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Burma (Myanmar): Country Profile Essay

Burma is a developing country located at the Southeast region of Asia. 61 years ago, Burma was under the colony of Britain but through the struggle and passion of the “48 million multi-ethnic people” of Burma, they gained their independence. As a result, an independent democratic parliament government with a new constitutional system was established which have helped in providing structure to the country. However, peace and stability did not last long because of the many detractors in the new concept of a unified nation.

In the late 1940s, members of ethnic groups demanded that they be given autonomy within a decade from the “new constitution and communists. ” This particular situation resulted to a civil war. Since then, the military commanded by “chief-of-staff General Ne Win” carried out a “coup and a military. ” This marked the beginning of a long brutal and absolute form of governance. This military takeover paved the way for the transformation of the Revolutionary Council which possessed the power to “suspend the constitution and to institute an authoritarian” regime.

Two of the major repercussions of this type of rule are the demise of parliamentary democracy and the imprisonment of “government ministers and ethnic leaders” (Burma Watch International, 2007). There have been many attempts to change the status quo in Burma but still the military junta continues to prevail. In the 21st century, the Burmese people are gradually grasping the real need for democracy and freedom. But after the 2007 protests, it seems that this goal is still farfetched from turning into a reality.

Moreover, suppression, violence and poverty still remain as the key problems of this highly promising country. Recent events on the political, economic, social, international relations and military arena that transpired in the past year would be discussed in the succeeding pages to obtain a collection of updated information about Burma’s current conditions. Political Situation By the 2nd quarter of 2008, a destructive cyclone hit the center of Burma yielding the deaths of thousands of civilians and millions of worth of agriculture and properties.

This tragedy worsened the living conditions of many Burmese people. To make things more unbearable, foreign assistance was blocked by the military to enter the country. As a consequence, victims of the cyclone were not able to get an adequate supply of food, water medicines and other essential needs. According to a journalist of Time magazine, the reason behind this restriction was that the military generals were afraid of the possible political repercussions of the cyclone.

They are worried that the “combination of popular anger and the junta’s reluctant but necessary acceptance of foreign assistance may yet combine to unseat a seemingly unshakeable regime” (Marhsall, 2008). Furthermore, the military believes that if foreign aid enters the country this could provide a chance for interested third parties in influencing the Burmese people in pushing for a democratic form of government. This is the possibility that the military is trying to evade for so many years. They will do everything in their power to maintain and preserve their sovereignty over Burma.

The obvious neglect and mismanagement of the military on the situation evoked the dissatisfaction of the Burmese people. To redeem the speedy deterioration of the image of the military, they released 9,002 political prisoners including a high-profiled opposition personality, U Win Tin. According to the military officials, the release was part of their plan for 2010 national elections which is intended to advance the “regime’s seven-point ‘Roadmap to Democracy. ’” This explanation was not well received by the public particularly those against the military junta.

According to a member of the National Coalition of the Union of Burma, an alliance of exile groups, “this is a publicity stunt and the international community should not fall for it… If they were serious, they would release all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi” who is the leader of the opposition. More so, it was emphasized that this move was really aimed in improving the negative image of Burma. Through this, “international pressure and domestic content” can be mitigated which if not addressed can lead to an unfavorable situation for the military.

Also, the timing of the release marked the anniversary of the 2007 protest campaigns pioneered by the Buddhist monks who were “violently suppressed by the military. ” Again, this was a strategic way of the military to conceal their abuses and exploitation of the human rights (Horn, 2008). Economic Situation Because of the political turmoil in Burma, the country’s economic growth has been limited. According to many experts, this prevailing situation is caused by the misadministration of the military regime combined with the incompetence of the military officials in running a country.

However, in defense for these harsh comments, the military retaliated by saying that because of the stringent economic restrictions, these deprived them and their country from attaining fiscal development. A Burmese military official said, “They are not only unfair but immoral. They are counter-productive and deprive countries of their right to development. ” Despite this, majority of the public and critics of the regime still believe that the ruling party only serves the regime and their cronies’ interests.

Additionally, the main causes for the existence of poverty and limited opportunities for the people are the “junta’s corruption, nepotism and cronyism. ” Because of this, foreign investors are easily repelled to do business in the country. Political instability, poverty and high taxes are the main concerns of businessmen which are believed to create an “unhealthy atmosphere for investment deals. ” On the other hand, regardless of the economic sanctions, Burma’s relationship with China and India had helped in boosting trade.

If only the regime can implement a few fiscal reforms particularly “wholesale reform in the areas of property rights and rational decision-making,” Burma can alleviate their poor economic conditions (Mungpi, 2008). Presently, the world has been experiencing an international economic crisis. Even though Burma does not have a lot of foreign investments, it can still feel the ripple effect of the recession. Relatively, Burma is not directly affected by the global economic crisis particularly in the banking industry. However, the field of trade has been negatively affected by the current fiscal situation.

For many local business people, they feel that their customers have lessened their purchases for the past few months. If this will continue, “manufacturing and commodity sales could decrease as much as 50%. ” Another repercussion is the massive lay off of employees of factories and companies, which is already starting to happen. Based on the data, there are over “134,900 registered workers in 18 industrial zones in Rangoon Division” who are vulnerable from being removed in the workforce. The garment industry is one of the leading sources of Burma’s revenues.

Businesses in this industry have been subjected to factory closures, reduction of orders and the lay off of “100,000 garment workers. ” Aside from these, timber exports and tourism have also tremendously declined (Lwin, 2009). It seemed that after the controversial pro-democracy Buddhist-led protests of 2007 and the catastrophic tragedy of Cyclone Nargis of 2008, Burma is continuously experiencing adverse situations that hinder it from achieving sustainable growth and development. Social Situation There are over “47,373,958” people in Burma.

Out of this total number, 9 people die out of 1,000 populations wherein a majority succumbs to waterborne diseases and infection to AIDS (CBS, 2009). Given this living conditions, the Burmese people are constantly experiencing social problems that have greatly reduced the quality of life for the past six decades. The main problem in the Burmese society is the issue of human rights. Since the implementation of the authoritarian rule by the military, the number of cases of those being abducted, raped, tortured, forced into labor and imprisoned have escalated.

According to Amnesty International, “torture has become an institution in Burma. ” These inhumane practices have become a way for the regime to suppress democracy and freedom. Religion, political beliefs and profession can become a basis for being arrested, molested or harassed by the military. As years passed by, human rights continue to be openly neglected and ignored in Burma by the ruling party (Open Society Institute, 2009). Moreover, narcotics is another concern that has been plaguing Burma wherein it is considered the “world’s second largest producer of illegal opium and Southeast Asia’s largest producer of methamphetamines.

” In addition, Burma was also “decertified” because they did not agree to conform to the efforts of the US to ban narcotics (United States Campaign for Burma, 2009). Generally, Burma is one of the countries that were labeled as a developing country. To be categorized as such means that Burma is in a challenging position wherein it has not yet achieved the necessary actions needed for national progress. At the moment, Burma is faced with the obligation of providing adequate social services particularly to the underprivileged.

Unfortunately, due to the military dictatorship that commenced in 1962 followed by the biggest natural calamity that destructed the nation, Burma is having difficulty in formulating solutions for their numerous social problems. Social needs ranging from basic infrastructure to health to education are urgently needed and wanted by the people (Open Society Institute, 2009). Citizens of Burma yearn to be prioritized by the so-called leaders of the country. As individuals, they want to reach their utmost potential so that they can be of service to their families, communities and the nation.

This can only be done if the current regime would set aside their self-interests and aim for the welfare of the majority. Military Status and International Relations The military is the ultimate weapon of the regime in maintaining power. Senior General Than Shwe is the Commander-in-Chief of this strong and able-bodied group of soldiers. It is within the ranks of the military that control the seat of power in Burma. They are the ones who rule over the many aspects of the country including the political, economic and social aspects. For years, the military has enforced their presence and rule over the Burmese society.

They justified their actions and legitimacy by stating that they are the only force that can hold the country in tact (Beech, 2007). Because of this, the military regime is doing everything in their influence to preserve their dominance over the public. The Burmese armed forces or Tatmadaw is actively involved in expanding and modernizing their soldiers and equipment. Even in the midst of an economic crisis, the military is still spending billions of dollars to enhance “Burma’s military capabilities. ” In the near future, Burma can transform into “one of the largest and best-equipped armed forces in Southeast Asia.

” If this happens, the military can have more power in manipulating Burma’s development. Also, intensifying the strength of the military and its international status specifically its affiliation with China will “give Burma a greater potential to influence the region’s wider strategic environment” (Ashton, 1998, p. 8). Meanwhile, in terms of international relations, Burma have initially forged various ties with a number of foreign countries but due to the 2007 cyclone tragedy, nations from Europe, America, Asia and international organizations have been hesitant in helping.

In a global perspective, many believe that implementing sanctions can put a pressure to the military regime in advocating democracy and facilitating national reconciliation. Without foreign aid and economic opportunities, the cost of living will rise while the standard of living will drop which can significantly affect the power and influence of the military junta over the Burmese (Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma, 2008). References Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma. (2008). Key issues – International Relations. . Retrieved January 15, 2009, from http://www. altsean. org/Key%20Issues/KeyIssuesInternational. htm

Ashton, W. (1998). Burma’s armed forces: – preparing for the 21st century. ASIA, 10, 28. Beech, H. (2007, October 1). Burma’s Faceless Leaders. Time Magazine. Retrieved January 15, 2009, from http://www. time. com/time/world/article/0,8599,1666978,00. html Burma Watch International. (2007, September 25). Some background information about Burma. Retrieved January 15, 2009, from http://www. burmawatch. org/aboutburma. html CBS. (2009). Burma. Retrieved January 15, 2009, from http://www. cbsnews. com/stories/2007/10/04/country_facts/main3328831. shtml Horn, R. (2008). Burma Frees Democracy Fighter. Time Magazine.

Retrieved January 15, 2009, from http://www. time. com/time/world/article/0,8599,1843853,00. html Lwin, M. (2009). Burma’s Economy Feeling the Pain. The Irrawaddy. Retrieved January 15, 2009, from http://www. irrawaddy. org/article. php? art_id=14923 Marshall, A. (2008). Burma’s Woes: A Threat to the Junta. Time Magazine. Retrieved January 15, 2009, from http://www. time. com/time/world/article/0,8599,1807994,00. html Mungpi. (2008). Burma’s economy: Does sanctions hinder development?. Burma News International. Retrieved January 15, 2009, from http://bnionline. net/index. php? option=com_content&task=vi


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