UnionAID Fact Sheet 4 Supporting real change: Burma
The long struggle for democracy
The people of Burma are locked in one of the world’s great freedom struggles. Democracy was conceded in 1948 after more than a century of British rule, but Burma has suffered under military dictatorship since an army coup in 1962. In 1988, students, workers, and others launched nationwide protests calling for democracy. The military responded by gunning down thousands of demonstrators. Elections were held in 1990 in which Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won 82% of the seats but the military retained control and the democracy movement went into exile. The military government has been responsible for What’s in a name? • the widespread use of forced labour • at least 2092 political prisoners, many of whom are routinely tortured The rulng military junta changed the • over 70,000 child soldiers ‐ more than any other country in the world. name Burma to Myanmar in 1989. • rape as a weapon of war against ethnic women and children The democracy spending nearly half the government budget on the military and just • movement prefers Burma because they 23 cents per person per year on health do not accept the • a country in which one in ten babies die before their fifth birthday legitimacy of an unelected regime to change the official Observers predict that the 2010 ‘elections’ will merely move Burma from name of their military dictatorship to civilian dictatorship. None of the usual indicators country. seen in a reforming regime are happening in Burma. Repression has been increasing. In June 2010 The Elders Group, established by Nelson Mandela, called on the international community to unite behind a UN‐led effort to secure negotiations between the dictatorship, the democracy movement and ethnic representatives. Global geo‐politics remains an issue with China and many ASEAN countries investing heavily in Burma. Some argue that the pressures of globalization may force Burma to “open up” and that some form of democracy may follow.