Since I am going to Thailand I thought I should blog a bit about Burma.
Perhaps a brief history:
Initially, Burma was a kingdom or sometimes several kingdoms of its own. The first kingdom to unite what is now called Burma, being the Pagan Empire, founded in 1044.
Following the Pagan empire, Burma went through several kingdoms and empires. The largest empires being the Toungoo (~1486-1752) which extended to include not only Thailand, but also Laos and Cambodia; and the Konbaung which even included Vietnam and a little bit of India. In 1886, the British Empire took over, making Burma a province of India.
In the 1920s, suffering under the British rule, the Burmese began to protest for independence. Then when the 2nd world war broke out they used what opportunities they could find to gain leverage. Finally in 1947 Burma gained its independence, but in July of that year, just as they were almost free, the party elected by this nearly formed democracy was machine-gunned down by the opposing party which then oversaw the official transition to independence on January 4, 1948.
For 10 years the democracy continued, but suffered civil wars partly due to several minorities feeling under-represented in the original constitution. These minorities were promised slightly more independence in 10 years, but shortly before this could happen, the military took over. First there was a temporary takeover in 1958 and then in 1962 took over permanently.
Since then Burma has been under military dictatorship. In 1988 large protests took place, resulting in large slaughter of the protesters by the military. Also in 1988 Aung San Suu Kyi, whose father was said to be the architect of Burma’s independence, returned to Burma and began to take a role and was one of the founders of the National League for Democracy.
That year, in an attempt to gain more favourable international opinions, the military held multi-party elections, which were won by the NLD, from which the military immediately took over again. The next year, Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under a house arrest which lasted 6 years, followed by another house arrest in 2000.
Currently Aung San Suu Kyi is free from house arrest, but the military still arrests people who disagree with it.