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The Aggression of the Military Government
"Myanmar, also known as Burma, was long considered a pariah state while under the rule of an oppressive military junta from 1962 to 2011." — BBC News
A general introduction to Burmese History
- British Rule and World War II
In 1943, Japanese declared Burma and turned into a fully sovereign state. Under Japanese occupation, 170,000 to 250,000 civilians died. The Japanese were routed from most of Burma by May 1945. After the war ended, the British Governor, Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith returned. The restored government established a political program that focused on physical reconstruction of the country and delayed discussion of independence.
- Burma's Independence and Military Rule
After the coup 1962, General Ne Win seized control of the government and imposed iron-fisted military rule. A number of protests followed the coup, and initially the military's response was mild. But then the military started to suppress protests, and in 1963, all opposition parties were banned. Ne Win, the head of state from 1962 to 1981, quickly took steps to transform Burma into his vision of a 'socialist state' and to isolate the country from contact with the rest of the world.
In 1978, a military operation was conducted against the Rohingya Muslims in Arakan, called the King Dragon operation, causing 250,000 refugees to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.
- Crisis and 1988 Uprising
Triggered by brutal police repression of student-led protests causing the death of over 100 students and civilians in March and June 1988, widespread protests and demonstrations broke out on 8 August throughout the country. The uprising ended on 18 September, after a bloody military coup causing an estimated 3,000 deaths. During the crisis, Aung San Suu Kyi emerged as a national icon. When the military junta arranged an election in 1990, her party, the National League for Democracy, won 80% of the seats in the government. But the military junta suppressed everything that could have developed from these democratic achievements. Part of the strategy was to place Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest.
. The military government announced that they wanted foreigners to stop using the words Burma and Burmese. Instead they wanted the world to use Myanmar for the country and its national people. Although the international business community and international organizations like the United Nations have adopted Myanmar as the new name without reser- vation, not everyone has accepted these name changes. Foreigners and Burmese expatriates who oppose the military government, and contest its right to rule, deliberately persist in using the old names, Burmese and Burma, as a symbol of their opposition and defiance.
- 2007 anti-government protests
And since 1988, the army has more than doubled in size and now has a staggering troop-force of almost half a million soldiers, around the same number as the U.S. army. It is estimated that 40% of the national budget is spent on building the army’s strength, while education reportedly receives as little as 1% to 2%.
Therefore, despite these reforms, human rights abuses are still commonplace in Burma. While certain positive developments were reported in a number of fields, such as political engagement, media or foreign investments, the majority of Burma’s people, especially ethnic and religious minorities, still face many challenges.