Myanmar since 1989

Administration . In 1989 Burma was rechristened Myanmar and elections were held in 1990, which resulted in a convincing victory of the democratic opposition. However, the SLORC, unwilling to accept defeat, had prominent opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi placed under house arrest, other opposition leaders jailed, and continued as if no election ever took place. No elections were held since 1990.
Myanmar was a police state in which political activity was observed by the state authorities. In 1991 Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; the state authorities tried to isolate her.

Foreign Policy . Internationally rather isolated, the military government of Burma/Myanmar cultivated strong ties with the PR China. In 1997 Myanmar was admitted to ASEAN; Myanmar's offensives into the regions inhabited by ethnic minorities caused, and in instances continue to cause, an exodus of refugees into Bangladesh (Rohingyas) and Thailand (Karen etc.).

Relations between the country's various ethnic groups . Burma had a troubled history with her ethnic minorities, which lived in regions supposedly enjoying political autonomy. In many of these autonomous regions, liberation organizations were fighting for independence. In 1994 the Kachin Independence Organization signed a ceasefire agreement, which in effect meant a surrender. In 1994 the Karen National Union split into a Christian (KNU) and a Buddhist wing (DKBO); since 1995 the government forces in alliance with the DKBO fight the KNU, the DKBO occasionally launching attacks across the Thai border into refugee camps. The New Mon State Party signed a ceasefire in 1995; the Beik Mon Army, a splinter group, which continued the struggle, surrendered in 1997. In Rakhine State (Arakan) several Muslim liberation organizations are active; one, the All Burma Muslim Union, signed a ceasefire in 1995. Anti-Muslim riots took place in 2001. The Shan State Army signed a ceasefire in 1995; in 2000-2002 there were skirmishes between the SSA and the United Wa State Party, which was allied with the government forces. In 1998 the Chin National Front rejected a ceasefire proposed by the government.
The army has increased in size, and in the last decade been given new equipment, which gives it superiority in conflicts with the various rebel groups; the strategy to use dissent among the rebels also worked.
Myanmar, in theory, is a federation providing political and cultural autonomy to the country's states. This autonomy is of a theoretical nature. Education is to be conducted solely in Burmese.
Listing refugees who left Burma / Myanmar since 1984, the UNHCR, as of April 2006, numbers the refugees in Bangladesh (Rohingya) as 100,000, those in Thailand (Karenni, Karen) as 151,000.

The Economy . Burma's economy failed to develop, in sharp contrast to her South East Asian neighbours; in 1997 Burma was admitted to ASEAN. Cautious attempts to open up her economy did not result in any visible progress. In 1997, imports exceeded exports at a ratio of 2:1; main trade partner was Singapore, main export products were agricultural products, forestry products, fishery products, minerals.
In 1989 Burma produced 13.8 million metric tons of rice, in 1999 the figure was 20.1 million metric tons (IHS p.201).
The area where Opium, the trade of which used to finance Shan resistance, was cultivated in Myanmar shrank from c. 160,000 ha in 1996 to c.44,000 ha in 2004.

Social History . In 1989 the population of Burma was estimated at 40 million; for 1999 at 45 million (Lahmeyer). No census has been held; estimates for one particular year may vary considerably.

Timeline Burma, 1057-2002, from BBC News
Biography of Aung San Suu Kyi, from Nobel e-Museum
The Situation of Burmese Refugees in Asia. Special Focus on India, from SAHRDC (1994)
Survival, Dignity and Democracy. Burmese Refugees in India, 1997, from SAHRDC
Union of Burma, Legislative Elections of 1990, from Psephos
Articles Politics of Myanmar, Economy of Myanmar, Rohingya People, Aung San Suu Kyi, Kachin, Karen People, Shan, from Wikipedia
Minorities at Risk : Asia, for Burma assessments on the Kachin, Karen, Mon, Rohingya, Shan and Zomi (Chin)
Myanmar Refugees in Thailand, 30 May 2007, from UNHCR
Myanmar Opium Survey 2004, from Burma Project, Southeast Asia Initiative
Burma, Country in Crisis, from Burma Project, Southeast Asia Initiative
DOCUMENTS Myanmar Statesmen, from World Statesmen (B. Cahoon)
Myanmar, from Population Statistics (J. Lahmeyer)
Myanmar Refugees in Southeast Asia, April 2006, from UNHCR
UN General Assembly 46th Session 1991-1992, Resolution 46/132, 47th Session 1992-1993, Resolution 47/144, 48th Session 1993-1994, Resolution 48/150, 49th Session 1994-1995, Resolution 49/197, 50th Session 1995-1996, Resolution 50/194, 51st Session 1996-1997, Resolution 51/117, 52nd Session 1997-1998, Resolution 52/137, 53rd Session 1998-1999, Resolution 53/162, 54th Session 1999-2000, Resolution 54/186, 55th Session 2000-2001, Resolution 55/112, 56th Session 2001-2002, Resolution 56/231, 57th Session 2002-2003, Resolution 57/231, 58th Session 2003-2004, Resolution 58/247, 59th Session 2004-2005, Resolution 59/263, 60th Session 2005-2006, Resolution 60/233, 61st Session 2006-2007, Resolution 61/232, 62nd Session 2007-2008, Resolution 62/222
REFERENCE IHS : International Historical Statistics : Africa, Asia & Oceania 1750-2000, edited by B.R. Mitchell, Basingstoke : Palgrave MacMillan 4th ed. 2003
Fischer Weltalmanach 1999, Frankfurt : Fischer 1998 (in German) [G]
Article : Myanmar (Burma), in : Britannica Book of the Year 1991 pp.438-439, 664, 1992 pp.411, 664, 1993 pp.414-415, 677, 1994 pp.415-416, 676, 1995 pp.448, 676, 1996 pp.447, 676, 1997 pp.455, 674, 2002 pp.468, 683 [G]
Article : Burma, in : The Statesman's Year-Book 1990-1991 pp.254-257, 1991-1992 pp.254-258, 1992-1993 pp.254-258, 1993-1994 pp.254-258, 1994-1995 pp.248-252, 1995-1996 pp.240-244, 1996-1997 pp.256-260, 1997-1998 pp.261-265 [G]
Article : Myanmar, in : The Statesman's Year-Book 1998-1999 pp.1002-1007, 2000 pp.1140-1145, 2001 pp.1113-1118, 2002 pp.1160-1165, 2003 pp.1160-1165, 2004 pp.1164-1169, 2005 pp.1170-1175, 2006 pp.1178-1183 [G]
Entry : Burma, Union of (Myanmar), Cabinet, pp.18-20; Background Notes, pp.356-363, in : Countries of the World and their Leaders Yearbook, 2003 [G]
Entry : Myanmar, pp.742-745 in : IMF, International Financial Statistics Yearbook 2001 [G]
Article : Myanmar, in : Americana Annual 1992 p.385, 1993 p.384, 1994 p.383, 1998 p.375, 2006 p.262 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
Last revised on May 17th 2002, last revised on August 19th 2008

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