Basic Background Information
- Population = 52,400,000
- Capital = Nay Pyi Taw
- Dominant Religion = Theravada Buddhism
- GDP per Capita = U.S. $1,161
- Partly Free
- Industry: Agricultural processing; knit and woven apparel; wood and wood products; copper, tin, tungsten, iron, gems, jade
- Agriculture: Rice, pulses, beans, sesame; hardwood (teak); fish
- Exports: Gas, wood products, pulses, beans, fish, rice
- (Myanmar Flag featured in the background)
Myanmar has evolved much and has come a long way since their use as a British colony from 1824-1948. The Burmese people claimed their independence in 1948, and the Burmese government was a government based on representation for the people. A parliamentary system was put in place to ensure that the people of Burma would be represented justly. However, this only lasted until a military coup led by General Ne Win took hold of the country in 1962. The military would keep this foothold in the government for years and years to come, regardless of changes in government structure or political parties in power. Ne Win’s authoritarian regime did not fair so well by 1988.
Food shortages lead to student protests, and protests led to military crackdowns which resulted in the death of thousands of progressive college students. This helped Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, one of the country’s most favored government leaders, rise to prominence as the head of the National League for Democracy, the main opposition party to General Ne Win. Ne Win became the authoritarian leader, as well as the head of his party until he resigned in 1988. This opened the floodgates for the pro-democratic movement which won parliamentary seats by a large majority in 1990.
Out of fear of a mass people power movement and the empowerment of Daw Aung San, the authoritarian government placed the NLD leader (Daw Aung San) under house arrest for 15 years. 392 of 485 seats were won in favor of the pro-democratic NLD, but the military-run government ignored the outcome and instead turned to the imprisonment and exile of more NLD party leaders and officials. For a little over a decade the country has been mainly under the thumb of military rule.
By 2010, the military decided to allow elections for a constitutional referendum due to the unrest and massive protests across the country. Dismal economic structure and the end of fossil fuel subsidizing led to a decisive for more economic and political reform. The military government dissolved in 2011 leading to the current steps taken towards a more democratic government structure.
Recently in 2016, Myanmar had their first democratically elected official. Although, there is question about the legitimacy of the free and “fair” election that took place. The peaceful transition to power has been met with military involvement. Before the election, legislation was passed through Myanmar’s Parliament specifically to keep out Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been the face of Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement and the main opposition to military rule. She now claims that she will run the country with or without the cooperation of the elected government. According to BBC, the military still retains a decent amount of power within the executive and legislative branch, and essentially the overall government.
Treatment of the Rohingya
. The Rohingya are a Muslim minority group from the northern Rakhine State in western Burma. The government has isolated and demonized the 1.3 million Rohingya in Myanmar and claims that all Rohingya people are illegal immigrants, thus allowing the government to easily deport them. They are limited in their rights to marry, have children, work, obtain healthcare and go to school. The Myanmar government refuses to even acknowledge their existence with the President Thein Sein having declared “There are no Rohingya” in Burma and they were denied recognition in the 2014 census.
These people have suffered the worst discrimination imaginable including “arbitrary detention, forced displacement, land confiscations, rape and other forms of sexual violence, torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, as well as violations of humanitarian law (UTEG 1).” The United States has spoken out against his violence and imposed fierce sanctions against the government as a response. The United Nations has called it a series of human rights violations, listing the Rohingya as one of the most oppressed people on Earth.