Myanmar History: from Independence to Successive Military Governments

Myanmar History: from Independence to Successive Military Governments

On January 4, 1948 the new Republic was proclaimed. In March of the same year, the Communist revolt broke out, which, quelled in 1950, still continues in the form of guerrillas. In 1962 a coup d’etat by General U Ne Win removed the government of Prime Minister U Nu and inaugurated a policy of nationalization, oriented towards the establishment of a popular democracy internally and non-alignment on the international level. In 1981, after twenty uninterrupted years of power, Ne Win left the presidency of the Republic to General San Yu, while retaining the position of leader of the Burma Socialist Program Party (BSPP, Party of the Burmese Socialist Program). As the charismatic leader of the only authorized party in the country, Ne Win continued to be the true holder of power, inspiring the government’s choices in all fields. ASEAN instead abounded. According to aceinland, the most serious problem, however, remained the guerrilla fomented by the Burmese Communist Party (BCP) and by the two separatist groups Shan and Kachin. Reconfirmed in their offices in 1985, the leaders of the BSPP, as a consequence of the worsening of the economic situation, from 1987 had to face a widespread social unrest that found a stronger reason for affirmation in the bloody repression implemented after the resignation of Ne Win and his successor U Sein Lwin; it resulted in the formation (1988) of a National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of Aung San, hero of Burmese independence. In September 1988 the army, under the command of General Saw Maung and with the declared aim of guaranteeing the free elections already called by the BSPP, then took power through a Council for the Restoration of Law and Order (SLORC), whose president was at the same time head of state. The rise to power of the military seemed to be a prelude to the start of a process of democratization and the settlement of the country’s contradictions. A first sign (1989) was represented by the decision of the Council for the restoration of the law and order to change the name of Myanmar to that of Union of Myanmar, more in keeping with its varied ethnic composition. In 1990, free elections were held for a ‘ Constituent Assembly, but the victory of the NLD was not welcomed by the military. Ignoring the verdict of the polls, the military junta prevented the Assembly meeting and accentuated the repression against a vast social protest that was increasingly radicalizing. Not even the pressure of international public opinion, which led to the significant award of the Nobel Peace Prize (1991) to the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been under house arrest for three years, did not shake the military.

On the contrary, the regime responded very harshly, with the systematic violation of human rights, to the protests that were increasingly spreading in the country. Along with the political opposition, the activity of the guerrillas also intensified, but in this field the military seemed to be enjoying greater success due to the progress made in negotiations leading to a ceasefire (October 1993) with the Kachin Independence Army. On the front of the armed struggle, indeed, the junta, which after the resignation of Saw Maung (1992) was headed by Than Shwe, was gradually able to conclude agreements with the Shan (1994) and the Karen (1995). On the political level Than Shwe sought a revival with the constitution (1993) of a National Convention composed of 700 members, the majority of which, however, had been directly appointed by the military junta. Another calming signal was launched to international public opinion in July 1995, with the granting of probation to Aung, which shortly after also formally summarized the leadership of the NLD. However, it was a measure that did not appease the opposition, which boycotted the convening of the second session of the National Convention (November 1995) and went so far as to openly challenge the regime by organizing a congress that was celebrated (May 1996) in the house of theLeague leader, despite hundreds of arrests. In July 1997, despite US opposition criticizing the government’s authoritarian policy, Myanmar joined ASEAN but due to continued human rights violations, repression of ethnic minorities and its pivotal role in trafficking in heroin, was subjected to severe economic sanctions by the United States and the EU, which extended them also in 2001. The forms of protest against the regime, meanwhile, did not exclude the use of real armed commands, as in the case of the Buddhist Buddhist Organization of the Karen, which had developed within it a ramified terrorist phalanx, above all, in the north-west sector of the country (Huay Ko Lo). In the first months of 2002, however, the government gave unexpected signs of openness towards its opponents, providing for the release of hundreds of political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, imprisoned 19 months earlier, but immediately arrested again together with 20 members of his party, whose offices were closed. In November 2004, the leader of the student movement Min Ko Naing was released and the authorities announced the release of about 4,000 political prisoners. In March 2007, the government expressed its desire to transfer the headquarters of the capital to Naypyidaw, an isolated town in the mountains 350 km from Yangoon.

The umpteenth extension of the house arrest of the opposition leader raised international protests to which, in the summer of 2007, were added a series of popular demonstrations, led by Buddhist monks, against rising prices and inflation. In May 2008, a violent typhoon hit the country, killing thousands of people. Elections took place in November 2010, the first since 1990, won as expected by the party linked to the military junta. The serious electoral irregularities triggered the protest of the intrenational community and the resumption of clashes between ethnic groups and the army, especially in the state of Karen. In March 2011, the new president Thein Sein took office and, officially, the military junta, led by Than Shwe, whose powers passed to the president, was dissolved. In the November 2015 elections – the first truly free in 25 years – Aung San Suu Kyi and her democratic movement NLD achieved a landslide victory. In 2016, the economist economist Htin Kyaw, right arm of Aung San Suu Kyi, was elected to the presidency of the country. In the first months of 2017, after an attack on police forces carried out by Rohingya militiamen, a harsh repression of the army began which led to numerous victims and the flight to Bangladesh of over 650,000 people. The violence perpetrated by the Burmese government against this minority has cost Aung San Suu kyi much criticism from the international community. In September of the same year, Myanmar and Bangladesh signed an agreement for the return of refugees, but the hostility of the government and population towards the Rohingya makes it difficult to apply. In 2018, President Htin Kyaw resigned and Win Myint took over. The 2020 legislative elections are won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, and the Union of Solidarity and Development Party close to the army has won few votes; At the beginning of 2021, General Min Aung Hlaing, head of the armed forces, contested the results of the ballot asking for verification and threatening the intervention of the army. State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Wyn Myint and other leaders of the ruling party were arrested and detained by the Tatmadaw, the Myanmar army. Later, the Myanmar army declared a one-year state of emergency and handed power over to Min Aung Hlaing as necessary to preserve the stability of the state. The UN, the US, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and several other countries have condemned the coup. Myanmar army declared a one-year state of emergency and handed over power to Min Aung Hlaing declaring it necessary to preserve the stability of the state. The UN, the US, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and several other countries have condemned the coup. Myanmar army declared a one-year state of emergency and handed over power to Min Aung Hlaing declaring it necessary to preserve the stability of the state. The UN, the US, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and several other countries have condemned the coup.

Myanmar History - from Independence to Successive Military Governments