- 1989 martial law government = official name (English) Myanmar. Transliteration of what
has been the official name in the Burmese language. Ethnic connotations, implying country
is the land of the majority ethnic group, the Burmans.
- Ethnic conflict
- Desire for autonomy. Shans and Karens in continual civil war.
- Economic stagnation
- Despite rich natural resources
- Political Oppression
- History of struggle against oppression
- 1948 success following revolt against British led by Aung San, father of modern Burma.
Assassinated in 1947.
- Military rule since 1962, led by Ne Win. Disbanded Western-style parliament, banned
political parties, restricted civil liberties.
- radical economic policies called Burmese Way to Socialism, including nationalization of
major industries and businesses and financial institutions. Controlled by BSPP. Party's
main function was to legitimize army rule.
- People's Revolt
- Summer of 1988: hundreds of thousands of farmers, urban workers, students, monks, and
civil servants took to streets. Years of frustration and disgust at the failures of the
military government to bring development.
- Ne Win's decision to declare valueless 80 percent of the Burmese money in circulation.
Any kyat note over $1.60 became instantly worthless. (designed to undermine black
marketeers and control inflation). But black market was the only functioning market.
Savings wiped out.
- small incidents led to revolt with deaths escalating into larger demonstrations.
- Ne Win agreed to multiparty elections. But Sein Lwin (Butcher) put in charge which set
off more demonstrations.
- Maung Maung appointed temporarily.
- U.S. embassy became symbol of freedom for students
- Army Commander-in-Chief General Saw Maung crushed revolt and restored military on
September 18, 1988. Mass arrests. 3,000 died.
- Establishment of State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) Martial law. No foreign
journalists or scholars. Human rights violations; forced moving of 500,000 people from
- Despite violations of human rights, SLORC organized May 27, 1990 election to choose
legislators to the People's Assembly, the sole legislative authority.
- SLORC believed it controlled election. TV time limited to one ten-minute period in
campaign. Statements submitted for approval seven days in advance. Now SPDC (State Peace
and Development Council).
- Aung San Suu Kyi disqualified.
- Pro-government parties received funds for campaigning.
- However, opposition won 80 percent of the seats. Government party won only 10 of 485.
- Months after election military refused to turn government over to the newly elected
- Ne Win. Commander of armed forces, prime minister, chairman of the revolutionary
council, chairman of only legal party. Power is personal in Burma. Loyalty is to the
person, not the institution.
- Legislature: People's Assembly elected by people in single member constituencies. Rubber
stamp for BSPP.
- Tatmadaw = Burmese military claiming to be unifying force in the country.
- Burmese Socialist Program Party. Changed name to National Unity Party in 1988.
- Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of independence hero Aung San, schooled in Burma; England to
study at Oxford, published books, no political experience; returned from England to care
for ailing mother. Joined opposition, superb orator, large crowds; hair and clothing style
copied; placed under house arrest for one year, renewable in 1989. Continued under arrest
until the present (1999). Husband, Michael Aris, died in 1999 in England.
- Minority Ethnic Groups. Karens, Shans, Kachins, do not trust government; Joined National
Democratic Front, an organization of groups in revolt. Seek equality of communities with
autonomy. Armed insurgency.
- No history of democracy except for short period after independence led by U Nu.
- Political culture: hierarchical, paternalistic.
- Concern for national security.
- Strong support for Aung San Suu Kyi as the symbol of democracy.
- History of modern governments ruling in their own interest, solely to perpetuate their
- Economic Development
- In 1950s Burma and Thailand had same level of economic development; both Buddhist,
similar natural resources.
- Burmese colonized by British. Burmese reacted against Western ways.
- Burmese isolation (compared to open economy of Thailand)
- Socialist versus open economy.
- Burmese military poor economic administrators. Thai authorities supported entrepreneurs;
Burmese quashed administrators.
- In 1999, Burmas level of economic development one of lowest in Southeast Asia.
Military rulers ineffective administrators and developers.