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Military of Burma - MyaNmar - History

Military of Burma - MyaNmar - History

Service Men: 516,000

Aircraft : 263

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Armored Fighting Vehicles:1,358

Navy:155

Defense Budge $2,400,000,000


In Burma, the military never relinquished control

On Feb. 1, the military of Burma (aka Myanmar) did it again: It took over government from the duly-elected civilian leaders, a &ldquocoup d&rsquoetat.&rdquo The military announced it was for a year tutelage. The popular democratic leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and president U Win Myint, were &ldquodetained.&rdquo

My thesis is that the military really never left its paternalistic control after general Ne Win gently took power from Prime Minister U Nu on March 2, 1962. Burma will not have a real democracy until it achieves the political stage of basic unification, has a middle class and the rule of law. Until that happens, any democracy will be firmly planted in mid-air, with a military backup and foundation.

Aung San Suu Kyi is the 75-year-old daughter of Aung San, the &ldquoGeorge Washington&rdquo of modern Burma, a charismatic military man who won independence peacefully from British colonialism, which formally occurred on Jan. 4, 1948. However, Aung San and six of his cabinet members (almost the whole government) were assassinated on July 19, 1947, just before the new government was underway. Leader U Nu was not at the meeting and, therefore, avoided assassination a devout Buddhist, he was away praying at the time of the tragedy. Regarding the death of Aung San, English historian DGE Hall wrote in "A History of South-East Asia": &ldquoAung San did his utmost to meet (the ethnic groups&rsquo) more reasonable claims with statesmanlike patience and understanding, and had he lived would undoubtedly have succeeded in solving the problem.&rdquo

Burma had been colonized by Great Britain in the 19th century. Unlike its easterly neighbor, Thailand, which recognized and deferred to British military superiority, Burma stubbornly resisted the British and was colonized in stages by three Anglo-Burmese wars. Burma had been proud of its military tradition going back at least to Bayinnaung in the 16th century, when the Burmese conquered much of what is now Burma, Laos and Thailand. Indeed, as recently as 1767 the Burmese army destroyed Ayutia, the capital of Thailand. Burma has had a long, and aggressive, military tradition.

It also has had a British legal and democratic tradition cultivated during colonialism. Burma began its independence as a democracy in the British style with U Nu as prime minister. He got into trouble early on with civil strife involving many ethnic minorities: the Shans, the Karens, the Chins, the Kachins, the Arakanese and the Mons, among others. There is also a Muslim issue. Many of these peoples had been conquered in pre-colonial military campaigns. This diversity is now the bane of democracy in Burma.

U Nu began to rely on Ne Win, head of the military, for stability of the country. In October 1958, U Nu voluntarily resigned and requested Ne Win to take over as a &ldquocaretaker government&rdquo to pacify the country so elections could be held.

The military was very effective. Elections were held and U Nu returned to office on April 4, 1960. Thereafter, with disunity and problems reappearing, on March 2, 1962, the inevitable occurred: Ne Win realized that the country needed him as military leader, more than U Nu as democratic leader, without the discipline of the military.

When U Nu was &ldquodetained&rdquo by the military, he said something to the effect: "Don&rsquot you know you cannot arrest a prime minister?" This was essentially the end of democratic government in Burma. Instances of democratic government by Aung San&rsquos daughter and others had and will have military tutelage as a backup and foundation in the Ne Win, &ldquocaretaker&rdquo tradition, until more unity, socioeconomic and legal development occur. ASEAN membership will help American sanctions or lectures on human rights will not.


Myanmar's Women Are Fighting for a New Future After a Long History of Military Oppression

T he world will have noted that women have been on the front lines of the revolution in Myanmar, with activists, elected officials, and journalists such as Ei Thinzar Maung, Thinzar Shunlei Yi, Wai Hnin Pwint Thon, Daw Myo Aye, Naw K&rsquonyaw Paw, and Tin Htet Paing playing significant roles.

Many have assumed that this is a newfound feminist ferocity, but from ancient Queen Pwa Saw, to the first woman surgeon Daw Saw Sa, who qualified in 1911, Myanmar women have always been as strong as, if not stronger than, our men. The sad truth is our cause was set back by over 60 years of brutal and misogynistic oppression by the Burmese military.

I spent last Tuesday reviewing evidence from a Myanmar women&rsquos group for submission to the U.K. Foreign Affairs Committee&rsquos inquiry into the Myanmar crisis. Just reading about the atrocities committed by military forces meant I slept badly that night. Nearly 50 women have been killed in the protests so far, and around 800 women have been arrested. Sixty percent of the people involved in the Civil Disobedience Movement, a peaceful protest designed to shut down the country, are women, and they continue to face sexual violence, harassment, abuse, and threats from the junta. Many, including beloved film stars such as Paing Phyo Thu and May Toe Khine, have been charged under Section 505A of Myanmar Penal Code&mdasha disproportionately punitive piece of legislation, and a hangover from colonial times that basically criminalizes freedom of speech. In prison, military forces have subjected women detainees to more violence, humiliation, and even torture.

A huge part of this is a horrific reflection of the misogyny&mdashcloaked in patriarchy&mdashthat the military holds dear, having beaten it into the hearts and minds of the people of Myanmar. The military declares itself the father of the nation, but one that deems its female children as lesser human beings.

Before Myanmar, then called Burma, first fell to military dictatorship in 1962, its women enjoyed an unusual measure of freedom and power. In 1919, the first women&rsquos association Konmari Athin, was formed in 1932, Daw Hnin Mya was elected as the country&rsquos first woman councillor and in 1952, Claribel Ba Maung Chain became the first woman government minister. Burmese women kept their maiden names and property, they handled financial affairs, and voting rights were granted to them in 1922, only 4 years after women in the U.K. got the vote. Melford Spiro, the famous anthropologist, wrote: &ldquoBurmese women are not only among the freest in Asia, but until the relatively recent emancipation of women in the West, they enjoyed much greater freedom and equality with men than did Western women.&rdquo

Many successful businesses were owned by women, including the Naga Cigar Company founded by my great-aunt Naga Daw Oo and the Burmese Paper Mart, founded by my grandmother Daw Tin Tin, who was also a senior member of Upper Burma&rsquos Chamber of Commerce. Another great-aunt was the famous dissident and writer Ludu Daw Amar, who founded the newspaper Ludu Daily. Shortly after the coup in 1962, all of their businesses, along with those of countless other women, were either shut down or requisitioned by the Myanmar military who were adamant that women should no longer have such power and influence.

The women&rsquos liberation movement in the country was far from perfect. Even some of our most progressive women, such as author Daw MiMi Khaing, still saw men as spiritually superior, thanks to outdated religious views. But the movement was on the right track until it was derailed by the dictatorship. It then entered what writer Kyaw Zwa Moe referred to as a &ldquofeminine &lsquodark age&rsquo&rdquo&mdashan era in which the military and its hardline clerical supporters reinforced dogma for their own regressive agenda.

For example, every Burmese man is deemed to have hpone or glory. An ancient fable relates that men will lose their hpone if they walk under or come into contact with women&rsquos sarongs (known as htamein) or undergarments according to the military, this was because women are inferior or unclean. This is, however, a subversion of the original superstition which was that women are sexual temptresses when I had my first period, I was told that I could no longer climb pagodas in case I toppled them with the might of my vagina, and that only men could ever be innocent enough to ascend to the highest plane of nirvana. This concept was just as sexist, but it at least recognized that women were powerful rather than pathetic.

Shortly after the February coup, Myanmar women gladly took advantage of these attitudes to use htamein as barricades against the military. Even the junta knew that it was being ridiculous: If you need any further evidence that the Myanmar military does not really believe that htamein are unclean, its members have been known to wear them at special events because their astrologers once told them that only a woman would rule Myanmar.

The idea of a woman being in charge was so loathsome to the military that when it came to pass, in the person of Aung San Suu Kyi, the generals banned people from saying her name or displaying her picture. During decades of its rule, the military not only sidelined women in terms of financial, cultural, and political power, even worse, they also brutalized them in war&mdashespecially women from minority groups like the Rakhine, Shan, Rohingya and Kachin&mdashusing campaigns of rape and other forms of violence and terror. It should come as no surprise that women fight alongside men in the ethnic armed organizations, whereas the Myanmar military has no women in its combatant ranks.

But the flames of female resistance never really died down in Myanmar, despite the military&rsquos worst efforts. In 2007, there were notable women activists in Myanmar&rsquos Saffron Revolution, including Nilar Thein, Phyu Phyu Thin, Mie Mie, Su Su Nway and Naw Ohn Hla. At the time, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners estimated that since the 1988 Uprising, which also saw many women take a prominent role, more than 500 Myanmar women had served prison terms because of their political activism. In 2015, Phyoe Phyoe Aung, general secretary of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, was one of the student leaders whose protest against the National Education Bill was violently suppressed by military police in Letpadan.

This time around, women activists such as Thinzar Shunlei Yi and Ester Ze Naw are again at the forefront, women lawyers such as Zar Li have been working day and night to ensure the release of detainees, and women journalists such as Naw Betty Han and Nyein Lay are risking arrest and injury to report on developments in Myanmar. Even the first death of a protester was that of a 19-year-old female, named Mya Thwe Thwe Khine.

Since Feb. 1, hundreds of thousands of other women have exchanged their work tools for daily protest marches. Medical workers, teachers, and garment workers are on strike and are all from sectors dominated by women. Tin Tin Wei and Moe Sandar Myint are, respectively, an organizer and the chairwoman of Myanmar’s Federation of Garment Workers, and have spoken out against the coup so vociferously that the latter has gone into hiding for her own safety.

The most promising sign of a much-needed return to gender equality in Myanmar is that the National Unity Government, made up of ousted lawmakers in hiding, has appointed several women ministers, including human rights advocate and former political prisoner Zin Mar Aung as minister for foreign affairs and Ei Thinzar Maung as deputy minister of women, youth and children’s affairs&mdashthe latter appointment being groundbreaking in more ways than one, as she is the youngest minister ever at the age of 26.

After decades of misogynistic and violent oppression by Myanmar&rsquos military and its cronies, it finally looks like the women of Myanmar might be taking back everything that we lost and more. The Women&rsquos League of Burma is an umbrella organization of 13 women&rsquos groups, such as the Shan Women&rsquos Action Network, who are working together to enhance the role of women of all backgrounds and ethnicities at a national and international level. A global, growing feminist movement called #Sisters2Sisters has even been set up, through which more than 80 civil society organizations are demanding an end to the violence against women in Myanmar and the immediate release of women human rights defenders.

Whatever happens, we will always have hope, and long may we continue to rise.


Burma (Myanmar) in political turmoil and military coup – History & Future

Between April 26, 2021 to July 11, 2021 there will be all round protests by the people of the country and it will result in heavy losses too. The military will be brutal during this period.

Burma got its first identity when it got separated from India in the Government of India Act, passed by the British Government on August 2, 1935. The full independence was granted at 4.20 am on January 4, 1948. This moment has been chosen by Burmese astrologers as auspicious. The chart given below is set for this date and time and the place is set for Rangoon. The independence ceremony took place before dawn in bright moonlight in the capital, Rangoon. Later, there were several anti-government protests which took place in the year 1988 and its during this period the name of Burma got changed to “Myanmar”. However, its still well known as Burma.

The Asc rising is Scorpio 17.31 degrees. The 10 th house of Government is under affliction due to the presence of Mars (6 th lord of military, coup, etc) and its at 14.20 degrees in Leo. This Mars is aspecting the Asc.

The 1962 Burmese coup d’état on 2 March 1962 marked the beginning of one-party rule and the political dominance of the army in Burma (now Myanmar) which spanned the course of 26 years. In the coup, the military replaced the civilian AFPFL-government, headed by Prime Minister U Nu, with the Union Revolutionary Council, Chaired by General Ne Win. On March 2, 1962, transit Rahu in Cancer at 24.33 degrees aspected the Jupiter in the Asc at 22.37 degrees. Rahu/Ketu was in stationary mode from January 6, 1962 to March 21, 1962 at 24 degrees in Cancer. Transit Ketu was aspecting the 7 th house (Allies, in this case the military, who was supposed to be ally of the Govt, turned hostile due to aspect of Ketu) of the natal chart. It resulted in Burmese coup on March 2, 1962. Following a coup d’état in 1962, it became a military dictatorship under the Burma Socialist Programme Party.

General elections were held in Myanmar on 7 November 2010, in accordance with the new constitution, which was approved in a referendum held in May 2008. The election date was announced by the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) on 13 August. During the period from July 23, 2010 to November 18, 2010, the transit Jupiter was retrograde. On November 7, 2010, transit Jupiter Rx was in Aquarius at 29.41 degrees and it aspected the Natal Ketu in Libra at 29.05 degrees. The 12 th house signifies liberation, moksha, etc. So, the country got a democratically elected leader during this time. In 2011, the military junta was officially dissolved following a 2010 general election, and a nominally civilian government was installed. This, along with the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and political prisoners, had improved the country’s human rights record and foreign relations and has led to the easing of trade and other economic sanctions.

On the November 8, 2015 general election, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won a majority in both houses. However, the Burmese military remained a powerful force in politics and, on 1 February 2021, again seized power in a coup d’état. On November 8, 2015, transit Jupiter was in the sign Leo in the 10 th house of Government at 23.46 degrees very close to the bhavmadhya point of 17.31 degrees within the orb of 5/6 degrees. The transit Jupiter also aspected the natal Sun (lord of 10 th house) and Mercury (lord of 11 th house of legislations) both in Sagittarius at 19 degrees.

On February 1, 2021, the military again seized power. On this date, transit Ketu in Scorpio at 24 degrees was conjunct natal Jupiter (in Scorpio at 22 degrees) and transit Rahu in Taurus at 24 degrees was aspecting natal Moon in Virgo at 24 degrees. The transit Ketu was also aspecting natal Saturn in the sign Cancer at 28 degrees. The transit Rahu has just come out of stationary motion on January 19, 2021. The transit Mars in Aries at 18 degrees in the 6 th house of military and it was aspecting the Asc degree.

Now, looking at the current and future transits the transit Rahu/Ketu will be stationary in Taurus/Scorpio at 16 degrees from April 26, 2021 to July 11, 2021. During this period it will activate the Asc degree and the 7 th house degree. Also the transit Rahu will aspect the natal Venus in Capricorn at 19 degrees. During this time there will be all round protests by the people of the country and it will result in heavy losses too. The military will be brutal during this period.

Sundar Balakrishnan

B.Com., MFM Finance (NMIMS)

2 Year Jyotirvid and 3 Year Jyotirvisharad

(From Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan, Mumbai)

Certificate/Diploma/Advanced Diploma in Sanskrit (From Mumbai University)

M A Sanskrit (Darshan) from Kavi Kulguru Kalidas Sanskrit University, Ramtek, Nagpur)

Professor of Astrology at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai

Date: February 8, 2021

Time: 10.00 AM, Mumbai, India

(Copyright – No portion of this article can be reproduced without the written permission of the Author)


A return to democracy?

For now, all signs indicate that the Tatmadaw is unlikely to allow a return to democracy in Myanmar any time soon. It has pledged to hold new elections within a year and said it will respect the results of that election and transfer power to the winner. But this one-year timeline appears arbitrary and leaves open the possibility that the military will delay the election once again and hold on to power for a longer term.

With China’s continued support, and only limited pushback from the US and other leading members of the international community, the Tatmadaw has little reason to back down and transfer power to a civilian government which would undoubtedly work to limit its powers.


The February 2021 Coup

In November of 2020, Myanmar's national elections appeared to return the NLD to power with far more than the 322 seats required to lead the country's government. Even before the official counting of all ballots was complete, however, the opposition party — supported by Myanmar's army — protested that the vote was marred by irregularities and demanded a revote. The Union Solidarity and Development Party alleged that early voting results had demonstrated "errors of neglect" affecting voters' lists and breaches of laws and procedures. Myanmar's Union Election Commission, however, reported that the election was fair, free and transparent.

In response, on February 1, 2021, Myanmar's military leaders seized control of the country. Several leaders of the NLD — including Suu Kyi and President Win Myint — were arrested, and army general Min Aung Hlaing was installed as the de facto head of the government. According to announcements from the military, 24 government ministers and their deputies were removed from office and replaced — including ministers in key government departments relating to finance, foreign affairs, interior affairs and health. The army imposed a curfew, began patrolling Myanmar's streets with troops and imposed a one-year-long state of emergency.


Myanmar’s Military Junta Puts Ousted Leader Aung San Suu Kyi On Trial

BANGKOK (AP) — Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi was set to go on trial Monday on charges that many observers have criticized as an attempt by the military junta that deposed her to delegitimize her democratic election and cripple her political future.

Suu Kyi’s prosecution poses the greatest challenge for the 75-year-old and her National League for Democracy party since February’s military coup, which prevented them from taking office for a second five-year term following last year’s landslide election victory.

Human Rights Watch charged that the allegations being heard in a special court in the capital, Naypyitaw, are “bogus and politically motivated” with the intention of nullifying the victory and preventing Suu Kyi from running for office again.

“This trial is clearly the opening salvo in an overall strategy to neuter Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy party as a force that can challenge military rule in the future,” said Phil Robertson, the organization’s deputy Asia director.

The army seized power on Feb. 1 before the new lawmakers could be seated, and arrested Suu Kyi, who held the post of special counselor, and President Win Myint, along with other members of her government and ruling party. The coup reversed years of slow progress toward more democracy for Myanmar.

The army cited the government’s failure to properly investigate alleged voting irregularities as its reason for seizing power — an assertion contested by the independent Asian Network for Free Elections and many others. Junta officials have threatened to dissolve the National League for Democracy for alleged involvement in election fraud and any conviction for Suu Kyi could see her barred from politics.

The junta has claimed it will hold new elections within the next year or two but the country’s military has a long history of promising elections and not following through. The military ruled Myanmar for 50 years after a coup in 1962, and kept Suu Kyi under house arrest for 15 years after a failed 1988 popular uprising.

The military’s latest takeover sparked nationwide protests that continue despite a violent crackdown that has killed hundreds of people. Although street demonstrations have shrunk in number and scale, the junta now faces a low-level armed insurrection by its opponents in both rural and urban areas.

Suu Kyi is being tried on allegations she illegally imported walkie-talkies for her bodyguards’ use, unlicensed use of the radios and spreading information that could cause public alarm or unrest, as well as for two counts of violating the Natural Disaster Management Law for allegedly breaking pandemic restrictions during the 2020 election campaign, her lawyers said Sunday.

“All these charges should be dropped, resulting in her immediate and unconditional release,” said Human Rights Watch’s Robertson. “But sadly, with the restrictions on access to her lawyers, and the case being heard in front of a court that is wholly beholden to the military junta, there is little likelihood she will receive a fair trial.”

Government prosecutors will have until June 28 to finish their presentation, after which Suu Kyi’s defense team will have until July 26 to present its case, Khin Maung Zaw, the team’s senior member, said last week. Court sessions are due to be held on Monday and Tuesday each week.

Two other more serious charges are being handled separately. Suu Kyi is charged with breaching the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which carried a maximum 14-year prison term, and police last week filed complaints under a section of the Anti-Corruption Law that states that political office holders convicted for bribery face a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a fine.

Although Suu Kyi faced her first charge just days after the coup, she was not immediately allowed to consult with her lawyers. Only on May 24, when she made her first actual appearance in court, was she allowed the first of two brief face-to-face meetings with them at pre-trial hearings. Her only previous court appearances had been by video link.

A photo of her May 24 appearance released by state media showed her sitting straight-backed in a small courtroom, wearing a pink face-mask, her hands folded in her lap. Alongside her were her two co-defendants on several charges, the former president as well as the former mayor of Naypyitaw, Myo Aung.

The three were able to meet with their defense team for about 30 minutes before the hearing began at a special court set up inside Naypyitaw’s city council building, said one of their lawyers, Min Min Soe. Senior lawyer Khin Maung Zaw, said Suu Kyi “seems fit and alert and smart, as always.”


Burma: Why its military dictatorship still survives

The recent release from house arrest of the iconic Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi generated headlines around the world. But more than 2,000 of her colleagues and others remain in detention – a fact which continues to highlight the mutually hostile relationship between the military government and its opponents.

Burma (officially known as Myanmar) has the world’s longest surviving military dictatorship. What are the factors responsible for this – and what are the origins of the internal political conflict that has plagued the country for so long?

Roots of the crisis

Burma hasn’t had a conventional government for almost half a century. Over recent decades other countries have, of course, experienced military dictatorships – but usually they are seen, even by their supporters, as short term temporary expedients rather than semi-permanent arrangements.

But Burma’s military dictatorship is different for four historical reasons – a strong military tradition, a relatively weak civil society, a long-standing fear of national disintegration and an equally long-standing fear of foreign intervention.

Unlike most Asian and African countries, Burma did not win its independence by conventional civilian-based political agitation. Modern Burma was born partly out of an Allied military struggle against Japanese occupation – a struggle which, by 1945, also involved Burmese forces led by the leaders of what became the country’s post-independence army.

To that extent, Burma’s iconic military heritage is similar to that of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe or to mid to late 20th-century Indonesia or even to the Caudillo (military leadership) tradition in post-independence 19th-century South America.

In Burma the embryonic military, known as the Burma Independence Army, was first formed during the Second World War by anti-colonial Burmese nationalists in collaboration with the Japanese. Under Japanese occupation it became the Burma Defence Army (1942) and then the Burmese National Army (1943). As the war began to turn against Japan, the BNA switched sides and, supporting the Allies, became the Patriotic Burmese Forces.

However, throughout all these politically-induced changes in nomenclature, the embryonic Burmese military was led by modern Burma’s greatest national hero – Aung San.

Indeed it’s his iconic status that sustains not only Burma’s military tradition (and therefore to an extent the current military dictatorship) but also the status of Burma’s main opposition leader, his daughter Aung San Suu Kyi.

The second source of military power is the historically weak nature of civil society. In 1824 Britain seized parts of Burma, and its subsequent abolition of the Burmese monarchy and the dis-empowerment of the Burmese aristocracy (by the last Burmese kings and then by the British) all served to undermine traditional civil government.

Under British colonial rule, the country’s Burmese-speaking majority population was largely excluded from middle-ranking and senior civil service roles. Indeed Indians and colonial Britons imported from the Indian sub-continent were recruited to the civil service while members of Burma’s many ethnic minorities made up much of the police and the army.

One reason for this was that, although Burma formed part of British India, its Burmese-speaking heartland was one of the last regions to be conquered and incorporated into the Raj.

Consequently it had far fewer western-educated, English-speaking inhabitants than India. Also, the Depression of the 1930s destroyed the embryonic Burmese middle class – the class that would otherwise have laid the foundations of civil society.

Another factor behind the military’s strength is the Burmese nationalist fear of the disintegration of the country. In the 17th–19th centuries, prior to the British conquest, the kings of the Burmese-speaking lowland region had expanded the size of their state by assuming at least nominal control over vast areas of non-Burmese-speaking territory.

Indeed, as a direct result of that process, around two-thirds of Burmese territory is still inhabited by non-Burmese native-speaking minorities who account for around a third of Burma’s total population.

There are dozens of separate ethno-linguistic minorities in Burma – the largest being the five million-strong Shan, the four-million strong Karen, the two-million strong Arakanese and the Mon, Chin, Karenni and Kachin peoples.

Nationalist fears of the disintegration of the country have been bolstered by numerous ethnic minority armed insurgencies, two of which (the Karen and Shan revolts) continue today. Immediately post-independence, the Burmese government faced more than a dozen armed rebellions and even today the central government’s writ does not run in around five to 10 per cent of Burma’s territory.

Nationalist fear of the disintegration of the Burmese state is integrally linked with a parallel fear of foreign intervention – a fear that has generated an unusually high level of xenophobia among the military.

Certainly Burma has suffered a substantial number of foreign invasions and conspiracies – from the Chinese invasions of the 1760s through to the three Anglo-Burmese wars of the 19th century, Japan’s refusal to allow genuine independence (1943–45), and CIA backing for Chinese nationalist occupation of north-east Burma (1950–61).

In addition to all these historically-driven factors, military dictatorship has benefited from Burma’s ancient tradition of political deference. Many scholars see this as stemming, at least in part, from the Buddhist belief that political power (or indeed any other form of personal success) is a direct consequence of merit gained in previous lives. It is a form of meritocracy where karmic merit is ‘inherited’ through reincarnation.

Role of the monks

All these factors help to explain why Burma’s generals have ruled for so long. But what of the opposition? Like the army, it too draws on deference for and memory of the country’s greatest hero – General Aung San. It’s no coincidence that the leader of the opposition (under house arrest for 12 of the past 17 years) is Aung San’s daughter.

Concepts of respect have also helped propel the nation’s monks into the front line against the government. Monks, who by definition have also been re-incarnated at a high level, are therefore seen as being in a comparatively strong position to lead the population.

Why, however, have the monks chosen to fulfil that role? Historically, monks hardly ever involved themselves in politics. Up until 1885, the old Burmese monarchy and the Buddhist Sanga (the established ‘church’) had a symbiotic relationship in which rulers ‘bought’ karma (guaranteeing reincarnational advancement/promotion) by giving money or other resources to the Buddhist monastic orders.

Politically this guaranteed the Sanga’s support for government and impressed the population.

However, with the abolition of the monarchy, that symbiotic relationship ended and the Sanga was left without a traditional political role. This functional vacuum drew the monks into more pro-active forms of political action, often as opponents and critics rather than passive supporters.

By 1920 monks became involved in helping to set up Burma’s first major anti-colonial movement – the General Council of Burmese Associations. Then in the 1920s, monks were prominently involved in a series of anti-colonial strikes and tax protests and then armed rebellion (1930–31).

By 1938 monks were leading demonstrations against the British authorities (whose police opened fire, killing 17 people). Before the Second World War, Burmese independence fighter General Aung San allied himself with politically active monks to form a political alliance – the Freedom Block.

In more recent years, however, the monks have been drawn into active opposition by two factors. Firstly, like most long-lived dictatorships, the Burmese military have increasingly lacked the skills to successfully manage the country’s economy.

Food shortages and rampant inflation have drastically reduced the population’s ability to donate food to the nation’s 400,000 monks whose role is primarily spiritual and who are therefore, in Buddhist tradition, not allowed to work or grow food for themselves.

The monks are impoverished and have, at key stages in recent years, come under moral as well as economic pressure from the population to use their karma-derived high status to lead opposition to the generals.

History of Burma

849–1289 First Burman state – based at Pagan
1364–1527 Second Burman state – based at Ava
1486–1752 Third Burman state – based initially at Toungoo
1753 Fourth Burman state established (massive expansion till 1824)
1824 Britain attacks Burma which loses its north, west and extreme south east
1852 Second Anglo-Burmese War. Britain seizes the south west
1885 Third Anglo-Burmese War. Britain occupies central Burma
1941 Burma Independence Army (later Burmese National Army) founded in collaboration with the Japanese
1945 BNA revolts against Japanese occupation
1948 Burma becomes a republic
1962 The civilian government is overthrown and military rule begins
2010 Aung San Suu Kyi is released from house arrest

Further reading

The Making of Modern Burma by Thant Myint (CUP, 2001)
Burmese Administrative Cycles: Anarchy and Conquest, 1580-1760 by V Lieberman (Princeton, 1984)
Nationalism as Political Paranoia in Burma by M Gravers (Routledge, 1999)
Powerful Learning: Buddhist Literati and the Throne in Burma’s Last Dynasty by M Charney (CSEAS, Michigan, 2006)


Share All sharing options for: The UN condemned Myanmar’s coup. Will that matter?

Protesters make the three-finger salute as they take part in a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar on June 13, 2021. STR/AFP/Getty Images

More than four months after the military seized power in Myanmar, the United Nations General Assembly took the rare step on Friday of voting to formally condemn the February 1 coup and called for an end to arms dealing with the country.

The condemnation comes as UN officials express concern that the nation is on the brink of civil war, and as humanitarian conditions worsen for civilians. While significant, the vote itself revealed complicated geopolitics that may stymie a more forceful international response to the situation.

The UN approved the resolution by a vote of 119 to 1, with 36 countries abstaining. In addition to condemning the junta and calling for the return of a democratic government in Myanmar, the resolution also urges “all [UN] Member States to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar.”

“The risk of a large-scale civil war is real,” Christine Schraner Burgener, the UN special envoy on Myanmar, said after the vote. “Time is of the essence. The opportunity to reverse the military takeover is narrowing.”

The resolution was lauded by members of the international community, including deputy head of the European Union delegation Ambassador Silvio Gonzato, who greeted it as “a rare and significant expression of the General Assembly condemnation in the face of a gross violation of fundamental democratic norms and neglecting the clearly expressed wish of a people.”

“The international community does not accept the coup, and it does not recognize any legitimacy to the regime that emerged from it,” Gonzato said Friday in a statement.

With the support of 119 countries, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that calls on Myanmar’s military junta to restore the democratic transition and calls on all member states “to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar.” The international community has spoken. pic.twitter.com/DqCPAwPX3R

— U.S. Embassy Burma (@USEmbassyBurma) June 19, 2021

The UN has taken a similar step only three times since the end of the Cold War, according to Richard Gown, UN director of the International Crisis Group, after military coups in Haiti, Burundi, and Honduras, in 1991, 1993, and 2009, respectively. Such a unified response by the General Assembly was not deployed in response to other significant military power grabs in recent years, including multiple national crises in Thailand.

However, the resolution, which is nonbinding, is unlikely to make any immediate difference in the crisis currently plaguing Myanmar, and it stops short of imposing an outright arms embargo on the southeast Asian nation, which borders Thailand. And China and Russia — two of Myanmar’s largest suppliers of weapons — were among the countries that abstained from the vote.

On Sunday, Pope Francis called for humanitarian aid to be allowed into the country and for houses of worship to be offered as sanctuary to those fleeing violence. Hundreds of people have been killed since the February coup, and some 175,000 more have been displaced.

The vote revealed messy international politics

Initially, UN General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir had hoped to adopt Friday’s Myanmar resolution by consensus in a speech prior to the vote, Bozkir told members of the assembly that “when it comes to Myanmar we must act, as nations, united. I trust that you, as Guardians of the Charter of the United Nations, will join me in this call for peace.”

But Belarus, eventually the sole “no” vote on the resolution, forced a recorded vote instead, resulting in a significant number of abstentions.

Sometimes known as “Europe’s last dictatorship,” Belarus has previously sold weapons to Myanmar, according to the activist group Justice for Myanmar, and the small eastern European nation has been the target of international scrutiny in its own right after dictator Alexander Lukashenko held onto power in a sham presidential election last year.

In addition to permanent UN Security Council members China and Russia, several members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, abstained from voting on the resolution. Brunei, Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos — all of which are categorized as “not free” by the international watchdog organization Freedom House — chose to abstain.

The #UNGA resolution on #Myanmar calls
- for the "immediate release of all those detained arbitrarily"
- "for safe & unimpeded humanitarian access to all people in need"
- on "all member states to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar"
FULL TEXT➡️ https://t.co/GYC9f51Iqc

— Nadira Kourt (@NadiraKourt) June 18, 2021

Unsurprisingly, Myanmar’s military government has already rejected the resolution and accused the UN of infringing on Myanmar’s sovereignty. Despite that, however, the resolution was supported by Myanmar in the UN, where Myanmar ambassador to the UN Kyaw Moe Tun, who was appointed under the previous democratic government, has refused to leave his post.

“We need further strongest possible action from the international community to immediately end the military coup, to stop oppressing the innocent people, to return the state power to the people, and to restore the democracy,” Kyaw Moe Tun said in February.

Whoa. It is impossible to overstate the risks that #Myanmar UN ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun just took in the @UN General Assembly when (voice cracking) he just now called on world to oppose the military coup. See photo below of him giving the three-fingered salute of the protestors. https://t.co/qnmr0RMY0S

— Samantha Power (@SamanthaJPower) February 26, 2021

While Friday’s resolution is noteworthy, multiple UN officials — including Schraner Burgener and Tom Andrews, special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar — have called for the UN to do more as Myanmar’s humanitarian crisis worsens.

“[T]he [United Nations Security Council] should now take action by imposing an arms embargo, sanctions & measures to hold the junta accountable,” Andrews wrote in a tweet on Saturday.

Yesterday's UNGA resolution on Myanmar was notable because of how strongly it rebuked the junta, AND because not a single UNSC member voted against it. This means that the UNSC should now take action by imposing an arms embargo, sanctions & measures to hold the junta accountable.

— UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews (@RapporteurUn) June 19, 2021

However, that could prove difficult. As permanent Security Council members, China and Russia both have veto power over Security Council proposals, and both have remained friendly with Myanmar since the coup earlier this year.

Chinese companies are among the largest suppliers of weaponry to the Myanmar military, according to a report by Justice for Myanmar, a pro-democracy advocacy group, and Russia has also sold fighter jets and other matériel to Myanmar.

Previously, the Security Council condemned the use of violence against peaceful protesters in Myanmar and backed a democratic transition away from military rule in a March statement, but it’s unclear if more concrete actions against the Myanmar junta, such as an arms embargo, would escape a veto.

A humanitarian crisis

Myanmar’s democratic collapse has also engendered additional humanitarian crises, including a faltering health system and endangered food supplies, Schraner Burgener said on Friday, according to the UN news agency.

Currently, according to the UN, more than 600 people have been killed since the junta took power in February — the regime has repeatedly used live ammunition on peaceful protesters — and thousands have been arrested. Around 175,000 people have been displaced, and more have fled to neighboring countries as refugees. On Sunday, Pope Francis called for military leaders to allow aid to reach those displaced people.

Some reports, however, put the death toll since February at 800 or more — and the true number is likely even worse.

In April, Human Rights Watch also reported that hundreds of people have been forcibly “disappeared” by the junta since February — a crime against humanity under international law.

How did Myanmar get here?

Myanmar — sometimes known as Burma — has been in crisis since well before Friday’s UN resolution. In early February, the country’s military, which has long been a force in domestic politics, seized power after losing elections in November last year — citing, without evidence, voter fraud as the reason for their loss.

The coup, which ousted popular leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, was a return to an earlier era for Myanmar, which had been under military rule for decades until 2011. And it set off a massive, enduring pro-democracy movement, with protests continuing this month despite a brutal crackdown and the use of live ammunition by regime forces.

A soldier patrols the street in front of the Central Bank building in Yangon, Myanmar during a pro-democracy demonstration on February 15. Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

As Vox’s Alex Ward explained at the time, the coup was telegraphed well ahead of time by the country’s military, which refused to accept the results of Myanmar’s November 2020 parliamentary elections.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won overwhelmingly in November, claiming fully 83 percent of the available seats in the parliament.

Suu Kyi is a beloved national figure in Myanmar, and spent the better part of two decades under house arrest for her pro-democracy activism after the NLD won parliamentary elections in 1990. She was only released in 2010, shortly before Myanmar’s democratic transition.

However, she has become increasingly controversial in the eyes of the international community for her role in Myanmar’s genocide against the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority. Thousands of Rohingya people were killed, and more than 700,000 rounded up and deported, by the same military that is now in power.

As Vox’s Jariel Arvin reported earlier this year, Suu Kyi “not only refused to condemn the military for its actions, but went as far as to defend them in an international court.” That decision has complicated international support for Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement, which still venerates Suu Kyi.

In 2020, history repeated itself for Suu Kyi after her NLD party claimed a “landslide” November election victory. According to Ward:

. the military and its political arm immediately claimed the elections were fraudulent, though foreign observers and the nation’s electoral commission declared there had been no significant problems. They went so far as to demand a new, military-supervised election, filed 200 complaints to local election agencies, and took their case to the nation’s Supreme Court.

Then . a military spokesperson warned that the armed forces might “take action” if their assertions of fraud weren’t taken seriously and notably refused to rule out a coup. Citing a provision in the constitution it drafted, the military said it could launch a coup if the nation’s sovereignty was threatened and declare a national emergency.

“Unless this problem is resolved, it will obstruct the path to democracy and it must therefore be resolved according to the law,” a military spokesperson said.

Finally, just before Myanmar’s parliament was set to certify the results of the election, the military, led by Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, seized power. They detained Suu Kyi and other government officials, as well as many activists, halted flights in and out of the country, and declared a state of emergency that would last one year.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy protesters have continued to push back on the junta, though with little success so far, and often facing deadly violence. Suu Kyi is once more under house arrest by the junta on charges of sedition.

In addition to cracking down on civil society and arresting prominent activists and political opponents, the regime has blocked access to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp, and in April began shutting down broadband access outright.

And military forces continue to unleash arbitrary violence against protesters, reportedly even launching mortar shells into civilian neighborhoods. As Vox’s Jen Kirby reported in May, “At 8 pm, when people [in Yangon, Myanmar] still bang pots and pans in protest, security forces will sometimes fire at the sounds — with slingshots, stones, bullets.”

In the face of such large-scale human rights violations, Friday’s UN resolution does little to clarify what comes next for Myanmar.

Show trials and a kangaroo court

On Monday, after months of house arrest, Suu Kyi appeared in court to stand trial for a long list of spurious charges, including corruption, inciting public unrest, and violating Myanmar’s official secrets act.

All told, according to the Washington Post, Suu Kyi faces seven charges and up to 15 years in prison — which could well amount to a life sentence for the leader, who marked her 76th birthday in confinement on Saturday.

Protesters stand with a huge banner of detained Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi as they take part in a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar on February 9. Sai Aung Main/AFP/Getty Images

The trial and charges alike are considered by regional experts to be a political exercise rather than a judicial one, and the outcome is all but preordained with Myanmar still under military rule.

“With the restrictions on access to her lawyers and the case being heard in front of a court that is wholly beholden to the military junta, there is little likelihood she will receive a fair trial,” Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said, according to the Washington Post.

The trial starting next week vs legitimate #Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi will be a total joke. #Tatmadaw junta's charges are politically motivated & bogus & will be heard by kangaroo court fully controlled by the military #WhatsHappeningInMyanmar #Burma https://t.co/ql5ZWUzN7j pic.twitter.com/qDKF4KrRVL

— Phil Robertson (@Reaproy) June 9, 2021

Suu Kyi isn’t the only political prisoner facing a show trial in Myanmar: The junta is also holding deposed President Win Myint on a range of politicized charges, and protesters are being arrested, tortured, and sentenced to prison en masse.

According to Myanmar Now, a local news outlet, 32 protesters were sentenced to prison terms of at least two years earlier this month on charges of incitement and unlawful assembly. And an American, Danny Fenster, is among dozens of journalists facing charges of inciting fear or spreading “false news” Fenster was detained three weeks ago en route to visit family in the US.

Despite the junta’s best efforts, however, there is still a vibrant opposition movement in Myanmar — one that has welded together a broad, but potentially fragile, alliance of ethnic groups against a common enemy.

As Kirby explained for Vox, the pro-democracy protests have been “part awakening, part atonement” for some protesters, particularly in regard to the military’s campaign of genocide against the Rohingya:

[Activist Wai Hnin Pwint Thon]’s experience is an extreme example of the kind of revelation that has happened among many young protesters, especially among the majority Bamar ethnic group. “Some of us were brainwashed,” Wathone, the protester in Yangon, said. “But now everyone understands what the Rohingya feel, what the ethnic groups feel.”

Now, with armed ethnic factions supporting members of the Civil Disobedience Movement, the conflict in Myanmar could soon enter a new phase. Some protesters Kirby spoke to admitted that “nonviolence is maybe not working. So we need some armed resistance.”

Already, according to Reuters, the junta is fighting on “multiple fronts in border regions” against local insurgents, and some young pro-democracy protesters are leaving Myanmar’s urban centers to join the anti-regime guerrillas.

“The brutality of the Burma military is even worse,” civil society activist Naw Wah Ku Shee told Kirby of the newfound cohesion among ethnic groups. “Our first priority is to end this military dictatorship, which is why we need to work together.”

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‘The Hidden History of Burma’ Traces the Vanishing of Hope

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Thant Myint-U has titled his reflective and illuminating new book “The Hidden History of Burma,” even though he gently suggests that the country’s past wasn’t so much obscured as it was hiding in plain sight. For decades, especially after a ruthless crackdown on pro-democracy protestors in 1988, Burma had drawn international ire for the brutal rule of its military junta, which for a time went by the grotesque-sounding acronym SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council). Against the depredations of the dictatorship stood the charismatic Aung San Suu Kyi: a tireless civilian advocate for democracy who spoke consistently of hope, enduring years of detention and house arrest with a serene smile and a flower in her hair.

Her public image weighed heavily in the international community’s imagination, which was decidedly more familiar with the morality play of “The Lady Versus the Generals” than with the longer history of Burma. That history proved to be stubborn and consequential — its effects only aggravated by how much its convolutions were simplified or ignored.

“In the early 2010s,” Thant Myint-U writes, “Burma was the toast of the world.” (The junta had changed the country’s name in English to “Myanmar” in 1989 a prefatory note explains why this was an “ethno-nationalist” move — the equivalent of Germany demanding that English speakers refer to it as “Deutschland.”) The generals seemed to be ceding power, the country seemed to be ending its long isolation, tourism seemed to be on the rise a number of rebel groups signed cease-fires, and in 2015 the National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won enough seats in the country’s first free elections in a generation to form a government.

By 2018, that hopefulness had all but vanished. The year before, the Burmese military had unleashed a scorched-earth campaign against the Rohingya Muslim minority, with more than 700,000 refugees fleeing across the border to Bangladesh. During the military dictatorship, the world had grown accustomed to looking to Aung San Suu Kyi for moral guidance, but once in government as Burma’s de facto leader she sprang to the defense of the military that had previously detained her. Speaking to The Washington Post, she denied reports of army-perpetrated atrocities including infanticide and gang rape, dismissing them as mere “rigmarole.” (Last week, Gambia filed a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice in The Hague accusing Burma of genocide.)

A recent article for The Atlantic by Ben Rhodes, who served as a foreign policy adviser to President Barack Obama, bore the title “What Happened to Aung San Suu Kyi?,” conveying a sense of bewilderment, as if a switch had been flipped. What Thant Myint-U argues is that the conditions for the current situation were already in place — less a flipped switch than a lit fuse.

He writes briskly about Burma’s history as part of the British Raj, when colonial officials were flummoxed by what one of them called the “racial instability” of the region, where distinctions, the official complained, were “neither definite, nor logical, nor permanent, nor easy to detect.” Under colonialism, classifications cleaved and hardened, as British administrators insisted on dividing the regional people into “native” (or “indigenous”) and “alien” types.

The book’s focus is on the convulsions of the last 15 years, from a seemingly unshakable military dictatorship to the beginnings of democratic rule, but examining the legacy of Burma’s colonial past is crucial to grasping what’s happened more recently. Aung San Suu Kyi may have been venerated as a democracy activist and a human rights icon, but Thant Myint-U suggests she’s better understood as a Burmese nationalist. He cites an essay she wrote in the 1980s, before she became involved in politics, in which she described Indian and Chinese immigrants acquiring “a stranglehold on the Burmese economy” and “striking at the very roots of Burmese manhood and racial purity.”

It’s not so much a gotcha moment as a plea for a deeper understanding in what turns out to be a learned yet also intimate book. Thant Myint-U has long studied the country, as both an insider and an outsider his grandfather, U Thant, was born in colonial Burma and later became the secretary general of the United Nations. After the military crushed the pro-democracy uprising of 1988, Thant Myint-U supported aggressive sanctions against the junta regime, only to reverse himself when he realized that boycotts and aid restrictions were harming the ordinary people they were supposed to help.

He tries to nudge readers away from getting too fixated on messianic solutions. Democracy was a preoccupation among the junta’s critics, but the country wasn’t quite prepared for how a competitive political system might work — especially one where the peace process itself entrenched a belief in the existence of fixed ethnic groups. Protecting minority rights, such as those of the Rohingya Muslims, has proved to be an unpopular proposition among the Buddhist majority it’s been much easier to rile up voters with rank appeals to identity. As Thant Myint-U puts it, “fear and intolerance” offer convenient cover for opportunists seeking to hide a “failure of the imagination.”

Combined with this whipping up of virulent nativist sentiment has been a headlong plunge into free markets, as Burma lurched from being one of the poorest and most isolated countries in Asia to another aspirant on the capitalist world stage. Thant Myint-U acknowledges the real economic gains that have been made over the past decade — a growing middle class, a new kind of self-made entrepreneur unconnected to the cronyism of the old regime — but he also notes that Burma is still a very poor country where extreme inequality and attendant anxieties have flourished. A population buffetted by economic upheaval and climate change is especially prone to paranoia. He’s skeptical of what neoliberalism offers, even in a best-case scenario: “Relentless environmental destruction and congested cities, compensated for only by the opportunity for lots of shopping. Is this really the only future possible?”

“The Hidden History of Burma” is an urgent book about a heavy subject, but Thant Myint-U, whose previous work includes the marvelous “The River of Lost Footsteps,” a mixture of memoir and history, is a writer with a humane sensibility and a delicate yet pointed touch. He observes that for all of Aung San Suu Kyi’s soaring rhetoric before she ascended to power, “her instincts were deeply conservative.” A telling anecdote has her conducting a discussion with a group of university graduates in 2018, in which she elected to talk not about the Rohingya, or the peace process, or democracy, but about novels. She asked the group what was more important: plot or character?


Watch the video: Important and interesting facts of MYANMAR BURMA (January 2022).