Myanmar (Burma)

Myanmar (Burma)

Myanmar (Burma) The Union of Myanmar was officially known as Burma from independence from Britain in 1948 until 1989. Many opposition groups prefer to use the name Burma as a protest against the military junta that decided on the name change. Just over two thirds of the population belongs to the majority Burma ethnic group but there are also numerous minorities. These dominate the hilly areas that extend to the borders from the central plain.

Although Myanmar after independence was ruled as a parliamentary democracy, the military has consistently been influential in governing the country. During 1958-1960 and 1962-2011, the country was under direct military rule even though this was structured as a socialist one-party state for 1962-1988 and as a "temporary" military junta 1988-2011. In March 2011, the government became formally civilian-led, but the military continues to appoint a percentage of members in parliament and in regional governing bodies.

Burma was involved in a brief interstate conflict with China in 1969 about their common border. Internally, however it has had several intrastate conflicts as well as one-sided violence against civilians by the government.

Communist factions and the Muslim minority in the Arakan region, so-called rohingyas, had already launched rebellions by the time the country became independent in 1948. The conflict over government continued until 1988 after which the CPB (Communist Party of Burma) dissolved. Following violent repression of student-led democracy demonstrations in 1988, activists formed ABSDF (All Burma Students Democratic Front) which contested the government with the use of force in 1990-1992 and 1994.


In addition to the fighting in Arakan, several other ethnic groups took up arms immediately after independence. The most protracted conflict is the Karen struggle, but there have also been long-running insurgencies in the Mon, Kachin, Karenni, and Shan-dominated regions. Briefer fighting spells have occurred in the conflicts over Lahu, Wa and Kokang rights, but there has been little progress to find a long-term solution to the conflict issues.

In 1989-1995 a number of ceasefire agreements were signed between the military government and representatives of various ethnic minority parties, generally allowing these to keep their arms and also control their own territories. In 2009-2010, the government tried to incorporate these ceasefire groups in the military structure by setting up a Border Guard Force Program. Some groups accepted, while those that rejected these programs resumed armed struggle.

The relationships between different rebel organisations have alternated over time between alliances and outright hostility. As the government has offered ceasefires to insurgents, these have often included a provision that the armed groups must fight against remaining non-ceasefire groups. This has led to non-state conflicts such as between the SSA-S (Shan State Army - South Command) against UWSA (United Wa State Army) and DKBA (Democratic Kayin Buddhist Army) against KNU (Karen National Union).

As part of its counterinsurgency campaigns, the government has employed one-sided violence and a range of human rights violations. Furthermore, one-sided violence has been used to repress demonstrations and against political opposition activists.

Myanmar was a secondary warring party in the conflict in India (Nagaland) where it helped the government attack rebel bases in the border areas 2005-2006.

Since 1946 the Union of Myanmar (Burma) has experienced inter-state, intra-state, non-state and one-sided categories of UCDP organised violence.