The one minute summary on Burma

This is it: one minute to the best info on Burma. This info alone will put you ahead of 99% of foreigners visiting Burma, garner the admiration of the locals who will instantly want to be your friends, and the envy of your fellow travelers. Read on. You’ll make friends faster that way, become a traveler instead of simply being a tourist, and also enjoy your travels a lot more.

Various ethnic Burmese and ethnic minority city-states or kingdoms occupied the present borders through the 19th century. Over a period of 62 years (1824-1886), Britain conquered Burma and incorporated the country into its Indian Empire. Burma was administered as a province of India until 1937 when it became a separate, self-governing colony; in 1948, Burma attained independence from the British Commonwealth. Gen. NE WIN dominated the government from 1962 to 1988, first as military ruler, then as self-appointed president, and later as political kingpin.

In response to widespread civil unrest, NE WIN resigned in 1988, but within months the military crushed student-led protests and took power. Multiparty legislative elections in 1990 resulted in the main opposition party – the National League for Democracy (NLD) – winning a landslide victory. Instead of handing over power, the junta placed NLD leader (and Nobel Peace Prize recipient) AUNG SAN SUU KYI (ASSK) under house arrest from 1989 to 1995, 2000 to 2002, and from May 2003 to November 2010.

In late September 2007, the ruling junta brutally suppressed protests over increased fuel prices led by pro democracy activists and Buddhist monks, killing at least 13 people and arresting thousands for participating in the demonstrations. In early May 2008, Burma was struck by Cyclone Nargis, which left over 138,000 dead and tens of thousands injured and homeless. Despite this tragedy, the junta proceeded with its May constitutional referendum, the first vote in Burma since 1990.

 

Parliamentary elections held in November 2010, considered flawed by many in the international community, saw the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party garner over 75% of the seats. Parliament convened in January 2011 and selected former Prime Minister THEIN SEIN as president. Although the vast majority of national-level appointees named by THEIN SEIN are former or current military officers, the government has initiated a series of political and economic reforms leading to a substantial opening of the long-isolated country.

These reforms have included allowing ASSK to contest parliamentary by-elections on 1 April 2012, releasing hundreds of political prisoners, reaching preliminary peace agreements with 10 of the 11 major armed ethnic groups, enacting laws that provide better protections for basic human rights, and gradually reducing restrictions on freedom of the press, association, and civil society. At least due in part to these reforms, ASSK now serves as an elected Member of Parliament and chair of the Committee for Rule of Law and Tranquility. Most political parties have begun building their institutions in preparation for the next round of general elections in 2015. The country is the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for 2014.

That was it. I promised one minute.

For other condensed info check also my other posts on local culture (don’t make the mistakes I made), local food or local drinks. And when you call your friends to tell them you were by far the most knowledgeable at the party, do that with confidence that you’ll not get hit with a 6.99 per minute bill. You’ll also pick the local food from the tray, and order a local drink with confidence.

  1. Cultural Mistakes To Avoid in  Burma
  2. Does my current phone work in  Burma ? Tips to cell phone usage in  Burma
  3. Local food you should try in  Burma and No miss drinks in  Burma

Now, cheers to the most Burma aware person at the cocktail party.

What are the key history moments for Burma?

Like most of Southeast Asia’s countries, Myanmar’s people and history is a glorious mishmash of settlers and invaders from all fronts. The Mon and the Pyu are thought to have come from India, while the now dominant Bamar (Burmese) migrated through Tibet and, by 849, had founded a powerful kingdom centred on Bagan. For the next millennium, the Burmese empire grew through conquests of Thailand (Ayutthaya) and India (Manipur), and shrank under attacks from China and internal rebellions.

Burma photo

Photo by KX Studio

Eventually, Britain conquered Burma over a period of 62 years (1824-1886) and incorporated it into its Indian Empire. It was administered as a province of India until 1937 when it became a separate self-governing colony. During the Second World War, Burma was a major battleground as the Allies fought the Japanese for dominance over Asia. The Burma Road was built to get supplies to China.

The Thailand-Burma railroad (the so-called “Death Railway”) from Kanchanaburi in Thailand over the River Kwai to Burma was built by the Japanese using forced labour — Allied prisoners-of-war, indentured Thai labourers, and Burmese people. They had to work in appalling conditions and a great number of them died (estimated at 80,000) during construction of the railway. Large parts of Western Burma, particularly the hilly areas bordering India and the city of Mandalay were severely damaged during the war.

While the Burmese independence fighters led by Aung San initially cooperated with the Japanese to oust the British, with the Japanese promising to grant independence to Burma in exchange, it soon became apparent that the Japanese promises of independence were empty. The Japanese occupation was very brutal, and many Burmese were killed, such as in the Kalagong massacre. Aung San subsequently switched allegiance and helped the British win Burma back from the Japanese.

Aung San subsequently led negotiations with the British for Burmese independence after the end of World War II, and the British agreed in 1947 to grant independence to Burma the following year, though Aung San himself was assassinated later in the year and never lived to see his dream come true. Independence from the British under the name Union of Burma was finally attained in 1948, and till this day, Aung San is regarded by most Burmese people to be the father of independence.

The new union brought together various states defined by ethnic identity, many of whom had centuries-long histories of autonomy from and struggles against each other. In the interest of securing their collective independence from Britain, the tribes reached an agreement to submit to collective governance — with power sharing among the ethnicities and states — for ten years, after which each tribe would be afforded the right to secede from the union. The terms of this “Panglong Agreement” were enshrined in the 1947/1948 constitution of the new Union of Burma. The new central government of the nation quickly worked to consolidate its power, marginalizing and angering tribal leaders and setting off more than a decade of armed conflict.

In 1961, more than 200 ethnic leaders from the Shan people, Kachin people, Red Karen, Karen people, Chin peoples, Mon people and Rakhine people met with ethnic Bamar (Burmese) central government authorities to draft a new form of government which would ensure the tribes both autonomy and self-determination within a federal system.

The new government was never formed. Military leader General Ne Win led a coup d’etat which ousted the democratically elected government in 1962, and subsequently installed himself as leader. General Ne Win dominated the government from 1962 to 1988, first as military ruler, then as self-appointed president, and later as political kingpin.

Pro-democracy demonstrations in 1988 were violently crushed, with general Saw Maung taking over in a coup and installing the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) to rule the country, now renamed Myanmar. Multiparty legislative elections were held in 1990, with the main opposition party – the National League for Democracy (NLD) – winning a landslide victory (392 of 489 seats). But SLORC refused to hand over power, instead placing NLD leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest, which she has endured for 14 of the last 20 years. Today Myanmar, a resource-rich country, suffers from pervasive government controls, inefficient economic policies, and rural poverty.

What was once one of the richest and most developed countries in Asia has since slumped into poverty due to widespread corruption. The junta took steps in the early 1990s to liberalize price controls after decades of failure under the “Burmese Way to Socialism,” but had to reinstate subsidized prices on staples in the face of food riots, upon which the democracy movement grafted its agenda.

The government called out troops and the rioters were defiant until the monks intervened: standing between both sides, they told everyone to go home and they did. The riots caused overseas development assistance to cease and the government subsequently nullified the results of the 1990 legislative elections. In response to the government’s attack in May 2003 on Aung San Suu Kyi and her convoy, the USA imposed new economic sanctions against Myanmar, including bans on imports of products from Myanmar and on provision of financial services by US citizens.

The summer of 2007 was marked by demonstrations against the military government which were again brutally suppressed. The demonstrations started in August, apparently in an uncoordinated manner, as a protest against a stiff hike in the price of petrol, but morphed into a more serious challenge to the government after three monks were beaten at a protest march in the town of Pakokku.

The monks demanded an apology but none was forthcoming and soon processions of monks with begging bowls held upside down filled many cities (including Sittwe, Mandalay, and Yangon). Yangon, particularly the area around Sule Pagoda in the downtown area, became the centre of these protests. While the monks marched, and many ordinary citizens came out in support of the monks, the world watched as pictures, videos, and blogs flooded the Internet. However, the government soon suppressed the protests by firing on crowds, arresting monks and closing monasteries, and temporarily shut down Internet communications with the rest of the world.

This led the USA, Australia, Canada and the European Union to impose additional sanctions, some targeting the families and finances of the military leaders. Dialogue between the UN and the military government has stalled. Despite international condemnation, Aung San Suu Kyi was back under house arrest after being charged of breaching the conditions of her house arrest. She was released from house arrest on 13 November 2010. As of November 2011 Aung San Suu Kyi is participating in politics and the prospects for democracy look better than ever. Get your latest updates from the Myanmar embassies.

The one minute summary for Burma geography

Best places to see in Burma

Myanmar’s attractions lie largely in the area of the spiritual. Temples, pagodas and historical sites abound with some areas such as Bagan boasting so many attractions that it would be impossible to take them in during a single visit. With landscapes, a tropical climate, beaches, cheap transportation and truly awesome sights, Myanmar is a fascinating and bewitching destination. Bagan The main tourist destination in Myanmar and capital of the first Myanmar Empire; one of the richest archaeological sites in South-east Asia. Situated on the eastern bank of the Ayeyawaddy River, the magic of Bagan has inspired visitors to Myanmar for nearly a thousand years. Inle is a vast lake located in the heart of Shan State which shares borders with Thai and Laos at over 900m above sea level.

Burma photo

Photo by Alexis Gravel

It’s outrageously beautiful and in the mountains, so cooler than other areas. More than 30 hill tribes live in the surrounding mountains. It is on the tourist routes via Heho Airport. Lake transport is by long-tail boat, with the jetty some 30 minutes drive from the airport. There are several lake resorts on stilt structures. Ubiquitous clumps of water hyacinth give an interesting texture to the boat ride. Ngapali Beach – The beach stretches nearly 3 km with soft white sand fringed by coconut palms. Mrauk U – Largely unknown to the Western world for much of its tur­bulent history, Rakhine played a pivotal role in the exchange of cultures and religions between India and Southeast Asia.

For over a thousand years the region which now forms the Rakhine State was an independent state whose rich history is only slowly being paid the attention it deserves. Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock) – This mystical pagoda built in the enshrinement of Buddha relic stands on a gold gilded boulder, precariously perched on the edge of the hill over 1100 m above sea-level.

It is important to dress moderate, especially in temples and pagodas. Cover your shoulders and knees, as the locals do. Be patient, polite and show respect. You will be rewarded with lots of nice experiences, because the locals will react more open and more relaxed towards you and let you take part in their daily lifes. Nabule Beach. Beautiful golden sand beach 25 miles north of Dawei City in Southern Myanmar. The beach is completely unspoilt without all the drawbacks of modern beach side development.