History and Politics


The history of Burma is fascinating because it is very old and widely marked by significant events, ethnic wars and lost kingdoms. The whole political life today seems to be imbued with this turbulent and abundant history.


3rd century BC: The Mon raised their first Empire, Suvarnabhumi in Lower Burma. It was at this time that the first practices of verbal traditions would go back.

2nd century BC: Buddhist monks sent by the Indian king Ashoka (a pacifist king and who preached for the respect of the non-violent principles of Buddhism), brought the Buddhist culture in Lower Burma. In this mixture of Mon and Buddhist culture, the Mon reigned over this southern empire until the middle of the ninth century.


7th century: The Pyu (coming from the borders of Tibet) settled in Burma. They created 18 City-Kingdoms or city-states that have never been unified. Their people were pacifists and preferred to settle conflicts by demonstrations of force.

849: The Burmese (ethnic group coming from Tibet) migrated towards the South for 3000 years already found the Kingdom of Pagan (or Bagan with the new writing). The Pyu, ethnically close to the Burmese were quickly assimilated by them.

1057: King Anawrahta (1044-1077) unified Burma by taking the city Mon of Thaton.

12th century: In the middle of this century, as King Anawrahta's successors worked to consolidate the Kingdom, most of Asia is under the rule of the Pagan Kingdom and the Khmer Kingdom. This domination did not last long, however. Indeed, as lands and resources fell into the hands of Buddhist communities, the kingdom lost its power. At the same time, the threat of a Mongol invasion from the North was appeared.

1277: King Narathihapati (reigned 1254-1287) prefered to attack the Mongols in Yunnan rather than being attacked. He was defeated at the Battle of Ngasaunggyan.

1287: The Mongols ended up invading the whole territory. The country is no longer united.

1287 - 1364: The fall of Pagan led to the division of the country. The Mon took the opportunity to rebuild two kingdoms, one in Martaban (1287) and the other in Pegu, the Kingdom of Hanthawaddy, while in Upper Burma, the fragile kingdom of Myinsaing (1298-1312) was split in two on each side of the Irrawaddy with the Sagaing and Pinya realms before finally reuniting in 1364 through the Ava Kingdom. A war of 40 years was established between Ava and Pegu. None won the war.

15th century: As the Ava Kingdom slowly declined, the Kingdom of Pegu is strengthened by becoming a Theravada center of commerce and Buddhism. Finally, these two competing Kingdoms both disappeared in the first half of the 16th century. In 1527, Ava lost against the Shan. In 1539, Pegu suffered a burst of Burmese. The ensuing period experienced many troubles and internal wars between Kingdoms and their representative ethnic groups.

16th century: The survivors of Ava (the Tungu Dynasty) revived a new Kingdom (1535) around Taungu and managed to unify Burma again. At that time, the first European merchants arrived, allowing Burma to become again an important place of commerce. The capital was then moved to Pegu because of its ideal location for trade. However, the Taungu Dynasty is facing internal revolts and Portuguese incursions. To protect themselves, they found a new Kingdom in Ava in Upper Burma.

1752: Encouraged by the French in India, Pegu rebeled against Ava leading to the fall of this Kingdom.

1759: Pegu soon a setback after a new Konbaung dynasty moved to Ava. The popular Burmese leader, Alaungpaya, then pushed Pegu's forces out of the north of the region, until he took Pegou. He and his son led the power of Burma to its peak.

1766 - 1769: China, who is interested in this country, even tried to invade it four times without success. Burma could even expand its borders with China!

1781 - 1824: The Burmese territory extended to Arakan, Tenasserim and Assam and finally opposed by the British interests in India.

1824 - 1826: First Anglo-Burma War that then took place, with victory for the British. Treaty of Yandabo: Burma loses Assam, Manipur, Arakan and Tenasserim.

1852: The beginning of the Second Anglo-Burma War, the British annexed Pegu. The king established his capital in Mandalay, which he fortified.

1885: The British finally conquered the rest of Burma during the Third Anglo-Burma War.

1886: Burma became a province of British India, with Yangon as capital.

1886 - 1890: Resistance movements continued in the north of the country when the British decided to reprimand any revolt by the systematic destruction of the villages. The Burmese economy was growing but only benefits British companies. Things were changing a little when new "Burmese chief" came back from England after studying law in London. They were organizing pacifist demonstrations and negotiations to enable them to improve the situation of the Burmese.

1923: At the beginning of the 1920s, strikes were organized and led to a constitutional reform creating an elected legislative body with limited powers.

1930: Some are not satisfied. They then decided to unite through an organization: the Thakin. They took advantage of a peasant strike, without participating, to win the trust of the people. Thakin then became the head of the nationalist movement.

1936: A strike was organized.

1937: The British detached Burma from India and granted the colony a new constitution that provides for an elected assembly.

1939: The Second World War happened and it was the opportunity for the Nationalists to try to obtain concessions against a war effort. The British refused and issued an arrest warrant against Aung San, one of the leaders, who fled to China.

December 1941: Japan declared war on the British. Aung San announced the formation of the Burmese Independence Army, intended to fight alongside the Japanese Imperial Army.

March 1942: Yangon was invaded.

August 1, 1943: The Independence of Burma was proclaimed. But the promises of the Japanese were false: independence was pure form.

March 1945: Aung San then ranked on the side of the Allies. It formed a coalition of political parties, the "Anti-Fascist Organization" to rule the people.

July 1945: The Japanese were expelled from Burma. A military administration took power until the return of a civilian governor after the war.

January 1947: Independence of the country.

July 19, 1947: Aung San and most of the Government were planned to murder by U Saw, who thought he had conceded too much.

 January 4, 1948: Thakin formed a new Government to the power of Independence. Democracy and certain stability were established during the first 2 Governments of Thakin.

1958: Everything deteriorated following the revolts of communists and certain minorities. Thakin then appealed to General Ne Win, who succeeded him in 1960.

March 2, 1962: The Revolution of Ne Win who overthrows the Government and imposed a version of Socialism that quickly led the country to poverty. He started several wars: against the Karen, against the Shan and against the drug gangs.

1974: The country became "Union of the Socialist Republic of Burma" with a false government that only hides the military dictatorship.

1988: Demonstrations took place against the regime in place. Na Win did officially leave power on July 23rd. Na Win was replaced by Saw Maung who found himself placed at the head of an organ: the State Council for the Restoration of the Law and Order. The pro-democracy movement was crushed in a bloodbath. Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of Aung San, returned from her exile and founds the National League for Democracy (NLD).

1989: The country took the name of Myanmar, which refers to the Burmese ethnic group in Burmese.

1990: Elections were held after other troubles. The NLD successfully won the election, ahead of two ethnic parties (Shan State and Arakan State) and in 4th position was the National Unity Party. Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest and her party is banned by the military junta

1991: Aung San Suu Kyi receives the Nobel Peace Prize and her house arrest is suspended under international pressure four years later.

1992: General Than Shwe came to power.

November 7, 2005: Military authorities moved Yangon's capital to Nagypyidaw (320 km to the north).

2011: Ex-dictator Than Shwe withdrew for a monastic life giving way to a "civil" regime with his former comrades in power. The current president, Thien Sein, a former intelligence services general, is the main architect of the ongoing reforms. He was able to establish a relationship of trust with Aung San Suu Kyi.

November 13, 2011: Aung San Suu Kyi is released from her house arrest.

1st April 2012: Partial parliamentary elections were organized. These by-elections saw Aung San Suu Kyi and 42 other members of the NLD enter the Burmese Parliament's lower house (Pythu Hluttaw), an assembly created by the former military regime in 2010 and formed after the boycotted legislative elections at the time by the NLD. NLD MPs now form a small opposition group in this 440-seat chamber, of which 110 (25%) are reserved for the military. However, accompanied by liberalization of the media and economic openness, these elections mark a turning point in the long process of democratic transition that is underway.

June 2012: Aung San Suu Kyi has started a tour in Europe. In particular, she was able to travel to Oslo where she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. Her acceptance speech highlights the elements that make this courageous woman a strong symbol of her son's struggle for freedoms of the people.