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Myanmar

Yearbook 1997

Burma. According to Countryaah, the fighting between the army and the last major guerrilla movement, the Karen Union National Union (KNU), gained new momentum and drove more than 20,000 to flee to Thailand. Hundreds of Karan villages were burned. The government offensive is believed to have been triggered by a meeting of a number of minority people, including several who made peace with the government. The meeting shall include: have rejected the regime's proposal for a new constitution, which would give the military power forever. The Karen people consider themselves to have good reasons for their opposition to the military regime; from areas where guerrillas surrendered are reported on the relocation and forced labor.

1997 Myanmar

A UN report described Burma as a land of fear, where no freedom of speech or assembly prevails and where the regime allows torture and rape opposition. In April, the US banned new investments in Burma and in October the EU extended its relatively mild sanctions by six months. The sanctions port prohibits, inter alia, high Burmese representatives and prohibits arms sales to Burma. However, no criticism was heard from neighboring countries in Southeast Asia and Burma was elected in July in the ASEAN cooperation organization. Several member states have major financial interests in Burma.

Anti-Muslim riots in February and March were said to have been caused by a Buddhist girl being raped by Muslim men in Mandalay. Other analysts rather interpreted the unrest as the regime's failure to channel dissatisfaction with its policy towards the Muslim minority. This immigrated from India during the colonial era but is now economically insignificant and therefore suitable scapegoat.

The military junta was reformed in November and adopted a new name, the State Council for Peace and Development. The most important leaders remained, and it did not appear likely that the transformation would also promote a new policy.

From military to civilian rule

With a new constitutional proposal and a so-called road map to democracy, the generals had tried to initiate political reforms to get out of isolation and to get the economy back on track. Progress was slow and constitutional revision lasted from 1993 to 2008.

The new constitution was passed in a referendum in May 2008. The referendum, which was held in the midst of the disaster after the cyclone Nargis, was heavily criticized for extensive electoral fraud. The Constitution secured the military a quarter of seats in parliament, giving the generals the right to veto any future constitutional amendments.

The first election in Myanmar in 20 years was held in November 2010. Here too came strong accusations of electoral fraud. The NLD and several ethnic minority parties boycotted the election, but factions from these parties erupted and formed new parties that chose to stand. After the count, the military-backed party left the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) with nearly eighty percent of seats in the Union Parliament's (pyidaungsu hluttaw) upper and lower house. Former General Thein Sein was elected president.

When the new government took office in March 2011, Thein Sein, to the great surprise of many, launched a series of democratic reforms. Around a tenth of the country's many political prisoners were released, unions were allowed, and restrictions on print media were eased. Civil society organizations were given far freer frameworks, and the government initiated negotiations and signed ceasefire agreements with a number of armed ethnic minority groups, including with the Karen National Union. In the wake of these agreements, political negotiations were set up to lay the ground for lasting peace. Nevertheless, despite progress in the peace process in areas southeast of the country, new fierce fighting broke out between the military and rebel groups in the northeast. A seventeen year ceasefire with the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO),

Thein Sein also initiated talks with Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been released from house arrest immediately after the election, and on April 1, 2012, she and NLD chose to take part in the supplementary elections. The NLD won 42 out of 45 parliamentary seats and Aung San Suu Kyi thus entered parliament as May 2, 2012.

President Thein Sein's reforms and the conduct of the supplementary elections gave hope internationally, and the United States and European countries gradually eased sanctions against Myanmar. Until the next elections in 2015, Myanmar was gradually included again in the international community. The country saw some increase in international investment from countries outside the region, and in 2014 Myanmar held the ASEAN presidency.

With the gradual liberalization of the country, several internal conflicts also arose. The political clashes between the military and the NLD continued. The controversy surrounding the military's constitution was particularly apparent in parliament. The peace process was fragile and characterized by distrust between the parties. In addition, ultranationalist Buddhist groups experienced a dramatic upswing. The Ma Ba Tha organization received significant support in large parts of the Burmese-Buddhist majority for its slogans and campaigns to protect the Burmese race and the Buddhist religion. During the run-up to the 2015 general elections, USDP Ma Ba Tha actively used to influence the political debate in Myanmar and to try to blacken the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi to be too lenient towards Myanmar's Muslim population.

The election held on November 8, 2015 was in many ways a referendum for or against military rule, and the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi won by overwhelming majority. The NLD secured eighty-six percent of the elected seats and majority in the Union Parliament. It also became the largest party in all the regional parliaments, with the exception of the Shan state where the USDP became the largest party. Both President U Thein Sein and Tatmadaw's commander, Min Aung Hliang, accepted the defeat of the USDP.

The electoral system with majority voting in one-man circles gave NLD extra payout for its good election results. The NLD won a majority in the two chambers of the National Assembly and gained great influence over legislative amendments, but the Constitution still guaranteed the military great power in politics: 25 percent of seats in both the Union Parliament and the State Parliaments; three government ministerial posts (the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Frontier Areas); one of two vice presidents; and a majority in the powerful National Defense and Security Council.

Pursuant to section 59 f of the Constitution, Aung San Suu Kyi could not be elected President of the newly elected National Assembly. Section 59 f disqualifies any person who has children of foreign nationality from the office of President and Aung San Suu Kyi's two sons are both British nationals. Aung San Suu Kyi therefore nominated his close friend Htin Kyaw as president and created a new position for himself as Head of State (State Counselor). The Constitution also grants the Chief of Army the right to appoint one of Myanmar's two Vice Presidents in addition to the three powerful posts as Minister of Defense, Minister of the Interior and Minister for Myanmar's Border Areas.

This constitutional coalition was demanding. The Constitution gives the civilian government little power over the army commander and from March 2016 the country was ruled by a civilian and a military leader with little confidence in each other, Aung San Suu Kyi and senior general Min Aung Hlaing. The benevolence of the military to former President Thein Sein in his reform efforts was not continued under Aung San Suu Kyi's government. This was clearly expressed through the peace process which stagnated, partly due to lack of cooperation from the military and partly due to the rigid structure of Aung San Suu Kyi's so-called Panglong process. In August 2016, the first peace conference known as the 21st Century Panglong opened, with reference to the 1947 Panglong Conference, initiated by General Aung San, Aung San Suu Kyi's father. This and later peace conferences under the 21st Century Panglong brand had little significance for Myanmar's many civil wars and fierce fighting continued, especially in Kachin Province and north of Shan Province.

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