Burma - Beautiful Land in Agony
Burma, today known as Myanmar, is located in South East Asia. The neighbouring countries are Thailand and Laos in the East, China in the North and India and Bangladesh in the West.
The country stretches from 10th to 28th latitude and is 677.000 sqKm big. This is more then double the size of Italy.
In 2005 the population of Burma was around 52 Million, divided into 8 ethnic groups and 136 ethnicities. 70% of the population lives in rural areas.
The 8 ethnic groups and their sizes: Burmese 65%, Shan 10%, Karen 9%, Arakan 5%, Mon 2,5%, Chin 2%, Kachin 1,5%, Karenni 0,8%.
The biggest city is Rangoon (Yangon), and since 2006 the capital is Naypyidaw.
The country is divided into 7 ethnic minorities states and 7 divisions. The government tries to forcibly assimilate the minorities and is practically committing genocide in doing so.
The predominant religion is Buddhism with around 87%, followed by Christianity (5%), Islam (4%) and Hinduism (3%).
The literacy rate is officially stated at 85%, UNICEF speaks of 53%. The fact is, 75% of all children attend primary school but only 27% finish school, and in the minority areas this is only 10%.
Since 1962 Burma has been ruled by a military government, which calls itself SPDC - State Peace and Development Council - since 1996 (previously SLORC - State Law and Order Restoration Council).
Brutal crackdown of protests and democratical movements
In 1988 students demonstrated peacefully for freedom and democracy. On 8.8.88 the regime gave order to shoot. Thousands of peaceful protestors died.
Aung San Suu Kyi became leader of the democracy movement. With the National League for Democracy, she won the elections with 81% in 1990. The elections are not recognized by the regime.
In 1996 Burma opened to tourism. The regime called itself the State Peace and Development Council - SPDC from then on. The brutal oppression of the minorities intensified.
Since the 31st of May 2003, Aung San Suu Kyi has been living under house arrest. Any opposition is forbidden.
In 2008, while cyclone Nargis destroyed the country and the generals prevented any international help, a referendum on the constitution was held. The new constitution was a democratic cover to secure the power of the generals.
At the same time the regime, together with friendly militia, started to build a Border Guard Force to take the whole border area under control. The result - new violence for the minorities and many new refugees.
On the 7th of November 2010 democratic elections were held, from which the National League for Democracy with Aung San Suu Kyi and most of the minorities were excluded. The Parties close with the regime won. On the day of the election heavy fighting broke out in Karen State. More than 30.000 people fled, some of them still hiding in the fields along the border today.
On the 13th of November 2010 Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest. She spent more then 15 of the last 20 years in Prison or under house arrest. Today still more then 2.100 political prisoners are in Burmese jails.