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									Union of Myanmar                                                           a separate, self-governing colony. The country became independent
Background                                                                 from the United Kingdom on 4 January 1948, as the "Union of
Britain conquered Burma over a period of 62 years (1824-1886) and          Burma". It became the "Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma" on 4
incorporated it into its Indian Empire. Burma was administered as a        January 1974, before reverting to the "Union of Burma" on 23
province of India until 1937 when it became a separate, self-governing     September 1988. On 18 June 1989, the State Law and Order
colony; independence from the Commonwealth was attained in 1948.           Restoration Council (SLORC) adopted the name "Union of Myanmar"
Gen. NE WIN dominated the government from 1962 to 1988, first as           for English transliteration. This controversial name change in English,
military ruler, then as self-appointed president, and later as political   while accepted in the UN and in many countries, is not recognised by
kingpin. Despite multiparty legislative elections in 1990 that resulted    opposition groups and by nations such as the United Kingdom and
in the main opposition party - the National League for Democracy           the United States.[23]
(NLD) - winning a landslide victory, the ruling junta refused to hand
over power. NLD leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient AUNG SAN            War with Britain
SUU KYI, who was under house arrest from 1989 to 1995 and 2000 to
2002, was imprisoned in May 2003 and subsequently transferred to           In response to the continued conquests of Myanmar, the British and
house arrest. After Burma's ruling junta in August 2007 unexpectedly       the Siamese joined forces against Myanmar in 1824. The First Anglo-
increased fuel prices, tens of thousands of Burmese marched in             Burmese War (1824-26) ended in a British victory, and by the Treaty
protest, led by prodemocracy activists and Buddhist monks. In late         of Yandaboo, Myanmar lost Assam, Manipur, Arakan, and
September 2007, the government brutally suppressed the protests,           Tenasserim. As the century wore on, the British began to covet the
killing at least 13 people and arresting thousands for participating in    natural resources of Myanmar and wanted to secure their supply
the demonstrations. Since then, the regime has continued to raid           route to Singapore. As a result, they provoked the Second Anglo-
homes and monasteries and arrest persons suspected of participating        Burmese War in 1852, annexing Bago province and renaming it Lower
in the pro-democracy protests. The junta appointed Labor Minister          Burma. The war resulted in a revolution in Myanmar, with King
AUNG KYI in October 2007 as liaison to AUNG SAN SUU KYI, who               Pagin Min (ruled 1846-52) being replaced by his half brother, Mindon
remains under house arrest and virtually incommunicado with her            Min (ruled 1853-78)). King Mindon tried to modernise the Burmese
party and supporters. Burma in early May 2008 was struck by                state and economy to resist British encroachments, and he established
Cyclone Nargis which official estimates claimed left over 80,000 dead      a new capital at Mandalay, which he proceeded to fortify. This was
and 50,000 injured. Despite this tragedy, the junta proceeded with its     not enough to stop the British, however, who claimed that Mindon's
May constitutional referendum, the first vote in Burma since 1990,         son Thibaw Min (ruled 1878-85) was a tyrant intending to side with
setting the stage for the 2010 parliamentary elections.                    the French and declared war once again in 1885, conquering the
                                                                           remainder of the country in the Third Anglo-Burmese War.
History Summary
                                                                           During the British Ruling
After the First Burmese War, the Ava kingdom ceded the provinces of
Manipur, Tenassarim, and Arakan to the British.[22] Rangoon and            Britain made all of Burma a province of India in 1886 with the capital
southern Burma were incorporated into British India in 1853. All of        at Rangoon. Traditional Myanmar society was drastically altered by
Burma came directly or indirectly under British India in 1886 after the    the ending of the monarchy and the separation of church and state.
Third Burmese War and the fall of Mandalay.[22] Burma was                  Though war officially ended after only a couple of weeks, resistance
administered as a province of British India until 1937 when it became      continued in northern Myanmar until 1890, with the British finally
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resorting to a systematic destruction of villages and appointment of       World War II as an opportunity to extort concessions from the British
new officials to finally halt the guerilla activity. The economic nature   in exchange for support in the war effort, but the British would have
of society also changed drastically. After the opening of the Suez         none of it, issuing an arrest warrant for Aung San, who escaped to
Canal, the demand for Burmese rice grew and vast tracts of land were       China. The Japanese offered him support, and he briefly returned to
opened up for cultivation. However, in order to prepare the new land       Burma to enlist the aid of twenty-nine young men who went to Japan
for cultivation, farmers were forced to borrow money from Indian           with him to receive military training as the so-called "Thirty
moneylenders at high interest rates and were often evicted for failure     Comrades." The Japanese quickly declared Burma independent, and
to pay back the loan. Imported Indian labor ended up with most of          when they occupied Bangkok in December 1941, Aung Sang
the jobs, and whole villages became lawless dens full of the               announced the formation of the Burma Independence Army (BIA) in
unemployed. While the Burmese economy grew, all the power and              anticipation of Japanese liberation. The Japanese duly moved into
wealth was in the hands of several British firms and the Burmese           Burma in 1942 and disbanded the BIA, forming the smaller Burma
people did not reap the rewards.                                           Defense Army in its place with Aung San still at the head. Ba Maw
                                                                           was declared head of state, and his cabinet included both Aung San
A new generation of Burmese leaders arose in the early twentieth           and Thakin Nu. It soon became apparent that Japanese promises of
century from amongst the educated classes that were permitted to go        independence were merely a sham and that Ba Maw was just a
to London to study law. They came away from this experience with           puppet. As the war turned against the Japanese, they declared Burma
the belief that the Burmese situation could be improved through            a fully sovereign state in 1943, but this was just another facade.
peaceful protest and negotiations. Peaceful strikes in the early 1920s     Disillusioned, Aung San began negotiations with Lord Mountbatten
led to a constitutional reform in 1923 that created a partially elected    in October 1943 and officially joined the Allies with his renamed
legislature with limited powers, but some people began to feel that        Burma National Army (BNA) in March 1945. During this period,
the rate of change was not fast enough and the reforms not expansive       Aung San successfully created a broad-based coalition of political
enough. Some of these dissatisfied students founded a new group            parties called the Anti-Fascist Organization, renamed the Anti-Fascist
called Thakin (an ironic name as thakin means "master" in the              People's Freedom League (AFPFL), to govern the country. The
Burmese language, and this was the term that students were required        Japanese were routed from Burma in May 1945. The defeat of the
to use when addressing their British professors, whom they were            Japanese brought a military administration and demands to try Aung
coming to resent). A peasant rebellion led by Saya San that started in     San as a traitor for his early collaboration with the Japanese. Lord
1930 and lasted for two years gave the Thakin their chance. Though         Mountbatten realized that this was an impossibility considering San's
they did not actually participate in the rebellion, they did win the       hold on the BNA and his popular appeal and sent the conciliatory Sir
trust of the peasants and displaced the older generation of London-        Hubert Rance to head the administration, who was able to win back
educated elites at the head of the Burmese nationalist movement.           the trust of both San and the general populace. After the war ended,
They staged a strike in 1936, which was notable because it was during      the former civilian governor returned, and San was duly arrested.
this strike that Thakin Nu and Aung San joined the movement. The           This nearly touched off a rebellion, but the British backed off and sent
British separated Burma from India in 1937 and granted the colony a        Rance back to restore order and faith. Negotiations began for Burmese
new constitution calling for a fully elected assembly, but many            independence, which were completed successfully in January 1947.
Burmese felt that this was just a ploy to exclude them from any            The agreement left both the communist and conservative branches of
further Indian reforms. Ba Maw served as the first prime minister of       the AFPFL dissatisfied, however, sending the communists
Burma, but he was forced out by U Saw in 1939, who served as prime         underground and the conservatives into opposition. Another who
minister from 1940 to 1942. Burmese nationalists saw the outbreak of       was dissatisfied by the agreement was U Saw, who felt that Aung San
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had conceded too much in the negotiations. Consequently, he              many top generals resigned from the military and took civilian posts
engineered the assassination of Aung San and nearly his entire           and, from 1974, instituted elections in a one party system. Between
cabinet in July. Thakin Nu was asked to form a new cabinet, and he       1974 and 1988, Burma was effectively ruled by General Ne Win
presided over Burmese independence on January 4, 1948.                   through the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP).[31]

THIS SECTION IS FOR YOUR EXTRA READING – Ms. Enopia                      Almost from the beginning there were sporadic protests against the
                                                                         military rule, many of which were organized by students, and these
Democratic republic (1948-1962)                                          were almost always violently suppressed by the government. On July
                                                                         7, 1962 the government broke up demonstrations at Rangoon
On 4 January 1948, the nation became an independent republic,            University killing 15 students.[22] In 1974, the military violently
named the Union of Burma, with Sao Shwe Thaik as its first President     suppressed anti-government protests at the funeral of U Thant.
and U Nu as its first Prime Minister. Unlike most other former British   Student protests in 1975, 1976 and 1977 were quickly suppressed by
colonies and overseas territories, it did not become a member of the     overwhelming force.[31]
Commonwealth. A bicameral parliament was formed, consisting of a
Chamber of Deputies and a Chamber of Nationalities.[29]                  In 1988, unrest over economic mismanagement and political
                                                                         oppression by the government led to widespread pro-democracy
The geographical area Burma encompasses today can be traced to the       demonstrations throughout the country known as the 8888 Uprising.
Panglong Agreement, which combined Burma Proper, which                   Security forces killed thousands of demonstrators, and General Saw
consisted of Lower Burma and Upper Burma, and the Frontier Areas,        Maung staged a coup d'état and formed the State Law and Order
which had been administered separately by the British.[6]                Restoration Council (SLORC). In 1989, SLORC declared martial law
                                                                         after widespread protests. The military government finalized plans
In 1961, U Thant, then the Union of Burma's Permanent                    for People's Assembly elections on 31 May 1989.[32]
Representative to the United Nations and former Secretary to the
Prime Minister, was elected Secretary-General of the United Nations;     SLORC changed the country's official English name from the "Union
he was the first non-Westerner to head any international organization    of Burma" to the "Union of Myanmar" in 1989.
and would serve as UN Secretary-General for ten years.[30] Among the
Burmese to work at the UN when he was Secretary-General was a            In May 1990, the government held free elections for the first time in
young Aung San Suu Kyi.                                                  almost 30 years. The National League for Democracy (NLD), the party
                                                                         of Aung San Suu Kyi, won 392 out of a total 489 seats, but the election
Rule by military junta (1962-present)                                    results were annulled by SLORC, which refused to step down.[33] Led
                                                                         by Than Shwe since 1992, the military regime has made cease-fire
Democratic rule ended in 1962 when General Ne Win led a military         agreements with most ethnic guerrilla groups. In 1992, SLORC
coup d'état. He ruled for nearly 26 years and pursued policies under     unveiled plans to create a new constitution through the National
the rubric of the Burmese Way to Socialism. Between 1962 and 1974,       Convention, which began 9 January 1993. In 1997, the State Law and
Burma was ruled by a revolutionary council headed by the general,        Order Restoration Council was renamed the State Peace and
and almost all aspects of society (business, media, production) were     Development Council (SPDC).
nationalized or brought under government control (including the Boy
Scouts).[22] In an effort to consolidate power, General Ne Win and
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On 23 June 1997, Burma was admitted into the Association of             organization named the Union Solidarity and Development
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). On 27 March 2006, the military         Association.[61]
junta, which had moved the national capital from Yangon to a site
near Pyinmana in November 2005, officially named it Naypyidaw,          Government propaganda poster states: "Tatmadaw and the people,
meaning "city of the kings".[34]                                        cooperate and crush all those harming the union."

Government and politics                                                 In 1988, the army violently repressed protests against economic
                                                                        mismanagement and political oppression. On 8 August 1988, the
Burma is governed by a strict military dictatorship. The current head   military opened fire on demonstrators in what is known as 8888
of state is Senior General Than Shwe, who holds the posts of            Uprising and imposed martial law. However, the 1988 protests paved
"Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council" and               way for the 1990 People's Assembly elections. The election results
"Commander in Chief of the Defense Services" as well as the Minister    were subsequently annulled by Senior General Saw Maung's
of Defence. General Khin Nyunt was prime minister until 19 October      government. The National League for Democracy, led by Aung San
2004, when he was replaced by General Soe Win, after the purge of       Suu Kyi, won over 60% of the vote and over 80% of parliamentary
Military Intelligence sections within the Burma armed forces. The       seats in the 1990 election, the first held in 30 years. The military-
current Prime Minister is General Thein Sein, who took over upon the    backed National Unity Party won less than 2% of the seats. Aung San
death of General Soe Win on October 2nd, 2007. The majority of          Suu Kyi has earned international recognition as an activist for the
ministry and cabinet posts are held by military officers, with the      return of democratic rule, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. The
exceptions being the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education,
                                                                        ruling regime has repeatedly placed her under house arrest. Despite a
the Ministry of Labour, and the Ministry of National Planning and
                                                                        direct appeal by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to Senior
Economic Development, posts which are held by civilians.[59]
                                                                        General Than Shwe and pressure by the Association of Southeast
Elected delegates in the 1990 People's Assembly election formed the
                                                                        Asian Nations (ASEAN), the military junta extended Aung San Suu
National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), a
                                                                        Kyi's house arrest another year on 27 May 2006 under the 1975 State
government-in-exile since December 1990, with the mission of
                                                                        Protection Act, which grants the government the right to detain any
restoring democracy.[60] Dr. Sein Win, a first cousin of Aung San Suu   persons on the grounds of protecting peace and stability in the
Kyi, has held the position of prime minister of the NCGUB since its     country.[68][69] The junta faces increasing pressure from the United
inception. The NCGUB has been outlawed by the military                  States and the United Kingdom. Burma's situation was referred to the
government.                                                             UN Security Council for the first time in December 2005 for an
                                                                        informal consultation. In September 2006, ten of the United Nations
Major political parties in the country are the National League for      Security Council's 15 members voted to place Myanmar on the
Democracy and the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy,              council's formal agenda.[70] On Independence Day, 4 January 2007, the
although their activities are heavily regulated and suppressed by the   government released 40 political prisoners, under a general amnesty,
military government. Many other parties, often representing ethnic      in which 2,831 prisoners were released.[71] On 8 January 2007, UN
minorities, exist. The military government allows little room for       Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the national government to free
political organizations and has outlawed many political parties and     all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi.[72] Three days
underground student organizations. The military supported the           later, on 11 January, five additional prisoners were released from
National Unity Party in the 1990 elections and, more recently, an       prison.[71]
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