Myanmar History

Myanmar History

Early to middle ages

Before the beginning of the Christian era, the monks related to the Khmer settled in the south of today’s Myanmar. The Pyu people, who came from Central Asia, later followed from the north. From the 8th century AD the people of the Burmese (also: Burmese) immigrated from the north and subjugated the already resident peoples. In the 11th century, the first Burmese kingdom was founded under Anawrahta with Pagan as the center. The Pagan Empire extended to the Malacca Peninsula. The Burmese adopted the Buddhist religion and the written language Pali from the Mon people.

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In the 13th century, the Shan came from the northeast and founded an empire in the east of the country with Ava (near today’s Mandalay) as the center. In 1277 the invading Mongols were destroyed by invading Mongols. Until the 16th century, the Shan in the north and east, the Burmese in the center and the Mon in the south of the country fought for supremacy. For a short time, the Burmese king Tabinshwehti from the Toungoo dynasty subjugated the Mon and Shan again and founded a second Burmese empire, which after his death, however, fell again into several small states due to the repeated uprisings of the different ethnic groups.

Modern times

From the 16th century, Portuguese, Dutch, British and French founded the first commercial branches along the coast. The sphere of influence of the Burmese kings was restricted to the area around the capital Toungoo.

From 1752, the Burmese Prince Alaungpaya from the Konbaung dynasty founded the third Burmese kingdom. In 1758 he made Yangon the capital. The peoples of the Mon in the south and Shan in the north were subjected again. At the end of the 18th century the empire had reached its greatest extent (parts of India in the west, to China in the north, areas of today’s Thailand and Laos in the east).

The Burmese rulers thus came into conflict with the interests of Great Britain, which at that time had become the dominant colonial power in India. In three wars (1824-26, 1852 53 and 1885-86) British troops initially pushed the Burmese out of the Indian territories and then occupied the country. In 1886, Burma was officially incorporated as a province of the British Indian Crown Colony.

As colonial masters, the British massively suppressed any opposition movement on the one hand, and on the other hand, by modernizing and intensifying rice cultivation until the First World War, Burma became the world’s largest travel exporter. A national independence movement, which was predominantly Burmese, only emerged after the end of the First World War. After numerous uprisings such as the peasant uprising under the Buddhist monk Saya San from 1930 to 32, according to AbbreviationFinder, Great Britain granted the province of Burma limited self-government. In 1935 Burma left the British Indian Crown Colony and became a separate colony with its own government and parliament.

20th century

As part of World War II, Japanese troops occupied Burma in 1942. Parts of the Burmese independence movement (Thakin movement, founded by U Nu) formed their own army under General U Aung San (Burma Independence Army, BIA), which successfully fought against the British troops together with the Japanese. In August 1943, the Thakin liberation movement, with the consent of the Japanese occupying powers, declared Burma independent. When Japan’s defeat in World War II began to emerge, General Aung San sought and allied with the Allies.

In 1945, Aung San founded the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL), which in 1946 called for British troops to be withdrawn and Burma to become independent. In 1948 the Republic of Burma was proclaimed, the AFPFL won the first elections and the head of government became the Buddhist U Nu. His course of “Buddhist socialism” was accompanied by land reforms and expropriation of foreign companies. In terms of foreign policy, Burma remained neutral (1955 joined the Non-Aligned States).

In the following years, the country was repeatedly shaken by unrest. In addition to revolts by communist groups that called for a rapprochement with the Soviet Union, the main triggers were uprisings by non-Buddhist tribes, such as the Shan, Karen and Kachin, who demanded autonomy for their areas. This civil was, which lasted for decades, weakened the country decisively. When a severe economic crisis hit the country at the end of the 1950s due to the fall in the world market price for rice, Prime Minister U Nu handed over power to the military under General U Ne Win. In 1960, U Nu returned to the post of prime minister as leader of the Union Party (UP) he founded.When he declared Buddhism to be the state religion, there were renewed bloody uprisings by non-Buddhist peoples, especially the partly Christian, partly Islamic Karen, who lived mainly in the areas of the Irawadi Delta and in the mountain regions along the Thai border. Autonomy was promised to the Karen people as early as 1947, but was never implemented.

Prime Minister U Nu was overthrown in 1962 by a military coup under General Ne Win. The latter founded a revolutionary council, repealed the constitution and began to build a socialist state system with a single party (Burma Socialist Program Party, BSPP) and to nationalize large companies and banks. More than a hundred thousand Pakistani, Indian and Chinese traders, some of whom have held leading positions in Burmese economy, have left or been deported, which has further aggravated the country’s economic situation.

In 1974 a new constitution came into force, Burma became the “Socialist Republic Union Burma”. The following year there were repeated clashes between government troops and students in the capital Yangon, which demonstrated for the deposition of head of state Ne Win and the introduction of democracy. In 1981, Ne Win resigned as Prime Minister, but continued to play the dominant role as party leader of the BSPP. His successor as President was General Staff Chief U San Yu.

Persistent student protests led to a military junta led by President Saw Maung in 1989. He headed the State of Law and Order Resauration Council (SLORC), formed by 21 generals. Burma was renamed “Union of Myanmar”, the capital Yangon was now called Yangon. In order to cope with the poor economic situation, the first steps towards a market economy orientation were taken (privatization of state-owned companies).

In 1990 the regime allowed free elections, which were won by the National League for Democracy (NLD) in May with an overwhelming majority (396 out of a total of 485 seats). The leader of this opposition movement was Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of the national hero General Aung San, who was repeatedly put under house arrest (1991 Nobel Peace Prize). The military refused to recognize the election result; the National Assembly was never called. The regime’s totalitarian rule continued, from 1992 under President General Than Shwe. In November 1997 the State Council was renamed the “State Peace and Development Council” (SPDC) with 19 members.

The civil war with the tribes demanding independence since the 1940s was largely ended by ceasefire agreements. The Karen National Union (KNU) and its armed arm, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), continued their struggle against the central government. In February 2007, a KNLA faction concluded a separate peace agreement with the government. The fighting between the military and the KNLA and other armed minorities has repeatedly led to human rights violations.

These violations of human rights and the massive suppression of the democratic movement led to protests and sanctions, particularly in western countries (for example in the form of a ban on investment in Myanmar and the end of development aid). Announcements that Myanmar would soon be democratized remained promising in the 1990s; Even if numerous political prisoners were released, many opposition figures remained in custody or new mass arrests occurred again and again. According to reports from human rights organizations, forced relocations continued to be carried out by sections of the population or they were forced to do so. In September 2007 there was an “uprising of the monks”, which peacefully passed through the cities together with tens of thousands of people.According to official information,

In May 2008, a cyclone devastated large parts of Myanmar and, according to official estimates, killed over 80,000 people, leaving one million homeless. Given the situation, the military government reluctantly agreed to receive foreign aid through the UN, but declined direct aid from international aid organizations and talks with the UN. Foreign helpers reported on embezzlement of relief goods by members of the army and on the hindrance of the relief work.

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New constitution in 2008

In a referendum in May 2008, despite the storm, the population should decide on the draft new constitution that the government had tabled. This was part of a government road map for the transition to a “disciplined democracy”. According to government officials, 92% voted in favor of this constitution. As the information was not verifiable, the result of the referendum was not recognized by the international community.

“Republic of the Union of Myanmar” has been the new official state name since October 2010. The coat of arms, flag and anthem have also been changed. In November 2010, elections were held in Myanmar for the first time in two decades. In addition to the parliament members of the provinces and Union states, the representatives of the lower and upper house (Pyithu Hluttaw and Amyotha Hluttaw) were to be elected. International observers were not allowed and the elections were classified as not free and unfair. The election resulted in a clear victory for the Union Solidarity and Development party, which won 80% of the seats. The opposition parties All Mon Region Democracy Party and National Democratic Force each have 16 MPs in the three houses. Due to the restrictive electoral law, the NLD refrained fromto register for the elections. The elections initially went without major incidents. The following day there was strong unrest in the east of the country. Violent fighting between the military and insurgents from the Karen minority was the result of electoral cancellations in regions that were predominantly populated by ethnic minorities. In November 2010, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and leader of the opposition NLD Aung San Suu Kyi was released from her house arrest.

With the first convocation of the national parliament, the new constitution entered into force on January 31, 2011. The parliament elected the military and former Prime Minister Thein Sein as President. The military junta, which has ruled for 23 years, dissolved. As a result of the reconciliation between Aung San Suu Kyi and Thein Sein, the NLD was able to participate in the parliamentary by-election in April 2012. With 43 seats won, the NLD won a landslide. The choice is generally seen as gratifyingly free and fair. President Thein Sein has been cautiously opening up the country during his tenure to date.

Myanmar President