Internal conflict in Burma

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Internal conflict in Burma
Date 1948 – present
Location Burma
Status Conflict ongoing
  • Insurgency since 1948
  • Sporadic ethnic uprisings in certain states
  • Civil War in Shan and Kachin States
  • Military dissolves official rule
  • Numerous truces and ceasefires signed with various groups
  • Regime changes to form the Union Solidarity and Development Party
Union government (1948–1962)

Burma Military government (since 1962)

DKBA (1994–2010)

Border clashes:

Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg People's Republic of China
Anti-government factions:

KNU (since 1949)

Communist Party (1948–1988)

NDAA (since 1989)
SSA (since 1988)

SSNA (1995-2005) WNA (1975-1988)
UWSP (since 1988)

KIO (since 1961)

PNO (1949-1991)
MTA (1985-1996)
ROC (1948-1962)
God's Army (1997-2006)
ABSDF (Since 1980s-)
SSVF (1967-1980)
Supported by:
 Thailand [2]
 United States [3]

China People's Republic of China[4]
Commanders and leaders
Burma Thein Sein (since 2011)

Than Shwe (1992–2011)
Saw Maung (1988–1992)
San Yu (1981-1988)
Ne Win (1962–1981)
Win Maung (1957-1962)
Ba U (1952–1957)
U Nu (1948-1962)

Sao Shwe Thaik (1948-1952)
Naw Zipporah Sein (since 2008)

Bo Nat Khann Mway (DKBA, since 2010)
Pado Phan (2000-2008)
Bo Mya (1976-2000)
Thakin Than Tun (1952-68)
Thein Pe Myint (1948-52)
Yang Mao-liang
Wei Hsueh-kang
Khun Sa (1985-1996)
Johnny and Luther Htoo (God's Army)
Li Mi (1960-1961)

Lo Hsing Han (SSVF, 1967-1973)
43,000 (1951)[4]

4,000+ (1951)[4]
:1,500-2,000 (1998)[6]
:8,000 [7]
Karenni Army
Chin National Front
Arakan Army
Arakan Liberation Army
apx. 100 [5]
:6,000 (1951)[4]

Unknown numbers of various other factions
Casualties and losses
Unknown :Over 700 killed (June 2011- September 2012)[9]
210,000 killed (1948-2006)[10]

The internal conflict in Burma is one of the world's longest-running civil wars and began shortly after the country's attainment of independence from the United Kingdom (U.K.) in 1948;[11] successive central governments of Burma (or Myanmar) have fought a myriad of ethnic and political rebellions.

Some of the earliest insurgencies were instigated by Burmese-dominated "multi-colored" left-wing groups and the Karen National Union (KNU); the KNU fought to create an independent Karen state from a large section of Lower Burma (or Outer Myanmar). Other ethnic rebellions started in the early 1960s after the central government refused to consider a federal government structure. By the early 1980s, politically oriented armed insurgencies had largely withered away, while ethnic-based insurgencies continued.[citation needed]

As of 2013, the Karen, Shan and Kokang (National Democratic Alliance Army) fight against the government in the east of the country, while small armed groups of the Rohingya people are active in the western part of the country (the Rohingya use refugee camps in Bangladesh as bases);[citation needed] sporadic conflicts also occur in other regions. Due to internal conflict, around 160,000 Burmese refugees live in Thailand, while many more Burmese live in other countries in the region.[citation needed]

As of 2007, around 25 different ethnic groups have signed ceasefire agreements with the military government.[12]

Background of Conflicts in Burma[edit]

As soon as Burma gained independence in 1948, the civil wars started in Burma. Milti-ethnics groups have fought with government forces since it gained independence in 1948. One should divided Burmese international conflict into three parts: civil wars under parliamentary rule (1948-1962), civil wars under military rule in Cold War (1962-1988), civil wars military rule after Cold War (1988 – present). All of three periods of short history favored military rule in Burma.

Civil wars under parliamentary rule (1948-1962)[edit]

Since Burma gained its independence from England, the two group’s namely Communist group and Karen ethnic group started civil war in Burma. Both two groups were strong and large rebel group and they could control all entire Burma except the capital city of Burma. Before Burma gains its independence, Communist group was one of the divisions which fought for independence. It had many strongholds and it became a big rebel group after Burma was liberated from English. On the other hand, Karen ethnic which was second largest majority of Burma was favored by English along its colonial era. Therefore, it became a large rebel group after it turned to rebels. Unfull-fledged parliamentary government had fought civil wars with very large rebel groups and the role of military was the higher and higher in government. Nobody couldn't refuse that the fate of Burma depended on its military capability in those period because central government faced the two largest rebel groups.

Civil wars in Cold War (1962-1988)[edit]

Then, by the time of three successive parliamentary government ruled in Burma in, there was military coup d'état and general Ne Win became the country's leader, followed by widespread human rights violations in frontier areas. The cabinet of parliamentary government and ethnic leaders were arrested and detained in prisons.[14] Other ethnic rebellions started in the early 1960s after the central government refused to consider a federal government structure. By the early 1980s, politically oriented armed insurgencies were ended and ethnic-based insurgencies continued. General Ne Win made peace talk with political parties and ethnic rebel groups in 1972, but he unilaterally reject to form multiparty system again. Then, he confiscated private economy and formed Burmese Socialist Programmed Party (BSPP)in 1974. Under General Ne Win's 26 years of ruling, Burma became isolation and one of the (LDC) Last Development Countries in the world. When students protests broke out and spread throughout Burma in 1988, (BSPP) was ousted and military coup took over Burma again.[15]

'Civil wars in Post Cold War (1988 – present)[edit]

During the public uprising in 1988, Aung San Su Kyi became a national icon for her leading role in opposition groups. The second generation of military junta holds election in 1990 and her party, National League for Democracy (NLD) won with land slide victory. However, the military junta refused to honor the election results and she was placed under house arrested for 15 years. On the other hand, ethnics’ rebel groups were out of support from both of the wings (left and right). They were severely fought by government forces and lose their main bases in 1990s. In 2007, hundred thousands of monks defieance government, but severely crushed down by government. In 2010, government introduced its new Constitution and Aung San Su Kyi and thousands of political prisoners were released.

Main fronts[edit]

Kachin State[edit]

Main article: Kachin conflict

The Kachin ethnic group of Northern Burma have fought a political struggle against the central government for regional autonomy since 1961. Ceasefires agreements have been signed by the Kachin Independence Army and the government, but fighting has always resumed. In 2012 fighting between the KIA and the government claimed at least 250 lives.[13][14]

Kayah State[edit]

The aim of the Karenni Army is to secure the independence of the Karenni State (Kayah State).[15] According to a pro-Karenni Army website, the group's grievances include: "Exploitation and rapid depletion of the natural resources, forced sale of agricultural products, extortion, forced labour, forced relocation of whole villages and crops, destruction of houses, planting of mines around crops and villages, torture, rape, extra-judicial killings, burning of villages, expropriation of food supplies and livestock, arrest without charge, false accusations and exploitation of the poor." [15] The Karenni Army is currently led by General Bee Htoo[15] and consists of between 800 and 1,500 soldiers.[5]

Kayin State[edit]

The Karen people is one of Burma's largest ethnic minority populations and has struggled for independence since 1949. The initial aim of the KNU (Karen National Union) was independence, but since 1976 the people has called for a federal system rather than an independent Karen state.

Burma's government has fought countless battles with Karen groups and the conflict has resulted in a high number of both deaths and refugees; refugees have fled to Western Thailand and have mainly settled around the Tak Province. The government has pursued a "scorched earth" policy in the region, and has attempted to depopulate Karen communities and repopulate these areas with the Bamar people.[citation needed]

Specific government tactics used against the Karen include (but are not limited to) burning down entire villages, planting land mines in the Karen state, using civilians as slave laborers, using civilians as minesweepers, and rape and killing of Karen women.[16] According to a report by legal firm DLA Piper, whose report was presented to the United Nations Security Council, these tactics against the Karen have been identified as ethnic cleansing.[17]

Rakhine State[edit]

An internal conflict commenced in the Rakhine State in 1947 and, as of 2012, this conflict continues. The political rights of the Rohingya has been the underlying issue in this conflict and violence, such as the 2012 Rakhine State riots, has periodically occurred.

Shan State[edit]

The Shan leaders started to fight back against the central Burmese government after the government failed to fulfill the 1947 Panglong Agreement. The agreement basically guaranteed the rights of self-determination, equality and financial management. The agreement was between the Shan and Burmese leader (Gen. Aung San) who convinced the Shan leaders to join him in gaining independence from the British Colony. Moreover, the Shan, Kachin and Chin states could separate from the mainland of Burma after 10 years if the ethnic state leaders were not happy with the Burmese government.[18]

The Shan started to fight back after the Burmese sent thousands of troops into Shan State because of an invasion by Chinese Nationalist the KMT in 1950. Driven out by the Chinese Communist forces, Nationalist KMT armies planned to use the region east of the Salween river as a base from which to regain their homeland. In March 1953, the KMT forces, with US assistance, were on the verge of taking the entire Shan State, and within a day's march of the state capital Taunggyi.[18] The Burmese army drove back the invaders east across the Salween, but much of the KMT army and their progeny have remained in the eastern Shan State under various guises to the present day.[18]

During the Burmese military presence in Shan state, the local Shan people were mis-treated, tortured, arrested, robbed, killed and raped by the Burmese military. As a result, on 21 May 1958, the Shan people started to arm and fight back against the Burmese military presence. The resistance movement led by Sao Noi or Saw Yanna fought for the freedom of Shan State. Today, the strongest resistance group in Shan State is the Shan State Army (SSA) lead by Sao Yawd Serk. The SSA has their main bases along the Shan-Thai border. The SSA signed a ceasefire agreement with the Thein Sein's government on 2 Dec 2011. The government and SSA agreed in principle to the following 11 points on 16 January 2012:[citation needed]

  1. To allow SSA headquarters in Homain sub-township and Mong Hat sub-township
  2. To negotiate and arrange the resettlement of SSA troops and their families in the locations mentioned in the first point
  3. The appointment by the SSA of village heads in the region, which would work with government official for township administration;
  4. Government soldiers in Homain sub-township and Mong Hat sub-township will give help to the SSA
  5. Both sides will discuss and negotiate to arrange for the security of SSA leaders
  6. Government troops and the SSA would negotiate to designate areas where they could enter border areas;
  7. Each side agreed to inform the other side in advance if one side wants to enter the other's control area with weapons
  8. To open liaison offices between the government and the SSA-S in Taunggyi, Kholam, Kengtung, Mong Hsat and Tachileik and trading offices in Muse and Nanhkam
  9. Government ministers will arrange for SSA-S members to run businesses and companies in accord with existing policies, by providing aid and the required technology
  10. To cooperate with the union government for regional development
  11. To cooperate with the government in making plan for battling drug trafficking

Points will also be discussed in the coming second union-level meeting.[needs update]

Foreign support[edit]

Burma's insurgencies have been supported or used by foreign states: the Karen received support from the United Kingdom (UK); along the shared border, Bangladesh (and then East Pakistan) assisted the Muslim Rohingyas, with additional Middle Eastern backing; the People's Republic of China assisted the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) (later the United Wa State Army), and the Naga and Kachin Independence Army ; the United States (U.S.) supported the Kuomintang; and Thailand assisted a wide variety of rebel groups by essentially creating buffer states or zones.[1] A renown Australian Criminal, Dave Everett also fought alongside and trained the Karen, sympathizing with them to the point of committing armed robbery in order to fund his weapon smuggling operation to Burma.[19]

Thai involvement[edit]

Thailand has been the major contributor of supplies and arms since the crisis began.[citation needed] Thai leaders have a deep distrust for the Burmese, who have frequently invaded Thailand in past centuries.[2] Weapons and ammunition from Thailand have allowed insurgent groups to remain active in the ongoing war with the Burmese army.[2]

Thailand's support was evident during the 1999 Burmese Embassy Siege. While the United Nations, together with the United States (US) and Burmese governments, referred to the siege as an 'act of terrorism', the Thai government responded differently, stating: "the captors are students working for democracy, not terrorists".[20]

1988 Uprising[edit]

Main article: 8888 Uprising

On 8 August 1988, student demonstrations that included ochre-robed monks, young children, housewives and doctors spread throughout Burma, as the country's citizens protested against the regime.[21] The uprising ended on 18 September 1988 after a military coup was enacted by the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). Authorities in Myanmar stated that around 350 people were killed[22][23] during the uprising and a high number of deaths have been attributed to the military.[24][25][26] According to the Economic, 3000 or more people were killed in the public uprising in Burma in 1988.[27] As a result of the uprising the new government agreed to sign separate peace treaties with certain insurgent groups.

During the 1988 uprising, Aung San Suu Kyi emerged as a national icon. The military junta arranged an election in 1990 and San Suu Kyi's party the National League for Democracy (NLD) won. However, the military junta refused to recognise the results and instead placed San Suu Kyi under house arrest.


In November 2005, the military junta began transferring the government away from Yangon to a location near Kyatpyay, just outside Pyinmana, for the purpose of designating a new capital city. On Armed Forces Day (27 March 2006), the capital was officially named Naypyidaw Myodaw ("Royal City of the Seat of Kings"), but is commonly called Naypyidaw.[citation needed]

Since 2006, a Burmese army offensive has been enacted against the KNU in Karen State, and has resulted in the displacement of a high number of people. One estimate has identified approximately half a million people who have been displaced within eastern Burma due to armed conflict and the forcible relocation of villages.[28]

In August 2007, approximately 160,000 Burmese refugees fled to the Thai boundary provinces of Chiang Mai and Ratchaburi and refugee camps have been established; the camps are mostly located near the Burma–Thailand border. Approximately 62 percent of the refugee population consists of Karen people. Humanitarian organizations have been formed to assist and support the refugees.[citation needed]. Now, United Nations estimated around 120,000 refugees remain in the refugees camps located on the Thai-Burma border.[29] In 2011, the Burmese army initiated a military operation called "Zwe Man Hein" (ဇွဲမန်ဟိန်း) to combat the rebel groups in Shan State.[30] During the operation, the Burmese army captured the territory of the National Democratic Alliance Army and Shan State Army (North), with the Shan State Army involved in most of the violent conflict. The offensive was a response from the Burmese army, as the rebel groups refused to accept Burma's 'One Nation One Army' policy.[31][32][33][34][35][36] During six decades of civil war, both Burmese Army and ethnic rebels groups used thousands of children soldiers. Even though, Burmese government and seven non-state armed groups signed with UNICEF in 2012, International Labor Organization guessed it is still on going problem. According to ILO, Burmese Army discharged of hundreds of child soldiers since 2012, it still received about 340 cases of recruitment of child soldiers in 2013 and 2014.[37]

National Reconciliation by Cease fire Agreements[edit]

Most ethnic groups became armed struggle after first military coup in 1962 and successive military governments used four cuts counter insurgency policy in ethnic areas. The "four cuts" policy involved cut communications among rebel armed groups as well as local people, cut off people and trade route in designated territories, search and destruction of any possible supply in the areas[38] On the other hand, the military government forced ethnics groups to sign ceasefire agreements with ethnic rebels groups while government troops were trying to root out their main bases in 1990s. In meanwhile, ethnic minorities political parties which won seats in 1990 elections and formed the second largest pro-democracy block after NLD  were  severely oppressed in cities. By the end of the century, there were 20 armed opposition groups ceased fire with governments [39] However, government made political dialogues with neither cease fire groups nor wining political parties. Therefore, some ethnic groups didn't cease fire with government and continued armed struggle. The ethnic populations were the most suffered from a result of long-standing hostilities with the central government. They have been treated as enemies of the state and second class citizens.[40]

National Reconciliation by Road Map[edit]

From 1993 to 2008, military government tried to approve a draft constitution by holding National Convention from 1993 to 2008 without approval of winning parties and armed ethnic groups. In 2008, government introduced its a new constitution which included highly military role in government and parliament by holding skeptical referendum aftermath of widespread of destructions caused by cyclone Nargis[41] Even though, the new constitution didn't show the first step to liberalization, it was a survival strategy for military government because it had many power sharing incentives among military elites [42] Burmese military transformed into civilian government in 2010. In the new government, President Thein Sein who was former members of military general, bicameral parliament which had 25% of reserved seats for active members of military armed forces, no amendment couldn't be approved in the constitution without the consent of 75% of parliamentary members, and all presidents needed to have military experience [43]

National Reconciliation under New Constitution[edit]

Under new government, there were state level, union level cease fire agreement with combatant groups. 14 out of 17 combatants groups made cease fire agreement with new government. According to Myanmar Peace Monitoring Web Page, the current clashes between Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), and allies (AA, ABSDF, TNLA) caused hundred thousands of internally displaced person (IDP) and there were severe humanitarian crisis in Kachin and northern Shan states[40] All minorities ethnic groups wanted negotiations in accordance with Pang long Agreement (1948) which granted self-determination, federalism and ethnic equality. However, under new constitution, there was only a few role of minority rights and therefore government discussed with armed ethnic group on the sideline of constitution. On the other hand, there was no inclusive plan or body that represents all armed groups. Most of the cease fire agreement between the State Peace Deal Commission and armed groups were formal communication process. Burma government signs ceasefire with Karen rebels.[44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Steinberg, p. 44
  2. ^ a b c Alfred W. McCoy, with Cathleen B. Read and Leonard P. Adams II. "The Shan Rebellion: The Road to Chaos", from The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade (2003 ed.). ISBN 1-55652-483-8. Retrieved 8 December 2011. [dead link][dead link]
  3. ^ Richard Michael Gibson (2011). The Secret Army: Chiang Kai-shek and the Drug Warlords of the Golden Triangle. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 85–90. ISBN 978-0-470-83018-5. 
  4. ^ a b c d Richard, p. 88
  5. ^ a b c d e f Burma center for Ethnic Studies, Jan. 2012, "Briefing Paper No. 1"
  6. ^ Rotberg, Robert (1998). Burma: prospects for a democratic future. Brookings Institution Press. p. 169.
  7. ^ AP, 4 May 2012, Myanmar state media report battles between government troops, Kachin rebels killed 31
  8. ^ Far From Home, Arakan Rebels Fight on Kachin Frontline, Irrawaddy, 28 December 2012,
  9. ^ Time for Thein Sein to come clean about Burmese losses in Kachin state, Kachin News, 22 September 2012 By Edward Chung Ho,
  10. ^ "De re militari: muertos en Guerras, Dictaduras y Genocidios". Retrieved 6 October 2014. 
  11. ^ Patrick Winn (13 May 2012). "Myanmar: ending the world's longest-running civil war". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  12. ^ Smith, M. (2007). State of Strife: The Dynamics of Ethnic Conflict in Burma. Policy Studies, 36, p. 1. East West Centre, Washington.
  13. ^ KIA says 211 army soldiers die in two-month fighting in Hpakant, 10 Oct. 2012,
  14. ^ 31 dead in new clashes with Kachin: Myanmar paper,5 May 2012,\05\05\story_5-5-2012_pg14_7
  15. ^ a b c Karenni Army (KA) (Myanmar), GROUPS - ASIA - ACTIVE, Jane's World Insurgency and Terrorism, 13 March 2012
  16. ^ Phan, Zoya and Damien Lewis. Undaunted: My Struggle for Freedom and Survival in Burma. New York: Free Press, 2010.
  17. ^ DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary. Threat to the Peace: A Call for the UN Security Council to Act in Burma (2005).
  18. ^ a b c Thant Myint-U (2006). The River of Lost Footsteps--Histories of Burma. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. pp. 274–289. ISBN 978-0-374-16342-6. 
  19. ^ "Cookies must be enabled.". Retrieved 6 October 2014. 
  20. ^ "World: Asia-Pacific Embassy gunmen flee". BBC News. 2 October 1999. Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  21. ^ Maureen Aung-Thwin (1989). "Burmese Days". Foreign Affairs. Council on Foreign Relations, Inc. Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  22. ^ Ottawa Citizen. 24 September 1988. pg. A.16
  23. ^ Associated Press. Chicago Tribune. 26 September 1988
  24. ^ Ferrara (2003), pp. 313
  25. ^ Philippa Fogarty (6 August 2008). "Was Burma's 1988 uprising worth it?". BBC News. Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  26. ^ Wintle (2007)
  27. ^
  28. ^ Burma Campaign UK: Crisis in Karen State[dead link][dead link]
  29. ^ "Fort Wayne refugees from Myanmar worried about policy changes". 2 February 2014. Retrieved 6 October 2014. 
  30. ^ Htwe, Ko (8 April 2011). "Conflict in Shan State Spreading". The Irrawaddy. Retrieved 16 July 2011. 
  31. ^ "Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.)". Retrieved 14 January 2012. 
  32. ^ Hseng, Khio Fah (10 January 2011). "Mongla base shelled by Burma Army artillery". Shan Herald Agency. Retrieved 16 July 2011. 
  33. ^ Hseng, Khio Fah (26 January 2011). "Mongla base shelled by Burma Army artillery". Shan Herald Agency. Retrieved 16 July 2011. 
  34. ^ "All roads to Shan rebel base closed". 24 February 2011. Retrieved 14 January 2012. 
  35. ^ "Burma Army occupies SSA core base". 16 March 2011. Retrieved 14 January 2012. 
  36. ^ "SSA 'North' given ultimatum to surrender". 17 March 2011. Retrieved 14 January 2012. 
  37. ^ "Burmese army releases 91 child soldiers: UNICEF". Retrieved 6 October 2014. 
  38. ^ Shan Human Rights Foundation (1998)Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF). (1998). Dispossessed: forced relocation and extrajudicial killings in Shan State. Chiang Mai: SHRF Special Publication
  39. ^ Wilson, T. (2006). Myanmar's long road to national reconciliation (1st ed., p. 39). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
  40. ^ a b
  41. ^ Martin, M. (2010). Burma's 2010 elections implications of the new constitution and election laws (p. 1). Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service.
  42. ^ Croissant, A., & Kamerling, J. (2013). Why Do Military Regimes Institutionalize? Constitution-making and Elections as Political Survival Strategy in Myanmar. Asian Journal of Political Science, 21(2), 105-105.
  43. ^ SPDC (2008). ‘Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (2008)*English’. Available at:
  44. ^ BBC News. 12 January 2012 |url= missing title (help). Retrieved 27 March 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Kipgen, Nehginpao. "Democracy Movement in Myanmar: Problems and Challenges." New Delhi: Ruby Press & Co., 2014. Print.

External links[edit]