Why is Burma so poor

Rich, poor Myanmar

Since its independence in 1948, the multi-ethnic state of Myanmar has been in a state of civil war. The military has violently suppressed the aspirations for autonomy of the country's seven largest ethnic minorities from the start. In 1962 the army finally took power in the country.

Elections were held for the first time in 1990 - which were intended to legitimize the regime, but which ended in an overwhelming victory for the opposition. The election result was not recognized and the student protests that followed were bloodily suppressed. The leader of the opposition National League for Democracy, Aun San Suu Kyi, had been placed under house arrest a year earlier. Her sons received the Nobel Peace Prize, which she was awarded for her work in the democratization of Myanmar, in Oslo.

Fragmented population

In response to the ongoing human rights violations, numerous Western states have frozen their economic relations with Myanmar. China, India and Thailand, however, are circumventing this policy of sanctions: The resource-rich Myanmar with its oil and precious metal deposits is a sought-after trading partner.

The military, which has brought the entire economy under state control over the past few decades, is currently the only functioning organization in Myanmar. The opposition is weakened, the largely impoverished civil society is divided - the military regime has signed separate ceasefire agreements with many ethnic minorities, which contribute to the fragmentation of the population.

Conversations and arrests

The government responded to the mass protests of September last year with a double strategy: UN representatives were allowed to enter Myanmar, and there were talks between the government and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. But behind this facade a massive wave of arrests was carried out to further weaken the opposition.

The junta is sticking to the constitutional referendum planned for Saturday (May 10th) - the vote is only to be postponed in the regions most severely devastated by hurricane “Nargis”. The opposition assumes that the result will be manipulated by the government to prevent a vote defeat.