Burma. Visit Countryaah official website to get information about the capital city of Burma. The military junta continued to oppose the opposition. Many local branches of the National Democratic League (National League for Democracy, NLD) were disbanded, and thousands of members left the party following pressure and intimidation. Several hundred were said to have been arrested. The NLD, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, sued several Junta members before the trial for illegal harassment, but lost as expected in the Supreme Court.
A UN report criticized the functioning of the Burmese judiciary as the regime’s political tool. The UN and Amnesty International also condemned the continued use of forced labor and abuse of ethnic minorities, especially in the states of Karen and Shan.
The International Red Cross Committee (ICRC) was authorized in May to visit the country’s prisons. Aung San Suu Kyi claimed that several institutions were secretly withheld from the ICRC and that hundreds of political prisoners were removed from Insein Prison in Rangoon prior to the delegation’s arrival.
An EU delegation visited Burma in an attempt to contribute to a dialogue between the junta, the opposition and the ethnic minorities. The EU and the US also tried to get the Southeast Asian organization ASEAN to work for a political dialogue within Burma, but ASEAN defended itself against such “interference”. In October, the EU extended its sanctions against Burma, including visa ban for official representatives and arms embargo.
The situation in the home country in September forced Burmese students in Bangkok to occupy their embassy for a day. No one was injured, but the occupation was condemned by the organized opposition.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s husband Michael Aris passed away in the UK in March. He was refused a visa to be able to meet his wife one last time, and she declined the offer to visit him as she feared not to return if she left the country.
An economic crisis in 1988 became a trigger for a widespread public revolt against the military regime, which had existed since 1962. After bloody clashes between the military and protesters, Ne Win resigned as party leader and left the reins to Security Chief Sein Win. Subsequent student-led demonstrations were brutally beaten, and thousands are believed to have been killed.
Following popular pressure, Sein Win was deposed by a military coup on September 18, 1988. The military regime was reorganized and a junta called the State Council for the Restoration of Law and Order (SLORC) took charge. Junta leader Saw Maung became head of state and government. The junta admitted to the opposition, which formed political parties and engaged in limited political activity.
Leading opposition formed the National Democracy League (NLD) with Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of freedom hero Aung San, as secretary general. In July 1989, she was arrested and subsequently held under house arrest. In 1989, the junta decided that the official name of the country should be changed from Burma to Myanmar.
In May 1990 elections were held for a national assembly. This gave the NLD an overwhelming victory with 392 of 485 seats, despite the junta’s restrictions. The military refused to let go of power and many of the NLD’s elected officials were arrested or exiled. The generals declared that SLORC would sit in power until a new constitution was drafted. General Saw Maung, who had led the coup and the bloody military actions in 1988, resigned in 1992 as a junta chief. The successor Than Shwe was considered more moderate and tried to break the country’s isolation from the outside world. The head of the security service, General Khin Nyunt, was widely regarded as the military man’s strong man.
Throughout the 1990s, the junta continued to govern the country by decree. From 1997 until the dissolution in 2011, the military government went by the name of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). The power play was largely about the work on a new constitution. The Constitution was intended to secure a strong position for the military, although the transition to a civilian government was a stated goal.
In 1991, Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent struggle against the military regime. After six years of severe isolation, she was released from house arrest in July 1995. She was released without conditions, but the generals still tied her freedom of movement. She had a regular dialogue with her followers in the form of crowds every weekend, but these were halted in 1996 and freedom of movement curtailed.
In 2000 she was again placed under house arrest, but after 20 months she was released in May 2002. An occasional dialogue with the junta had started with Khin Nyunt as contact person, but in April 2003 Aung San Suu Kyi criticized the junta for want of seriousness deliberations. A month later, after a bloody battle between junta and NLD supporters, she was placed under house arrest for the third time, where she was released on November 13, 2010.
Khin Nyunt was named prime minister in 2003 and presented a “Roadmap to Discipline-Thriving Democracy” in seven points in August. In 2004, he called together a new constitutional assembly of 1076 members. The process was boycotted by NDL. Prime Minister Khin Nyunt was arrested in 2004 after years of factional struggles. In August 2005, he was sentenced to 44 years in prison. His two sons and some 30 close associates received even harsher penalties. Khin Nyunt had been ranked number three in the junta since 1988, and considered by many to be the most powerful with his broad contact network and background as head of the intelligence service.
Junta commander Than Shwe took the title of “senior general”, and during the period 1992–2011 held the position of head of state and defense chief. There were occasional rumors of controversy between Than Shwe and the second in the junta, Army Chief Maung Aye. General Soe Win, who assumed the post of prime minister after Khin Nyunt, was one of the army chief’s supporters.