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Burma Introduction - 2024


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Burma, colonized by Britain in the 19th century and granted independence post-World War II, contains ethnic Burman and scores of other ethnic and religious minority groups that have all resisted external efforts to consolidate control of the country throughout its history, extending to the several minority groups today that possess independent fighting forces and control pockets of territory. In 1962, Gen. NE WIN seized power and ruled Burma until 1988 when a new military regime took control. In 1990, the military regime permitted an election but then rejected the results after the main opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) and its leader AUNG SAN SUU KYI (ASSK) won in a landslide. The military regime placed ASSK under house arrest for much of the next 20 years, until November 2010. In 2007, rising fuel prices in Burma led pro-democracy activists and Buddhist monks to launch a "Saffron Revolution" consisting of large protests against the ruling regime, which violently suppressed the movement by killing an unknown number of participants and arresting thousands. The regime prevented new elections until it had drafted a constitution designed to preserve the military's political control; it passed the new constitution in its 2008 referendum, days after Cyclone Nargis killed at least 138,000. The military regime conducted an election in 2010, but the NLD boycotted the vote, and the military’s political proxy, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, easily won; international observers denounced the election as flawed.

With former or current military officers installed in the government's most senior positions, Burma began a halting process of political and economic reforms. Officials freed prisoners, brokered ceasefires with ethnic armed groups (EAGs), amended courts, expanded civil liberties, brought ASSK into government in 2012, and permitted the NLD in 2015 to take power after a sweeping electoral win. However, Burma’s first credibly elected civilian government, with ASSK as the de facto head of state, faced strong headwinds after five decades of military dictatorship. The NLD government drew international criticism for blocking investigations of Burma’s military for operations, which the US Department of State determined constituted genocide, on its ethnic Rohingya population that killed thousands and forced more than 770,000 to flee into neighboring Bangladesh. The military did not support an NLD pledge in 2019 to examine reforming the military’s 2008 constitution. When the 2020 elections resulted in further NLD gains, the military denounced them as fraudulent. Burma military Commander-in-Chief Sr. General MIN AUNG HLAING launched a coup in February 2021 that returned Burma to authoritarian rule with military crackdowns that undid economic and political reforms and resulted in the detention of ASSK and thousands of pro-democracy actors, as well as widespread armed conflict and economic insecurity.

Since the coup and subsequent military crackdown, members of parliament elected in November 2020 and ousted by the military and other political actors have formed pro-democracy organizations, including the National Unity Government (NUG). Members of the NUG include representatives from the NLD, ethnic minority groups, civil society, and other minor parties. In May 2021, the NUG announced the formation of armed militias called the People's Defense Forces (PDF), and in September that same year announced the start of an insurgency against the military junta after the formation of hundreds of PDF armed groups. As of 2024, PDF groups across the country continued to fight the military regime with varying levels of support from and cooperation with the NUG and antiregime EAGs.

NOTE: The information regarding Burma on this page is re-published from the 2024 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Burma 2024 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Burma 2024 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 04 May 24, Copyright © 2024 ITA all rights reserved.