Myanmar – Where is it and What’s it All About?

Myanmar – Where is it and What’s it All About?

As you saw the news about the Buddhist monks protesting and being killed by government forces in Myanmar did you wonder where the country is located and what it was all about? Well, I’m willing to admit I sure did. I admit I really wasn’t aware of a country called Myanmar and had little idea why religious monks should be shot to death for peaceful protest so I took the time to check it out and thought I’d share it with Myanmar_2 those of you who may be as ill informed as me.

It helped my understanding to find out Myanmar is the name of what I learned in geography class as originally called Burma. The country is located on the Bay of Bengal and is surrounded on the land side by China, India and Thailand. Also, in the immediate area, are Viet Nam and Laos. It might also help to know that Thailand was known as Siam until a peaceful coup d’etat in 1932 when the country was renamed. Maybe you remember the 1999 movie Anna and The King about the king of Siam.

The history of the country is one of British colonialism, rebellion and military rule. Of course, oil plays a major role in its history as well. The British controlled India and border conflicts with Burma resulted in the first Anglo-Burmese War of 1824. There were three armed conflicts with Brittan before Brittan made Burma a province of India in 1886. Over the next years there were protests, strikes and rebellion against the British often led by the Buddhist monks. In 1937 the British separated Burma from India and granted their colony a new constitution. But, waves of strikes and protests that began in the oil fields of central Burma grew. British mounted police wielding batons as well as police shooting into crowds followed. The protests were led by Buddhist monks.

When World War II began, the Japanese set up a puppet government in Burma in 1943 and by March of 1945 the Burma army began a rebellion against the Japanese. When the Japanese surrendered, a military government took over the country. In 1948 Burma, unlike India or Pakistan, decided to join the British Commonwealth as an independent country with military rule.

Over the years since then there have been rebellions, protests and attempts for control. By 1962 a revolutionary group declared Burma a socialist state. But after they seized power student protests began and were put down by killing over 100 students and blowing up the student union building at Rangoon University. The protests continued and by 1974 a wave of strikes hit Rangoon because of government corruption, inflation and food shortages. Arrests and shooting workers  followed. Waves of suppression of protest  followed and in1988 over a hundred people were killed by the police firing into crowds.

In 1989 the military government changed the name of the country from Burma to Myanmar.

Communist backers and nationalist backers remained in conflict over the past years with assassinations, rebellion and unrest as a result.The problems reported in the news today are a continuation of anti-government protests and rebellions which, unfortunately, are being met in the same way by the military government – killing protesters including Buddhist monks. The present military government has ruled with an iron hand. In violation of human rights all forms of dissent are stopped. The policy of repression, arrest, torture and killing has continued to the present time in Myanmar.

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