By 1606 the Toungoo Dynasty was back on its feet, even defeating the
Portuguese in 1613. However with this wave of domination, extent wasn't
the goal, but rather control. This led to a longer-lasting empire as growth was
slow and each region was solidified. This expansion, for the most part, ended in
the late 1600s as they held off Siam attacks. Like its predecessor state, this second
attempt by the Toungoo Dynasty ended when, in the 1700s, their slow decline began
and the Mon, in the south rose up to restore their lost kingdom, the Hanthawaddy
To counteract the Mon in the south, the Konbaung Dynasty arose in 1752. This empire
successfully held off European powers for some time as they
focused on regional domination. They went to war with Siam and China,
with Siam regularly through the 1800s. The wars with Siam and China ended in stalemates,
encouraging the leadership to turn west for expansion as they attacked British India in the late 1700s and early 1800s, taking numerous
lands as far inland as Assam.
Attacks on British India led to the Anglo-Burmese War in the
1820s with a decisive British victory. This led to
a second war in the 1850s when Britain took more land from Burma. Then in the 1880s
the British took the rest of Burma due to French involvement
in the east (Vietnam, Laos, and
Under British control, the British and their close
Burmese allies controlled the economy and political situation in the country. This
led to a very defined class system as most Burmese were poor farmers while the British
and their Burmese allies dominated the region. It also separated Buddhism from political
rule, which diminished the influence Buddhism had on the people.
A benefit from British rule was that education was
expanded and numerous Burmese studied in the United Kingdom. This had a backlash
though as these educated people sought greater freedoms in Burma and began protesting
the British, although violent revolts were refrained from, the British at times
fired into peacefully protesting crowds, most notably in 1938 when 17 monks were
killed. This led to a stronger representative government body in the country in
the 1930s as the colonies of India and Burma were separated.
With the outbreak of World War II the people of Burma were heavily divided as some
supported Japan in order to gain freedom, some supported Britain, and others simple defended themselves and
their country. The Japanese did take over the region and in 1943 declared them independent,
although the Japanese stayed there and continued to control the region with no local
voice. In 1945 the Burmese people rose up against the Japanese government and shortly
after the war had ended.
After the war, Britain again took control of the
region as the people somewhat united to gain independence. As negotiations were
progressing, the Burmese leader, Aung San was assassinated and the independence
movement took a step back to reorganize. Despite this, Burma (today called
Myanmar) gained independence in 1948.
After independence the unity broke down as numerous parties began fighting for power.
This led to unofficial international intervention and the country's declaration
of neutrality with a special effort to stay out of international affairs. This continued
through the 1950s as the country strove to recover from WWII.
By the late 1950s the country was politically falling apart though and power exchanged
hands a number of times as parties fought for power. This ended in 1962 with a communist
military coup led by Ne Win. At first this coup was peaceful, but after a few too
many protests, the military government killed over 100 student protestors in Rangoon
(Yangon) then bombed the student union.
In 1974 the military leaders stepped down from the military and took over the country
as politicians, in 1974 drafting a new constitution as Ne Win took on the title
President and declared martial law. This led to another wave of protests, most commonly
in the capital of Rangoon. Again the government came down hard in 1976 as they arrested
numerous student protesters. In 1978 the government fought Muslims, leading to nearly
a quarter million people to flee to Bangladesh.
In 1981 Ne Win retired from the presidency and stepped out of politics completely
in 1988. The new government opened its doors slightly as the economy slowly grew.
However by 1988 the economy had again taken a turn for the worse; this led to further
protests in 1988 as the government killed thousands of people. The government blame
opposing communists for this uprising and communists across the country fled to
China as the government no longer held communist ideologies,
but rather were just repressive to maintain control.
In 1990 the government allowed elections, but then refused to let the representative
assembly convene as some of those elected were held under house arrest. One of those
under house arrest was Aung San Suu Kyi, who was granted the Noble Peace Prize in
1991, putting increasing international pressure on the government. In the late 1990s
numerous countries, including the United States
and European Union placed a number of economic embargoes and restrictions on the
In 2003 Kyin Nyunt announced that the country is in a slow process to implement
democracy. In 2005 they allowed the National Convention to meet in order to write
a new constitution (which didn't finalize anything), but didn't allow numerous
parties to be present. In the same year the military oddly moved the capital to
Naypyidaw without any real announcement.
In 2007 protests again arose when the government raised gas prices by five times
as they removed the subsidies they had on gas. These protests were met with the
death of many protesting. Since this time nothing has truly been resolved. The government
seems to be taking steps towards democracy, but then as these changes are implemented
they tend alter their policies and revoke their earlier statements. These small
steps are seen as a positive sigh by some, but since no true action has been taken
by the government, most see these changes as a facade.