History of India’s Neighbours-5
- Myanmar, officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is a country in Southeast Asia. It is the largest country in Mainland Southeast Asia, and has a population of about 54 million as of 2017. Myanmar is bordered by Bangladesh and India to its northwest, China to its northeast, Laos and Thailand to its east and southeast, and the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal to its south and southwest. The country’s capital city is Naypyidaw, and its largest city is Yangon (Rangoon).
- Myanmar (Burma) was annexed by the British in the year 1886 and was treated as part of British India. It was made into a separate administrative region in 1937 in order to weaken the national movement. It finally gained independence on 4 January 1948 under the terms of the Burma Independence Act 1947. The new country was named the Union of Burma, and unlike most other former British colonies and overseas territories, Burma did not become a member of the Commonwealth.
- The geographical area Burma encompasses today can be traced to the Panglong Agreement, which combined Burma Proper, which consisted of Lower Burma and Upper Burma, and the Frontier Areas, which had been administered separately by the British
- The military leadership staged a coup d’état in 1962 due to rising demands for decentralisation of power and a more inclusive government. Subsequently successive military governments construed the use of the term ‘federalism’ as being anti-national, anti-unity and pro-disintegration.
Military rule (1962–2011)
- Between 1962 and 1974, Myanmar was ruled by a revolutionary council under military’s control. Almost all aspects of society including business, media and production were nationalised or brought under government control under the Burmese Way to Socialism, which combined Soviet-style nationalisation and central planning.
- The implementation of the Burmese Way to Socialism negatively affected the economy, educational standards, and living standards of the Burmese people. The government also implemented extensive visa restrictions for Burmese citizens, especially when their destinations were Western countries. The black market became a major feature of Burmese society, representing about 80% of the national economy during the Burmese Way period. Throughout the 1960s, Burma’s foreign exchange reserves declined from $214 million in 1964 to $50 million in 1971, while inflation skyrocketed.
- A new constitution of the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma was adopted in 1974. It created a unicameral legislature called the People’s Assembly (Pyithu Hluttaw), represented by members of the Burma Socialist Programme Party. During this period, Myanmar became one of the world’s most impoverished countries. In 1988, unrest over economic mismanagement and political oppression by the government led to widespread pro-democracy demonstrations throughout the country known as the 8888 Uprising.
- Military used this time to stage another coup d’état and formed the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). In 1989, SLORC declared martial law after widespread protests. SLORC also changed the country’s official English name from the “Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma” to the “Union of Myanmar” on 18 June 1989.
- In May 1990, the government held free multiparty elections for the first time in almost 30 years, and the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, won earning 392 out of a total 492 seats (i.e., 80% of the seats). However, the military refused to hand over power and continued to rule the nation, first as SLORC and, from 1997, as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) until it was dissolved in March 2011.
- On 23 June 1997, Myanmar was admitted into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. On 27 March 2006, the Government, which had moved the national capital from Yangon to a site near Pyinmana in November 2005, officially named the new capital Naypyidaw, meaning “city of the kings”.
- In August 2007, an increase in the price of fuel led to the Saffron Revolution led by Buddhist monks, this led to a government crackdown on them on 26 September 2007, with reports of barricades at the Shwedagon Pagoda and monks being killed.
Period of liberalisation, 2011–2021
- The Government had promulgated a “Roadmap to Discipline-flourishing Democracy” in 1993, but the process appeared to have stalled multiple times, until 2008 when the Government published a new draft national constitution, and organised a controversial national referendum which adopted it. The new constitution provided for the election of a national assembly with powers to appoint a President, while ensuring control of the army at all levels of government.
- A general election in 2010 – the first for twenty years – was boycotted by the NLD. The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) declared victory, stating that it had been favoured by 80 per cent of the votes. Allegations of voter fraud were rampant.
- General elections were held on 8 November 2015. These were the first openly contested elections held in Myanmar since the 1990 general election. The results gave the NLD an absolute majority of seats in both chambers of the national parliament, enough to ensure that its candidate would become president, while NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi is constitutionally barred from the presidency due to her sons being British citizens as well as her lack of Military career.
2021 coup and current situation
- In Myanmar’s 2020 parliamentary election, the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), won supermajorities in both houses—winning 396 out of 476 elected seats in parliament. As the election results began emerging, the USDP rejected them, urging a new election with the military as observers.
- The military argued that it had found over 8 million irregularities in voter lists, in over 300 townships and called on Myanmar’s Union Election Commission (UEC) and government to review the results, but the commission dismissed the claims for lack of any evidence. However, despite the election commission validating the NLD’s overwhelming victory, the USDP and Myanmar’s military persistently alleged fraud.
- In the early morning of 1 February 2021, the day parliament was set to convene, the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military, detained State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the ruling party. The military took over power and declared a state of emergency for one year.
- The coup was immediately condemned by the United Nations Secretary General, and leaders of democratic nations – including the United States, western European political leaders, Southeast Asian democracies, and others around the world, who demanded or urged release of the captive leaders, and an immediate return to democratic rule in Myanmar. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Russia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and China refrained from criticizing the military coup.
- However, despite the international criticism and outrage, the country still firmly resides under the control of the military. In response to the coup, large scale protests have been going on in the past year. Despite the military cracking down on the protesters, the demand for restoration of democracy has not subsided.
For more updates, Click Here