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Liberation of Myanmar Initiative made by 45th US President
Congratulate by victim Alam, Born Citizen of Myanmar
The history of
The history of
covers the period from the time of first-known human settlements 13,000 years
ago to the present day (This information is collect from Wikipedia.org).
The earliest inhabitants of recorded history were the
Pyu who entered the
from Yunnan c. 2nd century
BCE. By the 4th
century CE, the Pyu had founded
several city states
as far south as
Prome (Pyay), and
Mon, who had entered
in the east, had established
city states of their own
along the Lower Burmese coastline by the early 9th century.
Another group, the
Mranma (Burmans or
Bamar) of the
entered the upper Irrawaddy valley in the early 9th century. They went on to
(1044–1287), the first ever unification of Irrawaddy valley and its periphery.
Burmese language and
culture slowly came
to replace Pyu and Mon norms during this period. After
Pagan's fall in 1287,
several small kingdoms, of which
Shan states were
principal powers, came to dominate the landscape, replete with ever shifting
alliances and constant wars. In the second half of the 16th century, the
(1510–1752) reunified the country, and founded the largest empire in the history
of Southeast Asia for a brief period. Later Toungoo kings
instituted several key administrative and economic reforms that gave rise to a
smaller, peaceful and prosperous kingdom in the 17th and early 18th centuries.
In the second half of the 18th century, the
(1752–1885) restored the kingdom, and continued the Toungoo reforms that
increased central rule in peripheral regions and produced one of the most
literate states in
The dynasty also went to war with all its neighbors. The kingdom
fell to the British
over a six-decade span (1824–1885).
British rule brought
several enduring social, economic, cultural and administrative changes that
completely transformed the once-feudal society. Most importantly, the British
rule highlighted out-group differences among the country's myriad ethnic groups.
Since independence in 1948, the country has been in
one of the longest running
civil wars that remains unresolved. The country was under military
rule under various guises from 1962 to 2010, and in the process has become one
of the least developed nations in the world.
The earliest archaeological evidence
suggests that cultures existed in
Burma as early as 11,000 BCE. Most indications of early settlement have been
found in the central dry zone, where scattered sites appear in close proximity
to the Irrawaddy River. The Anyathian,
Stone Age, existed at a time thought to parallel the lower and middle
The Neolithic or New Stone Age, when plants and animals were first domesticated
and polished stone tools appeared, is evidenced in Burma by three caves located
near Taunggyi at the edge of the Shan plateau that are dated to 10000 to 6000
About 1500 BCE, people in the region were turning copper into bronze, growing
rice, and domesticating chickens and pigs; they were among the first people in
the world to do so. By 500 BCE, iron-working settlements emerged in an area
south of present-day
Bronze-decorated coffins and burial sites filled with earthenware remains have
Archaeological evidence at Samon Valley south of
suggests rice growing settlements that traded with China between 500 BC and 200
Major Pyu city states (Pagan not
Pyu entered the
from present-day Yunnan, c. 2nd century BCE, and went on to found city states
throughout the Irrawaddy valley. The original home of the Pyu is reconstructed
Kokonor Lake in
The Pyu were the earliest inhabitants of Burma of whom records are extant.
During this period, Burma was part of an overland trade route from China to
India. Trade with
brought Buddhism from southern India. By the 4th century, many in the
valley had converted to Buddhism.
Of the many city-states, the largest and most important was
southeast of modern
Prome (Pyay). In
March 638, the Pyu of Sri Ksetra launched a new calendar that later became the
Eighth century Chinese records identify 18 Pyu states throughout the Irrawaddy
valley, and describe the Pyu as a humane and peaceful people to whom war was
virtually unknown and who wore silk cotton instead of actually silk so that they
would not have to kill silk worms. The Chinese records also report that the Pyu
knew how to make astronomical calculations, and that many Pyu boys entered the
monastic life at seven to the age of 20.
was a long-lasting civilization that lasted nearly a millennium to early 9th
century until a new group of "swift horsemen" from the north, the Mranma, (Burmans)
entered the upper
valley. In the early 9th century, the Pyu city states of Upper Burma came under constant attacks by the
Nanzhao Kingdom in
Yunnan. In 832, the
Nanzhao sacked then Halingyi, which had overtaken Prome as the chief Pyu city
state. A subsequent Nanzhao invasion in 835 further devastated Pyu city states
While Pyu settlements remained in
until the advent of the Pagan Empire in mid 11th century, the Pyu gradually were
absorbed into the expanding Burman kingdom of Pagan in the next four centuries.
The Pyu language still existed until the late 12th century. By the 13th century,
the Pyu had assumed the Burman ethnicity. The histories/legends of the Pyu were
also incorporated to those of the Burmans.
early as 6th century, another people called the
Mon began to enter
from the Mon kingdoms of
Thailand. By the mid
9th century, the Mon had founded at least two small kingdoms (or large
city-states) centered around
Thaton. The earliest
external reference to a Mon kingdom in Lower Burma was in 844–848 by Arab geographers.
The Mon practiced
The kingdoms were prosperous from trade. The
Kingdom of Thaton is
widely considered to be the fabled kingdom of
Land), referred to by the tradesmen of
Pagan Dynasty (849–1297)
Principality of Pagan at Anawrahta's
accession in 1044
The Burmans who had come down with the early 9th Nanzhao raids of the Pyu states
(Trickles of Burman migrations into the upper Irrawaddy valley might have begun
as early as the 7th century.)
In the mid-to-late 9th century, Pagan was founded as a fortified settlement
along a strategic location on the
near the confluence of the
and its main tributary the
It may have been designed to help the Nanzhao pacify the surrounding country
Over the next two hundred years, the small principality gradually grew to
include its immediate surrounding areas— to about 200 miles north to south and
80 miles from east to west by
ascension in 1044.
Pagan Empire (1044–1287)
Pagan Empire during
Sithu II's reign.
Burmese chronicles also claim Kengtung and Chiang Mai. Core areas shown in
darker yellow. Peripheral areas in light yellow. Pagan incorporated key ports of
Lower Burma into its core administration by
the 13th century
Over the next 30 years, Anawrahta founded the
unifying for the first time the regions that would later constitute the
Anawrahta's successors by the late 12th century had extended their influence
farther south into the upper
Malay peninsula, at
least to the
Salween river in the
east, below the current China border in the farther north, and to the west,
Arakan and the
(The Burmese Chronicles claim Pagan's suzerainty over the entire
Chao Phraya river
valley, and the Siamese chronicles include the lower Malay peninsula down to the
Straits of Malacca
to Pagan's realm.)
By the early 12th century, Pagan had emerged as a major power alongside the
Khmer Empire in Southeast Asia, recognized by the Chinese
Song Dynasty, and
Chola dynasty. Well
into the mid-13th century, most of mainland
Southeast Asia was
under some degree of control of either the Pagan Empire or the Khmer Empire.
Anawrahta also implemented a series of key social, religious and economic
reforms that would have a lasting impact in Burmese history. His social and
religious reforms later developed into the modern-day
Burmese culture. The
most important development was the introduction of Theravada Buddhism to Upper
Burma after Pagan's conquest of the
Thaton Kingdom in
1057. Supported by royal patronage, the Buddhist school gradually spread to the
village level in the next three centuries although
remained heavily entrenched at all social strata.
Pagan's economy was primarily based on the
Kyaukse agricultural basin
northeast of the capital, and
Minbu district south
of Pagan where the Burmans had built a large number of new weirs and
diversionary canals. It also benefited from external trade through its coastal
ports. The wealth of the kingdom was devoted to building over 10,000 Buddhist
temples in the Pagan capital zone between 11th and 13th centuries (of which 3000
remain to the present day). The wealthy donated tax-free land to religious
Burmese language and
culture gradually became dominant in the upper Irrawaddy valley, eclipsing the
Pali norms by the
late 12th century. By then, the Burman leadership of the kingdom was
unquestioned. The Pyu had largely assumed the Burman ethnicity in Upper Burma. The Burmese language, once an alien tongue, was
now the lingua franca of the kingdom.
The kingdom went into decline in the 13th century as the continuous growth of
tax-free religious wealth—by the 1280s, two-thirds of Upper Burma's cultivable
land had been alienated to the religion—affected the crown's ability to retain
the loyalty of courtiers and military servicemen. This ushered in a vicious
circle of internal disorders and external challenges by Mons, Mongols and
Beginning in the early 13th century, the Shans began to encircle the Pagan
Empire from the north and the east. The Mongols, who had conquered Yunnan, the
former homeland of the Burmans in 1253, began their invasion of Burma in 1277,
and in 1287 sacked Pagan, ending the Pagan kingdom's 250-year rule of the
Irrawaddy valley and its periphery.
Pagan's rule of central
Burma came to an end ten years later in 1297 when it was toppled by
Southeast Asia c.1400 CE, showing Khmer
Empire in red,
Ayutthaya Kingdom in
Lan Xang kingdom in
Sukhothai kingdom in
Champa in yellow,
Lanna in purple,
Dai Viet in blue.
After the fall of Pagan, the Mongols left the searing Irrawaddy valley but the
Kingdom was irreparably broken up into several small kingdoms. By the mid-14th
century, the country had become organized along four major power centers: Upper
Shan States and Arakan. Many of the power centers were themselves made up of
(often loosely held) minor kingdoms or princely states. This era was marked by a
series of wars and switching alliances. Smaller kingdoms played a precarious
game of paying allegiance to more powerful states, sometimes simultaneously.
Founded in 1364,
Ava (Inwa) was the
successor state to earlier, even smaller kingdoms based in central Burma:
In its first years of existence, Ava, which viewed itself as the rightful
successor to the
Pagan Empire, tried
to reassemble the former empire. While it was able to pull
peripheral Shan states (Kale,
into its fold at the peak of its power, it failed to reconquer the rest. The
Forty Years' War
(1385–1424) with Hanthawaddy left Ava exhausted, and its power plateaued. Its
kings regularly faced rebellions in its vassal regions but were able to put them
down until the 1480s. In the late 15th century,
Prome and its Shan
states successfully broke away, and in the early 16th century, Ava itself came
under attacks from its former vassals. In 1510, Toungoo also broke away. In
Confederation of Shan States
led by Mohnyin captured Ava. The Confederation's rule of Upper Burma, though lasted until 1555, was marred by
internal fighting between Mohnyin and Thibaw houses. The kingdom was toppled by
Toungoo forces in 1555.
The Burmese language and culture came into its own during the Ava period.
Hanthawaddy Pegu (1287–1539, 1550–1552)
was founded as
after Pagan's collapse in 1287. In the beginning, the Lower-Burma-based kingdom
was a loose federation of regional power centers in
Pegu (Bago) and the
Irrawaddy delta. The
energetic reign of
(1384–1422) cemented the kingdom's existence. Razadarit firmly unified the three
Mon-speaking regions together, and successfully held off Ava in the
Forty Years' War
(1385–1424). After the war, Hanthawaddy entered its golden age whereas its rival
Ava gradually went into decline. From the 1420s to the 1530s, Hanthawaddy was
the most powerful and prosperous kingdom of all post-Pagan kingdoms. Under a
string of especially gifted monarchs, the kingdom enjoyed a long golden age,
profiting from foreign commerce. The kingdom, with a flourishing Mon language
and culture, became a center of commerce and Theravada Buddhism. Nonetheless,
due to the inexperience of its last ruler, the powerful kingdom was conquered by
kingdom of Toungoo
in 1539. The kingdom was briefly revived between 1550 and 1552. But it
controlled only Pegu and was crushed by Bayinnaung in 1552.
Shans, who came down
with the Mongols, stayed and quickly came to dominate much of northern to
eastern arc of Burma—from northwestern Sagaing Division to Kachin Hills to the
present day Shan Hills. The most powerful Shan states were
present-day northern Shan State.
Minor states included
in particular, constantly raided Ava's territory in the early 16th century.
Confederation of Shan States,
in alliance with
captured Ava itself in 1527. The Confederation defeated its erstwhile ally Prome
in 1533, and ruled all of
except Toungoo. But the Confederation was marred by internal bickering, and
could not stop Toungoo, which conquered Ava in 1555 and all of Shan States by
Although Arakan had been de facto independent since the late Pagan period, the
Laungkyet dynasty of Arakan was ineffectual. Until the founding of the
Mrauk-U Kingdom in
1429, Arakan was often caught between bigger neighbors, and found itself a
battlefield during the Forty Years' War between Ava and Pegu. Mrauk-U went on to
be a powerful kingdom in its own right between 15th and 17th centuries,
between 1459 and 1666. Arakan was the only post-Pagan kingdom not to be annexed
by the Toungoo dynasty.
Toungoo Dynasty (1510–1752)
First Toungoo Empire (1510–1599)
Bayinnaung's Empire in 1580
Beginning in the 1480s, Ava faced constant internal rebellions and external
attacks from the Shan States, and began to disintegrate. In 1510, Toungoo,
located in the remote southeastern corner of the Ava kingdom, also declared
Confederation of Shan States
conquered Ava in 1527, many Burmans fled southeast to Toungoo, the only kingdom
remaining under Burman rule, and one surrounded by larger hostile kingdoms.
Toungoo, led by its ambitious king
Tabinshwehti and his
Bayinnaung, would go
on to reunify the petty kingdoms that had existed since the fall of the
Pagan Empire, and
found the largest empire in the
history of Southeast Asia.
First, the upstart kingdom defeated a more powerful Hanthawaddy in the
(1535–1541). Tabinshwehti moved the capital to newly captured
Pegu in 1539.
Toungoo expanded its authority up to Pagan in 1544 but failed to conquer
Arakan in 1546–1547
Siam in 1548.
Tabinshwehti's successor Bayinnaung continued the policy of expansion,
conquering Ava in 1555, nearer
Shan states (1557),
Lan Na (1558),
Farther/Trans-Salween Shan states (1562–1563),
Siam (1564, 1569),
Lan Xang (1574), and
bringing much of western and central mainland Southeast Asia under his rule.
Bayinnaung put in place a lasting administrative system that reduced the power
of hereditary Shan chiefs, and brought Shan customs in line with low-land norms.
But he could not replicate an effective administrative system everywhere in his
far flung empire. His empire was a loose collection of former sovereign
kingdoms, whose kings were loyal to him as the
[sɛʔtɕà wədé mɪ́ɴ];
Universal Ruler), not the kingdom of Toungoo.
The overextended empire unraveled soon after Bayinnaung's death in 1581. Siam
broke away in 1584 and went to war with Burma until 1605. By 1593, the kingdom
had lost its possessions in Siam, Lang Xang and Manipur. By 1597, all internal
regions, including the city of Toungoo, the erstwhile home of the dynasty, had
revolted. In 1599, the Arakanese forces aided by Portuguese mercenaries, and in
alliance with the rebellious Toungoo forces, sacked Pegu. The country fell into
chaos, with each region claiming a king. Portuguese mercenary
Filipe de Brito e Nicote
promptly rebelled against his Arakanese masters, and established
Portuguese rule at
Thanlyin in 1603.
Kingdom (Nyaungyan Restoration) (1599–1752)
Restored Toungoo or Nyaungyan Dynasty c.
While the interregnum that followed the fall of Pagan Empire lasted over 250
years (1287–1555), that following the fall of First Toungoo was relatively
short-lived. One of Bayinnaung's sons,
immediately began the reunification effort, successfully restoring central
and nearer Shan states by 1606. His successor
the Portuguese at Thanlyin in 1613; recovered the upper Tenasserim coast to
Tavoy and Lan Na
from the Siamese by 1614;
and the trans-Salween Shan states (Kengtung and Sipsongpanna) in 1622–1626. His
Thalun rebuilt the
war torn country. He ordered the first ever census in Burmese history in 1635,
which showed that the kingdom about two million people. By 1650, the three able
kings–Nyaungyan, Anaukpetlun and Thalun–had successfully rebuilt a smaller but
far more manageable kingdom.
More importantly, the new dynasty proceeded to create a legal and political
system whose basic features would continue under the
well into the 19th century. The crown completely replaced the hereditary
chieftainships with appointed governorships in the entire Irrawaddy valley, and
greatly reduced the hereditary rights of Shan chiefs. It also reined in the
continuous growth of monastic wealth and autonomy, giving a greater tax base.
Its trade and secular administrative reforms built a prosperous economy for more
than 80 years.
Except for a few occasional rebellions and an external war—Burma defeated
Siam's attempt to take Lan Na
and Martaban in 1662–64—the kingdom was largely at peace for the rest
of the 17th century.
The kingdom entered a gradual decline, and the authority of the "palace kings"
deteriorated rapidly in the 1720s. From 1724 onwards, the Manipuris began
Chindwin valley. In
1727, southern Lan Na (Chiang
Mai) successfully revolted, leaving just northern Lan Na (Chiang
Saen) under an increasingly nominal Burmese rule. The Manipuri raids
intensified in the 1730s, reaching increasingly deeper parts of central
Burma. In 1740, the Mon in
began a rebellion, and founded the
Restored Hanthawaddy Kingdom,
and by 1745 controlled much of
The Siamese also moved their authority up the
Tenasserim coast by
1752. Hanthawaddy invaded
in November 1751, and captured Ava on
23 March 1752, ending the 266-year-old
Konbaung Dynasty (1752–1885)
Soon after the fall of Ava, a new dynasty rose in
Shwebo to challenge
the authority of Hanthawaddy. Over the next 70 years, the highly militaristic
Konbaung dynasty went on to create the largest Burmese empire, second only to
the empire of
Bayinnaung. By 1759,
Konbaung forces had reunited all of Burma (and Manipur), extinguished the
Mon-led Hanthawaddy dynasty once and for all, and driven out the European powers
who provided arms to Hanthawaddy—the French from
Thanlyin and the
The kingdom then went to war with
Siam, which had
occupied up the
Tenasserim coast to
Martaban during the
Burmese civil war (1740–1757), and had provided shelter to the Mon refugees. By
1767, the Konbaung armies had subdued much of
defeated Siam. But
they could not finish off the remaining Siamese resistance as they were forced
to defend against
four invasions by Qing China
While the Burmese defenses held in "the most disastrous frontier war the Qing
dynasty had ever waged", the Burmese were preoccupied with another impending
invasion by the world's largest empire for years. The Qing kept a heavy military
lineup in the border areas for about one decade in an attempt to wage another
war while imposing a ban on inter-border trade for two decades.
The Siamese used the Burmese preoccupation with China to recover their lost
territories by 1770, and in addition, went on to
capture much of Lan Na by 1776,
ending over two centuries of Burmese suzerainty over the region.
Burma and Siam went to war again in
1792, 1803–1808, 1809–1812 and 1849–1855 but all resulted in a stalemate. After
decades of war, the two countries essentially exchanged Tenasserim (to Burma)
and Lan Na (to
Westward expansion and wars with
Faced with a powerful
in the northeast and a resurgent Siam in the southeast, King
westward for expansion.
Arakan in 1784,
annexed Manipur in 1813, and captured
Assam in 1817–1819,
leading to a long ill-defined border with British India. Bodawpaya's successor King
Bagyidaw was left to
put down British instigated rebellions in Manipur in 1819 and
Assam in 1821–1822. Cross-border raids by rebels from the British protected
territories and counter-cross-border raids by the Burmese led to the
First Anglo-Burmese War
British soldiers dismantling cannons
belonging to King Thibaw's forces, Third Anglo-Burmese War, Ava,
27 November 1885.
Lasting 2 years and costing 13 million pounds, the first Anglo-Burmese War was
the longest and most expensive war in British Indian history
ended in a decisive British victory. Burma ceded all of Bodawpaya's western
acquisitions (Arakan, Manipur and Assam) plus Tenasserim.
was crushed for years by repaying a large indemnity of one million pounds (then
In 1852, the British unilaterally and easily seized the Pegu province in the
Second Anglo-Burmese War.
After the war, King
Mindon tried to
modernize the Burmese state and economy, and made trade and territorial
concessions to stave off further British encroachments, including ceding the
Karenni States to
the British in 1875. Nonetheless, the British, alarmed by the consolidation of
annexed the remainder of the country in the
Third Anglo-Burmese War
and sent the last Burmese king
Thibaw and his
family to exile in India.
Administrative and Economic Reforms
Konbaung kings extended administrative reforms first begun in the Restored
Toungoo Dynasty period (1599–1752), and achieved unprecedented levels of
internal control and external expansion. Konbaung kings tightened control in the
low lands and reduced the hereditary privileges of Shan saophas (chiefs).
Konbaung officials, particularly after 1780, began commercial reforms that
increased government income and rendered it more predictable. Money economy
continued to gained ground. In 1857, the crown inaugurated a full-fledged system
of cash taxes and salaries, assisted by the country's first standardized silver
Cultural integration continued. For the first time in history, the Burmese
language and culture came to predominate the entire Irrawaddy valley, with the
Mon language and ethnicity completely eclipsed by 1830. The nearer Shan
principalities adopted more lowland norms. The evolution and growth of Burmese
literature and theater continued, aided by an extremely high adult male literacy
rate for the era (half of all males and 5% of females).
Monastic and lay elites around the Konbaung kings, particularly from Bodawpaya's
reign, also launched a major reformation of Burmese intellectual life and
monastic organization and practice known as the Sudhamma Reformation. It led to
amongst other things Burma's first proper state histories.
Recorder's Court on
Sule Pagoda Road, with the Sule Pagoda at the
1868. Photographer: J. Jackson.
Britain made Burma a province of India in 1886 with the capital at
Traditional Burmese society was drastically altered by the demise of the
monarchy and the separation of religion and state.[citation
needed] Though war officially ended after only a couple of weeks,
resistance continued in northern Burma until 1890, with the British finally
resorting to a systematic destruction of villages and appointment of new
officials to finally halt all guerrilla activity. The economic nature of society
also changed dramatically. After the opening of the
Suez Canal, the
demand for Burmese rice grew and vast tracts of land were opened up for
cultivation. However, in order to prepare the new land for cultivation, farmers
were forced to borrow money from Indian moneylenders called
chettiars at high
interest rates and were often foreclosed on and evicted losing land and
livestock. Most of the jobs also went to indentured Indian labourers, and whole
villages became outlawed as they resorted to 'dacoity' (armed robbery).[citation
needed] While the Burmese economy grew, all the power and wealth
remained in the hands of several British firms,
migrants from India.
The civil service was largely staffed by the
community and Indians, and Burmese were excluded almost entirely from military
service. Though the country prospered, the Burmese people failed to reap the
rewards. (See George Orwell's novel
Burmese Days for a
fictional account of the British in Burma.) Throughout colonial rule through the
to dominate the country, causing discontent among the local populace.
around the start of the 20th century, a nationalist movement began to take shape
in the form of Young Men's Buddhist Associations (YMBA),
modelled on the
YMCA, as religious
associations were allowed by the colonial authorities. They were later
superseded by the General Council of Burmese Associations (GCBA) which was
linked with Wunthanu athin or National Associations that sprang up in villages
throughout Burma Proper.[citation
needed] Between 1900 - 1911 the "Irish Buddhist"
challenged Christianity and British rule on religious grounds. A new generation
of Burmese leaders arose in the early 20th century from amongst the educated
classes that were permitted to go to
London to study law.
They came away from this experience with the belief that the Burmese situation
could be improved through reform. Progressive constitutional reform in the early
1920s led to a legislature with limited powers, a university and more autonomy
within the administration of India. Efforts were also undertaken to increase the
representation of Burmese in the civil service. Some people began to feel that
the rate of change was not fast enough and the reforms not expansive enough.
Vegetable stall on the roadside at the
Madras Lancer Lines,
January 1886. Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
1920 the first university students strike in history broke out[citation
needed] in protest against the new University Act which the students
believed would only benefit the elite and perpetuate colonial rule. 'National
Schools' sprang up across the country in protest against the colonial education
system, and the strike came to be commemorated as 'National
There were further strikes and anti-tax protests in the later 1920s led by the
Wunthanu athins. Prominent among the political activists were Buddhist monks (pongyi),
such as U Ottama and U Seinda in the
subsequently led an armed rebellion against the British and later the
nationalist government after independence, and U Wisara, the first martyr of the
movement to die after a protracted hunger strike in prison.
(One of the main thoroughfares in
Yangon is named
after U Wisara.) In December 1930, a local tax protest by
Saya San in
Tharrawaddy quickly grew into first a regional and then a national insurrection
against the government. Lasting for two years, the Galon rebellion, named after
the mythical bird
Garuda — enemy of
Nagas i.e. the
British — emblazoned on the pennants the rebels carried, required thousands of
British troops to suppress along with promises of further political reform. The
eventual trial of Saya San, who was executed, allowed several future national
leaders, including Dr
Ba Maw and
U Saw, who
participated in his defence, to rise to prominence.
The paddle steamer Ramapoora (right) of the
British India Steam Navigation Company on the
Rangoon river having just arrived from
May 1930 saw the founding of the
Dobama Asiayone (We
Burmans Association) whose members called themselves Thakin (an ironic name as
thakin means "master" in the Burmese language—rather like the Indian 'sahib'—
proclaiming that they were the true masters of the country entitled to the term
usurped by the colonial masters).
The second university students strike in 1936 was triggered by the expulsion of
Aung San and
Ko Nu, leaders of
Students Union (RUSU), for refusing to reveal the name of the author who had
written an article in their university magazine, making a scathing attack on one
of the senior university officials. It spread to
Mandalay leading to
the formation of the All Burma Students Union (ABSU). Aung San and Nu
subsequently joined the Thakin movement progressing from student to national
The British separated Burma from India in 1937 and granted the colony a new
constitution calling for a fully elected assembly, but this proved to be a
divisive issue as some Burmese felt that this was a ploy to exclude them from
any further Indian reforms whereas other Burmese saw any action that removed
Burma from the control of India to be a positive step.
Ba Maw served as the
first prime minister of Burma, but he was succeeded by
U Saw in 1939, who
served as prime minister from 1940 until he was arrested on
January 19, 1942
by the British for communicating with the Japanese.
wave of strikes and protests that started from the oilfields of central Burma in
1938 became a general strike with far-reaching consequences. In
protesters, after successfully picketing the Secretariat, the seat of the
colonial government, were charged by the
wielding batons and killing a
student called Aung Kyaw. In
Mandalay, the police
shot into a crowd of protesters led by Buddhist monks killing 17 people. The
movement became known as Htaung thoun ya byei ayeidawbon (the '1300 Revolution'
named after the Burmese calendar year),
and December 20, the day the first martyr Aung Kyaw fell, commemorated by
students as 'Bo
Aung Kyaw Day'.
World War II and
Some Burmese nationalists saw the outbreak of
World War II as an
opportunity to extort concessions from the British in exchange for support in
the war effort. Other Burmese, such as the Thakin movement, opposed Burma's
participation in the war under any circumstances.
Aung San co-founded
Communist Party of Burma
(CPB) with other Thakins in August 1939.
as well as tracts from the
Sinn Féin movement
Ireland had been
widely circulated and read among political activists. Aung San also co-founded
the People's Revolutionary Party (PRP), renamed the
World War II. He was
also instrumental in founding the Bama htwet yat gaing (Freedom Bloc) by forging
an alliance of the Dobama, ABSU, politically active monks and
Ba Maw's Sinyètha
(Poor Man's) Party.
After the Dobama organization called for a national uprising, an arrest warrant
was issued for many of the organization's leaders including Aung San, who
Aung San's intention was to make contact with the
but he was detected by the
who offered him support by forming a secret intelligence unit called the Minami
Kikan headed by Colonel Suzuki with the objective of closing the
Burma Road and
supporting a national uprising. Aung San briefly returned to Burma to enlist
twenty-nine young men who went to Japan with him in order to receive military
China, and they came
to be known as the "Thirty
Comrades". When the Japanese occupied
Bangkok in December
1941, Aung San announced the formation of the
Burma Independence Army
(BIA) in anticipation of the Japanese invasion of Burma in 1942.
British soldiers on patrol in the ruins of
the Burmese town of
during the advance on
The BIA formed a provisional government in some areas of the country in the
spring of 1942, but there were differences within the Japanese leadership over
the future of
While Colonel Suzuki encouraged the Thirty Comrades to form a provisional
government, the Japanese Military leadership had never formally accepted such a
plan. Eventually the Japanese Army turned to
Ba Maw to form a
government. During the war in 1942, the BIA had grown in an uncontrolled manner,
and in many districts officials and even criminals appointed themselves to the
BIA. It was reorganised as the Burma Defence Army (BDA) under the Japanese but
still headed by Aung San. While the BIA had been an irregular force, the BDA was
recruited by selection and trained as a conventional army by Japanese
Ba Maw was
afterwards declared head of state, and his cabinet included both Aung San as War
Minister and the Communist leader
Thakin Than Tun as
Minister of Land and Agriculture as well as the Socialist leaders Thakins Nu and
Mya. When the Japanese declared Burma, in theory, independent in 1943, the Burma
Defence Army (BDA) was renamed the
Burma National Army
soon became apparent that Japanese promises of independence were merely a sham
Ba Maw was deceived.
As the war turned against the Japanese, they declared Burma a fully sovereign
state on August 1, 1943, but this was just another facade.
Aung San began
negotiations with Communist leaders
Thakin Than Tun and
Thakin Soe, and
Ba Swe and
Kyaw Nyein which led
to the formation of the
(AFO) in August 1944 at a secret meeting of the CPB,the PRP and the BNA in
Pegu. The AFO was
later renamed the
Anti-Fascist People's Freedom
Thakins Than Tun and
Soe, while in Insein
prison in July 1941, had co-authored the Insein Manifesto which, against the
prevailing opinion in the Dobama movement, identified world
fascism as the main
enemy in the coming war and called for temporary cooperation with the British in
a broad allied coalition which should include the
Soviet Union. Soe
had already gone underground to organise resistance against the Japanese
Than Tun was able to
pass on Japanese intelligence to Soe, while other Communist leaders
Thakins Thein Pe and
Tin Shwe made
contact with the exiled colonial government in
There were informal contacts between the AFO and the
Allies in 1944 and
1945 through the British organisation
Force 136. On
March 27, 1945
the Burma National Army rose up in a countrywide rebellion against the Japanese.
March 27 had been celebrated as 'Resistance Day' until the military renamed it 'Tatmadaw
(Armed Forces) Day'.
Aung San and others
subsequently began negotiations with
Lord Mountbatten and
officially joined the
Allies as the
Patriotic Burmese Forces (PBF). At the first meeting, the AFO represented itself
to the British as the provisional government of Burma with Thakin Soe as
Chairman and Aung San as a member of its ruling committee. The Japanese were
routed from most of Burma by May 1945. Negotiations then began with the British
over the disarming of the AFO and the participation of its troops in a post-war
Burma Army. Some veterans had been formed into a paramilitary force under Aung
San, called the Pyithu yèbaw tat or People's Volunteer Organisation (PVO), and
were openly drilling in uniform.
The absorption of the PBF was concluded successfully at the
Kandy conference in
Ceylon in September
From the Japanese surrender to Aung San's assassination
The surrender of the Japanese brought a military administration to Burma and
demands to try Aung San for his involvement in a murder during military
operations in 1942. Lord Mountbatten realized that this was an impossibility
considering Aung San's popular appeal.
After the war ended, the British Governor, Sir
returned. The restored government established a political program that focused
on physical reconstruction of the country and delayed discussion of
independence. The AFPFL opposed the government, leading to political instability
in the country. A rift had also developed in the AFPFL between the Communists
and Aung San together with the Socialists over strategy, which led to Than Tun
being forced to resign as general secretary in July 1946 and the expulsion of
the CPB from the AFPFL the following October.
Dorman-Smith was replaced by Sir
Hubert Rance as the
new governor, and almost immediately after his appointment the Rangoon Police
went on strike. The strike, starting in September 1946, then spread from the
police to government employees and came close to becoming a general strike.
Rance calmed the situation by meeting with Aung San and convincing him to join
the Governor's Executive Council along with other members of the AFPFL.
The new executive council, which now had increased credibility in the country,
began negotiations for Burmese independence, which were concluded successfully
London as the
Agreement on January 27, 1947.
The agreement left parts of the communist and conservative branches of the AFPFL
dissatisfied, however, sending the Red Flag Communists led by
underground and the conservatives into opposition. Aung San also succeeded in
concluding an agreement with ethnic minorities for a unified Burma at the
on February 12, celebrated since as 'Union Day'. U Aung Zan Wai, U Pe Khin,
Major Aung, Sir Maung Gyi and Dr. Sein Mya Maung and
Myoma U Than Kywe…..etc.
were most important negotiators and leaders of the historical pinlon (panglong)
Conference negotiated with Burma national top leader General Aung San and other
top leaders in 1947.All these leaders decided to join together to form the Union
of Burma. Union day celebration is one of the greatest in the history of Burma.
But in July 1947, political rivals assassinated Aung San and several cabinet
Shortly after, rebellion broke out in the Arakan led by the veteran monk U
Seinda, and it began to spread to other districts.
The popularity of the AFPFL, now dominated by Aung San and the Socialists, was
eventually confirmed when it won an overwhelming victory in the
April 1947 constituent assembly
19 July 1947
U Saw, a
conservative pre-war Prime Minister of Burma, engineered the
assassination of Aung San
and several members of his cabinet including his eldest brother
Ba Win, while
meeting in the Secretariat.
July 19 has been commemorated since as
Thakin Nu, the
Socialist leader, was now asked to form a new cabinet, and he presided over
Burmese independence on January 4, 1948. The popular sentiment to part with the British
was so strong at the time that
Burma opted not to join the
unlike India or Pakistan.
The first years of Burmese independence were marked by successive insurgencies
by the Red Flag Communists led by Thakin Soe, the White Flag Communists led by
Thakin Than Tun, the Yèbaw Hpyu (White-band PVO) led by Bo La Yaung, a member of
army rebels calling themselves the Revolutionary Burma Army (RBA) led by
Communist officers Bo Zeya, Bo Yan Aung and Bo Yè Htut — all three of them
members of the Thirty Comrades, Arakanese Muslims or the
Mujahid, and the
Karen National Union
After the Communist victory in
China in 1949 remote
areas of Northern Burma were for many years controlled by an army of
forces under the command of General
Burma accepted foreign assistance in rebuilding the country in these early
years, but continued
American support for
the Chinese Nationalist military presence in Burma finally resulted in the
country rejecting most foreign aid, refusing to join the South-East Asia Treaty
and supporting the
Burma generally strove to be impartial in world affairs and was one of the first
countries in the world to recognize
Israel and the
People's Republic of China.
1958, the country was largely beginning to recover economically, but was
beginning to fall apart politically due to a split in the AFPFL into two
factions, one led by Thakins Nu and Tin, the other by
Ba Swe and Kyaw
And this despite the unexpected success of U Nu's 'Arms for Democracy' offer
taken up by U Seinda in the Arakan, the
Pa-O, some Mon and
Shan groups, but more significantly by the PVO surrendering their arms.
The situation however became very unstable in parliament, with U Nu surviving a
no-confidence vote only with the support of the opposition National United Front
(NUF), believed to have 'crypto-communists' amongst them.
Army hardliners now saw the 'threat' of the CPB coming to an agreement with U Nu
through the NUF, and in the end U Nu 'invited' Army Chief of Staff General
Ne Win to take over
Over 400 'communist sympathisers' were arrested, of which 153 were deported to
Island in the
Andaman Sea. Among
them was the NUF leader Aung Than, older brother of Aung San. The Botataung,
Kyemon and Rangoon Daily were also closed down.
successfully established the situation and paved the way for
new general elections in 1960
that returned U Nu's Union Party with a large majority.
The situation did not remain stable for long, when the
Nyaung Shwe Sawbwa
Sao Shwe Thaik (the
first President of independent Burma 1948-52) and aspiring to a 'loose'
federation, was seen
as a separatist movement insisting on the government honouring the right to
secession in 10 years provided for by the 1947 Constitution. Ne Win had already
succeeded in stripping the Shan
Sawbwas of their
feudal powers in exchange for comfortable pensions for life in 1959.
2 March 1962, Ne Win, with sixteen other senior military officers, staged a
arrested U Nu, Sao Shwe Thaik and several others, and declared a socialist state
to be run by their
Union Revolutionary Council.
Sao Shwe Thaik's son, Sao Mye Thaik, was shot dead in what was generally
described as a 'bloodless' coup.
Thibaw Sawbwa Sao
Kya Seng also disappeared mysteriously after being stopped at a checkpoint near
number of protests followed the coup, and initially the military's response was
However, on 7 July 1962, a peaceful student protest on
Rangoon University campus was suppressed by the military, killing over 100
students. The next day, the army blew up the Students Union building.
Peace talks were convened between the RC and various armed insurgent groups in
1963, but without any breakthrough, and during the talks as well as in the
aftermath of their failure, hundreds were arrested in Rangoon and elsewhere from
both the right and the left of the political spectrum. All opposition parties
were banned on
March 28, 1964.
Kachin insurgency by
Organisation (KIO) had begun earlier in 1961 triggered by U Nu's
declaration of Buddhism as the state religion, and the
Shan State Army (SSA),
led by Sao Shwe Thaik's wife Mahadevi and son Chao Tzang Yaunghwe, launched a
rebellion in 1964 as a direct consequence of the 1962 military coup.
Win quickly took steps to transform Burma into his vision of a 'socialist state'
and to isolate the country from contact with the rest of the world. A
one-party system was
established with his newly formed
Burma Socialist Programme Party
(BSPP) in complete control.
Commerce and industry were nationalized across the board, but the economy did
not grow at first if at all as the government put too much emphasis on
industrial development at the expense of agriculture. In April 1972, General Ne
Win and the rest of the
Union Revolutionary Council
retired from the military, but now as U Ne Win, he continued to run the country
through the BSPP. A new constitution was promulgated in January 1974 that
resulted in the creation of a People's Assembly (Pyithu Hluttaw) that held
supreme legislative, executive, and judicial authority, and local People's
Councils. Ne Win became the president of the new government.
Beginning in May 1974, a wave of strikes hit Rangoon and elsewhere in the
country against a backdrop of corruption, inflation and food shortages,
especially rice. In Rangoon workers were arrested at the Insein railway yard,
and troops opened fire on workers at the Thamaing textile mill and Simmalaik
In December 1974, the biggest anti-government demonstrations to date broke out
over the funeral of former
U Thant had been former prime minister
U Nu's closest
advisor in the 1950s and was seen as a symbol of opposition to the military
regime. The Burmese people felt that U Thant was denied a state funeral that he
deserved as a statesman of international stature because of his association with
23 March 1976,
over 100 students were arrested for holding a peaceful ceremony (Hmaing yabyei)
to mark the centenary of the birth of
Thakin Kodaw Hmaing
who was the greatest Burmese poet and writer and nationalist leader of the 20th.
century history of Burma. He had inspired a whole generation of Burmese
nationalists and writers by his work mainly written in verse, fostering immense
pride in their history, language and culture, and urging them to take direct
action such as strikes by students and workers. It was Hmaing as leader of the
mainstream Dobama who sent the Thirty Comrades abroad for military training, and
after independence devoted his life to internal peace and national
reconciliation until he died at the age of 88 in 1964. Hmaing lies buried in a
mausoleum at the foot of the Shwedagon Pagoda.
young staff officer called
Captain Ohn Kyaw Myint
conspired with a few fellow officers in 1976 to assassinate Ne Win and San Yu,
but the plot was uncovered and the officer tried and hanged.
was conducted against the
Rohingya Muslims in
Arakan, called the
King Dragon operation,
refugees to flee to
Nu, after his release from prison in October 1966, had left Burma in April 1969,
and formed the Parliamentary Democracy Party (PDP) the following August in
Thailand with the
former Thirty Comrades,
Bo Let Ya,
co-founder of the CPB and former Minister of Defence and deputy prime minister,
Bo Yan Naing, and U Thwin, ex-BIA and former Minister of Trade. Another member
of the Thirty Comrades, Bohmu Aung, former Minister of Defence, joined later.
The fourth, Bo Setkya, who had gone underground after the 1962 coup, died in
Bangkok shortly before U Nu arrived.
The PDP launched an armed rebellion across the Thai border from 1972 till 1978
when Bo Let Ya was killed in an attack by the Karen National Union (KNU). U Nu,
Bohmu Aung and Bo Yan Naing returned to Rangoon after the 1980 amnesty.
Ne Win also secretly held peace talks later in 1980 with the KIO and the CPB,
again ending in a deadlock as before.
Crisis and 1988 Uprising
Win retired as president in 1981, but remained in power as Chairman of the BSPP
until his sudden unexpected announcement to step down on
July 23, 1988.
In the 1980s, the economy began to grow as the government relaxed restrictions
on foreign aid, but by the late 1980s falling commodity prices and rising debt
led to an economic crisis. This led to economic reforms in 1987-88 that relaxed
socialist controls and encouraged foreign investment. This was not enough,
however, to stop growing turmoil in the country, compounded by periodic
'demonetization' of certain bank notes in the currency, the last of which was
decreed in September 1987 wiping out the savings of the vast majority of people.
In September 1987,
de facto ruler U Ne Win suddenly canceled certain currency notes which caused a
great down-turn in the economy. The main reason for the cancellation of these
notes was superstition on U Ne Win's part, as he considered the number nine his
lucky number—he only allowed 45 and 90 kyat notes, because these were divisible
by nine. (BBC News Website,
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7012158.stm (Bilal Arif)
Burma's admittance to
Least Developed Country
status by the
UN the following
December highlighted its economic bankruptcy.
Triggered by brutal police repression of student-led protests causing the death
of over a hundred students and civilians in March and June 1988, widespread
protests and demonstrations broke out on August 8 throughout the country. The
military responded by firing into the crowds, alleging Communist infiltration.
Violence, chaos and anarchy reigned. Civil administration had ceased to exist,
and by September of that year, the country was on the verge of a revolution. The
armed forces, under the nominal command of General
Saw Maung staged a
coup on August 8 to restore order. During the
8888 Uprising, as it
became known, the military killed thousands. The military swept aside the
Constitution of 1974 in favor of
martial law under
State Law and Order Restoration
Council (SLORC) with Saw Maung as chairman and prime minister.
a special six-hour press conference on 5 August 1989, Brig. Gen.
Khin Nyunt, the
SLORC Secretary 1 and chief of Military Intelligence Service (MIS), claimed that
the uprising had been orchestrated by the
Communist Party of Burma
through its underground organisation.
Although there had inevitably been some underground CPB presence as well as that
of ethnic insurgent groups, there was no evidence of their being in charge to
In fact, in March 1989, the CPB leadership was overthrown by a rebellion by the
Wa troops that it
had come to depend on after losing its former strongholds in central Burma and
re-establishing bases in the northeast in the late 1960s; the Communist leaders
were soon forced into exile across the Chinese border.
The military government announced a change of name for the country in
to Myanmar in 1989. It also continued the economic reforms started by the old
regime and called for a Constituent Assembly to revise the 1974 Constitution.
This led to multiparty elections in May 1990 in which the
National League for Democracy
(NLD) won a landslide victory over the
National Unity Party
(NUP, the successor to the BSPP) and about a dozen smaller parties.
The military, however, would not let the assembly convene, and continued to hold
the two leaders of the NLD,
U Tin U and
Aung San Suu Kyi,
daughter of Aung San, under house arrest imposed on them the previous year.
Burma came under increasing international pressure to convene the elected
assembly, particularly after Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the
Nobel Peace Prize in
1991, and also faced
In April 1992 the military replaced
Saw Maung with
Than Shwe released U Nu from prison and relaxed some of the restrictions on Aung
San Suu Kyi's house arrest, finally releasing her in 1995, although she was
forbidden to leave
Than Shwe also finally allowed a National Convention to meet in January 1993,
but insisted that the assembly preserve a major role for the military in any
future government, and suspended the convention from time to time. The NLD, fed
up with the interference, walked out in late 1995, and the assembly was finally
dismissed in March 1996 without producing a constitution.
During the 1990s, the military regime had also had to deal with several
insurgencies by tribal minorities along its borders. General
Khin Nyunt was able
to negotiate cease-fire agreements that ended the fighting with the
Kokang, hill tribes
such as the
Wa, and the
Kachin, but the
Karen would not
negotiate. The military finally captured the main Karen base at
Manerplaw in spring
1995, but there has still been no final peace settlement.
Khun Sa, a major
opium warlord who nominally controlled parts of
Shan State, made a
deal with the government in December 1995 after U.S. pressure.
After the failure of the National Convention to create a new constitution,
tensions between the government and the NLD mounted, resulting in two major
crackdowns on the NLD in 1996 and 1997. The SLORC was abolished in November 1997
and replaced by the
State Peace and Development
Council (SPDC), but it was merely a cosmetic change. Continuing
reports of human rights violations in
United States to
intensify sanctions in 1997, and the
followed suit in 2000. The military placed
Aung San Suu Kyi
under house arrest again in September 2000 until May 2002, when her travel
restrictions outside of
were also lifted. Reconciliation talks were held with the government, but these
came to a stalemate and Suu Kyi was once again taken into custody in May 2003
after an ambush on her motorcade reportedly by a pro-military mob. The
government also carried out another large-scale crackdown on the NLD, arresting
many of its leaders and closing down most of its offices. The situation in Burma
remains tense to this day.
August 2003, Kyin Nyunt announced a seven-step "roadmap
to democracy", which the government claims it is in the process of
implementing. There is no timetable associated with the government’s plan, or
any conditionality or independent mechanism for verifying that it is moving
forward. For these reasons, most Western governments and Burma's neighbors have
been skeptical and critical of the roadmap.
February 17, 2005,
the government reconvened the National Convention, for the first time since
1993, in an attempt to rewrite the Constitution. However, major pro-democracy
organisations and parties, including the
National League for Democracy,
were barred from participating, the military allowing only selected smaller
parties. It was adjourned once again in January 2006.
November 2005, the military junta started moving the government away from
Yangon to an unnamed
location near Kyatpyay just outside
Pyinmana, to a newly
designated capital city. This public action follows a long term unofficial
policy of moving critical military and government infrastructure away from
to avoid a repetition of the events of
1988. On Armed
Forces Day (March 27, 2006), the capital was officially named
City of the Seat of Kings).
2005, the capital city was relocated from
November 2006, the
Organization (ILO) announced it will be seeking - at the
International Court of Justice.
- "to prosecute members of the ruling Myanmar junta for crimes against humanity"
over the continuous
forced labour of its
citizens by the military. According to the ILO, an estimated 800,000 people are
subject to forced labour in Myanmar.
2007 anti-government protests
Yangon with a banner
that reads non-violence: national movement in
Burmese, in the
The 2007 Burmese anti-government protests were a series of anti-government
protests that started in
August 15, 2007.
The immediate cause of the protests was mainly the unannounced decision of the
State Peace and Development
Council, to remove
fuel subsidies which
caused the price of
petrol to suddenly
rise as much as 100%, and the price of
compressed natural gas
for buses to increase fivefold in less than a week.
The protest demonstrations were at first dealt with quickly and harshly by the
junta, with dozens of protesters arrested and detained. Starting September 18,
the protests had been led by thousands of
Buddhist monks, and
those protests had been allowed to proceed until a renewed government crackdown
on September 26.
During the crack-down, there were rumors of disagreement within the Burmese
military, but none were confirmed. At the time, independent sources reported,
through pictures and accounts, 30 to 40 monks and 50 to 70 civilians killed as
well as 200 beaten. However, other sources reveal more dramatic figures. In a
White House statement President Bush said: "Monks have been beaten and
killed.... Thousands of pro-democracy protesters have been arrested". Some news
reports referred to the protests as the Saffron Revolution.
7 February 2008,
SPDC announced that a referendum for the Constitution would be held, and
Elections by 2010. The
referendum, 2008 was held on May 10 and promised a
"discipline-flourishing democracy" for the country in the future.
May 3, 2008,
devastated the country when winds of up to 215 km/h (135 mph)
touched land in the densely populated, rice-farming delta of the
It is estimated that more than 130,000 people died or went missing and damage
totalled 10 billion dollars (USD);
it was the worst natural disaster in Burmese history. The
World Food Programme
report that, "Some villages have been almost totally eradicated and vast
rice-growing areas are wiped out."
estimates that as many as 1 million were left homeless and the
World Health Organization
"has received reports of malaria outbreaks in the worst-affected area."
Yet in the critical days following this disaster, Burma's isolationist regime
complicated recovery efforts by delaying the entry of
planes delivering medicine, food, and other supplies. The government's failure
to permit entry for large-scale international relief efforts was described by
the United Nations as "unprecedented."