Myanmar History since 1988

Developments since 1988 and the role of Aung San Suu Kyi

The student-led popular uprising since March 1988, which escalated in August and September, suddenly moved Burma into the center of world interest after long years of oblivion. According to computerannals, two unexpected events played a central role. On the one hand joined the longtime ruler, Ne Win, due to the protests from his last post as leader of the Unity Party of Burma Socialist Program Party (BSPP) back and recommended the same time a referendum on the future of the parliamentary system. On the other hand, Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of the national hero Aung San, appeared on the political stage.

Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi was born in 1945, left her country with her mother Khin Kyi – who had been appointed ambassador to India by U Nu – in 1960 and later studied at Oxford. She worked for the United Nations for some time when her compatriot U Thant was Secretary General of the UN. In 1972 she married the Tibetologist Michael Aris, lived with him and their two sons mostly in Oxford and from time to time visited her mother in the family home in Rangoon on University Avenue. The old house where Aung San lived was abandoned after the family’s second son, Lin, drowned in a pond on the property in January 1953.

She came to the country in April 1988 after receiving news of her mother’s stroke. She was contacted by the demonstrating students and decided to side with the protest movement and demand that the government resign. Within a short time she became a leading figure in the opposition movement and general secretary of the National League for Democracy (NLD), which was founded shortly after the military coup of September 18, 1988. The military had ended what it saw as a chaotic situation in the country and announced elections for a multi-party parliament. Even before the elections, which took place in May 1990, Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest. The background was the conflict with the military junta over the question of how a free election campaign could be conducted under the conditions of martial law. The confrontation took on a global dimension after the NLD’s election victory was not honored by the military and Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1991.

Despite numerous diplomatic initiatives and two releases of Aung San Suu Kyi between 1995 and 2000 and from May 2002 to May 2003, the confrontation could not be ended. After re-imposing house arrest, the junta announced a seven-step roadmap to a “disciplined” democracy. A national assembly drafted a constitution that was adopted by a referendum held in May 2008 despite the recent hurricane Nargis that struck the Irrawaddy Delta. Elections took place on November 7, 2010, which were boycotted by the NLD, whereupon the party lost its status as a legal party. Most of the seats were won by the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USPD). Shortly afterwards, on November 13th, Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest.

After the handover of power from the military junta to a nominally civilian government on March 30, 2011, the new president, ex-General Thein Sein, met with Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyidaw in August. In November the NLD announced its willingness to register as a party again. Aung San Suu Kyi ran in by-elections on April 1, 2012. The NLD won 43 of the 45 seats in parliament that had been made necessary by the appointment of parliamentarians as ministers.

Since Aung San Suu Kyi was sworn in as a parliamentarian after the election, thereby recognizing the constitution she had previously opposed, she has had the dual role of being part of the political system established by the military and the leader of an anti-old order loved by the majority of the people Opposition. In August 2012 she took over the chairmanship of a newly created committee for legal security, peace and stability. She also went on numerous trips abroad, including personally receiving the 1991 Nobel Prize in Oslo.

Shortly after 1988, the formation of parties and associations was also regulated by law. In the 1990 elections, 235 parties registered, of which 93 took part in the elections. A few years later, only 10 of these parties were left, including the NLD. All the others had been deregistered by the electoral commission or disbanded. The assessment of the fact that the elections did not lead directly to a transfer of power to the victorious NLD is controversial. 201037 parties from a total of 47 that had registered took part in the elections. In addition, 80 independents ran. The NLD’s landslide victory in the 2015 elections meant that, with the exception of Rakhine State, the proportion of ethnic parties in parliaments has declined in all seven states where a non-Burmese ethnic group has traditionally dominated.

Aung San Suu Kyi is increasingly coming under international criticism. It was unable to meet the expectations of the international community, especially with regard to the peace process and human rights. Serious allegations are made against them, particularly with regard to the Rohingya crisis. Some titles have already been stripped of her last she was from Amnesty International to the honorary title of “Ambassador of Conscience” disallowed.

Aung San Suu Kyi