruling military junta, apparently determined to hold onto power, is pressing a broad crackdown against dissidents that has effectively nullified the opposition's landslide victory in elections last May, according to Burmese and foreign political analysts here.

Hopes in Myanmar, formerly Burma, that the government might allow an orderly transition from authoritarian rule to democracy have given way to pessimism and despair as prospects for peaceful change have dimmed. Government opponents convey an air of resignation, coupled with fear that they are at the mercy of the ruling junta.

"Now, after five months of hoping that the elections meant something, people are beginning to realize that it was all a big charade," said a resident of the capital, Yangon, formerly Rangoon, who asked for anonymity.

"We are helpless without arms," lamented an elderly Buddhist abbot in a monastery near the central city of Mandalay. Echoing his frustration, a Burmese office worker in the capital said: "We're just like slaves right now. People just hate this government."

In its latest crackdown, the military last week raided Buddhist monasteries in Mandalay to force an end to a boycott in which monks refused to minister to soldiers. Troops also stormed a number of offices of the opposition National League for Democracy, closing some and seizing the contents of others, sources said.

The league's headquarters near the Shwedagon Pagoda here has been effectively shut down and its front gate padlocked after security forces raided it during curfew hours last week and hauled away documents and equipment.

At the same time, at least a dozen leaders of the party were arrested, including four members of its executive committee. Since July 1989, all but four of the original 15 members of the league's executive committee have been jailed or placed under house arrest. Dozens of other prominent party members have been detained on various charges, Burmese sources report, including some winning candidates in the May elections.

Today this former British colony seems a drab and fearful place, dominated by a junta that appears bent on stamping out even token opposition and whose foreign policy is based essentially on isolationism and xenophobia. In many respects it is a country forgotten by time. Although limited economic reforms have allowed slight modernizations in recent years, buses whose design predates World War II still wheeze down the streets, and weeds and shrubs grow out of crevices in the capital's decaying British colonial buildings.

The most ambitious construction project currently underway here is an elaborate pagoda commissioned by longtime strongman Ne Win in what critics see as a bid to salvage his legacy. It is being built with private "donations" that Burmese sources say are being squeezed from a recalcitrant public.

Another monument, in effect, to the ruling order is a high brick wall erected around the Defense Ministry compound inside a chain-link fence after crowds nearly stormed the place in 1988. Gun ports have been built into the wall every few yards so soldiers can fire toward the street.

Helmeted troops in battle gear are a common sight on downtown streets, even though there is no sign here of armed resistance to military rule. Army trucks can often be seen parked at curbside, guarded front and rear by soldiers armed with automatic weapons as comrades carry out various operations in the vicinity. Women in sarongs and men wearing traditional skirts called longyis pass by silently. No one dares to ask what is going on.

The junta, which calls itself the State Law and Order Restoration Council, has ruled here since seizing power in September 1988 in a crackdown on democracy demonstrators that left at least 1,000 people dead.

Led by hard-line Gen. Saw Maung, the council consists of followers of Gen. Ne Win, who took power in a 1962 coup and resigned in July 1988 after leading the country into economic chaos and international isolation. Ne Win, 79, has been a virtual recluse since his resignation, but is still consulted by the council on important matters, political analysts say.

Since the government party's crushing defeat in May elections for a new People's Assembly, the junta has been stalling on a previous commitment to transfer power to the National League for Democracy, which won 81 percent of the seats.

The junta now appears to be laying the groundwork to disqualify a number of elected league officials by various means, including the application of strict campaign financing rules that were spelled out only after the election, political sources said. Meanwhile, they said, some league officials are being forced to sign pledges to accept a junta decree issued July 27 that essentially declares the newly elected body to be a constituent assembly, rather than the parliament that voters thought they were electing.

Subsequent statements by the martial-law regime have stipulated a protracted process for drafting a new constitution in accordance with guidelines to be established by a future "national convention" named by the junta.

The drafting, by the People's Assembly, would be overseen by the ruling council and, once an acceptable constitution emerged, new elections for a parliament would be held. Only then would the junta transfer power to a civilian government. The junta has let it be known unofficially that it envisages the process taking from two to six years, political analysts said.

"The winds of change are blowing everywhere but in Burma," a senior Western diplomat said. "It is absolutely certain that {the junta} will never, ever allow the {league} to take over. There will be no free elections anymore in Burma."

Such pessimism contrasts sharply with the euphoria that infected the league after it steamrollered a field of 93 parties in the May 27 elections, emerging with 392 of the assembly's 485 seats.

The government's National Unity Party, formerly called the Burma Socialist Program Party, won only 10 seats in the first multi-party elections in the country in 30 years. The party, founded by Ne Win in 1962, had been the nation's only legal political party until 1988.

In July 1989, the junta placed the league's charismatic leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, 45, under house arrest and jailed the party's 63-year-old chairman, Tin Oo, who has since been sentenced summarily by a military court to three years at hard labor for creating "public disturbances."

Last month, the league's acting chairman, Kyi Maung, a 72-year-old retired colonel, was arrested for passing on to foreign embassies an allegedly secret document sent to him by the junta's secret police chief, Maj. Gen. Khin Nyunt. Currently in charge of the league is Aung Shwe, a retired brigadier general. Through an intermediary, he declined to meet a reporter last week on grounds that it was not safe to do so.

In its latest statement, dated Oct. 9, the league said it would form a "parliamentary committee" to work for the convening of the People's Assembly and repeated earlier calls for negotiations with the junta. Burmese students and activist monks criticized this approach as too timid but seem unable at present themselves to generate a sustained challenge to the junta.

Given the military's reputation, its presence in force in Mandalay and Yangon frightens many residents. "I am very afraid," one young Burmese said in halting English as he glanced nervously at hundreds of troops in battle gear deploying at dawn Oct. 21 in neighborhoods around Mandalay's monasteries. Asked if he was afraid of the army, he answered, "Afraid and hate."

Contributing to the atmosphere is the Orwellian quality of many of the junta's actions and pronouncements. Large red billboards around Mandalay and Yangon proclaim slogans in Burmese and English such as "Crush All Destructive Elements" and "Observance of Discipline Leads to Safety." One, across the street from the U.S. Embassy, reads "Down With Minions of Colonialism."

In an account of raids against six Mandalay monasteries Oct. 24, the official radio said the monks in charge "were full of smiles, happily permitting the searches because they were encouraged by the efforts being made through the use of power to purify the religion."