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Back to Burma

 

Politics

Since 1948 there have been several coups in Myanmar.  Up until the coup of 1948, Myanmar followed the guidelines of its constitution regarding governance.  Then in  1962, that government was removed and a new constitution was implemented in 1974.  Until its suspension by a military coup in 1988, the new constitution was the basis for the government.

Once the military took power, until elections took place they established a State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) to govern Myanmar.  When the elections did take place in 1990, the SLORC was soundly defeated but refused to turn over control of the government to the incumbent civilian party until they had written a new constitution.  To aid them in this, they started a convention to help in writing the constitution and those civilian winners not jailed were asked to participate along with delegates selected by the SLORC.  Even after years of sporadic meetings since 1993, a constitution has yet to be written.

Britain conquered Burma over a period of 62 years (1824-1886) and incorporated it into its Indian Empire. Burma was administered as a province of India until 1937 when it became a separate, self-governing colony; independence from the Commonwealth was attained in 1948. Gen. NE WIN dominated the government from 1962 to 1988, first as military ruler, then as self-appointed president, and later as political kingpin. In September 1988, the military deposed NE WIN and established a new ruling junta. Despite multiparty legislative elections in 1990 that resulted in the main opposition party - the National League for Democracy (NLD) - winning a landslide victory, the junta refused to hand over power. NLD leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient AUNG SAN SUU KYI, who was under house arrest from 1989 to 1995 and 2000 to 2002, was imprisoned in May 2003 and subsequently transferred to house arrest. She was finally released in November 2010. After the ruling junta in August 2007 unexpectedly increased fuel prices, tens of thousands of Burmese marched in protest, led by prodemocracy activists and Buddhist monks. In late September 2007, the government brutally suppressed the protests, killing at least 13 people and arresting thousands for participating in the demonstrations. Since then, the regime has continued to raid homes and monasteries and arrest persons suspected of participating in the pro-democracy protests. Burma in early May 2008 was struck by Cyclone Nargis, which claimed over 138,000 dead and tens of thousands injured and homeless. Despite this tragedy, the junta proceeded with its May constitutional referendum, the first vote in Burma since 1990. Parliamentary elections held in November 2010, considered flawed by many in the international community, saw the junta's Union Solidarity and Development Party garnering over 75% of the seats. Parliament convened in January 2011 and selected former Prime Minister THEIN SEIN as president. The vast majority of national-level appointees named by THEIN SEIN are former or current military officers.
Country name:
conventional long form: Union of Burma
conventional short form: Burma
local long form: Pyidaungzu Myanma Naingngandaw (translated by the US Government as Union of Myanma and by the Burmese as Union of Myanmar)
local short form: Myanma Naingngandaw
former: Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma
note: since 1989 the military authorities in Burma have promoted the name Myanmar as a conventional name for their state; the US Government did not adopt the name, which is a derivative of the Burmese short-form name Myanma Naingngandaw
Government type:
military regime (a nominally civilian government has been named, but a formal transfer of power has not yet taken place)
Capital:
name: Rangoon (Yangon)
geographic coordinates: 16 48 N, 96 09 E
time difference: UTC+6.5 (11.5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
note: Nay Pyi Taw is the administrative capital
Administrative divisions:
7 divisions (taing-myar, singular - taing) and 7 states* (pyi ne-myar, singular - pyi ne)
divisions: Ayeyarwady, Bago, Magway, Mandalay, Sagaing, Tanintharyi, Yangon
states: Chin, Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Mon, Rakhine (Arakan), Shan
Independence:
4 January 1948 (from the UK)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 4 January (1948); Union Day, 12 February (1947)
Constitution:
3 January 1974; suspended 18 September 1988; a new constitution was to take effect when the bicameral legislature convened 31 January 2011, but no announcement has been made
Legal system:
mixed legal system of English common law (as introduced in codifications designed for colonial India) and customary law
International law organization participation:
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt
Suffrage:
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President THEIN SEIN (since 4 February 2011); Vice President SAI MOUK KHAM (since 3 February 2011); Vice President TIN AUNG MYINT OO (since 4 February 2011)
head of government: Prime Minister THEIN SEIN (since 24 October 2007)
cabinet: cabinet is appointed by the president and confirmed by the parliament
elections: THEIN SEIN elected president by the parliament from among three vice presidents; the upper house, the lower house, and military members of the parliament each nominate one vice president (president serves a five-year term)
Legislative branch:
bicameral, consists of the House of Nationalities [Amyotha Hluttaw] (224 seats, 168 directly elected and 56 appointed by the military; members serve five-year terms) and the House of Representatives [Pythu Hluttaw] (440 seats, 330 directly elected and 110 appointed by the military; members serve five-year terms)
elections: last held on 7 November 2010 (next to be held in December 2015)
election results: House of Nationalities - percent of vote by party - USDP 74.8%, others (NUP, SNDP, RNDP, NDF, AMRDP) 25.2%; seats by party - USDP 129, others 39; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - USDP 79.6%, others (NUP, SNDP, RNDP, NDF, AMRDP) 20.4%; seats by party - USDP 259, others 66
Judicial branch:
remnants of the British-era legal system are in place, but there is no guarantee of a fair public trial; the judiciary is not independent of the executive; the 2011 constitution calls for a Supreme Court, a Courts-Martial, and a Constitutional Tribunal of the Union
Political parties and leaders:
All Mon Region Democracy Party or AMRDP [NAING NGWE THEIN]; National Democratic Force or NDF [KHIN MAUNG SWE, Dr.THAN NYEIN]; National League for Democracy or NLD [AUNG SHWE, U TIN OO, AUNG SAN SUU KYI]; note - the party was deregisted because it did not register for the 2010 election, but it is still active; National Unity Party or NUP [TUN YE]; Rakhine Nationalities Development Party or RNDP [Dr. AYE MG]; Shan Nationalities Democratic Party [SAI AIKE PAUNG]; Shan Nationalities League for Democracy or SNLD [HKUN HTUN OO]; Union Solidarity and Development Party or USDP [SHWE MANN, HTAY OO]; numerous smaller parties
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Thai border: Ethnic Nationalities Council or ENC; Federation of Trade Unions-Burma or FTUB (exile trade union and labor advocates); National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma or NCGUB (self-proclaimed government in exile) ["Prime Minister" Dr. SEIN WIN] consists of individuals, some legitimately elected to the People's Assembly in 1990 (the group fled to a border area and joined insurgents in December 1990 to form a parallel government in exile); National Council-Union of Burma or NCUB (exile coalition of opposition groups)
Inside Burma: Kachin Independence Organization or KIO; Karen National Union or KNU; Karenni National People's Party or KNPP; Union Solidarity and Development Association or USDA (pro-regime, a social and political mass-member organization) [HTAY OO, general secretary] became the Union Solidarity and Development Party in 2010; United Wa State Army or UWSA; 88 Generation Students (pro-democracy movement); several other Shan factions
note: freedom of expression is highly restricted in Burma; political groups, other than parties approved by the government, are limited in number
International organization participation:
ADB, ARF, ASEAN, BIMSTEC, CP, EAS, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, ISO (correspondent), ITU, NAM, OPCW (signatory), SAARC (observer), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires HAN THU; note - Burma does not have an ambassador to the United States
chancery: 2300 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 332-3344
FAX: [1] (202) 332-4351
consulate(s) general: none; Burma has a Mission to the UN in New York
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Charge d'Affaires Michael E. THURSTON; note - the United States does not have an ambassador to Burma
embassy: 110 University Avenue, Kamayut Township, Rangoon
mailing address: Box B, APO AP 96546
telephone: [95] (1) 536-509, 535-756, 538-038
FAX: [95] (1) 650-306
Flag description:
design consists of three equal horizontal stripes of yellow (top), green, and red; centered on the green band is a large white five-pointed star that partially overlaps onto the adjacent colored stripes; the design revives the triband colors used by Burma from 1943-45, during the Japanese occupation
National symbol(s):
chinthe (mythical lion)
National anthem:
name: "Kaba Ma Kyei" (Till the End of the World, Myanmar)
lyrics/music: SAYA TIN
note: adopted 1948; Burma is among a handful of non-European nations that have anthems rooted in indigenous traditions; the beginning portion of the anthem is a traditional Burmese anthem before transitioning into a Western-style orchestrated work

 


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