Politics of Myanmar
Myanmar (also known as Burma) de jure operates as a unitary assembly-independent republic under its constitution of 2008. The Economist Intelligence Unit rated Myanmar an "authoritarian regime" in 2019. This is following the military having given up some, but not all, power following the dismantlement of the Burmese military dictatorship which ruled from 1962 to 2011.
The history of Myanmar, formerly called Burma, began with the Pagan Kingdom in 849. Although each kingdom has constantly been at war with their neighbors, it was the largest South East Asian Empire during the 16th century under the Taungoo Dynasty. The thousand year line of Burmese monarchy concluded with the Third Anglo-Burmese War in 1885. It was administered as a province that was part of the British India until 1937. The British Burma began with its official recognition on the colonial map that marks its new borders containing over 100 ethnicities. It was named Burma, after the dominant ethnic group Bamar who makes up 68 percent of the population.
During World War II, a coalition that mostly consisted the Bamar ethnic group volunteered themselves to fight alongside the Japanese in hopes of overthrowing the occupying British forces. Meanwhile, many other ethnic groups supported the Allied forces against the Bama backed Japanese forces. This conflict would come to be very significant in the aftermath of World War II when Burma was granted its independence from Great Britain in 1948. Prior to the end of their colonization, the British government had created a novel map of the country with new borders that included some previously sovereign ethnicities. Many groups of racially and culturally diverse people suddenly found themselves as part of a country that was named after the Bamar, a group they did not identify with. The division created within the World War II only exacerbated the growing resentment towards the Bamar. By granting independence to Burma, the British government handed the control of all the containing ethnicities over to the Bamar.
Aung San, who led the fight for independence, was able to convince the leaders of the other ethnic groups that fought alongside the Burmese to remain as one country. The formation of the new Burmese constitution in 1948 was cemented by the Pin-Lone agreement, which was signed by every ethnic leader in support of the new found union. Aung San’s unprecedented assassination prior to the absolute fulfillment of the Pin-Lone agreement undid the unification he led. His death marked the short lived period of peace within the new nation, unleashing a power vacuum that has not been filled properly since. A period of instability with leaders that failed to represent every ethnicity’s best interest followed.
Democracy was suspended in the country following a coup in 1962. The uncertainty and chaos paved the way for a Burmese nationalist government to take over. From 1962 to 1988, the country was ruled by the Burma Socialist Programme Party as a one-party state guided by the Burmese Way to Socialism. The new Burmese leaders turned Burma into a Socialist Republic with isolationism, and a Burmese superiority. The new found Burmese nationalism put the Bamar majority at the forefront, undoing the unification initiated through the Pin-Lone agreement. Additionally, the growing disdain was enhanced through the forced coexistence between members of different religions. Bamar kingdoms were almost exclusively Buddhist in the past. Most ethnic groups within the Shan, Kayin, Kayar, and Chin state practiced their own versions of Animism, while people of the Islamic faith lived alongside the Buddhists in the Arakan (now Rakhine) state. The annexation of all the diverse groups into the British India deepened the religious polarization. The movement of people across the border caused by the colonization added a large group of Hindu followers to the mix. The strenuous conversion campaigns by the Catholic Christians and their competition with the Methodist colonialists additionally divided minority groups such as the Karen and Kachin within themselves. The colonial departure unleashed the animosity that has been building towards one other. The death of Aung San, and the following leaderships ensured the lasting conflicts between every cultural and religious group. But the 1988 Uprising cemented the social, political, and civil unrests that have plagued the country since.
The SPDC junta which took power in 1988 had been responsible for the displacement of several hundred thousand citizens, both inside and outside of Burma. The Karen, Karenni, and Mon ethnic groups have been forced to seek asylum in neighbouring Thailand, where they are also abused by an unfriendly and unsympathetic government. These groups are perhaps more fortunate than the Wa and Shan ethnic groups, who have become Internally Displaced Peoples in their own state since being removed from lands by the military junta in 2000. There are reportedly 600,000 of these Internally Displaced Peoples living in Burma today. Many are trying to escape forced labour in the military or for one of the many state-sponsored drug cartels. This displacement of peoples has led to both human rights violations as well as the exploitation of minority ethnic groups at the hands of the dominant Bamar group. The primary actors in these ethnic struggles include, but are not limited to, the military, the Karen National Union and the Mong Tai Army.
The military gave up some of its power in 2011, leading to the creation of a semi-democratic system, although problems remain, including outsized influence by the military under the 2008 constitution, as well as economic and ethnic issues.
In late 1946 Aung San became Deputy Chairman of the Executive Council of Burma, a transitional government. But on 19 July 1947, political rivals assassinated Aung San and several cabinet members. On 4 January 1948, the nation became an independent republic, named the Union of Burma, with Sao Shwe Thaik as its first president and U Nu as its first prime minister. Unlike most other former British colonies, it did not become a member of the Commonwealth. A bicameral parliament was formed, consisting of a Chamber of Deputies and a Chamber of Nationalities. The geographical area Burma encompasses today can be traced to the Panglong Agreement, which combined Burma proper, which consisted of Lower Burma and Upper Burma, and the Frontier Areas, which had been administered separately by the British.
In 1961, U Thant, Burma's Permanent Representative to the United Nations and former secretary to the Prime Minister, was elected Secretary-General of the United Nations; he was the first non-Westerner to head any international organisation and would serve as UN Secretary-General for ten years. Among the Burmese to work at the UN when he was Secretary-General was a young Aung San Suu Kyi.
In 1962, General Ne Win led a coup d'état and established a nominally socialist military government that sought to follow the "Burmese Way to Socialism". The military expropriated private businesses and followed an economic policy of autarky, or economic isolation.
There were sporadic protests against military rule during the Ne Win years and these were almost always violently suppressed. On 7 July 1962, the government broke up demonstrations at Rangoon University, killing 15 students. In 1974, the military violently suppressed anti-government protests at the funeral of U Thant. Student protests in 1975, 1976 and 1977 were quickly suppressed by overwhelming force. The government was deposed following the 1988 Uprising, but was replaced by a military junta.
The former head of state was Senior General Than Shwe who held the title of "Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council". His appointed prime minister was Khin Nyunt until 19 October 2004, when he was forcibly deposed in favour of Gen. Soe Win. Almost all cabinet offices are held by military officers.
US and European government sanctions against the military government, combined with consumer boycotts and shareholder pressure organised by Free Burma activists, have succeeded in forcing most western corporations to withdraw from Burma. However, some western oil companies remain due to loopholes in the sanctions. For example, the French oil company Total S.A. and the American oil company Chevron continue to operate the Yadana natural gas pipeline from Burma to Thailand. Total (formerly TotalFinaElf) is the subject of a lawsuit in French and Belgian courts for alleged complicity in human rights abuses along the gas pipeline. Before it was acquired by Chevron, Unocal settled a similar lawsuit for a reported multimillion-dollar amount. Asian businesses, such as Daewoo, continue to invest in Burma, particularly in natural resource extraction.
The United States and European clothing and shoe industry became the target of Free Burma activists for buying from factories in Burma that were wholly or partly owned by the government or the military. Many stopped sourcing from Burma after protests, starting with Levi Strauss in 1992. From 1992 to 2003, Free Burma activists successfully forced dozens of clothing and shoe companies to stop sourcing from Burma. These companies included Eddie Bauer, Liz Claiborne, Macy's, J. Crew, JoS. A. Banks, Children's Place, Burlington Coat Factory, Wal-Mart, and Target. The US government banned all imports from Burma as part of the "Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act" of 2003. Sanctions have been criticised for their adverse effects on the civilian population. However, Burmese democracy movement leader Aung San Suu Kyi has repeatedly credited sanctions for putting pressure on the ruling military regime.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented egregious human rights abuses by the military government. Civil liberties are severely restricted. Human Rights Defenders and Promoters, formed in 2002 to raise awareness among the people of Burma about their human rights, claims that on 18 April 2007, several of its members were met by approximately a hundred people led by a local USDA Secretary U Nyunt Oo and beaten up. The HRDP believes that this attack was condoned by the authorities.
There is no independent judiciary in Burma and the military government suppresses political activity. The government uses software-based filtering from US company Fortinet to limit the materials citizens can access on-line, including free email services, free web hosting and most political opposition and pro-democracy pages.
In 2001, the government permitted NLD office branches to re-open throughout Burma. However, they were shut down or heavily restricted beginning 2004, as part of a government campaign to prohibit such activities. In 2006, many members resigned from NLD, citing harassment and pressure from the Tatmadaw (Armed Forces) and the Union Solidarity and Development Association.
The military government placed Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest again on 31 May 2003, following an attack on her convoy in northern Burma by a mob reported to be in league with the military. The regime extended her house arrest for yet another year in late November 2005. Despite a direct appeal by Kofi Annan to Than Shwe and pressure from ASEAN, the Burmese government extended Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest another year on 27 May 2006. She was released in 2010.
The United Nations urged the country to move towards inclusive national reconciliation, the restoration of democracy, and full respect for human rights. In December 2008, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution condemning the human rights situation in Burma and calling for Aug San Suu Kyi's release—80 countries voting for the resolution, 25 against and 45 abstentions. Other nations, such as China and Russia, have been less critical of the regime and prefer to co-operate on economic matters.
Facing increasing international isolation, Burma's military government agreed to embark upon a programme of reform, including permitting multiple political parties to contest elections in 2010 and 2012 and the release of political prisoners. However, organisations such as Human Rights Watch allege continued human rights abuses in ongoing conflicts in border regions such as Kachin State and Rakhine State.
Myanmar's army-drafted constitution was overwhelmingly approved (by 92.4% of the 22 million voters with alleged voter turnout of 99%) on 10 May 2008 in the first phase of a two-stage referendum and Cyclone Nargis. It was the first national vote since the 1990 election. Multi-party elections in 2010 would end 5 decades of military rule, as the new charter gives the military an automatic 25% of seats in parliament. NLD spokesman Nyan Win, inter alia, criticised the referendum: "This referendum was full of cheating and fraud across the country. In some villages, authorities and polling station officials ticked the ballots themselves and did not let the voters do anything".
An election was held in 2010, with 40 parties approved to contest the elections by the Electoral Commission. some of which are linked to ethnic minorities. The National League for Democracy, which overwhelmingly won the previous 1990 elections but were never allowed to take power, decided not to participate.
The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party declared victory, winning 259 of the 330 contested seats. The United Nations and many Western countries have condemned the elections as fraudulent, although the decision to hold elections was praised by China and Russia.
In by-elections held in 2012, the main opposition party National League for Democracy, which was only re-registered for the by-elections on 13 December 2011 won in 43 of the 44 seats they contested (out of 46). Significantly, international observers were invited to monitor the elections, although the government was criticised for placing too many restrictions on election monitors, some of whom were denied visas.
The Union Solidarity and Development Party said it would lodge official complaints to the Union Election Commission on poll irregularities, voter intimidation, and purported campaign incidents that involved National League for Democracy members and supporters, while the National League for Democracy also sent an official complaint to the commission, regarding ballots that had been tampered with.
However, President Thein Sein remarked that the by-elections were conducted "in a very successful manner", and many foreign countries have indicated willingness to lift or loosen sanctions on Burma and its military leaders.
Myanmar general elections were held on 8 November 2015. These were the first openly contested elections held in Myanmar since 1990. The results gave the National League for Democracy an absolute majority of seats in both chambers of the national parliament, enough to ensure that its candidate would become president, while NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi is constitutionally barred from the presidency.
The resounding victory of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy in 2015 general elections has raised hope for a successful political transition from a closely held military rule to a free democratic system. This transition is widely believed to be determining the future of Myanmar.
According to the results announced by the Union Election Commission on November 13, 2015, the NLD won 238 seats in the lower house and 348 seats in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, exceeding the required number to form a government. According to the results, the NLD can now elect a president.
|President||Win Myint||National League for Democracy||30 March 2018|
|State Counsellor||Aung San Suu Kyi||National League for Democracy||6 April 2016|
|Vice-President||Myint Swe||Union Solidarity and Development Party||30 March 2016|
|Vice-President||Henry Van Thio||National League for Democracy||30 March 2016|
The Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar Defense Services (Tatmadaw) has right to appoint 25% of members in all legislative assembly which means that the legislation cannot be Super-majority without support from Tatmadaw thus preventing from democratically elected members to amend 2008 Constitution of Myanmar. He can also directly appoint ministers in Ministry of Defence (Myanmar) which in turn controls Myanmar Armed Forces and Myanmar Economic Corporation which is the largest economic corporation in Myanmar, Ministry of Border Affairs (Myanmar) which control border affairs of the country and Ministry of Home Affairs (Myanmar) which in turn control Myanmar police forces and administration of the whole country.
Members of the Myanmar cabinet in the Win Myint administrationEdit
|Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation||Aung Thu||NLD||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation||Hla Kyaw||USDP||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Minister of Border Affairs||Ye Aung, Lt. Gen.||Mil||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Deputy Minister of Border Affairs||Than Htut, Maj. Gen.||Mil||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Minister of Commerce||Than Myint||NLD||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Deputy Minister of Commerce||Aung Htoo||Ind||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Minister of Construction||Han Zaw||Ind||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Deputy Minister of Construction||Kyaw Linn||Ind||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Minister of Defence||Sein Win, Lt. Gen.||Mil||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Deputy Minister of Defence||Myint Nwe, Rear. Admiral||Mil||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Minister of Education||Myo Thein Gyi||Ind||6 April 2016 – Incumbent|
|Deputy Minister of Education||Win Maw Tun||Ind||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Minister of Electricity and Energy||Win Khaing||Ind||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Deputy Minister of Electricity and Energy||Tun Naing, Dr.||NLD||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Khin Maung Win||31 October 2019 - Incumbent|
|Minister of Ethnic Affairs||Naing Thet Lwin||MNP||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Deputy Minister of Ethnic Affairs||Hla Maw Oo||15 October 2018 – Incumbent|
|Minister of Finance and Planning||Kyaw Win||NLD||30 March 2018 – 25 May 2018|
|Soe Win||Ind||31 May 2018 – Incumbent|
|Deputy Minister of Finance and Planning||Maung Maung Win||NLD||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Set Aung||Ind||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Minister of Foreign Affairs||Aung San Suu Kyi||NLD||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Minister of Health and Sports||Myint Htwe||Ind||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Deputy Minister of Health and Sports||Mya Lay Sein||Ind||2 July 2018 – Incumbent|
|Minister of Home Affairs||Kyaw Swe, Lt. Gen.||Mil||30 March 2018 – 4 February 2020|
|Soe Htut, Lt. Gen.||Mil||10 February 2020 - Incumbent|
|Deputy Minister of Home Affairs||Aung Thu, Maj. Gen||Mil||28 May 2018 – Incumbent|
|Minister of Hotels and Tourism||Ohn Maung||Ind||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Deputy Minister of Hotels and Tourism||Tin Latt||31 October 2019 - Incumbent|
|Minister of Industry||Khin Maung Cho||Ind||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Minister of Information||Pe Myint, Dr.||Ind||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Deputy Minister of Information||Aung Hla Tun||Ind||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Minister of International Cooperation||Kyaw Tin||NLD||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Minister of Labour, Immigration and Population||Thein Swe||USDP||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation||Ohn Win||Ind||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation||Ye Myint Swe, Dr||15 October 2018 – Incumbent|
|Minister of the Office of the Union Government||Thaung Tun||Ind||24 November 2017 – 19 November 2018|
|Min Thu||USDP||29 November 2018 – Incumbent|
|Deputy Minister of the office of the Union Government||Tin Myint||Mil||2 January 2019 – Incumbent|
|Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations||Thaung Tun||Ind||19 November 2018 – Incumbent|
|Minister of the President's Office||Aung San Suu Kyi||NLD||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Deputy Minister of President's Office||Min Thu||USDP||30 March 2018 – 29 November 2018|
|Minister of Religious Affairs and Culture||Aung Ko||USDP||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs and Culture||Kyi Min||15 October 2018 – Incumbent|
|Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement||Win Myat Aye, Dr.||NLD||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement||Soe Aung||Ind||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Minister of State Counsellor’s Office||Kyaw Tint Swe||Ind||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Deputy Minister of State Counsellor’s Office||Khin Maung Tin||NLD||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Minister of Transport and Communications||Thant Sin Maung||NLD||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications||Kyaw Myo||NLD||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Thar Oo||Ind||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Union Auditor General||Maw Than||Ind||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
|Union Attorney-General||Htun Htun Oo||Ind||30 March 2018 – Incumbent|
Under the 2008 Constitution the legislative power of the Union is shared among the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, State and Region Hluttaws. The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw consists of the People's Assembly (Pyithu Hluttaw) elected on the basis of township as well as population, and the House of Nationalities (Amyotha Hluttaw) with on an equal number of representatives elected from Regions and States. The People's Assembly consists of 440 representatives, with 110 being military personnel nominated by the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Services. The House of Nationalities consists of 224 representatives with 56 being military personnel nominated by the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Services.
Burma's judicial system is limited. British-era laws and legal systems remain much intact, but there is no guarantee of a fair public trial. The judiciary is not independent of the executive branch. Burma does not accept compulsory International Court of Justice jurisdiction. The highest court in the land is the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is Tun Tun Oo, and Attorney General is Htun Htun Oo.
Wareru dhammathat or the Manu dhammathat (မနုဓမ္မသတ်) was the earliest law-book in Burma. It consists of laws ascribed to the ancient Indian sage, Manu, and brought to Burma by Hindu colonists. The collection was made at Wareru’s command, by monks from the writings of earlier Mon scholars preserved in the monasteries of his kingdom. (Wareru seized Martaban in 1281 and obtained the recognition of China as the ruler of Lower Burma and founded a kingdom which lasted until 1539. Martaban was its first capital, and remained so until 1369. It stretched southwards as far as Tenasserim.)
Mon King Dhammazedi (1472–92) was the greatest of the Mon rulers of Wareru’s line. He was famous for his wisdom and the collection of his rulings were recorded in the Kalyani stone inscriptions and known as the Dammazedi pyatton.
Burma is divided into seven regions (previously called divisions-taing) and seven states (pyi-nè), classified by ethnic composition. The seven regions are Ayeyarwady Region, Bago Division, Magway Division, Mandalay Division, Sagaing Division, Tanintharyi Division and Yangon Division; the seven states are Chin State, Kachin State, Kayin State, Kayah State, Mon State, Rakhine State and Shan State. There are also five Self-administrated zones and a Self-administrated Division "for National races with suitable population"
Within the Sagain Region
- Naga (Leshi, Lahe and Namyun townships)
Within the Shan State
- Palaung (Namshan and Manton townships)
- Kokang (Konkyan and Laukkai townships)
- Pao (Hopong, Hshihseng and Pinlaung townships),
- Danu (Ywangan and Pindaya townships),
- Wa Selfadministrated division (Hopang, Mongmao, Panwai, Pangsang, Naphan and Metman townships)
International organisation participationEdit
AsDB, ASEAN, CCC, CP, ESCAP, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, ITU, NAM, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNDP, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WHO, WMO, WToO, WTrO, GJC.
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- "Myanmar leader praises by-elections that put Suu Kyi in office as 'successful'". Associated Press. 6 April 2012. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
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- Fisher, Jonah (8 July 2016). "Hundred days of Myanmar's democracy". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
- Constitution of Myanmar, Chapter 1, Article 12(a)
- Constitution of Myanmar, Chapter 1, Article 12(b)
- Constitution of Myanmar, Chapter 1, Article 74
- Constitution of Myanmar, Chapter 1, Article 109
- Constitution of Myanmar, Chapter 1, Article 141
- BURMA, D. G. E. HALL, M.A., D.LIT., F.R.HIST.S., Professor Emeritus of the University of London and formerly professor of history in the University of Rangoon, Burma. Third edition 1960. Page 34
- BURMA, D. G. E. HALL, M.A., D.LIT., F.R.HIST.S. Professor Emeritus of the University of London and formerly professor of history in the University of Rangoon, Burma. Third edition 1960. Page 35-36
- New administrative map of Burma page 2 of the Burma Policy Briefing by the Transnational Institute
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Politics of Myanmar.|
- Kipgen, Nehginpao. "Democracy Movement in Myanmar: Problems and Challenges". New Delhi: Ruby Press & Co., 2014. Print.
- Myint-U, Thant (2008). The River of Lost Footsteps: A Personal History of Burma. London: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
- CIA World Factbook