Brief Overview of Burma
Burma, also known as Myanmar, is located in Southeast Asia. Known as “The Golden Land”, Burma is a largely Buddhist country full of ancient pagodas. Two-thirds of the population are comprised of the Burman people, while the remaining third consists of over 100 other different ethnic groups, including Karen, Shan, Rakhine, Mon, Chin, and Kachin.
Burma gained its independence from the British in 1948. Since 1962, it has been ruled by a military junta, which wields absolute power.
The regime suppresses all dissent, including a student-led uprising in 1988 and the Buddhist monk-led Saffron Revolution in 2007. The National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, won a landslide victory in the 1990 elections, but the regime refused to turn over governmental power. The next elections, held in November 2010, were largely regarded as a sham.
Today, the government has been accused of corruption and human rights abuses, including the forced relocation of civilians and the widespread use of forced labor, including children. Despite the country’s abundance of natural resources, Burma is one of Asia’s poorest countries due to economic mismanagement and corruption. In addition, Burman dominance over the ethnic minority groups has been the source of considerable tension and has fuelled rebellion. Military offensives against insurgents have uprooted many civilians, creating one of the region’s largest populations of refugees and internally displaced persons.