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Evolution of Burma's current political system

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The history of Burma has not only been long and complicated, it has also been interesting. The nation that we today recognize as Burma has its historical origins during the golden age of pagan in the 11th Century. In 1044, King Anawratha ascended into the throne and effectively united Burma under the monarch leadership. A strong believer in Buddhism, King Anawratha constructed temples and pagodas where the God of Buddhism was worshipped. According to Maung (1998), The golden age of pagan reached its peak in during the reign of Anawratha's successor, Kyanzitta (1084-1113), another devout Buddhist, under whom it acquired the name ”City of four million pagodas ".

Burma became under a powerful militaristic rule that was led by Konbaung Dynasty (1752-1885). This was the only effective leadership that not only successfully created the largest Burmese empire but also managed to drive out European powers (the French from Thanlyin and the English from Negrais) out of Burma. The 1800 to 1850 was characterized by constant civil wars between Britain and Burma. The three Anglo-Burmese wars took approximately 62 years for the British to successfully conquer Burma and incorporate it into Indian empire. The major event that dominated the 1850 -1900 was the Anglo-Burmese wars. Whereas the Burmese fought aggressive wars against the British, King Mindon was forced to cede Kareni states to the British in 1875. In 1885, the third Anglo-Burmese war broke out that exiled the last Burmese King to India.  After the successful annexation of Burma and eventual incorporation into the Indian empire in 1886 following the loss to the British, “Burma was administered as a province of India until 1937 when it became a separate, self-governing colony; independence from the Commonwealth was attained in 1948” CIA FactBook (2010).

The colonial rule was dominated by the erosion of the Burmese culture by dividing several Burmese minorities while favoring others with influential positions in the military and local administrations. 1900 -1950 was characterized by the rise in opposition to the British colonial rule. It is this period that has significantly determined the political evolution of Burma’s history to dat. This is because it comprises of profound events that greatly impacted on the political landscape of the nation. In 1920, the first protest against the British was orchestrated by Burma’s intelligentsia and Buddhist monks. This was followed by widespread students strike in 1935 that was led by the students union of Rangoon University. This event led to the emergence of Aung San as a prominent and potential new leader of the national movement. In the decade that followed, Aung San successfully organized a series of students’ protest that propelled to unrivalled leadership position in the nation and thus gained the support of minority communities and support of the nation. This was also the period in which the greatest tragedy fell on Burma following the assassination of Aung San and six other members of interim governing council. The last pivotal event in this period was the recognition of Burma as an independent state in 1948 and the installation of civilian rule.

1950 – 2000 was dominated by the dictatorship rule of Gen. Ne Win from 1962 – 1988. The dictatorship rule of Ne Win set the country to international isolation and economic ruin. “He first established himself as a military ruler, followed by a self imposed president and later as a political kingpin” (CIA Factbook, 2010). Ne Win was disposed by the military Junta in 1988 that imposed military rule in Burma. The first multiparty elections that were held in 1990 did not solve Burma’s political problems because the military junta refused to hand over power to National League for Democracy (NLD) even after a landslide victory. The spiraling events have led to the house imprisonment of Aung San Suu Kyi for close to a decade. The struggle for political reforms in Burma continues to date with widespread protest by monks and university students. Aung San Suu Kyi however still remains under house arrest as the junta continues to rule Burma with iron hands. The 2009 may referendum is expected to set free and fair parliamentary elections in 2010. The world is still yet to see the prospects of political reforms.

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