Introduction

   When Burma (Myanmar) achieved independence from British colonial rule in 1948, many observers viewed it-with its high standards of education and abundant natural resources-as one of the Asian countries most likely to achieve economic development and modernization. However, even before General Ne Win imposed military rule in March 1962, Burma was afflicted by domestic insurgency, political factionalism, and foreign threats along its borders, especially with China. By 1988, formerly poor countries, such as Indonesia and South Korea, enjoyed impressive economic growth, industrialization, and the emergence of educated middle classes who supported greater political openness. But in September of that year, Burma's State Law and Order Restoration Council carried out a violent reimposition of military rule, killing or injuring thousands of demonstrators who marched in the streets of its cities and arresting many others. Although the new junta scrapped the post-1962 socialist system and encouraged foreign private investment, the economy remains in a state of disarray.
   To use a cliché, Burma is a country of paradoxes, which are not confined to the contrast between the country's abundant land and natural resources and its present status as one of Asia's poorest countries. Human relations among the Burmese, and between Burmese and foreigners, are characterized by gentleness, grace, and an unwillingness to provoke conflict. For the great majority of Burmese, Theravada Buddhism provides a moral compass and a means of understanding and coping with the world. The country boasts many accomplishments in art, architecture, music, and literature. But the poorly educated military elite rules Burma almost literally at gunpoint, caring little for the people's welfare, and carrying out, or allowing, a large array of human rights abuses. Though official histories celebrate patriotic struggles against the British colonialists and the Japanese occupation, the military has reconstructed a genuinely "colonial" state in which the great majority of people are disenfranchised, and many if not most Burmese view the regime as illegitimate.
   LOCATION, TOPOGRAPHY, AND CLIMATE
   Burma is the westernmost country in Mainland Southeast Asia, bounded on the west and northwest by India and Bangladesh, on the north and northeast by the People's Republic of China, and on the east and southeast by Laos and Thailand. To the southwest and south, Burma has an extensive seacoast, formed by the Bay of Bengal, the Gulf of Martaban (Mottama), and the Andaman Sea. Altogether, its land boundaries are 6,285 kilometers (3,906 miles) in length, the longest being with China and Thailand (2,227 kilometers/1,384 miles and 2,098 kilometers/1,304 miles, respectively); the border with Laos, 235 kilometers (146 miles) is formed by the deepwater channel of the Mekong River. India's border with Burma is 1,453 kilometers (903 miles) in length, while the Bangladesh-Burma border is 272 kilometers (169 miles) long. The country's coastline, extending from the mouth of the Naaf River in Arakan (Rakhine) State in the northwest to Kawthaung (formerly known as Victoria Point) in the south, is 2,228 kilometers (1,385 miles) in length. There are many coastal islands, including Ramree Island (Yanbye Kyun) off the Arakan coast and the Mergui (Myeik) Archipelago.
   The Union of Burma (Union of Myanmar) is the second largest country in the Southeast Asian region (the Republic of Indonesia being the largest), with an area of 676,581 square kilometers (261,228 square miles), including inland bodies of water as well as land. It is approximately the same size as the U.S. state of Texas and extends 2,052 kilometers (1,275 miles) in a north-south direction from several hundred miles north of the Tropic of Cancer to the Isthmus of Kra in the south (more than 18 degrees 59 minutes of latitude).
   In terms of physical environment, Burma can be divided into three zones, which have had distinct impacts on the human societies living within them: the coastal region, including the deltas of the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady), Sittang (Sittoung), and Salween (Thanlwin) Rivers and what is now Arakan (Rakhine) State; a central plain, bisected by the Irrawaddy River (which is Southeast Asia's second longest river); and upland and mountainous areas, which form the country's borders with India, China, Laos, and Thailand. The coastal and river delta regions, endowed with fertile and well-watered soils where paddy rice can be cultivated, have been home to organized states established since the early first millennium CE by Mons and Arakanese (Rakhines). The central plain was the original homeland of the Burmans (Bamars), the largest ethnic group in the country, who had expanded out from this region, which includes Pagan (Bagan), Mandalay, and most other Burman royal capitals, to impose permanent control over the Irrawaddy Delta and Arakan by the late 18th century. The upland and mountainous areas have been home to a large number of ethnic minority groups who, with the exception of the Shans (Tais) in eastern Burma, did not establish organized states or adopt Indo-Buddhist civilization, as had the Burmans, Mons, and Arakanese. Many upland minority groups living in the more remote areas were not brought under central government control until the late 19th or early 20th centuries, during the British colonial period; the remotest areas, such as the Wa region on the Burma-China border, remain effectively outside of central government control even today. Although Burmese states have had difficulty exerting their authority over the upland peoples, the "horseshoe" of mountains and hills where they live-which include the eastern spur of the Himalayas and the Chin Hills-have isolated and protected the country from domination and cultural assimilation by powerful neighboring states, especially those based in China or the Indian subcontinent. When the British subjugated Burma in three wars during the 19th century, their route of conquest was not across the mountains from northeastern India, but by sea to Rangoon (Yangon), where they established the center of their colonial administration in 1852, and north along the Irrawaddy River to the last royal capital at Mandalay, which fell to British forces in 1885. In a similar manner, the Arakan (Rakhine) Yoma (Arakan Mountain Range) protected the independent kingdom of Arakan from Burmese encroachments until the late 18th century.
   Burma's climate is dominated by the seasonal monsoons, and most parts of the country, with the exception of the extreme north and south, have three recognizable seasons: a hot, dry season, from March to May; a rainy season from May or June to October; and a cool, dry season from November to February. The rainy season is vital for agriculture (in terms of gross domestic product and labor force, the most important sector in the economy), since irrigated fields are not extensive and most crops are rain-fed. Because of the "rain shadow" formed by the Arakan Yoma, the Dry Zone in the central Irrawaddy Valley (the Burman heartland) has semidesert conditions. Traveling overland from Rangoon to Mandalay, one encounters prosperous villages with abundant harvests of rice, vegetables, and fruit in the south (since colonial times known as "Lower Burma"), while outside of irrigated districts most settlements in the arid central part of the country ("Upper Burma") are significantly poorer, dependent on harvests of peanuts, sesame seeds, sugar palm, and other dry climate crops.
   NATURAL RESOURCES
   As mentioned, Burma is richly endowed with natural resources. Apart from rice (Burma was the world's largest exporter of rice before World War II), they include petroleum, natural gas, tin, silver, lead, gold, and some of the world's largest, though rapidly diminishing, tropical forests, from which teak (tectona grandis) and other hardwoods are extracted. Fabled "pigeon blood" rubies are mined at Mogok in Mandalay Division, and the Hpakant mine in Kachin State yields the world's highestquality jade, which is especially valued in neighboring China. Since 1988, when the State Law and Order Restoration Council seized power and established an "open" economy, the military government and its business associates have generated large revenues from the export of raw materials, especially natural gas from offshore wells, forest products, and seafood. Until recently, however, probably the largest generator of hard currency was the export of opium and heroin from the "Golden Triangle" region of eastern Shan State to neighboring countries, though it is unclear what role the military government has played in this.
   ADMINISTRATION
   Burma is divided into 14 regional jurisdictions, seven divisions, and seven states: Rangoon (Yangon), Pegu (Bago), Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady), Magwe (Magway), Mandalay, Sagaing, and Tenasserim (Tanintharyi) Divisions; and Arakan (Rakhine), Chin, Karen (Kayin), Kayah (Karenni), Mon, Shan, and Kachin States. States and divisions are divided into townships (324 in number), and townships into (rural) village tracts and (urban) wards. These institutions existed during the 1962-1988 Ne Win period, but the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the present military government, has reintroduced another level of administration, the district (between the state/division and township levels), to strengthen central control. Districts, which played an important role in colonial-era administration, will probably be formalized in the new constitution that is being drafted under SPDC auspices by the National Convention, along with provisions for "autonomous regions" of some sort in ethnic minority areas. On all administrative levels except the lowest, Peace and Development Councils headed by military officers exercise executive authority, an arrangement that will continue until the much-promised transition to constitutional government is completed.
   POPULATION, ETHNICITY, AND SOCIETY
   No official census has been undertaken since 1983, when the population was enumerated at 35.3 million. During the opening years of the 21st century, the total population is estimated at between 48 and 50 million, though the U.S. government provided a much lower estimate of only 42.5 million in July 2003 (CIA World Factbook). Estimates of annual population growth also vary widely, from 0.52 percent to 1.7 percent. Only about a quarter of the population lives in urban areas, reflecting the relatively undeveloped industrial economy. But the former capital and largest city, Rangoon, had between 4.5 and 5 million people in 2005, making it a good example of a Southeast Asian-style "primate city": not only the largest city by far in terms of population, but also the undisputed center of political, administrative, and economic power. The second largest city is Mandalay, with an estimated population of 600,000-800,000. Burma's average population density, estimated by the government in 2000 at 74 persons per square kilometer (191 persons per square mile), is not especially high, and is exceeded by Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand.
   The ancestors of the modern Burmese came from various parts of what are now western/southwestern China and Tibet over the past two and a half millennia, to be joined by migrants from the Indian subcontinent and points west in recent centuries, especially during the British colonial era. Most of the indigenous peoples, including the Burmans (Bamars), Karens (Kayins), Kachins, and Chins, speak Tibeto-Burman languages, though there are significant communities of Tai-Kadai language speakers (the Shans or Tai) and groups who speak languages related to the Austroasiatic or Mon-Khmer group (such as Mons, Palaungs, and Was). Altogether, more than 100 indigenous languages are spoken in the country. Since colonial times, English has also been widely used, and Chinese is spoken in areas near the China-Burma border.
   Although Burma is one of Southeast Asia's most ethnically diverse countries, ethnic identity before the colonial era was not clearly defined or conceptualized. In dynastic times, the most salient social differences were between "civilized" lowlanders, such as the Burmans, Arakanese, Mons, and Shans, who cultivated paddy rice, lived in dynastic states, and shared a common Indo-Buddhist civilization (as reflected, for example, in written scripts and literatures derived from India, the popularity of the Jataka or birth-tales, Indian concepts of monarchy, and the high social status of the Buddhist monkhood or Sangha), and the preliterate upland peoples who lived in much simpler societies, practiced swidden (slash-and-burn) agriculture, and were usually animists (though lowlanders, through nat worship, also practiced forms of animism in tandem with Buddhism). For example, the Shans (Tai) of Keng Tung, an Indo-Buddhist state established in the late 13th century, looked upon the non-Buddhist Akha or Kaw, who lived in the surrounding hills, as dangerous and uncivilized outsiders.
   For reasons of administration and control as well as a zeal for scientific classification, the British colonialists in the 19th century promoted the image of Burma as a medley of diverse, colorful "races" who were described in loving detail (languages, customs, dress, physical appearance) by observers such as James George Scott. But the idea that the colonialists used rigid ethnic labels and ethnic minority nationalism to "divide and rule" a previously homogeneous (and harmonious) Burmese or Myanmar nation-a common assertion of the present military government-is at best an oversimplification. By the late 18th century, after the Konbaung Dynasty was founded, genuinely ethnic antagonisms had become quite intense, especially between the Burmans and Mons in Lower Burma, and between the Burmans and Arakanese in Arakan, conquered by the former in 1784-1785.
   The enforcement of rigid ethnic boundaries has also remained very much a fact of life in independent Burma, as reflected in a discriminatory Citizenship Law enacted by the Ne Win government in 1982 that made Burmese nationals of "nonindigenous" ancestry (mostly descendants of Indian, Chinese, and European migrants) second-class citizens, and by the fact that all Burmese are required to carry identification cards that disclose both their ethnic and religious identities. Official depictions of ethnic diversity focus on "exotic" dress, dance, and artifacts (much like the British colonialists), while giving the minorities little space in which to develop their own languages, cultures, and identities. Because ethnic identification is not a "racial" (genetic) phenomenon, but one dependent on self-definitions of culture, shared history, language, and social-political environment, defining Burma's contemporary ethnic situation is difficult. According to the 1983 census, there were 135 distinct ethnic groups in the country; some observers have suggested that this figure is more fancy than fact (1 + 3 + 5 adds up to 9, a numerologically auspicious number for Burma's former dictator, Ne Win). The Burmans (Bamars), the largest group, are estimated to constitute two-thirds of the population (about 33 million out of 50 million), but this probably includes many persons of Mon, Karen (Kayin), and other ancestry who have assimilated to the mainstream Burman language, customs, and culture, and most important, to Burmese Buddhism.
   According to Karen National Union sources, the Karen population, including related groups (such as the Padaungs and the Karennis), totals approximately 7 million, but Martin Smith writes that in the late 1980s the Burma Socialist Programme Party government estimated them at only 2 million; a "neutral" figure would probably be around 3 or 4 million Karens and related groups. According to Smith's estimates, found in his Burma: Insurgency and the Politics of Ethnicity, other major groups include the Shans and Mons, with around 4 million each; the Arakanese (Rakhines), with 2.5 million; the Chins with 2 or 3 million; the Kachins at 1.5 million; the Palaung and Wa, 1 to 2 million; and the Muslim Rohingyas of Arakan State, 1 to 2 million. Some ethnic groups are very small, such as the Mokens and Tarons, numbering only a few hundred or a few thousand.
   In terms of the distribution of wealth, income, and influence, Burma is one of Southeast Asia's most unequal societies, and people on the lower rungs of the social ladder, especially ethnic minorities living in the border areas, have among the lowest standards of living in Southeast Asia. Although the Ne Win or Burma Socialist Programme Party government (1962-1988) achieved some success in improving standards of health and education for the population as a whole, at least in the coastal/river delta and central plain regions where Burmans and other lowland groups lived, overall living standards declined in comparison with the parliamentary era (1948-1962). Post-1988 military regimes (the State Law and Order Restoration Council, and after 1997, the State Peace and Development Council) have promoted a ruthless brand of state capitalism that has undercut social welfare infrastructure. The single largest item of government expenditure is defense, more than 40 percent of total spending, while the SPDC has spent little on health and education and has been slow to respond to social emergencies such as heroin addiction and the rapid spread of AIDS. Hospitals are often so poorly supplied that patients have to buy their own medicines on the black market. Because food is increasingly expensive in an inflationary economy, malnutrition is widespread, especially among children in poorer communities. Although the military regime has made repeated verbal commitments to liberalize the domestic agricultural market, state procurement of rice and other staples from farmers has depressed rural standards of living, because official prices are artificially low. The military regime fears a repetition of the urban uprisings of 1988, which were in part inspired by inflation and food shortages, and has tried to ensure steady supplies of relatively cheap necessities for city dwellers. There has been some migration of unemployed or underemployed men and women from rural to urban areas, especially Rangoon, but their economic prospects in the city are limited because of stagnant foreign investment, international sanctions, and the lack of a consistent rule of law, which makes doing business highly risky for Burmese and foreigners alike. An important post-1988 migration pattern has been the influx of Han Chinese from neighboring Yunnan Province and elsewhere in China. In Upper Burma (the central plain) and in the areas on or near the Burma-China border, the new Chinese immigrants are increasingly important demographically as well as economically, as reflected in common Burmese complaints that Mandalay, the old royal capital and Buddhist center, has become one big "Chinatown." In this as in other areas, there are no reliable figures, but recent Chinese migrants in Burma probably number at least several tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands.
   SOCIAL STRATIFICATION
   As in other countries, social stratification in Burma is complex, but a few generalizations can be made. First, because top-ranking officers in the Tatmadaw (Burmese armed forces), including members of the SPDC junta, wield immense personal power and influence, they have substantial "private" control over economic resources, in large measure through the awarding of contracts and licenses; the generals stand in a patron-client relationship with the wealthiest business people, including black marketers and those persons, known euphemistically as "WaKokang entrepreneurs," who have made fortunes in the international drug trade. In a pattern that goes back at least to the Ne Win era (despite the pre-1988 government's commitment to "socialist democracy"), relations between military officers on all levels and black-market businesspeople have been close and symbiotic. Partial liberalization of the economy since 1988 has also fostered the emergence of a small but growing middle class in urban areas, though because of the lack of the rule of law they, too, are dependent on military patronage and often suffer when military patrons fall into disfavor. Because of the chronic weakness of the kyat, Burma's currency, people with regular access to hard currencies, especially U.S. dollars, enjoy great economic advantages. For the lower classes, especially in rural regions where Burmans predominate, a military career offers some opportunity for social mobility because Tatmadaw personnel have access to special stores, living quarters, schools, hospitals, and other facilities. The ranks of the armed forces have been expanded from 186,000 in 1988 to more than 400,000 in the early 21st century, meaning that there is greater need for new recruits. Another path of opportunity for a poor young man is to become a Buddhist monk, the Sangha (congregation of monks) being the most highly regarded group in Burmese society. Buddhists, who form around 89 percent of Burma's population, give generous offerings to the monks. Although monks are not allowed in principle to own property or handle money, dana (charitable donations to monks, or for pagoda projects) is believed to comprise a significant percentage of the nation's surplus wealth. Foreign visitors are often amazed at the magnificent gold adornments of pagodas and monasteries, while secular buildings and the houses of ordinary laypeople are usually simple and unadorned People at the bottom of the social ladder, who have little or no social capital (connections to powerful or influential persons, especially the military), include not only border-area ethnic minority villagers (though ethnic armed insurgencies have their own, often quite wealthy, elites, especially in drug-producing areas), many of whom have become "internal refugees," but also villagers in the poorer areas of the Dry Zone (prime recruiting ground for the Tatmadaw), and the urban unemployed or underemployed, such as day laborers, street vendors, and pedicab ("sidecar") drivers. Among the poorest people are those who were forcibly relocated after 1988 from the city centers of Rangoon and Mandalay to remote "new towns" on the outskirts, where employment opportunities are minimal.
   British colonial observers often claimed that Burmese women enjoyed freedom and social status approaching equality to men to an even greater degree than that of their European counterparts, but women outside of the wealthiest classes today are an especially vulnerable group. Poor women sometimes face horrifying choices, between letting their children starve or a life of prostitution. Some women become silashin, Buddhist devotees (sometimes described as Buddhist "nuns") and find refuge in a life devoted to spiritual ends.
   RELIGIOUS LIFE
   Theravada Buddhism remains at the core of Burma's national identity. Since the SLORC was established in September 1988, the new military government has made generous donations to members of the Sangha and sponsored ambitious pagoda construction projects, including replacement in 1999 of the hti (umbrella, or finial) on top of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, Burma's holiest Buddhist site. Despite the restiveness and occasional political activism of younger monks, the junta has largely succeeded in co-opting older or senior monks and uses pagoda projects as a means of asserting its legitimacy. For example, at the new White Stone Buddha complex in Insein Township, Rangoon, where a huge, 500-ton marble Buddha image is located, there are large color pictures showing the top SPDC generals venerating the image. But contemporary Burmese Buddhism is highly diverse and embraces many seemingly contradictory practices. Some Burmese undergo intensive meditation regimes (vipassana or insight meditation) at centers in Rangoon and elsewhere, which were founded by such teachers as the Mahasi Sayadaw or U Ba Khin, or have personal spiritual advisors to help them along the most austere paths to Enlightenment. Others, laypeople as well as monks, study the Pali Canon, and in a few cases even commit the entire body of scripture to memory (a project that can take up to 10 years). Yet Buddhism also merges with supernaturalism: astrology, alchemy, numerology, the study of omens, yedaya (preventive magic), nat (spirit) worship, and other phenomena regarded as outside of orthodox Buddhist teachings. Supernatural practices seem to reflect the atmosphere of fear and insecurity that pervades social life, for the military and business elites as well as ordinary people. Religious minorities are marginalized. This is especially true of Muslims, most of whom are descendants of South Asian immigrants who arrived in the country during the British period. There are tight restrictions on Muslim religious activities, especially in Arakan State, and post-1962 governments have apparently been involved in, or have encouraged, their persecution; for example, twice, in 1978 and 1991-1992, 200,000 to 300,000 Muslim Rohingyas fled to neighboring Bangladesh to escape army persecution in Arakan. Conditions for Burmese Christians, such as the large community of Karen Baptists who live in Rangoon, are generally better; for example, they are allowed to maintain some links to Christian churches outside the country. In many ethnic minority areas, especially where Karens, Kachins, and Chins live, the church, brought by missionaries in the 19th century, remains the core of educational, social, and spiritual life. But Christian activities are also limited by the state, which despite the lack of a constitutional provision making Buddhism the official religion has tended to act on the old notion "to be Burmese is to be Buddhist." In other words, non-Buddhists are a "Them" juxtaposed to a Buddhist "Us."
   HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT
   As mentioned, the peoples of Burma are descendants of migrants who came from other parts of the Asian continent. This occurred during a formative period lasting from around the last few centuries BCE to the early second millennium CE, though the migration has continued up to the present, as the settlement of Han Chinese in Upper Burma after 1988 attests. The first organized states in the early centuries CE, borrowing from Indo-Buddhist civilization, emerged in the coastal and river delta region, among the Mons and the Arakanese, who benefited from regional trade networks linking different communities along the Indian Ocean littoral. The Pyus, a people who entered the central plain at an indeterminate time, had dynastic states, a sophisticated material culture, and the practice of Buddhism and Hindu cults by the time Chinese records describe their state at Sri Ksetra (Thayekkhitaya, near modern Prome) in the seventh century. The Pyus were displaced, and probably absorbed, by the Burmans, who built a wall around the town of Pagan (Bagan) in 849 CE.
   Dynastic Burma
   From a Burman perspective, the country's history as a nation began with the reign of King Anawrahta (r. 1044-1077), founder of the Pagan (Bagan) Dynasty (1044-ca. 1325). He unified Upper and Lower Burma with the conquest of the Mon kingdom of Thaton in 1057 and brought its king, Manuha (described by some Burmese today as the country's "first political prisoner"); his family; and thousands of Mon monks, scholars, and artisans back to his royal capital. The Mons were to the Burmans what the Greeks were to the Romans, transmitters of a more sophisticated civilization, but the single greatest contribution of Anawrahta to Burma's evolving statehood was his recognition of Theravada Buddhism as the official religion, suppressing or subordinating other cults and establishing a close, symbiotic relationship between state and Sangha that continues, in much altered form, today. For this he depended on Mon monks, especially the revered Shin Arahan, for guidance. Physically, the most enduring legacy of the reign of Anawrahta and his successors are the several thousand pagodas, pahto (temples), and monasteries spread out across the Pagan plain-among the most impressive being the Ananda Temple, built by Kyanzittha (r. 1084-1113), and the Shwezigon Pagoda, built by Anawrahta and completed by Kyanzittha-which are recognized along with the Angkor ruins in Cambodia and the Borobudur temple in Java as the most outstanding monuments in the Southeast Asia region.
   By the early 14th century, the Pagan monarchy had come to an end, its decline impelled in part by the Mongol invasion of 1287. Centuries of unrest and confusion followed in Upper Burma, though a new Burman royal capital was established at Ava (Inwa) in 1364. For the Mons in Lower Burma and the Arakanese, however, the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries were a golden age, as witnessed by the reigns of King Razadarit (r. 1385-1423), Queen Shinsawbu (r. 1453-1472), and King Dhammazedi (r. 1472-1492) at Hanthawaddy (modern-day Pegu [Bago]), the last two being devout Buddhists who donated generously to the Shwe Dagon Pagoda; and King Min Bin (r. 1531-1553) at Mrauk-U, a cosmopolitan city that Portuguese voyagers described in glowing terms. Min Bin and his successors were perhaps unique among Burmese rulers in making full use of naval power, expanding Arakan's domains to include parts of present-day Bangladesh. North of the now-abandoned Arakanese capital is a complex of temples and pagodas, most notably the Shittaung (Sittaung) Temple, built in a style quite distinct from those of the Irrawaddy Valley.
   During the reigns of Kings Tabinshwehti (r. 1531-1550) and Bayinnaung (r. 1551-1581), the country was united under a new Burman royal house, the Toungoo Dynasty (1486-1752), which traced its origins to the town of the same name in the Sittang (Sittoung) River Valley. Bayinnaung was the consummate conqueror king, imposing his authority over the Shan States; the rival Siamese kingdom of Ayuthaya, whose capital he captured in the 1560s; and Laos. Upper and Lower Burma were united after Bayinnaung captured Ava in 1555, and the Toungoo Dynasty monarchs established their seat of power at the old Mon city of Hanthawaddy (Pegu), which became renowned among Southeast Asian capitals for its wealth and power. But Bayinnaung's death in 1581 signaled the dynasty's decline, and by century's end Lower Burma was in a state of turmoil due to invasions by the Arakanese and Siamese and civil war.
   However, the Toungoo Dynasty, restored, persisted until the mid18th century. A fateful development was the decision of King Thalun (r. 1629-1648) to move the capital from Pegu back to Ava in the central plain in 1635; its inland location cut off the Burman power center from seaborne foreign trade and cosmopolitan influences, encouraging an isolationist worldview that was especially strong during the subsequent Konbaung Dynasty (1752-1885).
   The Konbaung Dynasty was the third high tide of Burman imperial expansion. Alaungpaya, its founder (r. 1752-1760), ruthlessly crushed Mon and other rebel movements in Lower Burma and led an unsuccessful invasion of Siam; his son Hsinbyushin (r. 1763-1776) captured and pillaged Ayuthaya in 1767 and waged a successful campaign against Chinese attempts to impose suzerainty in the Shan States in 1766-1769; another of Alaungpaya's sons, Bodawpaya (r. 1782-1819), conquered the hitherto independent kingdom of Arakan in 1784-1785, launched numerous unsuccessful invasions of Siam, and promoted land surveys and expansion of irrigation in his kingdom. In his last years, however, he seems to have been afflicted with megalomania, as reflected in his construction of the massive Pagoda at Mingun on the Irrawaddy River (if completed, it would have been 170 meters high) and his claims to be a "Future Buddha," which the Sangha refused to recognize.
   The Colonial Period
   The British colonial occupation of Burma was accomplished in three operations during the 19th century: the so-called First, Second, and Third Anglo-Burmese Wars in 1824-1826, 1852, and 1885, respectively. British motivations for the occupation included the need to defend imperial possessions in India (the best defense being expansion, in the imperial mindset), first, from Burmese expansionism into what are now northeastern India-Assam and Manipur-and Bangladesh (the 1824-1826 war), and later from (perceived) French encroachments in Upper Burma (the 1885 war); the lure of Burma's abundant natural resources, especially minerals and forest products, and schemes to open up a southwest trade route from Burma into China's Yunnan Province that never came to fruition; and the alleged intransigence of the Konbaung kings, though King Mindon (r. 1853-1878), the most enlightened of his line, attempted, like his counterpart Mongkut in Siam, to promote friendly relations with Britain and modest internal reforms. On the eve of the third war, the British press portrayed Thibaw, dynastic Burma's last king (r. 1878-1885), as a liquor-sodden, Oriental Caligula. In fact, he was a weak and indecisive monarch, manipulated by his determined wife and only queen, Supayalat, and shortsighted court factions.
   Only the 1824-1826 operation was a war in the genuine sense, involving combat between British and Burmese forces in northeastern India and a British expeditionary force, which landed at Rangoon, fought numerous engagements in and around the city, and pushed its way up to Yandabo on the Irrawaddy River before imposing a treaty on King Bagyidaw (r. 1819-1837), who ceded Arakan and Tenasserim (Tanintharyi) to British control and recognized the states of northeastern India as lying within the British sphere of influence. The 1852 war, sparked by a minor dispute over indemnities and alleged mistreatment of British merchants, was a model episode of "gunboat diplomacy" that led to the annexation of Lower Burma, including Rangoon. This left the Konbaung kingdom as a rump, consisting of Upper Burma with loose control over border area tributaries. The 1885 war, whose immediate cause was a commercial dispute over forestry leases, reflected the British assumption that Burma's independence was a fiction, and that full colonial occupation was both progressive and inevitable. However, the fall of Mandalay in November 1885 and the British decision to abolish the monarchy stirred countrywide resistance. During 1885-1890, the British had to call in extra troops from India to carry out what became known as the "Pacification of Burma," a classic colonial war fought against rural guerrillas, often led by a minlaung, or pretenderking, who wished to restore the old dynasty or establish a new one. The British also imposed control over the upland ethnic minority areas, a more gradual process that continued into the early 20th century. For example, the Chin Hills were not fully under British control until after the 1917-1919 Anglo-Chin War.
   The British colonial occupation transformed Burmese society, though the impact of the transformation differed according to region and ethnic/ social group. Most fundamentally, the country was integrated into a globalized economic system that the British themselves dominated during the 19th and early 20th centuries. After Lower Burma was annexed in 1852, they encouraged Burmese migration from still-independent Upper Burma in order to develop an economy based on the cultivation and commercial export of rice. The settlement of the Irrawaddy Delta and the area around Rangoon, which had been depopulated by wars between Burmans and Mons in the previous century, was similar, in many ways, to the opening up of the American and Canadian West at roughly the same time: The government offered inducements to farmers and their families, built infrastructure for irrigation and transportation, and established a business-friendly legal regime that benefited large companies such as the Irrawaddy Flotilla and Steel Brothers and Company. By the close of the 19th century, this policy was a resounding success. Facilitated by advances in steamship technology and the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, shipments of Burmese rice reached global markets, and the country became the world's largest exporter of this staple, a status it enjoyed until World War II. As long as land remained plentiful and rice prices relatively high, Burmese farmers benefited, and a modest consumer economy developed in Lower Burma's villages. Other natural resources were thoroughly exploited. The British established a strict system of forest conservation that prevented reserves of teak and other tropical hardwoods from being depleted, a model for forestry in other countries. But forestry was dominated by large, foreignowned firms that had exclusive rights to exploit leaseholds from the government. Oil had been extracted from wells in central Burma since at least Konbaung times, but the British-owned Burmah Oil Company built modern wells at Yenangyaung (Yaynangyoung) and Chauk, and a refinery at Syriam (Thanlyin) near Rangoon. The Namtu-Bawdwin mines in the Shan States, operated by the Burma Corporation, were the world's largest source of lead, and one of the world's largest sources of silver, before World War II. Other profitable natural resources exported from Burma included tin, rubber, and gemstones.
   Thus, Burma developed into a classic colonial economy based on the export of raw materials, with only very modest industry and most manufactured goods being imported. This was also an economy dominated by foreigners. At its apex stood large, British- (or Scottish-) owned companies, such as the Irrawaddy Flotilla; while foreign Asians, mostly Indian but also Chinese, dominated its lower rungs as shopkeepers, craftsmen, laborers, and-perhaps most important-moneylenders, who provided Burmese farmers with the credit they needed to carry them through to harvest time. Most prominent among the moneylenders were the Chettiars from South India, who, as economic conditions deteriorated during the early 20th century, were bitterly resented by rural people.
   Rangoon, the provincial capital, was a symbol of the economic and ethnic contradictions of colonial society. In 1941, it had a population of half a million, and because of the colonial export trade was one of the most modern cities in Asia, though without the industrialism of Tokyo, Osaka, or Shanghai. But more than two-thirds of its population was non-Burmese, most of these being immigrants from British India (which also included modern Pakistan and Bangladesh), with smaller numbers of Chinese, Europeans, Eurasians (Anglo-Indians or AngloBurmese), Sephardic Jews, and Armenians. A majority of middle- and lower-level civil servants, police, and professionals (physicians, engineers, accountants) were Indians, and the central business district fronted by the Rangoon River was dominated demographically by foreign Asians. Throughout Lower Burma, Indian immigrants, including agricultural laborers who could be paid the cheapest of wages, were a growing percentage of the population, since migration from their South Asian homelands-which shared with Burma a common political jurisdiction as part of British India-was not only administratively unimpeded but also encouraged by business interests.
   This was what John S. Furnivall, a perceptive British observer of prewar Burma, called the "plural society"-an arrangement in which ethnic groups, both foreign and indigenous, not only carefully preserved their cultural, linguistic and religious identities (usually living in separate neighborhoods), but also interacted primarily in the marketplace and found themselves locked into an ethnically defined economic division of labor. In Burma, the pluralistic society tended to marginalize the indigenous peoples, especially the Buddhist Burmese. As economic conditions deteriorated in the early 20th century (reflected in falling prices for paddy rice paid to farmers and a high rate of foreclosure due to their inability to repay debts to moneylenders), the division of labor created clear economic winners and losers, who were ethnically defined. Naturally, a feeling of common citizenship or sense of identification with a national as opposed to an ethnic community was nonexistent. Conflict was inevitable.
   The plural society problem was eventually "solved" at great human and economic cost through the mass overland evacuations of Indians at the beginning of World War II and the nationalizations of the Burma Socialist Programme Party era (1962-1988), which bankrupted many of the remaining South Asians and forced them to return to their ancestral homelands. Following the anti-Chinese riots of June 1967, many Chinese also left the country. By the early 1970s, the foreign Asian population had dwindled in Rangoon and other parts of Lower Burma. However, geography, prejudice, and colonial policy conspired to create another problem that proved insurmountable after the country achieved independence in 1948: the deep political, social, and psychological rift between the peoples of the lowland areas, the coast, and central plain, which as mentioned were sites of Indo-Buddhist states since the early centuries CE, and the peoples of the upland and mountainous border areas, where social systems and religious institutions were less sophisticated and a subsistence economy prevailed. Colonial administrators institutionalized and perpetuated this division by placing the lowlands ("Burma Proper") and uplands (the "Frontier Areas," about 40-45 percent of Burma's total land area) under different systems of administration, though both were under the authority of the British governor.
   "Burma Proper" had a rationalized system of direct rule (as described below), which reflected its economic importance to the British and its integration into the global system; in the "Frontier Areas" was a system of indirect rule in which local rulers-Shan sawbwas, Kachin duwas, Chin ram-uk-were confirmed in their authority through treaties with the British government. These "feudal" elites enjoyed considerable autonomy, though British officials promoted law and order and kept a sharp eye out for foreign interlopers. With the exception of the Namtu-Bawdwin mines near Lashio in the Shan States, the Frontier Areas were economically undeveloped, and there was little or no infrastructure. The biggest cash crop was opium, grown and exported from the small state of Kokang on the China-Burma border. Educational and health facilities were poor, though Christian missionaries did much-needed work in this area, along with spreading the gospel among animist tribespeople.
   Upland minority peoples had few opportunities to associate with their fellow colonial subjects in the lowland areas, intensifying problems of communication and trust, the seriousness of which the British did not fully appreciate until after World War II. However, as mentioned, the alleged British policy of "divide and rule" has to be seen in a broader historical context: though conceived differently in different eras, inter-ethnic hostilities were nothing new at the time of the 1826 Treaty of Yandabo. In the words of an Arakanese writer, "the horse [of ethnic animosity] was saddled and ready; all the British had to do was ride it."
   The colonial armed forces were small, just a few thousand soldiers after World War I, but the great majority of them were border area people, especially Chins and Kachins, as well as Karens. Given their history of insurrection, Burmans were not considered trustworthy as soldiers. Karen-Burman relations, characterized by mutual suspicion if not hostility, posed special problems for national integration. Large numbers of them lived in the Irrawaddy Delta and Rangoon as well as in the remoter Burma-Thailand border region, and a vigorous ethnic consciousness emerged, with British encouragement, especially after the establishment of the Karen National Association by Christian leaders in 1881 (though only a minority of Karens were, and are, Christians; the others are Buddhists and animists). Of all the minority peoples, the Karens developed the strongest sense of their separate nationhood under British rule, as expressed in Sir San Crombie Po's classic Burma and the Karens (1928); they also had the greatest apprehensions about what their future would be in a postcolonial, Burman-dominated state.
   Administratively, Burma was a province of British India, which created further problems becausee conditions in the country were different from the caste-ridden subcontinent, and Indian laws and administrative practices were not always appropriate. In the lowland areas under the old kings, hereditary myothugyi ("circle chiefs") based in regional towns but with authority over adjoining villages played an important role in mediating between the central authorities and village communities, especially in matters of labor service and taxation. But the British abolished their posts in the late 1880s, regarding the myothugyi as untrustworthy, and redesigned local and regional administration in conformity with a rationalized, hierarchical model that often did not win the allegiance or cooperation of local people.
   There was a strong feeling among many Burmans that the British government, having sent King Thibaw into exile, was illegitimate. The self-government measures that the British introduced before World War II-the "dyarchy" reforms of 1923 and the Government of Burma Act of 1935, implemented in 1937-were generally met with indifference, skepticism, or hostility, as reflected in low voting rates for the legislative assembly and a vocal noncooperation movement. Constitutional reforms were not an expression of the popular will, but the result of decisions made in distant London that had little positive impact on people's everyday economic condition. Business interests remained dominant in the reformed legislatures.
   Burmese (or Burman) nationalism evolved steadily during the first three decades of the 20th century. Early movements focused on defense of the Buddhist religion, which was widely believed to be imperiled by the lack of state support (the colonial government was secular); official tolerance, though not active promotion of, Christian missionary activities; and the decline in popularity of traditional monastery schools (kyaung), as more and more Burmese, especially in the urban and upper strata, sought a modern education for their children. A Young Men's Buddhist Association (YMBA) was established in Arakan in 1902, and there was a branch in Rangoon four years later. Modeled on the YMCA, the YMBA soon spread nationwide and attracted reform-minded laypeople.
   The "shoe controversy"-the refusal of some European visitors to take off their footwear while visiting pagoda precincts, seen by Burmese Buddhists as a sign of disrespect-became a nationwide issue backed by the YMBA in 1916, and a learned monk, the Ledi Sayadaw, published an influential essay, On the Impropriety of Wearing Shoes on Pagoda Platforms. Public pressure finally forced the British to allow trustees to bar shoe-wearing visitors from entering pagoda premises. One of the most prominent early political figures was U Ottama, an Arakanese Buddhist monk who believed colonial rule had led to Burma's moral decline, and inspired thousands of young "political pongyis (monks)" in monasteries around the country. Their noisy demonstrations of opposition to the British presence were described rather unsympathetically by the writer George Orwell in his famous essay, "Shooting an Elephant." U Ottama and U Wisara, another prominent monk activist, spent much of the 1920s and 1930s in jail, and the latter died on a hunger strike there in 1929.
   Buddhism's-or rather, traditional, monastery-based Buddhism'spotential for inspiring nationalist resistance, however, was limited, because most of the senior monks were intensely conservative, and the younger ones, the political pongyis, remained largely outside of the new class of urban-based, secular-oriented intellectuals who increasingly took the initiative in political movements. In December 1920, college students conducted a strike in protest against the implementation of the Rangoon University Act, which established an elitist, British-style degree-granting institution designed to produce graduates who would enter the civil service and professions. Although the strike failed, the students and their sympathizers established "national schools" around the country that taught a Burmese curriculum; their most famous alumnus was independence leader Aung San, who studied at a national school in Yenangyaung (Yaynangyoung). It was these college and high school student activists, rather than mainstream politicians, who played a major role in confronting colonial rule and developing a tradition of revolutionary nationalism during the late 1930s.
   The year 1930 was an important turning point for several reasons. First, communal violence between Burmese and Indians broke out in Rangoon in May, with hundreds of fatalities, most of them Indians. The British authorities were unprepared for the mob attacks, which raged unchecked for two days. The incident revealed the depth of the ethnic/ communal divide, made worse by deteriorating economic conditions, and there were further outbreaks of communal violence throughout the 1930s. In the wake of the 1930 riots, urban intellectuals established the Dobama Asiayone ("We Burmans Association"), which became the most important political organization before World War II. Shaped by a surprising assortment of worldviews and ideologies, including MarxismLeninism, Fabian socialism, Gandhism, and fascism, the Dobama Asiayone, also known as the Thakin Party, became increasingly militant and played a prominent role in the Oilfield Workers' Strike of 1938. A third important development was the revolt led by Saya San, a native physician and former Buddhist monk, which broke out in Tharrawaddy District north of Rangoon in December but soon spread to both Upper and Lower Burma. Though it was largely suppressed by the British the following year (Saya San was captured in the Shan States, and executed in November 1931), his tattooed peasant soldiers won the admiration of the people, even if their worldview was judged too traditionalist by Burmese with a modern education.
   Students again became prominent in the nationalist movement when radical leaders were elected to the Rangoon University Students' Union (RUSU) in 1935. Maung Nu (later U Nu) became its president and Aung San a member of RUSU's executive committee and editor of its magazine, Oway. The two were expelled from the university in early 1936 because of the publication in Oway of an article deemed offensive by the school authorities. Following a strike by students during February-May of that year, they were reinstated, and they then established a nationwide student organization known as the All Burma Students' Union (ABSU). This brought the young leaders to national prominence. In 1937-1938, both Nu and Aung San became members of the Dobama Asiayone, and the latter, serving as secretary general of the Thakin Party, joined with the Sinyetha Party of Dr. Ba Maw, a former prime minister and prominent mainstream politician, to form the Freedom Bloc after the outbreak of the war in Europe. The Freedom Bloc demanded self-rule, but the Churchill government, preoccupied with the threat of Nazi Germany, refused in any way to accommodate Burmese national aspirations.
   The Japanese Occupation, 1941-1945
   World War II and the 1942-1945 Japanese occupation were formative historical experiences, which transformed the country almost as fundamentally as the colonial occupation. First, the war provided Burmese (or Burman) nationalism with an epic myth: Aung San's secret departure from the country with a fellow Thakin in August 1940, his contact with Japanese agents in the Chinese port city of Amoy (Xiamen), and his fateful journey to Tokyo, where he agreed, with many misgivings, to cooperate with the Japanese military in exchange for their backing of the independence movement. With the support of Colonel Suzuki Keiji, head of the clandestine Minami Kikan (Minami Organ), he returned to Burma and recruited members of the Thakin Party to be smuggled out of the country. These men, along with Aung San and his original companion in Amoy, were the Thirty Comrades, who received military training from the Minami Kikan on the island of Hainan and formed the nucleus of the Burma Independence Army (BIA), which was established in Bangkok on December 28, 1941, after the outbreak of the Pacific War on December 8. The BIA, whose commander was Suzuki (who assumed the nom de guerre Bo Mogyo, the "Commander Thunderbolt" of Burmese legend), served as an auxiliary to the Japanese Army when it invaded Burma at the end of 1941. Poorly organized, composed of thousands of inexperienced young nationalists who joined its ranks and not a few village bullies, it could claim little credit for defeating the British. But its psychological impact on the Burmese was immense: For the first time since 1885, there was a Burman army commanded by heroic young patriots. As the Japanese invasion progressed, the BIA also established provisional administrations in liberated areas. Official historiography in Burma dates the history of the Tatmadaw, the present-day armed forces, from the BIA's establishment.
   The principal Japanese objective in occupying Burma was to cut off the Burma Road, which was the sole route by means of which the British and Americans provided material support for Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jyeshi) at his wartime capital of Chungking (Chongqing); they hoped the cut-off would force Chiang to accept a resolution of the "China Incident" (the Sino-Japanese War) favorable to themselves. The Japanese war effort also required the raw materials that Burma could supply, especially rice and petroleum. The invasion began from bases in Thailand, formally Japan's ally, in December 1941, and the entire country, with the exception of the most remote Frontier Areas, was occupied by mid-1942; Rangoon fell in March, Mandalay in May, and Lashio, the northernmost point of rail links with the port of Rangoon and the starting point of the Burma Road to the Chinese border, in the same month. British commander General William Slim ordered a strategic retreat into India; the spectacle of the British giving way before the Japanese onslaught did little for the colonial rulers' prestige, but it kept Slim's forces largely intact for the reoccupation of Burma in 1944-1945. Although Suzuki, a Lawrence of Arabia-type figure, was sympathetic to the Thirty Comrades' longing for independence, the regular Japanese military had other ideas: Burma was of value only insofar as it could be exploited for raw materials and manpower and could be used as a jumping-off point for an invasion of India. When Moulmein (Mawlamyine) fell in early 1942, the Japanese established a military administration that would administer all occupied areas, rather than granting the country immediate independence. This was the first of many disappointments for the Thakins, most of whom had leftist sympathies and were unenthusiastic about collaborating with "fascist Japan." By 1944, a small circle of Thakins, including Aung San and Than Tun (who later led the Communist Party of Burma), had established the underground Anti-Fascist Organization to plan an uprising against the Japanese in coordination with Allied operations.
   The military administration ran the country until August 1, 1943, when Premier Tojo Hideki proclaimed Burma's independence as a member of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (Dai To-a Kyo-ei Ken). Dr. Ba Maw was appointed Nain-ngandaw Adipadi (head of state) in a regime that he described as "totalitarian" in nature. But Burma's independence was fictional, and the more arrogant Japanese officers treated its highest officials, including Ba Maw and Foreign Minister Thakin Nu, with barely disguised contempt.
   But under both the military administration and Ba Maw's "independent" state, space was opened up within which Burmese could organize socially, politically, and even militarily. Japanese-sponsored groups, such as the East Asia Youth League and civil defense groups established by Ba Maw provided valuable leadership and organizational experience for young nationalists, but the most important institution to grow out of the Japanese occupation was the army. The BIA was dissolved in July 1942 and replaced by a smaller but more rationally structured Burma Defence Army (BDA), whose commander was Aung San. Following independence in 1943, the BDA was transformed into the Burma National Army (BNA). Aung San became a member of Ba Maw's cabinet as war minister, and Ne Win was appointed BNA commander. An officers' training school was established at Mingaladon, north of Rangoon, and a number of promising young men were sent off to Japan for training in military academies.
   For the Burmans, wartime memories of the Japanese were not as bitter as in many neighboring countries, but the Kempeitai, the military police, carried out a reign of terror, arresting, torturing, and killing suspected communists or Allied agents. An estimated 100,000 Asians, including Burmese, died as forced laborers during construction of the notorious Thai-Burma Railway. The war also had an immense impact on the ethnic minorities, especially the Karens. During the opening months of the war, Karen soldiers fought alongside the British; after their defeat, they were demobilized. Returning to their homes in the Irrawaddy Delta, they became involved in armed clashes with BIA men, which led to a race war: Hundreds of villages were burned, and Karens, including women and children, were massacred, especially in Myaungmya (Myoungmya) district. The experience taught the Karens never to trust the Burmans, although both Aung San and Ba Maw tried to improve relations. There was also mob violence in early 1942 between Buddhist Arakanese and Muslims in Arakan. In the Frontier Areas, Kachin, Chin, Naga, and other "hill tribe" soldiers fought on the British side, and the isolation of their homelands was lost forever; after the war, some of these veterans, especially Kachins, began armed resistance against the central government.
   Following the disastrous Japanese Imphal Campaign into northeastern India in March-June 1944, which bled their forces white, the Allies began their offensives into northwestern and central Burma. On March 27, 1945, Aung San ordered the BNA to rise up against the Japanesea pivotal event in official historiography that is now commemorated as Armed Forces Day (or Resistance Day). For the Tatmadaw, it is a matter of great pride that its earliest recruits fought not only the "British colonialists," but also the "Japanese fascists." By May 1945, the Allies had recaptured Rangoon, and Japanese forces were in full retreat toward the Thai border.
   The Achievement of Independence, 1945-1948
   Although the British had retaken Burma, the climate of opinion in the country at war's end, especially among the politically mobilized Burmans, was such that the colonial status quo ante could never be restored. But if the initial Japanese victory had shattered the myth of European invincibility and drawn down the curtain on Burma's colonial era, the war also left the country in a terrible shambles. During their retreat from the country in 1942, the British carried out a "policy of denial," destroying vital infrastructure, such as the Syriam oil refinery and most Irrawaddy Flotilla riverboats. The economy was further devastated during the 1944-1945 Allied offensives, the largest land operations in the Pacific War. Wartime communal violence had inflamed ethnic hostilities, especially among the Karens, whose most prominent leaders were dead set against any political arrangement that included integration with Burma. Pocket armies sprang up everywhere, and communist guerrillas were numerous and well organized. Both in central Burma and the Frontier Areas, it was men with guns, rather than officials or politicians, who determined the country's future. Had the war never taken place, or if the Japanese had not occupied the country, that future would most certainly have been more benign.
   The prewar political establishment had been largely discredited (including Ba Maw, who was briefly imprisoned by the Allies in Tokyo), and the country's fate was increasingly caught up with the career of Aung San, who as commander of the Patriotic Burmese Forces (PBF), as the BNA was renamed after it joined with Allied forces in fighting the Japanese, enjoyed immense popularity. Only 30 years old at war's end, Aung San was considered a collaborationist by some British officials but had made a very positive impression on field commanders (including General Slim) and Lord Louis Mountbatten, head of the SouthEast Asia Command, who at a September 1945 conference at Kandy, Sri Lanka, offered him command of the postwar Burma Army. He declined, saying he intended to devote himself to politics. Aung San was president of the country's most popular and effective political organization, the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League (AFPFL), which had grown out of the wartime Anti-Fascist Organization. It was a broad united front that included communist and noncommunist labor unions, peasant associations, women's and youth groups, and ethnic organizations representing Arakanese, Karens, and Shans, with a total membership of around 200,000. In December 1945, the AFPFL established its own paramilitary force, the People's Volunteer Organization (PVO), composed largely of BNA and PBF veterans.
   Between late 1945 and early 1947, Burma was on the verge of civil war. The prewar British governor, Reginald Dorman-Smith, reassumed his post; he regarded Aung San as untrustworthy and sought to reinstate the old politicians, especially U Saw, a personal friend, brought back from East Africa, where he had been interned for attempting to make contact with the Japanese in 1941 (a fact of some relevance to British charges that Aung San had been a traitor). But Dorman-Smith was replaced by Hubert Rance, a military officer close to Mountbatten who was willing to take a more flexible approach to the AFPFL. In London, a new Labour government, headed by Clement Attlee, was committed to decolonization. Aung San, moreover, had serious disputes with the communists, which led to their expulsion from the League in 1946; as the Cold War heated up, his newly apparent anticommunist credentials enhanced his credibility as a leader in the eyes of the West. In December 1946, Attlee invited a Burmese delegation, headed by Aung San, to come to London to negotiate a final political settlement. On January 27, 1947, the Aung San-Attlee Agreement was signed, committing the parties to full independence for Burma within a year, national elections within four months, and British economic aid. When Constituent Assembly elections were held in April 1947, the AFPFL won 173 out of 182 seats contested, outside of those reserved for ethnic minorities. The London agreement also called for integration of the Frontier Areas with Burma Proper, which proved to be an intractable, "no-win" issue. A Karen Goodwill Mission had gone to London in 1946 to argue for an independent "Karen country," including large areas of Pegu and Tenasserim Divisions, but it was ignored by the Clement Attlee government. H. N. C. Stevenson, director of the Frontier Areas Administration, proposed an arrangement, the United Frontier Union, through which the border peoples would be included in a single administrative entity, separate from Burma Proper and under some form of British tutelage. This the AFPFL adamantly opposed. For Burman nationalists, the integration of Burma Proper and the minority peoples, an end to "divide and rule," was a non-negotiable demand; because of the impending independence of India, London did not have the Indian Army at its disposal to handle civil unrest and was in no position to disagree. Fortunately, Aung San, essentially a modern-minded man who, unlike many of his military successors, had no feelings of nostalgia for old Burman conqueror-kings, was willing to be open-minded in responding to the concerns of Frontier Area communities. At a conference held at Panglong in Shan State on February 7-12, 1947, he and Shan, Kachin, and Chin leaders reached a consensus on guarantees of equality and full citizen rights for Frontier Area peoples, including the principle that "if Burma receives one kyat, you will also get one kyat"-referring to past economic neglect of the upland areas. These commitments were embodied in the 1947 Constitution, which established a semifederal system with special ethnic minority states. But the most important Karen organization, the Karen National Union, adopted a policy of determined noncooperation with the AFPFL, and smaller border area groups, such as the Was and Karennis, had not been represented at Panglong. On the morning of July 19, 1947, gunmen acting on the orders of U Saw entered the Secretariat Building in downtown Rangoon and assassinated Aung San and members of his cabinet, the Executive Council, an event observed in Burma today as Martyrs' Day. This irrational act (U Saw had apparently convinced himself that with Aung San dead, the British would appoint him head of the interim government, enabling him to achieve his ambition of becoming prime minister) was a terrible national tragedy, reflecting the violence that had become endemic in the country during and after the war and removing the one Burman leader who had won the trust of the minorities. Aung San's words-"It will not be feasible for us to set up a Unitary State. We must set up a Union with properly regulated provisions as should be made to safeguard the rights of the National Minorities. We must take care that 'United we stand' not 'United we fall'."-proved prophetic as the country settled into a tragic pattern of military-promoted Burman chauvinism and border area insurgency, especially after 1962.
   After the assassination, Governor Rance appointed U Nu as Aung San's successor. (U Saw and his accomplices were arrested, tried, and executed the following year.) When Burma became independent from British rule on January 4, 1948, U Nu became the country's first prime minister.
   The Parliamentary Period, 1948-1962
   Almost immediately following independence, U Nu's government was beset by "multicolored" insurgencies: On March 28, the mainstream of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB), led by Thakin Than Tun and known as the "White Flags," went underground (Thakin Soe's "Red Flag" communists had started their revolutionary struggle in 1946, based in the Arakan Yoma and the Irrawaddy Delta); they were joined by the "White Band" faction of the People's Volunteer Organization in late July. Communists and their sympathizers occupied key points in the Pegu Yoma and the Sittang Valley, and party cadres began land redistribution at Pyinmana in what is now Mandalay Division. The government's already-desperate situation worsened when Karen units of the Burma Army, who along with the Kachin units had been indispensable in fighting the communists, mutinied in January 1949; bitter fighting broke out between the rump of the armed forces still loyal to U Nu and the Karen National Defence Organization (KNDO) at Insein, just north of Rangoon, and combined CPB and KNDO forces captured Mandalay in March. These were the days of the "six-mile U Nu government," when the central authorities controlled little territory outside of central Rangoon. The Karen National Union, bitter over the Attlee government's desertion of them in 1947, had not succeeded in getting satisfactory terms on a separate state from U Nu's government and was willing to carve it out by force.
   In mid-1949, the tide began to turn in favor of the government as rebel-held cities and towns in central Burma, including Mandalay, were recaptured. The following year, the army captured the Karen "capital" at Toungoo, and the KNDO was driven across the Salween River to its east bank. But the "multicolored insurgencies" left an indelible mark on Burmese politics. Following the KNU/KNDO uprising in January 1949, armed forces commander General Smith Dun and fellow Karen officers were obliged to retire; most Karen and other ethnic minority troops had gone over to the rebels. The great majority of officers and men who remained loyal to the government were Burmans, commanded by General Ne Win, Smith Dun's successor. Thus, the mixed, multiethnic army established by the British in 1945 was in rather short order replaced by a monoethnic, Burman one, especially on the command level. Moreover, Ne Win mobilized Burman sitwundan, local militias or territorial armies, to fight the rebels in central Burma and to defend the capital. During the 1950s, Ne Win and his fellow officers carried out both "Burmanization" of the Tatmadaw and its development as an autonomous political force. Because Prime Minister U Nu depended on the army for his government's survival, he was in no position to curb its growing power as a "state within a state." This was especially true after the country faced a new crisis: the 1950 incursion of Kuomintang (Guomindang) troops into the hills around Keng Tung in Shan State where, with American aid, they attempted to carry out military operations against the Chinese Communists in Yunnan Province. By 1953, they and their Shan auxiliaries numbered 12,000 and had become deeply involved in the local opium trade. Shan State, which had largely escaped the devastation of war in 1941-1945, became Burma's major battlefield. More than 80 percent of government troops were sent to fight there, and Shan civilians suffered from harsh army pacification measures.
   During 1948-1958, Burma had parliamentary government. In the elections of 1951-1952 and 1956, the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League won solid majorities. Democratic freedoms, including freedom of the press (there were 56 newspapers, in Burmese and other languages), were largely respected, despite the countrywide insurrections. Under the 1947 Constitution, ethnic minority states for the Kachins, Shans, Karennis, and (after 1952) Karens had their own legislatures, but relations between the states and the central government were "federal in theory but unitary in practice." By the late 1950s, movements for a more genuine federal system emerged among Shan and other minority leaders.
   U Nu was a socialist, though not a Marxist, and the economy was a mixed one, including state-owned enterprises and private firms, though the principal foreign-owned firms, such as Burmah Oil and Steel Brothers, were obliged to enter into joint ventures with the government. Land reform was carried out in rural areas, and large, absentee-owned estates were declared illegal. The prime minister's foreign policy was based on the principles of neutrality and nonalignment: Burma was the first noncommunist state to recognize the People's Republic of China in 1949, but it also had amicable relations with Western countries and Japan, though U.S. support for the Kuomintang intruders in Shan State caused a crisis in Rangoon-Washington relations. Burma received significant amounts of official development assistance (ODA), especially from Japan in the form of war reparations, but also from Western countries and the Soviet Union.
   The failure of democracy in Burma following its brief flourishing in the 1950s is often attributed to the overweening ambition of Ne Win, who, assisted by able advisors, such as Brigadier Aung Gyi, transformed the Tatmadaw into a modern armed force, promoted strong "nationbuilding" consciousness among its officers (despite the army's politically neutral image), and presided over the emergence of a militaryowned economic empire, the Defence Services Institute, which provided it with ample funds outside of official budgets. Long before Ne Win's coup d'état in March 1962, the top ranks of the army were controlled by his cronies-especially those who had served under him in the Fourth Burma Rifles. Organizationally, the Tatmadaw was also becoming increasingly independent of civilian control. But a stronger and more stable parliamentary government might have been able to keep the army in its place. As things were, the Burmese political class was afflicted with corruption and factionalism. In early 1958, the AFPFL split into two factions: the "Clean AFPFL" loyal to U Nu, and the larger "Stable AFPFL," which supported Socialist Party leaders U Ba Swe and U Kyaw Nyein. Both factions had armed supporters outside the regular army: The Stable AFPFL commanded the allegiance of the Auxiliary Union Military Police, a paramilitary force, and the "peace guerrillas" of the All-Burma Peasants' Organization were loyal to an associate of U Nu. The 1958 factional split caused a crisis on the local and national levels, because local political bosses and their armed followers were aligned with one group or another. Burma seemed again to be veering toward civil war.
   On October 28, 1958, U Nu proposed in parliament that General Ne Win be asked to head a "Caretaker Government," which would hold general elections in six months after restoring stability. Ne Win arrested politicians, stepped up the suppression of insurgencies, evicted urban squatters to remote "new towns," and promoted efficiency in the civil service. Middle-class Burmese were in some measure relieved by Ne Win's determination to impose stability in a top-down manner. But from the perspective of history, the Caretaker Government period, which was extended beyond the original six months in order to complete its tasks, was a dress rehearsal not only for the Revolutionary Council established by Ne Win in March 1962, but for the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), which seized power in September 1988. The Defence Services Institute expanded its control over vital economic sectors. Military officers were seconded to the civil service, where they wielded considerable power, although they were not professionally qualified. The Tatmadaw established a nationwide, local-level civic organization, the National Solidarity Association, which anticipated the mass organizations of the Burma Socialist Programme Party era (1962-1988) and the post-1988 SLORC's Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA).
   The promised election was held in February 1960, and U Nu's "Clean" faction won a landslide victory. Forming a new government in April, he reorganized his followers as the Pyidaungsu (Union) Party. Many voters had been won over by his promise to make Buddhism the state religion. That issue, and the issue of federalism, were major preoccupations during his two years in power. In his later years, U Nu had become a devout Buddhist, and sponsored the Sixth Great Buddhist Council during 1954-1956 to celebrate the 2,500-year anniversary of Gotama Buddha's attainment of nibbana (nirvana). But his proposed constitutional amendment to give the religion official status opened a Pandora's box of problems: Because it was widely popular among ordinary Burmese, the more militant members of the Sangha wanted to use it to curb Muslim and Christian religious activities, which the tolerant U Nu resisted. Ethnic minority leaders, especially among the Kachins, most of whom were Christian, were deeply troubled, worried that the end of Burma's commitment to secularism would marginalize their communities. However, the amendment was passed on August 26, 1961.
   The First Military Government, 1962-1988
   As mentioned, Tatmadaw operations in Shan State against the Kuomintang had caused great hardship for local people. The traditional rulers, the sawbwas, had been powerless to stop the worst army abuses even before they formally relinquished their traditional authority in 1959. Shan disaffection with the army and the central government was growing, and in November of the same year, Shan rebels captured the garrison town of Tangyan. Independent Burma's first president, Sao Shwe Taik, former sawbwa of the western Shan State of Yawnghwe, brought together Shan and other ethnic minority leaders at Taunggyi in June 1961 to propose constitutional changes to give the states greater autonomy. Out of this grew the Federal Movement, an essentially elite-centered and moderate initiative that U Nu recognized by sponsoring a Nationalities' Seminar in Rangoon to discuss constitutional proposals in February 1962. The Seminar was still in progress when, on March 2, 1962, Tatmadaw units seized strategic positions in the capital; arrested U Nu, other politicians, and minority leaders attending the seminar; and proclaimed a Revolutionary Council (RC) under the chairmanship of General Ne Win. The 1947 Constitution was suspended and parliament dissolved. Burma's short experiment with parliamentary government was over.
   Ne Win framed his reasons for overthrowing U Nu's government in terms of the extreme demands of the Federal Movement (though, in fact, as mentioned, it called for only moderate constitutional change) and the turmoil caused by the prime minister's amendment making Buddhism the state religion. It was claimed these phenomena imperiled national unity, a persistent theme in the legitimizing of Burmese military regimes in later years. But he and his fellow officers, men of brigadier or colonel rank who formed the 17-member Revolutionary Council (RC), also had ambitions to remake Burmese society: to replace "parliamentary democracy" with "socialist democracy." In "The Burmese Way to Socialism," a policy statement published by the RC on April 3, 1962, they expressed their commitment to building a socialist economy in which there would be scientific planning to fully utilize "all the national productive forces" and an end to "the exploitation of man by man." "Socialist democracy" referred to the creation of a workers' state in which "mass and class organizations" would uphold the new political order; the debt to the Soviet model was evident, though it was only in February 1963, when Brigadier Aung Gyi, considered an economic pragmatist, was removed from the RC, that it became apparent that this model would be rigidly applied.
   On July 4, 1962, the RC established its own party, the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP, or Lanzin Party), which became the only legal political party in March 1964 following decree of the Law to Protect National Solidarity. Over the next few years, Ne Win's martial law government devoted considerable resources to "party building," converting the BSPP from a small elite group, a "cadre party," into a "mass party" with hundreds of thousands of full and candidate party members, which held its first Congress in June-July 1971.
   The highest ranks of the BSPP were filled with military officers, active or retired, and the military also controlled the public administration through the Security and Administration Committees (SACs), which replaced regional (state and division) and local administrative bodies that had functioned under the 1947 Constitution. At the apex of this militarycontrolled hierarchy was the Central Security and Administration Committee in Rangoon, directly responsible to the RC. During the BSPP era, administration came increasingly into the hands of untrained and often poorly educated Tatmadaw men rather than professionally trained civil servants or technocrats, with disastrous consequences for the quality of governance. This was a continuation of the trend initiated during the Caretaker Government period.
   Although Ne Win's "revolution" was built upon a Soviet-style power structure, it lacked the totalitarian aspirations of Stalin, Mao Zedong, or Pol Pot: to fundamentally transform society. No attempt was made to collectivize agriculture, which in the history of both Russia and China had caused the most violent "class struggle," with millions of deaths. All land in principle was owned by the state, but family farmers were allowed to retain and cultivate their plots (though low state prices, especially for rice, depressed rural standards of living and created a flourishing black market). Ne Win attempted to assert state control over the sometimes unruly Sangha, but unlike Stalin or Mao, he was not antireligious; by the 1980s, he had fitted himself into the role of a traditional pagoda-building king, sponsoring construction of the Maha Wizaya Pagoda, adjacent to the Shwe Dagon in Rangoon. Thus, Burma was spared a "cultural revolution" aimed at destroying its traditional values and cultural heritage. Furthermore, Ne Win did not attempt to create a personality cult centered on himself, like Mao or North Korea's Kim Il Sung, though his rule was highly personal and often arbitrary, misinformed, and swayed by bad temper and astrological predictions. The official ideology was considerably expanded through publication in 1963 of a long treatise, The System of Correlation of Man and His Environment, which was socialist but non-Marxist, with Buddhist metaphysical elements and a dash of humanism as expressed in the aphorism, "man matters most."
   But dissent was systematically repressed. The state took over control of the media, and private newspapers, like The Nation, were closed down. All books and magazines were subject to censorship by the Press Scrutiny Board (PSB), which, according to 1975 guidelines, prohibited publication of items deemed "harmful to national solidarity and unity." This forced publishers to exercise self-censorship, which had a suffocating effect on Burmese literature. In late April 1965, 92 Buddhist monks were arrested for opposing a government plan to establish a nationwide Sangha organization and issue identity cards for monks. But outside of military operations against ethnic and communist insurgents, the state took its harshest measures against student activists. On July 7, 1962, University of Rangoon students demonstrated over campus issues, and Tatmadaw troops were ordered to fire on them point-blank; according to official figures, 15 students were killed, though the actual number may have been in the hundreds. Early in the morning on the following day, troops blew up the historic Rangoon University Students Union building, allegedly on orders from Ne Win.
   The mid- and late 1960s witnessed a wave of nationalizations affecting enterprises large and small, domestic and foreign. In October 1963, the RC decreed the Enterprises Nationalization Law, which gave the government the authority to take over any company. By the end of the decade, some 15,000 enterprises had passed from private to state hands, including those owned by South Asian businesspeople, tens of thousands of whom were bankrupted and forced to leave the country, causing a brief diplomatic crisis with India. The anti-Chinese riots of June 1967 drove out many overseas Chinese entrepreneurs. Thus, the economic history of post-1962 Burma resembled that of Uganda, where the dictator Idi Amin expelled the Indian business class, rather than Thailand, Indonesia, or Malaysia, where nonindigenous Asians contributed tremendously to economic growth. The lively shops and bazaars that typify Southeast Asian commercial spaces were not entirely eliminated; but in the "official" economy, retail trade was dominated by branches of the state-owned People's Stores Corporation, which became synonymous for poor service and empty shelves. By 1970, Rangoon, once one of Southeast Asia's most sophisticated cities, had become dreary and threadbare.
   Socialist policy emphasized import substitution-the development of a domestic industrial economy to overcome the contradictions of colonial dependency-including the operation of a steel mill, but in 1971 the first congress of the ruling party adopted a comprehensive "Long Term and Short Term Economic Policies of the BSPP" that outlined a 20-year plan and shifted emphasis from industry to the export of agricultural commodities, a wise move because this was still Burma's strongest sector. Yet agriculture was afflicted by low state prices for staple goods, an inefficient, state-run distribution system, and the vagaries of the yearly monsoon cycle. Farmers sought to boost their sagging incomes by holding back as much of their harvest as possible and selling it on the black market. Consumers, especially in urban areas, began experiencing food shortages for the first time in the country's modern history. These shortages, coupled with inflation that reflected growing economic irrationalities, led to urban unrest, beginning in 1967 with the anti-Chinese riots.
   Economic reform, frequently promised by Ne Win, amounted to little more than tinkering because he and his military colleagues refused to abandon the belief that state initiatives rather than market forces should determine the economy's direction. Although introduction of high-yield varieties of rice in the mid-1970s was the major factor in impressive economic growth at that time, such growth could not be sustained. At all times, the black market overshadowed the official economy in dynamism and sometimes size. It took various forms: Apart from the underground trade in rice and other necessities, military officers and BSPP cadres, having privileged access to goods at low "official" prices, sold them at a huge profit to black market entrepreneurs, supplementing their meager salaries. There was also large-scale trade on the country's borders, especially with Thailand. Karen and Mon insurgents controlled border trading posts, especially at Three Pagodas Pass, where consumer goods destined for the domestic market entered and raw materials from Burma were exported. Aprofitable economy based on the export of opiates took root in Shan and Kachin States, involving a bewildering array of shady characters, from local warlords such as Olive Yang, "war lady" of Kokang, and the Shan-Chinese Khun Sa, to Kuomintang veterans who had forsaken the fight against communism in the search for quick profits, and an international network of drug dealers who imported the drugs from the "Golden Triangle" to Thailand and beyond.
   By the late 1970s, Burma had partially modified its policy of economic self-reliance and was receiving hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars in the form of ODA, mostly from Japan and West Germany but also from other Western countries and multilateral lenders such as the Asian Development Bank. Much of this aid was predicated on promises of economic reform that failed to materialize. Ne Win accepted such aid, mostly in the form of concessional loans, reluctantly, but apparently thought it a relatively risk-free source of investment that would keep his regime afloat.
   During 1962-1988, Burma's foreign policy remained committed to nonalignment and promoting friendly relations, if possible, with all countries. The single greatest diplomatic crisis came in the aftermath of the 1967 anti-Chinese riots. Beijing, radicalized by the Cultural Revolution and indignant over the death of a Chinese embassy official at the hands of a Rangoon mob, recalled its ambassador. The Chinese media called for the overthrow of Ne Win's "fascist" regime. In January 1968, several hundred troops of the Communist Party of Burma, led by Kachin commander Naw Seng, crossed the border and established a "liberated area" in northeastern Shan State, which soon became the center of the largest, best-equipped, and best-organized insurgency fighting the central government. Generously backed by China, the CPB's People's Army had as many as 15,000 mostly ethnic minority soldiers and occupied extensive territories, including the opium-rich Wa states and Kokang. Although Rangoon-Beijing relations were normalized by 1971, the CPB's northeastern command remained a thorn in the side of the Burmese government until its collapse in 1989.
   A second theme of Ne Win's foreign policy was isolationism. Cultural and educational relations with Western countries were severed, including student and faculty exchanges under the U.S. Fulbright Program; the educational curriculum on all levels was "Burmanized" (meaning that learning English was downgraded); and foreign missionaries were expelled, their schools taken over by the state. Foreign scholars and tourists were kept out, though the government introduced a seven-day tourist visa in 1970 to generate foreign exchange. Burma showed no interest in joining the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), founded in 1967, because most of its member nations had Western military bases on their soil. Relations with Thailand were strained because the anticommunist Thai government, suspicious of the socialist regime in Rangoon, tolerated the presence of Karen, Mon, and other insurgents on its side of the poorly defined border. In 1963, Ne Win invited representatives of insurgent groups to come to Rangoon for negotiations, but the peace talks failed. By the early 1980s, over 20 major communist, ethnic nationalist, and warlord armed groups operated in what had been the Frontier Areas during the colonial era. Communist bases in central Burma had been shut down by the Tatmadaw by the mid-1970s, but the "liberated area" along the China border remained intact despite repeated army campaigns, in which government troops suffered heavy casualties and often fought with weapons inferior to those of the communists. The most important noncommunist, ethnic nationalist groups (whose objectives were independence, or at least autonomy, for their people) were the Karen National Union, New Mon State Party, Karenni National Progress Party, and Kachin Independence Organization/Army, whose "liberated areas" were also extensive. Smaller groups claimed to represent the aspirations of the Shans, Nagas, Chins, Pa-Os, and other groups. Warlord armies could be defined as those who had no political aims, despite often impressive titles, and whose leaders sought to enrich themselves through the opium trade. These included remnants of the Chinese Irregular Forces (the Kuomintang); troops loyal to Lo Hsing-han, nicknamed "king of the Golden Triangle"; and the Shan United Army (later the Mong Tai Army), commanded by Khun Sa, who inherited the title from Lo after the latter was arrested and imprisoned in 1973. Between government-controlled areas in the coastal and central plain areas (the colonial-era "Burma Proper") and insurgent-controlled territories in the old Frontier Areas, existed a rough equilibrium; the Tatmadaw was not strong or well-equipped enough to defeat the armed groups, but the latter repeatedly failed to form a strong united front and had no reach inside central Burma. During the massive prodemocracy movement of 1988, the insurgents were bystanders to momentous events that changed Burma's history.
   On January 3, 1974, a new constitution was promulgated, establishing the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma, a highly centralized, BSPP-dominated state that remained committed to "socialist democracy" and established a system of People's Councils on the state/division and local levels, which were chosen in Soviet-style, rubber-stamp elections. During the mid-1970s, however, Ne Win's government faced some of its worst crises: labor strikes in May-June 1974, caused in large part to food shortages; the U Thant Incident of December 1974, which marked a revival in student and monk activism that was brutally suppressed by the army; and a coup d'état attempt by young officers intent on overthrowing the socialist system in 1976. There were also extensive purges of the BSPP hierarchy. In May 1983, the powerful head of military intelligence, Tin Oo, considered Ne Win's possible successor, was cashiered and arrested.
   Ne Win, 70 years old in 1981, retired as president of Burma in that year but retained the post of BSPP chairman. The power structure that he had built up, centered on his loyal subordinates in the Tatmadaw, had never been characterized by commitment or effectiveness, and the "Old Man" (as he was widely known) increasingly devoted himself to yedaya (magic to avoid misfortune), pagoda-building, and thoughts of his impending mortality. A new economic crisis loomed in the mid-1980s, marked by recurrent food shortages, rampant inflation, and foreign debts that could not be serviced. Burma's leader admitted in August 1987 that serious policy mistakes had been made, hinting that genuine reform might be in order. But the following month he decreed demonetization of the country's currency without compensation in order to strike a mortal blow at "economic insurgents" (the black market); in fact, ordinary Burmese of all classes suffered because they kept much of their savings in cash rather than in bank accounts. The demonetization measure sparked the first student demonstrations since the 1970s and opened the way for the heroic but tragically thwarted popular movement of 1988.
   1988: People's Power and the SLORC
   The year 1988 represents a turning point in Burma's modern history, for several reasons. First, it was-initially for student activists but then for a growing proportion, possibly a majority, of the general population in central Burma-a dramatic reenactment of the "revolutionary nationalism" of the 1930s. The students and their supporters designated themselves Aung San's spiritual heirs, and the fortuitous appearance of Aung San Suu Kyi on the scene in summer 1988 galvanized their commitment to what she called "the second struggle for national independence," this time against the much-hated Ne Win regime. Second, it brought about the demise of Burmese-style socialism, though not the end of military rule. On September 18, a new martial law regime, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), seized power and initiated significant changes in policy: promotion of private foreign investment and economic liberalization, abandonment of neutrality through cultivation of close ties with the People's Republic of China, and the signing of cease-fires with ethnic and former communist armed groups that radically changed conditions in many of the border areas, especially in northeastern Shan State. Third, in the new post-Cold War world, the political crisis in this formerly isolated and obscure country attracted sustained international attention, in large measure because of the international stature of Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize.
   Against a background of growing economic insecurity, made worse by the September 1987 demonetization, the popular uprising of 1988 began with a small incident: a March 12 brawl in a teashop in Insein Township, Rangoon, between Rangoon Institute of Technology (RIT) students and local youths. According to the most widely accepted account, one of the youths injured a student and was arrested but was later released because his father was a member of the local People's Council. On the next day was a protest march by several hundred RIT students. Riot Police (Lon Htein) shot and killed several of them, including Maung Phone Maw, who became a student martyr comparable to Bo Aung Gyaw, mortally injured by British colonial police in a December 1938 demonstration. The protest soon spread to other campuses, and on March 16 about a thousand students began a march from the Main Campus of Rangoon University to RIT; however, they were surrounded by Riot Police and Tatmadaw troops near the White Bridge, an embankment on the west shore of Inya Lake. The Riot Police attacked, and as many as 300 students were killed, including many drowned in the lake. Hundreds of other demonstrators were jailed, to face torture and abuse. Demonstrations continued on March 18 in downtown Rangoon.
   The government's response to the unrest seems almost to have been calculated to inflame popular rage. It is difficult to comprehend why, facing protests that were sometimes unruly but in general peaceful, the Riot Police and later the Tatmadaw consistently employed lethal force, often firing point-blank into crowds. The students were for the most part the sons and daughters of the middle class and the elite, including military families. Their supporters among the townspeople of Rangoon and other cities were mostly Burmans or Burmese lowlanders, who shared with the army and BSPP leadership the same ethnic and religious identities. Poor training and a rigid command structure may be partial explanations. But more fundamentally, the lack of restraint with which the authorities crushed the protests showed that Burma's basic political problem was not its plurality of ethnic and religious groups who endangered national unity, for they were not significantly involved in the events of 1988, but a leadership that was radically out of touch with its people and a state that refused to share power or concede political space to any social group outside itself. In a very real sense, the State waged war against Society in 1988.
   Moreover, the quality of governance was affected by the intensely hierarchical and centralized nature of state power since 1962: The BSPP state depended on Ne Win's personal brand of leadership rather than coherent policies in order to operate. The well-worn principle of lu kaun, lu taw ("good people before smart people") meant that the "Old Man," fearing challenges to his own authority, consistently chose mediocre but loyal subordinates for leadership positions, such as post-1981 President San Yu. Talented men, such as the pragmatist Brigadier Aung Gyi or the reform-minded defense minister, Tin U, were purged. Moreover, to protect themselves from his hot-tempered wrath and possible demotion, Ne Win's subordinates brought him only good news about conditions inside the country. Thus Ne Win, who, like France's King Louis XIV, could truthfully say "l'état, c'est moi" ("I am the state"), governed in a manner that was affected not only by his erratic temper but also by profound ignorance of real conditions. Though the March violence reflected a major national crisis, Ne Win went on his customary vacation in Europe on April 11, not returning until May 26.
   The 1988 uprising was a battle for information as well as control of the streets of Rangoon and other cities. On March 17, 1988, the government established a committee to carry out an inquiry into the initial shootings of RIT students, but when its report was published in May, citizens considered it a whitewash. The state media, including the newspaper Loketha Pyithu Nezin (Working People's Daily) and the Burma Broadcasting Service, made no mention of the killings. Ordinary Burmese people relied on three sources for uncensored information: foreign radio broadcasts, especially the Burmese service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); hushed conversations in tea shops, a traditional source of unauthorized information; and letters written by Aung Gyi to Ne Win, especially one in June 1988 describing in detail the events of March, including the White Bridge incident, which were photocopied and widely distributed. Foreign broadcasts, including those from the BBC, Voice of America, and All India Radio, became so popular that after the SLORC seized power, it published a book, Skyful of Lies, that accused the overseas media of trying to destroy national unity. As the disparity between official and nonofficial sources of information grew, public trust in the government evaporated. When a bloody clash broke out near Rangoon's Myeinigone Market on June 21, townspeople joined with student activists in fighting the Riot Police-a significant turning point.
   The Extraordinary Congress of the BSPP, convened on July 23, 1988, was an opportunity for the leadership to show its willingness to compromise with popular sentiment. Ne Win proposed holding a referendum on whether a multiparty system should replace the one-party state, but the party delegates turned it down in favor of an economic reform program. In his long and rambling speech on July 23, the BSPP chairman made an unveiled threat that further inflamed popular sentiment: "If in future there are mob disturbances, if the army shoots, it hitsthere is no firing into the air to scare." On July 26, the party central committee, undoubtedly with Ne Win's approval, chose as Ne Win's successor as BSPP chairman Sein Lwin, a loyal crony who had earned the nickname "Butcher of Rangoon" because of his command of the Riot Police during the March and June incidents. On the following day, Sein Lwin was also designated Burma's president by the Pyithu Hluttaw (or People's Assembly).
   His promotion to the country's two top posts surprised and enraged the people. Student activists declared that a general strike would be held on August 8, 1988, the "four eights," a date with numerological significance connected to the collapse of royal dynasties. At eight o'clock in the morning of the designated day, hundreds of thousands of people marched to city centers in Rangoon, Mandalay, Sagaing, and elsewhere, carrying banners and portraits of Aung San and calling for Sein Lwin's resignation. Because martial law had been declared in Rangoon, the Tatmadaw took over responsibility for public order from the Riot Police. The demonstrations began in a carnival atmosphere, as groups of citizens from practically every city neighborhood in Rangoon participated. But the army began shooting at the amassed demonstrators late on the evening of the eighth, in front of the Sule Pagoda and town hall, and the bloodshed continued until August 12, when Sein Lwin resigned. Aung San Suu Kyi, Aung San's 43-year-old daughter, had lived abroad for many years but had returned to Burma in early 1988 to take care of her ailing mother. She assumed a leading role in the national crisis after giving a speech on the western slope of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda hill on August 26, attended by hundreds of thousands of Rangoon citizens. Daw Suu Kyi's rapid rise to a preeminent position inside the opposition reflected both the continued appeal of her father and the lack of viable alternatives among the pre-1962 political establishment, including former prime minister U Nu, who had hopes, ultimately thwarted, of making a comeback. Only Daw Suu Kyi and some student activist leaders, especially Min Ko Naing, had sustained popular appeal. During August and the first half of September, conditions throughout central Burma were extremely unsettled. Demonstrations continued in urban areas, public services ground to a halt, and foreign embassies urged their nationals to evacuate. On August 19, Dr. Maung Maung was appointed BSPP chairman and Burma's president. At a second Extraordinary BSPP Congress held on September 10, he promised the adoption of a multiparty democratic system to replace the one-party state. Two days later, Aung San Suu Kyi, Tin U (the former defense minister with a reputation as a reformist), and Aung Gyi formed a coalition, advocating the establishment of an interim government. This later became the National League for Democracy.
   In the late afternoon of September 18, the State Law and Order Restoration Council, a junta composed of 19 officers of general, brigadier, and colonel rank headed by defense minister General Saw Maung, seized power. This action was often described as a "coup d'état" like Ne Win's original coup in March 1962, but this was not entirely accurate. After martial law was suspended in Rangoon on August 24, troops were withdrawn from the city, and the government maintained a low profile. Conditions inside the capital city were chaotic-government agents provocateurs carried out sabotage, and neighborhoods barricaded themselves and established self-defense committees-but this was also a time of unprecedented freedom during which a large number of uncensored street publications appeared, new democratic organizations were established, and the fragile beginnings of a new civil society could be seen. While this was going on, Ne Win and his subordinates made plans to recapture power. Thus, the establishment of the SLORC was not the coercive replacement of one government by another but the rescue of the old military power structure, the "army state," by a younger generation of hard-line generals. Although the details of the planning for the SLORC are unclear, it had Ne Win's blessing.
   Burma under the SLORC and SPDC
   The SLORC imposed order with ruthless efficiency. It is estimated that at least 1,000 Rangoon demonstrators lost their lives in the days following its inception. Government institutions as defined by the 1974 Constitution, including the People's Assembly (Pyithu Hluttaw) and regional and local bodies, were dissolved and replaced by state/division and township Law and Order Restoration Committees (LORCs) headed by and composed of military officers, analogous to the RC-era SACs. Regime spokesmen described the junta as a temporary government that would oversee the transition from "socialist democracy" to "multiparty democracy," just as the Revolutionary Council had managed the transition from "parliamentary democracy" to "socialist democracy." Given the longevity of the RC, almost 12 years, there was no reason to believe the SLORC was in any hurry to establish a new democratic, civilian government. But one of the few nonmilitary institutions allowed to survive the imposition of a martial law regime was the oddly named Elections Commission for Holding Democratic Multi-party General Elections. In its first decree on September 18, the SLORC announced its determination to hold successful elections. A day later, the 1964 Law to Safeguard National Solidarity, which recognized the BSPP as the only political party, was repealed, and on September 27 the Political Party Registration Law was enacted, establishing the legal framework through which new parties could be organized. By mid-1989, some 233 parties had been established. Most of these were small and often whimsical groups, such as the Ever-Green Young Men's Association; however, the National League for Democracy (NLD) drew supporters because of the popularity of Aung San Suu Kyi, and the National Unity Party (NUP), the reorganized Burma Socialist Programme Party, still had considerable funds and a network of cadres left over from before the SLORC takeover. When the general election was held on May 27, 1990, only 93 parties participated, the rest having been "deregistered" by the Election Commission.
   For the SLORC, the election was to serve the function of enhancing its legitimacy. Saw Maung and his fellow generals probably expected either that the voters, intimidated by armed force, would support the NUP, or that seats in the new Pyithu Hluttaw would be divided among a large number of small parties. In either case, the elected representatives would offer proof of Burma's democratic credentials without constituting an effective opposition. Because the military regime had been criticized for its human rights abuses by Western governments, which cut off flows of ODA, successful completion of the balloting could result in such aid flows being restored, a major incentive for the cashstarved regime. Indeed, after the junta announced a schedule for the election in early 1989, the Japanese government formally recognized the SLORC and restarted a portion of its massive official development assistance program that had been suspended the previous year. The actual results of the May 27 election, which most observers agree was free and fair, apparently came as a great surprise to the junta: The NLD won 59.9 percent of the vote and 392 of 485 single-seat constituencies contested, despite the fact that Daw Suu Kyi was under house arrest and barred from running in a constituency. Three ethnic minority parties, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, the Arakan Democracy League, and the Mon National Democratic Front, won 23, 11, and 5 seats, respectively. The "progovernment" NUP won only 21.2 percent of the vote and 10 seats. However, the SLORC was not entirely unprepared for this outcome. In the run-up to the election, regime spokesmen had adopted an ambiguous stance toward the election's actual purpose: Was it to choose members of the People's Assembly, who would form a government? Or would the elected representatives play some role in drafting a new constitution? By the summer of 1990, it had become apparent that the first option was out of the question. In July, the junta issued SLORC Announcement No. 1/90, which asserted that a civilian government could not be established until a new constitution was drafted, and that the martial law regime exercised exclusively the powers of government. In 1992, the SLORC established a constitutional drafting body, the National Convention, which met for the first time in January 1993. Since then, it has convened intermittently; because it had not completed a constitutional draft by mid-2005 indicates that the junta, now known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), has judged that the time is not ripe for a political transition. Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest by the junta on July 20, 1989; released in July 1995 (a period of confinement just under six years); confined again between September 2000 and May 2002; and began her third term of house arrest following the "Black Friday" incident of May 30, 2003, in which she and her supporters were attacked by proregime mobs in Sagaing Division, an incident that aroused international condemnation and resulted in severe economic sanctions on the part of the United States. Although foreign parties, particularly Malaysia, attempted to initiate dialogue between Daw Suu Kyi and the junta, their efforts failed to bear fruit. When free from confinement in 1995-2000 and 2002-2003, Daw Suu Kyi valiantly attempted to rejuvenate her party and the democratic spirit that had been expressed in May 1990. But the sheer dead weight of military coercion blocked any sort of progress; in 2005, the NLD was desperately struggling for survival, and a peaceful settlement of the country's political crisis remained beyond reach. The National Convention reconvened in May 2004 to draft a constitution that would enshrine military domination of the political system. Neither the NLD nor the second-largest opposition party, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, attended the convention. The internal dynamics of the post-1988 junta remain largely opaque. Burma watchers have detected personal and worldview differences between the top military figures. SLORC/SPDC chairman Senior General Than Shwe (who replaced the erratic Saw Maung in April 1992) and vice-chairman General Maung Aye, both part of the regular combat army, are considered conservative, hard line in dealing with the opposition, and tending toward isolationism; while SLORC/SPDC Secretary1 Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, director of military intelligence (a former Ne Win protégé who was appointed to this post in 1984) was more flexible, interested in promoting ties with foreign countries and taking a more accommodating (or perhaps more manipulative) approach toward the NLD. But Khin Nyunt was arrested in October 2004, charged with corruption and attempting to split the Tatmadaw, and was sentenced to 44 years in jail, suspended. His military intelligence subordinates were also arrested or forced into retirement.
   What seems apparent is that the junta has achieved "system maintenance"; that is, individual generals have been removed, but the unity of the Tatmadaw top command has been preserved, and Than Shwe, an uncharismatic, frequently underestimated figure, has managed to consolidate personal control at the top, becoming Ne Win's successor as "Number One." In November 1997, the SLORC was reorganized as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). Although Than Shwe, Maung Aye, and Khin Nyunt retained their positions, other SLORC generals were retired, including those who had garnered a reputation for corruption. Through its control of a "state capitalist" economy, especially the sale of natural resources, such as natural gas, to neighboring countries, the SPDC and the Tatmadaw officer corps have evolved into a rentier class that, in contrast to the pre-1988 Tatmadaw, enjoys little esteem among the general population but is more deeply entrenched in power than ever before.
   SLORC/SPDC policies could be characterized as combining the authoritarian proclivities of the Ne Win era-suppression of opposition, rigid censorship, and control of information-with controlled globalization, in a manner similar to that of Burma's huge northern neighbor, China. The government has encouraged foreign tourism, including the construction of international class hotels and promotion of "Visit Myanmar [Burma] Year" in 1996-1997; foreign private investment has been welcomed with the decree of a post-1988 legal regime facilitating the participation of wholly owned foreign enterprises and foreign-local joint ventures in the economy; Burma joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in July 1997; there are plans to connect Burma to the Asian Highway, linking the country overland with Thailand, Indochina, and India; and Burma is part of the Great Mekong Subregion development project that is being promoted by the Asian Development Bank. Most rural areas in Burma remain largely unaffected by globalization, but Rangoon and other urban areas increasingly resemble the commercialized urban spaces found in Bangkok, Singapore, or Ho Chi Minh City.
   After 1988, SLORC Secretary-1 Khin Nyunt established close and friendly ties with the People's Republic of China. Many observers argue that without China's economic, military, and diplomatic support (including the sale of weapons), the junta would have had a much more difficult time resisting Western sanctions or, conversely, that had China exerted pressure on the junta to liberalize, it would have done so. Some have accused China of turning Burma into an economic "neo-colony," where the pattern of the import of manufactured goods and export of raw materials has been reinstated on a large scale. But the SPDC has succeeded in promoting amicable relations with all its neighbors: India, Bangladesh, Thailand, and other members of ASEAN. In 1988, the Indian government was strongly critical of the SLORC's human rights abuses, but in more recent years ties have greatly improved, including cooperation in suppressing insurgents and building highways and other infrastructure in the India-Burma border area. Compared to the Ne Win era, the region where Burma is located is increasingly stable, prosperous, and economically integrated. This has benefited the SPDC, if not necessarily Burma's people.
   The situation in Burma's former Frontier Areas was radically transformed by Khin Nyunt's policy of signing cease-fires with armed groups, beginning with the ethnic components of the Communist Party of Burma after its breakup in 1989. By 1997, cease-fires had been signed with 22 major and minor groups, including the Kachin Independence Organization and Khun Sa's drug-financed Mong Tai Army. This enabled the Tatmadaw to undermine the Democratic Alliance of Burma, a post-1988 united front of ethnic and Burmese student groups, and focus its armed might on the holdouts, especially the Karen National Union, resulting in the fall of KNU headquarters at Manerplaw in January 1995. Enjoying substantial autonomy, the United Wa State Army had emerged as the most powerful cease-fire group by the mid-1990s, and was exporting massive amounts of opiates and amphetamines to Thailand and China from processing centers in Shan State. For a time, Burma had the dubious distinction of being the world's largest single source of opiates, although it was surpassed by Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.
   In early November 2005, the State Peace and Development Council began relocating civil servants to a heavily fortified compound located outside of Pyinmana, in southern Mandalay Division, a site that would replace Rangoon not only as military headquarters of the Tatmadaw but also as a new national capital (reportedly to be named Nay Pyi Daw, or "place of the king"). The move astounded both Burmese and overseas observers, who speculated that astrology and other occult arts must have played a role in the decision because Senior General Than Shwe is extremely superstitious. It is also likely that the generals' desire to insulate themselves from potential urban unrest like that of 1988 and to isolate themselves from the outside world (foreign diplomats were left in the dark about the decision) was also an important factor. However, whether "Nay Pyi Daw" will fully replace Rangoon as the country's administrative center remained unclear at the close of 2005.
   Burma remains a country in crisis. Although a few prosper from state capitalism, the majority of the population face untamed inflation and economic uncertainty; social problems such as widespread malnutrition, drugs, and AIDS remain largely unaddressed; hundreds of thousands of Burmese are refugees in neighboring countries or are internally displaced; the country's political future remains unclear; and the democratic opposition faces harsher-than-ever suppression. Despite its leaders' commitment to "national unity," Burma is a deeply divided society, over which a history of war, colonial occupation, and ethnic antagonism casts a long, dark shadow.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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