A Bit about Burma

Burma, officially named the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, is the second largest country in Southeast Asia.  It is the world’s 40th largest country and the world’s 24th most populous country. It has a population of over 60 million.  Burma has 1,930 kilometers of coastline, roughly 1/3 of their total perimeter.

The country has been under military control since the military overthrew the government in 1962.  The United Nations is just one of many organizations to have reported many human rights violations in the country.  These have included genocide, child soldiers and labour, rape,  and slavery .  However, the military has begun to give up some of its governmental control.  This was especially apparent with its release of Burma’s most famous human rights activist, Aung San Suu Kyi in 2011.  Due to her, the country’s foreign relationships have steadily improved.  Trade and economic sanctions imposed by countries have been eased.

However, even with several improvements in human rights, Burma still is having major difficulties with violations.  It was reported that Burmese government authorities have began “ethnic cleansing” in western Burma of the Rohingya minority.  Many refugees have tried to escape from Burma to neighboring countries like Bangladesh and Thailand.  Unfortunately, the conditions there are horrible and far from sanitary.

Aung San Suu Kyi is a well known political figure and a chairperson of the National League for Democracy in Burma which she helped to found.  Her political views come mostly from Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophies but are also deeply rooted in Buddhist concepts.  When she returned to her home of Burma in 1988, the then leader, General Ne Win, stepped down. People gathered in huge numbers to protest and call for a governmental change towards democracy on  August 8, 1988 but were suppressed by the military.  This is commonly referred to  as the famous 8888 Uprising.  On August 26,1988, thousands of people gathered to hear her speech at the capital.  When a new military power took over, Aung San Suu Kyi entered politics to work towards her dream of a democracy for the people of Burma.

By July 1989 her political ideologies and actions had gotten her put under house arrest.  She refused to leave the country to earn back her freedom.

The Burmese government said she must be kept imprisoned because she was someone “likely to undermine the community peace and stability” of the country.  She was taken to court to be tried and faced significant time in jail on numerous occasions but each time was sentenced to house arrest.  She continued to fight for her freedom and beliefs from inside her home while other countries, organizations, and leaders called for her freedom as well.

 

While she was under house arrest, she was not allowed to meet supporters or advocates for her cause.  The media was also not allowed to see or interview her for fear of her ideas spreading and causing uprisings.  When a reporter did manage to get her picture he was stopped and his film and notes where taken from him.  However, she was allowed to have visits from the Burmese government which happened frequently to try to convince her to leave Burma or advocate for different political ideologies.  Unfortunately, during Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest, she would become extremely sick and eventually had to be hospitalized.  For those reasons, her doctors could also see her and come to her house.  She was finally released in 2011.

Today Aung San Suu Kyi continues her fight for human rights.  Right now, she is advocating for the Rohingya minority and speaking out against the 2012 Rakhine State riots.  She has become a very popular political figure and a prominent leader in the fight for human rights.  She has spoken with government officials from all over the world, including Barack Obama, and has worked extensively with them.  However, she is still carefully watched by the Burmese government.  There are still many human rights violations in her home of Burma that she is working to fix with the cooperation and help of governments.  However, despite the setbacks, the human rights situation in Burma is improving, with the help of Aung San Suu Kyi, and hopefully will continue in the future.