Burma. The isolated and internationally defended military
junta was preparing a controversial referendum on a new
constitution when the southern parts of the country suffered
a severe cyclone in early May. According to the UN's latest
estimates, around 130,000 people were killed and around 2.4
million lost their homes or suffered severe distress of
another kind. Nevertheless, it took a few weeks for foreign
aid to a considerable extent to be allowed into the country.
Not until after two weeks did the junta general General Than
Shwe visit the disaster area. At the end of the month, at
the end of the month, the junta agreed to admit all foreign
aid after a meeting between Than Shwe and UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.
Countryaah reports, the military junta requested the equivalent of $ 11
billion in aid from the outside world. The UN and ASEAN
estimated the cost of reconstruction to be over a billion
dollars, and at an international donor meeting, pledges of
just under $ 50 million were made.
While the devastation in the cyclone area was most acute,
the planned referendum in the rest of the country was
carried out. Officially, 99 percent of voters were said to
have participated, and 92.4 percent of them said yes to the
Constitution guaranteeing the military a quarter of seats in
parliament and the last word in all political decisions, as
well as the head of state being military. The opposition
party National Democracy Federation (NLD) dismissed the vote
as a major fraud and claimed that in many places there were
soldiers filling in the ballots.
After the referendum, political repression was sharpened.
UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari visited Burma twice during the year
but was not allowed to meet either the junta leader or
opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The latter had several
meetings with a junior representative but no progress was
In September, Win Tin, one of the leading democracy
activists, was released after 19 years in prison. In
October, one of Aung San Suu Kyi's closest confidants, Ohn
Kyaing, was arrested without explanation. He had already
been in prison for 15 years for spreading regime-critical
Over a couple of weeks in November, more than 100
democracy activists were sentenced to long prison sentences.
Ashin Gambira, leader of the monks' protest movement in
2007, was sentenced to 68 years. Several of those who led
the protests against the 1988 junta were jailed for 65
years. Popular comedian Zarganar was sentenced to 45 years
in prison for regime criticism. Blogger Nay Phone Latt got
20 years to write about the tough life in Burma.
Warriors of the minority people
Unresolved ethnic conflicts in Myanmar have given rise to
many and long wars. At the liberation of the colonial empire
in 1948, minority people demanded a high degree of
self-reliance, but did not get it. Nor was account taken of
the already established autonomy and old customary law.
Throughout the nation's history, the states in the border
areas have been haunted by civil war and ethnic strife.
Liberation movements in various constellations have led the
armed struggle for self-government, which has contributed to
Myanmar's complicated geographical, demographic and
A persistent problem after independence has been the
conflicts between the central government and various rebel
movements among ethnic minorities. After the 1962 coup, the
regime attempted to make peace with the rebel armies, but
failed. The conflicts continued until the 1990s. After 1988,
the junta carried out a strong military armament that in a
few years doubled the army's strength.
Following military offensive, several ceasefire
agreements were signed between the military and a number of
rebel groups in the early 1990s. This opened up an
opportunity for the military and intensify the fight against
Karen people's guerrilla army during the Karen National
Union (KNU). In 1995, the karen-guerrilla's main base,
Manerplaw, fell. In the period 1990–1995, Manerplaw was also
the “capital” for a counter-government formed by the
country's democratic opposition. It was led by Sein Win,
cousin of Aung San Suu Kyi. After the defeat, a more
sporadic guerrilla from KNU continued, and the chin and shan
minorities also continued the fight.
In 2006, the military launched a new offensive against
self-reliant minority people, primarily the resistance
army's army. At least six ethnically based militia groups
clashed with the government in 2006-2007. In the 1990s, a
number of ceasefire agreements of varying scope and
durability were signed. For many of the minorities, the
struggle for self-rule has been just as much a defense war
against the army's extensive abuse.
In the fall of 2005, the junta quickly started moving the
country's administrative capital from Yangon to a newly
developed city named Naypyidaw. Only afterwards did
diplomats and international organizations learn about the
surprising relocation. The construction work was kept secret
for several years, and was still ongoing. However,
government offices, parliament building, airport and other
infrastructure were completed.
Naypyidaw was officially inaugurated as a capital in May
2006 with a military parade in which 12,000 soldiers
participated. At the same time, a wage increase of 400-500
per cent was announced for the country's low-paid civil
servants. The officer stand was given even greater mark-ups.
This had a clear inflationary effect, along with huge
construction costs for the new capital.