History of Myanmar

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British Map of Burma (1868)

The history of Myanmar encompasses developments in the territory of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar from prehistory to the present.

Prehistory, Pyu States and the Kingdom of Bagan

The prehistory of Myanmar has not been adequately researched. So far there have hardly been any excavations at prehistoric sites. Surface finds show that there are numerous potential excavation sites. In Lepanchibaw 2001 was Neolithic find site exposed. Stone tools were found in the lower layers, bronze finds in the upper layers. Settlement here ranges from around 3000 to 1500 BC. Chr. Nyaunggan is a Bronze Age burial ground .

Ruins of the ancient capital in Bagan

Around 500 BC The Iron Age seems to have begun. In the 1st century BC The first city-states, assigned to the Pyu people , developed. The oldest city, Beikthano-myo , lost its importance in the 5th century AD and was replaced by Sri Ksetra as the most important city. Culturally, the Pyu were heavily dependent on India. They minted coins. The cities were surrounded by walls. Rice cultivation was the basis of food, Hinduism the religion. In the 5th / 6th In the 19th century, Buddhism came to the Pyu in the forms of Hinayana , Mahayana and Tantrayana . The dominance of the Pyu principalities in northern Myanmar was broken by the Kingdom of Nanzhao around 800 . In the south the Mon dominated , but they can only be documented from the 10th century.

In the 9th century the Pyu were weakened by Nanzhao, this allowed the immigration of the Burmese and finally led to the founding of the city of Bagan in the middle of the 9th century . King Anawrahta ruled between 1044 and 1077 . After the subjugation of the Mon king Manuha in the Mon capital, Thaton (1058) and the conquest of the Irrawaddy Delta, he founded the first Burmese Empire ("Empire of Bagan"). Theravada prevails among the various Buddhist currents . This meant the heyday of Buddhist culture in Myanmar. In 1273, King Narathihapate (1254–1287) refused to pay tribute to the Mongol- ruled China and had an embassy executed by the Mongol ruler Kublai Khan . Myanmar was then immediately the victim of four Chinese punitive expeditions that destroyed the Bagan Empire between 1277 and 1287. The last serious king of Bagan was killed by the Shan in 1299 and the city was destroyed.

Kingdoms of Pegu, Ava and Arakan

Dominions in the area of ​​Burma around 1450

Instead of the Bagan Empire, two dominant powers developed in the middle of the 14th century: the Empire Pegu of the Mon in Lower Burma and the Empire Ava in the north, founded by the Burmese Shan. Ava endeavored to reunite the entire territory of the former Bagan Empire, which led to the Forty Years War with Pegu from 1385 to 1424. Pegu was able to maintain its independence and developed through its location by the sea and the emerging sea trade with Europe to a prosperous trading center. In addition, Arakan became an independent state on the southwest coast of today's Burma. Ava's importance, however, declined.

Taungu Dynasty

Largest extent of the area of ​​influence of the Taungu Empire (1581)

Instead, the Taungu Kingdom dynasty gained influence in Upper Burma. Their King Tabinshwehti conquered Pegu in 1539 and had brought the area of ​​the former Bagan Empire (i.e. roughly today's Burma) back under uniform control. Tabinshwehti was crowned in the old royal city of Bagan, but the capital was the conveniently located Pegu. The attempt of Tabinshwehti to expand his empire further east was ended in 1549 by the troops of Ayutthaya .

The period from the 16th to the 19th century was marked by constant clashes between the Burmese rulers and the kingdoms of Ayutthaya and Thonburi in Siam . The campaigns of the Taungu king Bayinnaung led to the conquest of Ayutthaya in 1564 and to the subjugation of a vast area by 1580. Beyond the actual Burmese territories, the area of ​​today's Thailand, Laos, the Indian state of Manipur , parts of Cambodia and the southern Chinese province of Yunnan were subject to tribute. Only Arakan was able to evade Bayinnaung's supremacy. His son Nandabayin quickly lost control of most of these areas. 1592 new Siamese king could Naresuan the shake Burmese rule . He came from far in 1593 even on Burmese territory before and weakened Pegu crucial.

It came to an intra-Burmese war ("Burmese civil war"), in the course of which the troops of Arakans, in association with rebellious Burmese and Portuguese mercenaries, took Pegu in 1599 and partially destroyed it. Subsequently, there were many independent states in the area of ​​Burma, but no dominant rule. The Portuguese adventurer Filipe de Brito e Nicote founded his own short-lived state in Syriam together with European mercenaries. From Ava, King Anaukpetlun was initially able to restore control of Mittel- and, in 1613, sub-company. He then even drew again against Ayutthaya , but without lasting success. From 1635 the Taungu dynasty ruled again permanently from Ava. After 1740, the Taungu kings finally lost control of Burma. The Mon rulers in Pegu made themselves independent again. In 1752 they captured and sacked Ava and kidnapped King Mahadammaya, whom they eventually executed.

Konbaung dynasty

Illustration of the palace of Amarapura in An account of an embassy to the kingdom of Ava by Michael Symes (1795)

The advance of Pegus to Upper Burma, however, gave the Konbaung dynasty of the later King Alaungpaya a boost. He largely destroyed Pegu in 1757 and killed the last Mon king. After he had gained control of the whole of Burma (with the exception of Arakans) , he turned against Ayutthaya, which was already weakened as a result of internal disputes. When Alaungpaya died in 1760, he ruled that all seven of his legitimate sons should be entitled to the throne and should succeed him in turn. This led to bloody disputes within the dynasty that lasted for over 20 years. Alaungpaya's second son, Hsinbyushin , managed to crush Ayutthaya . The old Siamese capital was finally destroyed on April 7, 1767. However, the Siamese military leader Taksin soon founded a new kingdom in Thonburi , made himself king and drove the Burmese back.

After a series of bloody intrigues, Alaungpaya's fourth son, Bodawpaya , came to power in 1782 . He found that the palace was stained with blood and therefore profaned and moved the capital from the well-developed Ava to the swampy Amarapura . He forced the population to resettle as well, and the old capital was destroyed. Instead of turning his army to the west, he finally conquered Arakan in 1784, the present-day Indian state of Manipur in 1813 and Assam in 1817 .

Sub-company as part of British India (before 1886)

After Bodawpaya's death, his son Bagyidaw had the old capital Ava rebuilt in 1821. After the First British-Burmese War (1824-1826) Burma Assam , Manipur , Arakan and Tenasserim had to cede to the British. In 1841, Ava was almost completely destroyed in a major earthquake. The residence was again relocated to nearby Amarapura. In the Second British-Burmese War , which took place in 1852, Burma also lost the rest of its coastal areas (the former Pegu) to Great Britain . After this defeat, Mindon Min overthrew his half-brother Pagan in 1853 and put himself on the throne. As a sign of a new beginning, he founded the new capital Mandalay .

British rule

After the Third British-Burmese War in 1885, Burma was completely conquered by Great Britain and on January 1, 1886 part of British India . The last king of Burma, Thibaw Min , was exiled with his family by the British occupation in India, where he also died. The colonial administration met the massive resistance of the Burmese with massive extermination campaigns against entire villages and cities.

Colonial troops

For the first time after the First Burmese-British War (1824-26), the British raised two corps, one under the Maghs in Arakan , a second under the Mon von Tenasserim . These were dissolved after the Sepoy uprising in 1857. After the conquest of Oberbirmas in 1886 and after the conclusion of the agreement with France in 1893, which neutralized the valley of the Mae Nam Chao Phraya ( Chao Phraya River ) in Siam , there was no longer any external threat to the country. No Burmese were recruited until the First World War . This was also due to the fact that the British occupiers did not trust the ethnic Burmese after the 10-year guerrilla operations that followed the deposition of the last king. The stationed troops came from other parts of the Indian subcontinent.

There was also a gendarmerie called the Military Police . Their main task was the collective punishment of villages that refused to pay taxes.

During the First World War, the following regiments were formed as part of the Indian army:

  • 70th Burma Rifles with four battalions, including one from Burmese
  • 84th Burma Rifles mostly recruits from the Military Police
  • 3 pioneer companies Burma Sappers and Miners, including one from Burmese, disbanded in 1929, re-established in 1937 (380 men, plus British NCOs and officers)
  • 7 transport companies, some of which were used in the campaign to Mesopotamia and after the war in the suppression of the Moplah uprising . Some of them were stationed in Singapore from 1919 (p. 254).

Their main task, however, was to ensure "internal security". So z. B. in the suppression of the Saya San peasant uprising (1930–32). After the war, recruiting took place exclusively among members of the mountain tribes; Burmese were eliminated from 1923.

After Burma was administered as a colony of its own, the high command passed to the governor. In 1938, 358 British officers and 4713 men, as well as 5922 members of the Indian Army and British Burma Army were stationed in the country. This is with an estimated population of 16 million. More than half of the native contingent was recruited from Indians, the rest from the Karen , Kachin and Chin people , but no Shan , who were only used by the police in the plains. Ethnic Burmese made up 75% of the population but only provided 12% of the troops, the tribes, out of a 13% population, 83% of the native troops.

The Military Police was divided into two parts, the Territorial Force under the control of the Home Minister in the plains (April 1941: 4,294 men), and the other part, the Frontier Force (10,073 men, of which 7,376 Indians). In addition, there was the Auxiliary Force, a reserve force of 3,368 men, most of which consisted of resident Europeans and half-breeds (2,732). In 1940, four additional battalions (5th – 8th) of the Burma Rifles were set up along ethnic dividing lines. The 8th was made up of Sikhs and Muslim Panjabers who already served in the Frontier Force. The latter was reinforced by three companies. Burmese recruits remained underrepresented at 28.5%.

Limited self-government

As early as 1923, the country had been administered as an independent colony under the Government of India Act as a separate province under a governor in Rangoon. Men and women who paid taxes were given the right to vote. However, the passive right to vote for women was not granted. Since only men were required to pay poll tax, there were many more taxpayers than taxpayers, so in practice women were still prevented from voting. At that time there were only 125,000 female voters for every two million voters. In 1927 there was a proposal in the legislative assembly which also wanted to introduce the right to vote for women ; but the British refused. This led to resentment among the women and a demonstration in Ragoon. In 1929, however, the restriction to active women's suffrage was lifted and passive women's suffrage was achieved on the same basis as passive male suffrage. There was also no link to paying taxes. Even so, very few women sat on local councils and the legislative assembly. When the Government of Burma Act came into force in 1935 , Burma's time as a province of India ended. Although it was still under British rule, it now had its own legislative body. For this House of Representatives, women now had the right to vote if they passed a reading and writing test. In this way, the number of women voters rose to 750,000.

On April 1, 1937, the establishment of its own colonial administration came under the control of the Burma Office in London. This fulfilled one of the main demands of the Thakin student movement with the participation of Aung San .

The executive power was the governor held that a maximum of 10-member Council of Ministers ( Council appointed). The bicameral legislature consisted of a House of Representatives with 132 elected members, from among whom 18 representatives were elected to the Senate, and another 18 senators were appointed by the governor. The Home Minister was responsible for the administration of the police and the judiciary. Furthermore, the parliamentary sphere of influence was limited to the actual Burma, i.e. the plains and the Irrawaddy Delta. The country was divided into seven administrative districts. The 1931 census showed 14.67 million inhabitants (24 per km²), of which around 400,000 lived in the capital.

The mountain and border regions that are inhabited by other peoples were administered by the governor directly through his own civil service and with the help of local chiefs. These were:

  • the Chin Hills Agency with the 4 Karenni states;
  • the agency of the Federated Shan States , which comprised a northern district with six principalities and a southern district with 36 other states;
  • there were also three smaller ones in the Sagaing and Mandalay areas .

According to the constitutional provisions of October 1, 1922, these small states were ruled by hereditary chiefs (in the language of the Shan sabwas ). In 1933 a Council of Chiefs was established.

Japanese invasion and puppet state

Aung San, leader of the Burmese independence movement

During the Second World War , the Japanese army occupied Burma in early 1942. The Shan states contractually handed over Japan to its ally Thailand, which they incorporated by the end of the war. Women's suffrage was abolished.

On August 1, 1943, Burma declared its independence under the Prime Minister Ba Maw , who acted as head of the puppet government set up by Japan. War was declared on the Allies. The Japanese occupiers promoted the establishment of a Burma National Army , which was recruited from members of paramilitary fighting units of local nationalist parties based on the model of the militias of European fascist parties. In August 1944, with the participation of the communists , the socialists from U Nu and part of the National Army under Aung San, a resistance movement against the Japanese occupying power and the collaboration regime it had set up under Ba Maw was founded. It later became known as the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League (AFPFL). In 1945 shortly before the end of the war, the "State of Burma" changed sides, declared war on Japan and joined the Allies. The Burma National Army renamed itself Patriotic Burmese Forces (PBF) and on September 7th achieved the takeover of 5200 fighters into the regular army. Their highest ranking officer was Colonel Ne Win .


Burma temporarily came back under British rule. However, the British colonial administration could no longer ignore the popularity of the AFPFL and its leader Aung San and made him Deputy Chairman of the Executive Council of Burma on September 26, 1946, and thus de facto head of government. However, he was assassinated on July 19, 1947. He was succeeded by U Nu.

On January 4, 1948, Burma was given independence. The women received universal suffrage. In contrast to neighboring India, Burma did not become a member of the Commonwealth of Nations due to anti-British feelings . Sao Shwe Thaik († 1962) became the first President of the Burmese Union . From 1948 to 1949, separatist efforts by ethnic minorities (especially the Karen ) and uprisings by communist groups made it difficult to stabilize the country.

Democratic phase

Prime Minister U Nu

Democratic Burma was mainly shaped by U Nu . He became prime minister three times . He was head of government for the first time from 1948 to 1958 (interrupted by U Ba Swe's tenure between June 1956 and February 1957). During these years he drafted plans for a welfare state based on the Buddhist and socialist model. In 1958 he was finally urged by General Ne Win to hand over power to the military . Thanks to its "caring government", Burma returned to a regular everyday life. In the 1960 elections U Nu was again prime minister, but had to relinquish government power to Ne Wins in 1962 after a military coup, and he was sentenced to five years in prison. U Thant became the first Asian Secretary General of the United Nations in 1961 .

During U Nu's reign, the sixth Buddhist council of the Theravada tradition took place in Rangoon . On August 26, 1961, parliament made Buddhism the state religion through a constitutional amendment . This resulted in domestic political tensions, especially with the country's Christian minority.

Ne-win regime

After continued separatist efforts by the Shan endangered the unity of the state, General Ne Win undertook a coup on March 2, 1962 and a revolutionary council under his leadership took over the government. Ne Win outlined in a declaration the Burmese path to socialism , which included the goals of social justice , equality for all ethnic groups, the fight against westernization and the creation of cooperatives . As chairman of the Revolutionary Council, Ne Win also served as president until 1981. He remained chairman of the Burmese Socialist Program Party and thus a de facto “strong man” of the country until 1988. Ne Win largely sealed off the country from abroad for the following decades.

On February 15, 1963, the Revolutionary Council decided to nationalize wholesale and retail trade, banks and industry. The attempt by the Chinese embassy in Rangoon to extend the Maoist cultural revolution to Burma as well led to a serious conflict with the People's Republic of China in June 1967 and to rioting against the Chinese resident in Burma. On December 15, 1971, the former Prime Minister U Nu from his exile in Thailand called for armed resistance against the military regime of Ne Win.

In 1972 an interest-free loan of £ 30 million was agreed with the People's Republic of China for Burma until 1990.

In April 1972, 21 cabinet members resigned from the military, including Head of State and Government Ne Win and Foreign Minister Hla Han.

From January 1, 1973, around 70 companies in the textile , food and chemical industries were nationalized.

According to the High Command of the Armed Forces, around 3,000 insurgents of the National United Liberation Front ( NULF ) led by U Nu have been killed in the northeast of the country and more than 500 captured since the summer of 1971 .

On February 23, 1973, diplomatic relations with the German Democratic Republic were established . On August 9, 1973, the regime signed a new capital support agreement with the Federal Republic of Germany.

On January 4, 1974, General Ne Win proclaimed the Socialist Federal Republic of Burma , in which he himself again functioned as President. In 1979, Burma left the Non-Aligned Movement and on November 9, 1981, San Yu replaced General Ne Win as president.

A bomb attack on October 9, 1983 in the north of the capital, Rangoon, killed 19 people, including four cabinet members from South Korea . The dead were Kim Jae Ik, Suh Sook Joon, Hahn Pyong Choon and Foreign Minister Lee Bum Suk. Following investigations, North Korea was officially accused of perpetrating the attack.

Rebellion and military regime

On September 5, 1987, the government announced the immediate cancellation of the 25, 35 and 75 kyat banknotes. An exchange or other compensation was not intended. Thus, in one fell swoop, 60 to 80 percent of the money in circulation became worthless and almost all of the citizens' savings were lost. This led to protests. The government then closed the universities for a short time (until July 2000) and finally imposed martial law.

After the unrest broadened, General Ne Win lost his power base in July 1988, and President U San Yu resigned. The new head of state was his Lwin on July 27th, but he could only hold office for three weeks. He was succeeded by Maung Maung in office on August 19 - again for only one month .

On August 8th, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated for democracy in Burma . The events that began with the peaceful uprising up to the coup on September 18 later became known as 8888 Uprising .


Aung San Suu Kyi, President of the National League for Democracy

On September 18, 1988, General Saw Maung came to power and ousted President Maung Maung. On September 21, he also took over the office of Prime Minister. The new military regime established itself as the State Council for the restoration of law and order (English: State Law and Order Restoration Council , SLORC ). Among other things, all gatherings of more than four people were banned and the government took violent action against violators. According to information from human rights groups, around 3,000 people were killed. Nonetheless, Aung San Suu Kyi , the daughter of General Aung San , who was murdered in 1947, founded the National League for Democracy (NLD) a week later , which she took over at the beginning of 1989 and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 14, 1991 . She was under repeated house arrest for a long time.

On June 18, 1989, Burma was renamed Myanmar and the capital Rangoon was renamed Yangon.

Than Shwe, Head of State 1992–2011

In the first free elections on May 27, 1990, the opposition NLD won a very clear victory. However, the military refused to recognize the election result. On April 23, 1992, General Than Shwe became the new head of state and government. On January 9, 1993, a national assembly was called to draft a new constitution. On July 10, 1995, Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest, which had existed since 1989, was lifted. The NLD was expelled from the National Assembly on November 29, 1995, after protests against the rules of procedure prescribed by the military. In May 1996, the military regime arrested over 500 NLD officials, politicians and supporters. On May 31, 1996, the National Assembly was finally suspended.

The headquarters of the insurgent Karen National Union ( KNU ), which had been fighting for a state in the border area with Thailand since 1948, fell on February 13, 1997.

On July 23, 1997, Myanmar became a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( ASEAN ). The State Council for the Restoration of Law and Order ( SLORC ) was dissolved on November 15th in order to guarantee the emergence of a regulated democratic system and the establishment of a peaceful modern state . The government was called the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC, " State Council for Peace and Development "). On August 25, the former first secretary of the SPDC, General Khin Nyunt , became head of government.

By the turn of the millennium, General Khin Nyunt was negotiating ceasefire agreements with some of the minority peoples of Myanmar. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was arbitrarily released and placed under house arrest again, most recently after a bloody attack on her motorcade in central Myanmar in May 2003.

On September 18, 2004, the anniversary of the military seizure of power, Foreign Minister U Win Aung, who had been in office since 1998, and his deputy Khin Maung Win were dismissed from their posts during the 15th cabinet reshuffle in 16 years of the military regime . The new foreign minister was Major General Nyan Win , and his deputy was Colonel Maung Myint.

According to information from the Thai government, Prime Minister Khin Nyunt was removed from office on the eve of October 19, 2004 and placed under house arrest on charges of corruption . The ruling military junta had previously shut down several military intelligence companies, which were still formally headed by Khin Nyunt. After hours of rumors, it was announced on state television that the Prime Minister had resigned his post for health reasons. His successor was the previous first secretary of the SPDC, Lieutenant General Soe Win († 2008), who was the mastermind behind the attack on Aung San Suu Kyi in May 2003. Negotiations with a delegation from the Karen National Union have been canceled.


On October 22, 2004, the military junta repealed the 1983 National Intelligence Bureau Act. This law was the basis for the military secret service, the office for special investigations , as well as the department for criminal investigations.

According to the government, 3,937 prisoners were released on November 18 and their sentences were suspended because irregularities were discovered during the inspection of the work of the secret service. The majority of those released were petty criminals, but among them was Min Ko Naing , the leader of the student uprisings of 1988. On November 25, another 5,311 prisoners were released and on December 11 a further 5,070 prisoners were released.

After the 2004 seaquake in the Indian Ocean on December 26th and the resulting tidal wave , the regime refused entry to international aid workers and provided such low numbers of the victims that they are being questioned by foreign organizations.

On January 3, 2005, the military granted 5,588 prisoners amnestied. The occasion was the upcoming 57th anniversary of independence from Great Britain . A reference to the machinations of the former secret service was not made this time. Again, however, there were only a few political prisoners among the amnesties.

On July 6, 2006, the company released 400 detainees, most of whom were political prisoners.

International criticism

The 70-page report Threat to Peace - Call to the UN Security Council to take action in Myanmar, published by the former Czech President Václav Havel and the South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu , describes the deterioration in living conditions and the political situation on 70 pages in Myanmar since the military came to power. He concludes that this has made Myanmar a threat to world peace and makes comparisons with similar cases in which the UN Security Council intervened in the past. The report was the basis of a briefing in this body on December 16, 2006.

At the 11th ASEAN summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on December 12, 2005 , the heads of government made an unusually sharp statement on Myanmar, in a departure from the previously held policy of non-interference and constructive engagement . The country was asked to accelerate the dragging process of democratization and to release all political prisoners. The Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi , host of the summit, criticized the fact that the regime's unwillingness to reform has developed into a problem for the entire ASEAN community. Myanmar Prime Minister Soe Win agreed to a visit by an ASEAN delegation led by Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, which will evaluate the progress of the reforms. An appointment was supposed to come about in January 2006, but this was canceled because the capital was busy moving. ASEAN insisted that the delegation meet with Aung San Suu Kyi . The special envoy of the ASEAN international community, the Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar , arrived on March 23 for the visit to Rangoon agreed on December 12, 2005, during which he was supposed to assess the progress of the country's democratization. He was denied a meeting with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on the grounds that she was under house arrest.

"Roadmap to Democracy"

According to a seven-stage “Roadmap to a Disciplined Democracy” announced in August 2003, the National Assembly, suspended in 1996, was convened again from May 17, 2004 to draw up a new constitution . But neither the head of state nor the prime minister attended the opening event. She was suspended again on July 9th. She started work at a military camp in Nyaung Hnapin, north of Rangoon, on February 17, 2006 and was reinstated on March 31. The six-week session was overshadowed by the recent arrest of several leaders from various groups in the country's Shan minority.

New capital Naypyidaw

On November 7, 2005, the military announced the gradual relocation of the seat of government to the vicinity of Pyinmana , which is about 320 kilometers north of Rangoon. The official justification for the move was that the new administrative capital was centrally located opposite Rangoon. Unofficial speculations ranged from the fear of a foreign invasion from the sea to the influence of astrologers on the military rulers to the isolation of the regime for fear of possible new popular uprisings. It all started with officials from the Foreign, Internal, Economic and Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development.

Entrance to the Water Fountain Garden in the new capital Naypyidaw

On the 61st Armed Forces Day on March 27, 2006, the government held a military parade for the first time with over 12,500 soldiers in the new capital Naypyidaw ( Seat of the Kings ). The speech reaffirmed the military's claim to leadership in a future democratic Myanmar.

The UN Undersecretary Ibrahim Gambari arrived on May 18, 2006 for a three-day visit to Rangoon. In contrast to Syed Hamid Albar, he received an audience with junta chief Than Shwe at his official residence in Naypyidaw and on May 20 also met Aung San Suu Kyi, whose house arrest was renewed a week later.

On September 27, 2006, three members of the resistance movement of the 88 student generation , including Min Ko Naing , were arrested. Two more members followed on September 29th. They were only released on January 11, 2007, one day before the UN Security Council rejected a motion for a resolution. The resistance movement organized several campaigns in which the population manifested their dissatisfaction with the political situation without violence.

UN Undersecretary Ibrahim Gambari returned unsuccessfully from his second visit to Myanmar on November 12, 2006. On January 12, 2007, the United Nations Security Council voted on a resolution tabled by the United States of America calling on the regime to take concrete steps to establish freedom of speech and assembly, to release all political prisoners and to allow opposition parties to act unhindered allow. The basis was the report by Václav Havel and Desmond Tutu. Shortly before the vote, the USA deleted this passage from the draft resolution. Although the required number of nine 'yes' votes was achieved, the UN Security Council rejected the motion with the votes of the veto powers China and Russia . South Africa was the third country to vote against the proposal.

In three bomb explosions in shopping centers in the capital Yangon on May 7, 2007, almost simultaneously, 23 people were killed and over 100 were injured. An official investigation into the attacks did not take place. Instead, on the same day, the military regime accused the military minority organizations Karen National Union ( KNU ), Karenni National Progressive Party ( KNPP ), Shan State Army ( SSA ), several Myanmar exile organizations and, days later, Thailand and the CIA of participating in the attacks.

On July 21, 2007, former Prime Minister General Khin Nyunt was sentenced to 44 years suspended prison sentence.

Demonstrations in 2007

Demonstrating monks in front of Shwedagon Pagoda, September 2007

On August 15, 2007, all fuel subsidies were canceled. As a result, the prices for liquid fuel and gas increased fivefold. In September 2007, demonstrations were formed , the initial cause of which was the drastic price increases for fuel and which were later directed against the regime as a whole. The demonstrations were led by Buddhist monks and nuns , who were soon joined by civilians. On September 24th, more than 100,000 demonstrators were counted. Unlike in the past, the military leadership initially did not intervene, but on September 25 they began to crack down on the demonstrators. According to official figures, ten people were killed, including the Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai . Unofficial observers speak of up to 200 dead. Several hundred people were injured. Numerous monasteries in Rangoon were stormed by soldiers. Opposition politicians and opponents of the regime were also arrested across the country. In total, there are said to have been hundreds of arrests. On September 29, 2007, the military junta finally declared the revolt broken and over. The country was disconnected from the Internet from September 28 to October 8, 2007. The government cited an undersea cable break as the reason, while the opposition cited the government's intention to cover up the violent repression of demonstrations in the country.

On September 29, 2007, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent his special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, to Naypyidaw to act as mediator , who returned on November 1 but was expelled from the country for critical remarks. He was allowed to return on November 8th.

On October 9, 2007, the regime appointed ex-general and deputy minister of labor Aung Kyi as minister for relations with Aung San Suu Kyi , with whom he first met on October 25. On October 24, the previous First Secretary of the State Peace and Development Council , Lieutenant General Thein Sein , took up the post of Prime Minister. The post of First Secretary went to Quartermaster General Tin Aung Myint Oo . Another unsuccessful meeting followed on November 19th. After the fifth meeting on January 30, 2008, the talks and their demands were reported for the first time.

The fuel price increased almost tenfold on October 20, 2007, following an announcement by the Ministry of Energy the day before. One gallon cost 1,500 kyat instead of 180 kyat.

UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur Paulo Sergio Pinheiro began his first mission to Myanmar since 2003 on November 11, 2007. His mission was to shed light on the crackdown on the protests in September and to find out the real death toll. Shortly before his departure, 75 prisoners, including six political activists, were released.

During a two-day visit to Naypyidaw , China's Deputy Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged the regime on November 16, 2007 to accelerate democratic reforms. At the instigation of the Myanmar government, Ibrahim Gambari was unloaded at the 13th ASEAN summit in Singapore on November 20, 2007.

On December 5, 2007, the National Constitutional Convention entered the next round. This time the focus was on the future role of the military in the state. The work of the National Constitutional Convention was interrupted again on January 31, 2007. Consultations should continue after the harvest season, which falls in Myanmar in October and November.

As a result of the bloody suppression of the demonstrations in September, the regime set up the commission to draft the new constitution on October 18, 2007 . Under the leadership of the chairman of the Supreme Court in Naypyidaw, U Aung Toe, the 54-member body began work on the draft constitution on December 3, 2007. Brigadier General Kyaw Hsan, Minister of Information, was also among the members.

On December 29, 2007, the National Assembly, which had resumed its work on October 10, adjourned again after two and a half months. On July 18, 2008 the final round was held and the deliberations concluded on September 3.

Constitutional referendum in 2008 and elections in 2010

It was later announced that there would be a referendum on the new constitution in May 2008 and a general election in 2010. The announcement came as a surprise insofar as the generals had never given dates for the individual steps in this roadmap since the promulgation of the Road Map to Democracy under then Prime Minister Khin Nyunt in 2003.

On February 26, 2008, the government passed a referendum law. In it, any action likely to fail the referendum was threatened with imprisonment of up to three years or a fine of up to 100,000 kyats. According to the law, members of religious orders, including the countless monks and nuns, were not eligible to vote. Nevertheless, the opposition agitated for a “no”.

The diplomatic efforts of the UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari continued. The new Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej arrived on March 14, 2008 for his inaugural visit to Naypyidaw.

On the night of May 3, 2008, cyclone Nargis moved with wind speeds of up to 240 km / h over the southwest of the country and devastated the Irrawaddy delta. Initially, only 350 deaths were assumed. Ultimately, the deaths were put at over 84,500 people, as well as 665,271 ducks, 56,163 cows and 1,614,502 chickens, and the financial damage was estimated at US $ 10 billion. The head of state Than Shwe visited the disaster area for the first time on May 18. From May 23, helpers were allowed to enter the country.

On May 10, 2008, outside the affected districts, a vote was taken on the newly drawn up constitution. With a voter turnout of over 99 percent, this was accepted with 92.4 percent yes-votes.

Flag of Myanmar adopted in 2010

Elections were held on November 7, 2010 . A quarter of the seats in both chambers of parliament were reserved for the military. In addition, the military-affiliated Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) received 259 of the 440 seats in the House of Representatives and 129 of the 224 seats in the House of Nationalities . The NLD boycotted the elections. On November 13, 2010, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's long-term house arrest was lifted. On February 4, 2011, the previous Prime Minister and General Thein Sein was declared President of the State by parliament. Than Shwe has not held any official political office since then, but was close to the president and - contrary to the constitutional maximum age of 60 - continued to head the military.

Opening from 2011

In August 2011, Derek Mitchell assumed the position of the US special envoy for Burma. On November 18, 2011, US President Obama announced that Hillary Clinton would travel to Burma as the first US Secretary of State in over 50 years. During her visit in early December, Clinton also met Aung San Suu Kyi.

In by-elections for 45 of the 664 seats in the People's Assembly on April 1, 2012, the NLD participated for the first time since 1990, with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi running for a seat.

In response to the democratic reform process, Japan announced in April 2012 that it would cancel the country's debt of almost three billion euros and resume its development aid, provided that the reform course was continued. The European Union also partially suspended its sanctions in the same month. Entry bans, property freezes and trade restrictions were lifted for an initial year. At the beginning of October 2012, the World Bank granted the country an aid loan for the first time since the bloody suppression of the student uprising in 1988. The organization released US $ 80 million (approx. EUR 62 million) for infrastructure projects in rural areas of Myanmar. The World Bank hopes to find a solution to the problem of outstanding interest debt amounting to almost 400 million US dollars by early 2013. The Asian Development Bank also announced that it wanted to move closer to Myanmar.

Government of the NLD

General parliamentary elections were held across the country in November 2015. However, a quarter of the seats in both chambers of parliament were reserved for the military. The election brought a landslide victory for the NLD, which received 255 of the 440 seats in the House of Representatives and 135 of the 224 seats in the House of Nationalities . However, NLD chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi could not become president under the constitution because she was married to a foreigner and her children have foreign citizenship. The parliament then elected another NLD politician, Htin Kyaw , as president. On March 30, 2016, he replaced Thein Sein as head of state. The military rule ended after 54 years. In the background, however, the military continues to have great influence. Aung San Suu Kyi has been appointed Foreign Minister. In addition, the office of "State Councilor" was created for her, which in fact equals that of a head of government.

During the rule of the military, the military budget, which in 1988 was less than $ 250 million, had increased tenfold by 2015 and was estimated to be well over $ 3 billion. For 2017, a "decreasing" military budget of $ 2.1 billion was announced compared to previous years. Russia hoped to sell the country modern warplanes for $ 400 million in 2018 so that the central government could "end some of the wars with rebel armies."

Rohingya conflict

A conflict between the Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist Arakanese in the western Rakhine state has been ongoing since Myanmar gained independence in 1947 . This has worsened since 2012. This was also fueled by the activity of the nationalist 969 movement led by the Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu , which calls for the persecution and expulsion of the Rohingya. Although the around 1.5 to 2 million Rohingya are native to Myanmar (since when they have been living there is controversial), they are not among the 135 ethnic groups that officially form the Myanmar nation, but are stateless. Over 160 people died in riots between ethnic and religious groups in June and October 2012, and around 100,000 left their hometowns. There was a refugee crisis in 2015 when tens of thousands of Rohingya tried to cross the sea to Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia or Indonesia.

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) has been fighting against the Myanmar government troops at gunpoint since October 2016 . When the army put down the uprising, over a thousand Rohingya died by February 2017. From August 2017, the army intensified its crackdown on the Rohingya. In the Inn Din massacre on September 2, 2017, soldiers and Arakanese paramilitaries killed ten unarmed Rohingya. Since then, there has been a mass exodus of over 700,000 Rohingya to neighboring Bangladesh. In September 2017, the United Nations condemned the evictions as systematic and thus as ethnic cleansing . Médecins Sans Frontières estimates that over 10,000 Rohingya died in the course of the displacement. Over 70% of them died a violent death, they were shot or burned. The rest died of starvation and other circumstances of flight. According to the UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee , it is a genocide .


In 2011, 2012 and 2016 earthquakes measuring 6.8 to 6.9 occurred .

Military coup (2021)

According to official information, Aung San Suu Kyi's party NLD achieved an absolute majority in the parliamentary elections in November 2020 , with the turnout reportedly being over 70 percent. International observers saw the election as free and fair. The army, for which a quarter of the seats in the parliamentary chambers are automatically reserved, spoke of electoral fraud. On the morning of February 1, 2021, the military under Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing launched a coup after persistent criticism of the election result. Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other senior NLD members were arrested. The military also declared a state of emergency. Military television announced that it would take control for a year. The procedure was justified with alleged electoral fraud. UN Secretary General António Guterres condemned the arrests of the politicians.


  • Emanuel Sarkisyanz : Buddhist Backgrounds of the Burmese Revolution. Foreword by Paul Mus , Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague 1965.
  • Trevor Ling: Buddhism, Imperialism and War - Burma and Thailand in modern history. George Allen & UNwin, London 1979, ISBN 0-04-294105-9 .

Web links

Commons : History of Myanmar  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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  4. This was documented, a.o. by military photographer Willoughby Wallace Hooper .
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  7. Team strengths according to: India Office Records, Burma Office File 66/41, quoted in: Hack (2006), p. 197 f.
  8. Maymyo was the summer capital
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