The modern history of independent Myanmar

Myanmar has many ethnic groups. According to their government report, there are 135 distinct ethnic groups officially. But, there are also many unrecognised ethnic groups in Myanmar.

All these multiple ethnic groups fight amongst each other for position and power. This rampant ethnic strife led to one of the world’s longest-running ongoing civil war.

The Democratic rule(till 1958):

Aung San (father of Aung San Suu Kyi) negotiated Burma’s independence from erstwhile Britain in 1947. Aung San also concluded an agreement with the various ethnic groups for a unified Burma. After the acceptance, they were in a process of enacting new Constitution. But, opposition political members shot down Aung San and other few leaders.

With the help of Aung San’s colleague, U Nu, Burma became independent in 1948. But the ethnic group demanded a greater level of autonomy under the Constitution. They also start threatening the democratic government politically. The political groups helped General Ne Win (army leader) for a coup in 1958.

The military rule:

General Ne Win formed a caretaker government. The elections on 1960 brought U Nu back to power. But the threat remains the same. General Ne Win with the political opponents again staged a coup in 1962 and started Military dictatorship by suspending the constitution. During this phase,

  • Political dissents were crushed or forced out of the country,
  • Human Rights abuses intensified,
  • Nationalised all major Industries
  • Aung San’s daughter Aung San Suu Kyi supported the democratic government. So she was placed under House arrest.
The democratic elections:

By 1987, the Myanmar economy worsened. General Ne Win performed a demonetisation. The same year the UN included Myanmar as Least Developed Country. Due to people’s protest Ne Win stepped down in 1988. In 1990 Elections occurred in Myanmar. Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party won the elections. But the military refused to hand over the power.

The military rule:

A National Convention was convened in 1993 to draft a new constitution. But military under the leadership of General Than Shwe demanded military dominance. Aung San Suu Kyi and her party walked out of Constituent assembly in protest.

The present democracy:

In 2003, due to protests, an open-ended seven-step ‘roadmap to democracy’ was announced. A reconvention of National Convention followed in 2005. In 2008 military leaders helped in framing the Constitution. The constitution has few important provisions such as,

  • The constitution bars people with foreign spouses or their Children to hold any constitutional provision. (This provision is specifically to bar Aung San Suu Kyi (married English historian)
  • The Military retained veto for any moves to change the constitution.
  • The military reserves 25% of seats to themselves.

There is still ethnic strife and government-military tussle going on. This is clear by the recent Rohingya issue and military coup.

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