Burma (Myanmar)




Archaeological evidence shows that Homo erectus lived in the region now known as Myanmar 400,000 years ago. The first evidence of Homo sapiens dates from around 11,000 BC, in a Stone Age culture called Anyathian with discoveries of stone tools in central Myanmar. Evidence of Neolithic plant and animal aging has been discovered and the use of polished stone tools dating from 10,000 BC to 6,000 BC in the form of cave paintings in the Padah-Lin caves.

The Bronze Age came around the year 1500 BC, when the people of the region converted copper into bronze, cultivated rice and domesticated poultry and pigs; They were among the first people in the world to do so. Human remains and artifacts from this era were discovered in the Monywa district of the Sagaing division. The Iron Age began around 500 BC with the appearance of settlements that work iron in an area south of the current Mandalay. The evidence also shows the presence of ricefield settlements of large towns and small cities that traded their surroundings to China between 500 BC and 200 AD. Burmese cultures of the Iron Age were also influenced by external sources such as India and Thailand, as seen in their burial practices on children's burials. This indicates some form of communication between groups in Myanmar and elsewhere, possibly through trade.

Early city-states

Around the 2nd century BC, the first known city-states emerged in central Myanmar. The city-states were founded as part of the migration to the south by the Tibetan-Burmese Pyu city-states, the first inhabitants of Myanmar of whom records exist, of the current Yunnan. The Pyu culture was strongly influenced by trade with India, importing Buddhismas as well as other cultural, architectural and political concepts that would have a lasting influence on Burma's subsequent culture and political organization.

In the ninth century, several city-states had sprung up on earth: Pyu in the central dry zone, Mon along the south coast and Arakanese in the western littoral. The balance was altered when Pyu suffered repeated Nanzhao attacks between the 750s and the 830s. Between the middle and end of the ninth century, Bamar founded a small settlement in Bagan. It was one of the city-states that competed until the end of the tenth century, when it grew in authority and grandeur.

Imperial Burma

Pagan grew gradually to absorb its surrounding states until the 1050s and 1060s when Anawrahta founded the Pagan Kingdom, the first unification of the Irrawaddy valley and its periphery. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the Pagan Empire and the Khmer Empire were two main powers in continental Southeast Asia. The Burman language and culture gradually became dominant in the upper Irrawaddy valley, eclipsing the Pyu, Mon and Pali norms in the late 12th century.

Theravada Buddhism slowly began to spread to the level of the village, although Tantric, Mahayana, Hinduism and popular religion remained deeply entrenched. The pagan rulers and the rich built more than 10,000 Buddhist temples only in the pagan capital zone. The repeated Mongol invasions (1277-1301) overthrew the four-century-old kingdom in 1287.

The collapse of Pagan was followed by 250 years of political fragmentation that lasted well into the sixteenth century. Like the Burmese four centuries before, the Shan migrants who arrived with the Mongol invasions were left behind. Several competing Shan States came to dominate the entire northwest arc to the east that surrounds the Irrawaddy valley. The valley was also plagued with small states until the end of the 14th century, when two important powers emerged, Ava Kingdom and Hanthawaddy Kingdom. In the west, a politically fragmented Arakan was under competitive influence from its strongest neighbors until the Kingdom of Mrauk U unified the Arakan coast for the first time in 1437.

At the beginning, Ava fought in the wars of unification (1385-1424) but never could return to mount the lost empire. Having resisted Ava, Hanthawaddy entered his golden age, and Arakan went on to become a power in his own right for the next 350 years. On the contrary, the constant war left Ava very weakened, and slowly disintegrated from 1481 onwards. In 1527, the Confederation of Shan States conquered Ava and ruled Upper Myanmar until 1555.

Like the Pagan Empire, Ava, Hanthawaddy and the Shan states were all multi-ethnic polytechnics. Despite the wars, cultural synchronization continued. This period is considered a golden age for Burmese culture. Burmese literature "became more secure, popular and stylistically diverse," and the second generation of Burmese law codes and the first pan-Burmanic chronicles emerged. The Hanthawaddy monarchs introduced religious reforms that later spread to the rest of the country. Many splendid temples of Mrauk U were built during this period.

Taungoo and colonialism

Political unification returned in the mid-sixteenth century, due to the efforts of Taungoo, an ancient vassal state of Ava. The young and ambitious Taungoo king, Tabinshwehti, defeated the most powerful Hanthawaddy in the Toungoo-Hanthawaddy War (1534-41) . His successor, Bayinnaung, conquered a vast swathe of Southeast Asia, including the Shan, Lan Na, Manipur, Mong Mao, Ayutthaya, Lan Xang and southern Arakan states. However, the largest empire in the history of Southeast Asia was unleashed shortly after the death of Bayinnaung in 1581, collapsing completely in 1599. Ayutthaya seized Tenasserim and Lan Na, and Portuguese mercenaries established Portuguese rule in Thanlyin (Syriam).

The dynasty regrouped and defeated the Portuguese in 1613 and Siam in 1614. It restored a smaller and more manageable kingdom, encompassing Lower Myanmar, Upper Myanmar, the Shan states, Lan Na and the Upper Tenasserim. The restored kings of Toungoo created a legal and political framework whose basic characteristics would continue well into the 19th century. The crown completely replaced the hereditary headquarters with designated governors throughout the Irrawaddy valley, and greatly reduced the hereditary rights of the Shan chiefs. Its trade and secular administrative reforms built a thriving economy for more than 80 years. From the 1720s onwards, the kingdom was plagued by repeated Meithei raids in Upper Myanmar and an upset rebellion in Lan Na. In 1740, the Mon of Lower Myanmar founded the Restored Hanthawaddy Kingdom. Hanthawaddy's forces sacked Ava in 1752, ending the 266-year Toungoo dynasty.

After the fall of Ava, Konbaung-Hanthawaddy Warin returned a resistance group under Alaungpaya, defeating the Restored Hanthawaddy, and in 1759, he gathered all of Myanmar and Manipur, and expelled the French and British, who had provided weapons to Hanthawaddy . In 1770, the heirs of Alaungpaya had dominated much of Laos (1765) and fought and won the Burmese-Siamese war (1765-67) against Ayutthaya and the Sino-Burmese war (1765-69) against Qing China (1765-1769). ).

With Burma worried about the Chinese threat, Ayutthaya regained its territories in 1770 and came to capture Lan Na in 1776. Burma and Siam declared wars until 1855, but all resulted in a stalemate, swapping Tenasserim (to Burma) and Lan Na (to Ayutthaya). Faced with a powerful China and a resurgent Ayutthaya in the east, King Bodawpaya turned west, acquiring Arakan (1785), Manipur (1814) and Assam (1817). It was the second largest empire in Burmese history, but also one with a long ill-defined border with British India.

The breadth of this empire was short-lived. Burma lost Arakan, Manipur, Assam and Tenasserim to the British in the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826). In 1852, the British easily took Lower Burma in the Second Anglo-Burma War. King Mindon Min tried to modernize the kingdom, and in 1875 he narrowly avoided annexation by giving up the Karenni States. The British, alarmed by the consolidation of French Indochina, annexed the rest of the country in the Third Anglo-Burmese War in 1885.

The Konbaung kings extended the administrative reforms of Toungoo Restored, and achieved unprecedented levels of internal control and external expansion. For the first time in history, the Burmese language and culture came to predominate throughout the Irrawaddy valley. The evolution and growth of Burmese literature and theater continued, helped by an adult literacy rate extremely high for the time (half of all men and 5% of women). However, the scope and pace of the reforms were uneven and ultimately proved insufficient to halt the advance of British colonialism.

British Burma (1824–1948)

The country was colonized by Great Britain after three Anglo-Burman wars (1824-1885). The British government brought social, economic, cultural and administrative changes.

With the fall of Mandalay, all of Burma came under British rule, being annexed on January 1, 1886. Throughout colonial times, many Indians arrived as soldiers, officials, construction workers and merchants and, along with the community Anglo-Burmese, they dominated commercial and civil life in Burma. Rangoon became the capital of British Burma and an important port between Calcutta and Singapore.

Burmese resentment was strong and was deactivated in violent riots that paralyzed Yangon (Rangoon) from time to time until the 1930s. Part of the discontent was caused by a lack of respect for Burmese culture and traditions, such as the British refusal to take off their shoes when they entered the pagodas. Buddhist monks became the vanguards of the independence movement. U Wisara, an activist monk, died in prison after a 166-day hunger strike to protest a rule that prohibited him from wearing his Buddhist robes while in prison.

On April 1, 1937, Burma became a colony administered separately from Great Britain and Ba Maw, Burma's first prime minister and prime minister. Ba Maw was an outspoken advocate of Burmese self-government and opposed the participation of Britain and, by extension, Burma, in World War II. He resigned from the Legislative Assembly and was arrested for sedition. In 1940, before Japan formally entered World War II, Aung San formed the Burmese Independence Army in Japan.

A large battlefield, Burma was devastated during World War II. In March 1942, a few months after they entered the war, Japanese troops had advanced on Rangoon and the British administration had collapsed. In August 1942, the Japanese established a Burmese executive administration headed by Ba Maw. The British Chindits of Wingate were trained in long-range penetration groups trained to operate far behind the Japanese lines. A similar US unit, Merrill's Marauders, followed the Chindits in the Burmese jungle in 1943. From the end of 1944, the Allied troops launched a series of offensives that led to the end of the Japanese government in July 1945. The battles were intense with much of Burma devastated by the struggle. In general, the Japanese lost some 150,000 men in Burma. Only 1,700 prisoners were taken.

Although many Burmese initially fought for the Japanese as part of the Burmese Independence Army, many Burmese, mostly from ethnic minorities, served in the British Army of Burma. The National Army of Burma and the Arakan National Army fought with the Japanese from 1942 to 1944, but they changed allegiance to the Allied side in 1945. Under the Japanese occupation, between 170,000 and 250,000 civilians died.

After World War II, Aung San negotiated the Panglong Agreement with ethnic leaders who guaranteed the independence of Myanmar as a unified state. Aung Zan Wai, Pe Khin, Bo Hmu Aung, Sir Maung Gyi, Dr. Sein Mya Maung, Myoma U Than Kywe were among the negotiators of the historic Panglong Conference negotiated with the leader of Bamar, General Aung San and other ethnic leaders in 1947. In 1947, Aung San became vice president of the Executive Council of Myanmar, a transitional government. But in July 1947, political rivals murdered Aung San and several cabinet members.

Independence (1948–1962)

On January 4, 1948, the nation became an independent republic, called Union of Burma, with Sao Shwe Thaik as first president and U Nu as prime minister. Unlike most other former British colonies and overseas territories, Burma did not become a member of the Commonwealth. A bicameral parliament composed of a Chamber of Deputies and a Chamber of Nationalities was formed, and multi-party elections were held in 1951-1952, 1956 and 1960.

The geographical area that Burma currently covers can be traced back to the Panglong Agreement, which combined Burma itself, which consisted of Lower Burma and Upper Burma, and Border Zones, which had been administered separately by the British.

In 1961, U Thant, then Permanent Representative of the Union of Burma to the United Nations and former Secretary of the Prime Minister, was elected Secretary-General of the United Nations, a position he held for ten years. Among the Burmese who worked at the UN when he was secretary general was a young Aung San Suu Kyi (daughter of Aung San), who became the winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize.

Military rule (1962–2011)

On March 2, 1962, the military led by General Ne Win took control of Burma through a coup d'état, and the government has been under the direct or indirect control of the military ever since. Between 1962 and 1974, Myanmar was governed by a revolutionary council headed by the general. Almost all aspects of society (business, media, production) were nationalized or placed under the control of the government under the Burmese Way to Socialism, which combined the Soviet-style nationalization and central planning.

A new constitution of the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma was adopted in 1974. Until 1988, the country was governed as a one-party system, with the General and other military officers resigning and ruling through the Socialist Party Party of Burma. (BSPP). During this period, Myanmar became one of the most impoverished countries in the world.

There were sporadic protests against the military government during the Ne Win years and these were almost always violently suppressed. On July 7, 1962, the government dissolved the demonstrations at the University of Rangoon, killing 15 students. In 1974, the military violently suppressed anti-government protests at the funeral of U Thant. Student protests in 1975, 1976 and 1977 were quickly suppressed by an overwhelming force.

In 1988, riots over economic mismanagement and political oppression by the government led to widespread demonstrations in favor of democracy throughout the country, known as Insurrection 8888. The security forces killed thousands of demonstrators, and the general Saw Maung organized a coup d'état and formed the Restoration Council of the Law and Order of the State (SLORC). In 1989, SLORC declared martial law after widespread protests. The military government finalized the plans for the Popular Assembly elections on May 31, 1989. SLORC changed the official English name of the country from the "Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma" to the "Union of Myanmar" in 1989.

In May 1990, the government held free elections for the first time in almost 30 years and the National League for Democracy (NLD), Aung San Suu Kyi's party, won 392 out of a total of 492 seats (that is, 80 % of seats). However, the military junta refused to cede power and continued ruling the nation as SLORC until 1997, and then as the State Council for Peace and Development (SPDC) until its dissolution in March 2011.

On June 23, 1997, Myanmar joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). On March 27, 2006, the military junta, which had moved the national capital of Yangon to a site near Pyinmana in November 2005, officially named the new capital Naypyidaw, which means "city of kings".

In August 2007, an increase in the price of diesel and gasoline led to the Azafran Revolution led by Buddhist monks who were harshly treated by the government. The government took strong measures against them on September 26, 2007. The repression was harsh, with reports of barricades in the Shwedagon Pagoda and the death of monks. There were also rumors of disagreement within the Burmese armed forces, but none was confirmed. Military repression against unarmed protesters was widely condemned as part of international reactions to the Saffron Revolution and led to an increase in economic sanctions against the Burmese Government.

In May 2008, Cyclone Nargis caused extensive damage in the densely populated rice delta of the Irrawaddy Division. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of Burma with reports of an estimated 200,000 people dead or missing, total damages of 10 billion dollars, and up to one million left homeless. In the critical days following this disaster, the isolationist government of Myanmar was accused of hampering United Nations recovery efforts. Humanitarian aid was requested, but concerns about the military presence or foreign intelligence in the country delayed the entry of United States military aircraft that delivered medicines, food and other supplies.

In early August 2009, a conflict known as the Kokang incident broke out in Shan State in northern Myanmar. For several weeks, the junta's troops fought against ethnic minorities, including Han Chinese, Wa and Kachin. From August 8 to 12, the first days of the conflict, some 10,000 Burmese civilians fled to the province of Yunnan in neighboring China.

Civil wars

Civil wars have been a constant feature of the sociopolitical landscape of Myanmar since the attainment of independence in 1948. These wars are predominantly struggles for ethnic and subnational autonomy, with the areas surrounding the ethnically Bamar central districts of the country serving as the main geographical environment of conflict. Journalists and foreign visitors require a special travel permit to visit the areas where Myanmar's civil wars continue.

In October 2012, ongoing conflicts in Myanmar included the Kachin conflict, between the Kachin Pro-Christian Independence Army and the government; a civil war between the Rohingya Muslims and the government and non-governmental groups in Rakhine State; and a conflict between minority groups Shan, Lahu and Karen, and the government in the eastern half of the country. In addition, al-Qaeda indicated its intention to get involved in Myanmar. In a video posted on September 3, 2014, aimed primarily at India, militant group leader Ayman al-Zawahiri said al-Qaeda had not forgotten the Muslims in Myanmar and that the group was doing "everything possible to rescue him. " In response, the military raised its alert level, while the Association of Burmese Muslims issued a statement saying that Muslims would not tolerate any threat to their homeland.

The armed conflict between the ethnic Chinese rebels and the Myanmar Armed Forces resulted in Kokang's offensive in February 2015. The conflict forced 40,000 to 50,000 civilians to flee their homes and seek refuge on the Chinese side of the border. During the incident, the Chinese government was accused of providing military aid to ethnic Chinese rebels. Burmese officials have historically been "manipulated" and pressured by the Chinese Communist government throughout modern Burmese history to create closer and more binding ties with China, creating a Chinese satellite state in Southeast Asia. However, there are uncertainties as clashes continue between Burmese troops and local insurgent groups.

Democratic reforms

The objective of the 2008 Burmese constitutional referendum, held on May 10, 2008, is the creation of a "flourishing democracy of discipline". As part of the referendum process, the name of the country from "Union of Myanmar" to "Republic of the Union of Myanmar" was changed and general elections were held under the new Constitution in 2010. The accounts of the 2010 election observers they describe the event as mostly peaceful; however, allegations of irregularities were filed at the polling stations, and the United Nations (UN) and several Western countries condemned the elections as fraudulent.

The Solidarity and Trade Union Development Party backed by the military declared victory in the 2010 elections, stating that it had been favored by 80 percent of the vote; however, numerous pro-democracy opposition groups questioned the claim that the military regime had engaged in rampant fraud. One report documented 77 percent as the official rate of participation in the elections. The military junta was dissolved on March 30, 2011.

Opinions differ if the transition to liberal democracy is underway. According to some reports, the presence of the army continues as suggested by the label "disciplined democracy". This label affirms that the Burmese army is allowing certain civil liberties while it is clandestinely institutionalized more deeply in Burmese politics. Such a claim assumes that the reforms only occurred when the military was able to safeguard its own interests through the transition; here, the "transition" does not refer to a transition to a liberal democracy, but to a transition to an almost military government.

Since the 2010 elections, the government has embarked on a series of reforms to lead the country towards liberal democracy, a mixed economy and reconciliation, although doubts persist about the reasons for such reforms. The series of reforms includes the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission, the granting of general amnesties for more than 200 political prisoners, new labor laws that allow unions and strikes, a relaxation of press censorship and the regulation of monetary practices.

The impact of post-electoral reforms has been observed in many areas, including the approval by ASEAN of Myanmar's candidacy for the position of ASEAN president in 2014; the visit of Secretary of State of the United States Hillary Clinton in December 2011 to encourage progress, which was the first visit of a Secretary of State in more than fifty years, during which Clinton met with the Burmese president and former military commander Thein Sein, as well as opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi; and the participation of the Aung San Suu Kyi party of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in the 2012 by-elections, facilitated by the government's abolition of the laws that previously prohibited the NLD. As of July 2013, approximately 100 political prisoners remain imprisoned, while the conflict between the Burmese army and local insurgent groups continues.

In the by-elections on April 1, 2012, the NLD won 43 of the 45 available seats; Formerly an illegal organization, the NLD had never won a Burmese election until now. The 2012 by-elections were also the first time that international representatives were allowed to monitor the voting process in Myanmar.

2015 Myanmar general elections

Myanmar's general elections were held on 8 November 2015. These were the first open elections in Myanmar since 1990. The results gave the National League for Democracy the absolute majority of seats in both houses of the national parliament, enough to guarantee that the president would become president, while the leader of the NLD, Aung San Suu Kyiis, was constitutionally excluded from the presidency.

The new parliament met on February 1, 2016, and on March 15, 2016, Htin Kyaw was elected the country's first non-military president since the military coup of 1962. On April 6, 2016, Aung San Suu Kyi assumed the newly created role of state councilor, a role similar to a prime minister.

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Burma (Myanmar) - Travel guide

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