Internal conflict in Burma

Internal conflict in Burma
Internal conflict in Burma
Date April 1948–present
Location Burma
Status Unresolved; minor (at times major)
  • Uprisings continue
  • Autocratic regime remains
  • Civil unrest/(bordering civil war) continues
  • Regime changes to party form Union Solidarity and Development Party
Burma Burmese military (Junta) government (1962-2011)

Union Solidarity and Development Party (2011-)

Burmese Way To Socialism (1962-1988)

Burma Anti-junta factions
Various ethnic groups

 United Kingdom
 United States Financial Backing:

492,000 tens of thousands
Casualties and losses
501,000 killed

The internal conflict in Burma is a term that is employed to refer to the current violence in Burma that has existed since approximately April 1948 between the Burmese government and the various ethnic groups in the country. More recently, the conflict has been against the military regime that has ruled the country from 1962 to 2011. The conflict is the oldest ongoing war in the world[1], and has received international attention as a result of the 8888 Uprising in 1988, the work of activist Aung San Suu Kyi, the anti-government protests in late 2007, and the devastation wreaked by Cyclone Nargis, which left over 80,000 dead and 50,000 missing in mid-2008.



Burma gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1948. Immediately afterwards, communist rebels began an uprising against the new government. Uprisings and ethnic conflicts began breaking out in various provinces of Burma continuing into 1949. The Karen, led predominantly by the Christian Karen National Union (KNU) began fighting for an autonomous Karen state, Kawthoolei, in the eastern part of the country. The situation worsened when Buddhism was made the official religion, and questions regarding the rights of the Muslim Rohingya, Christian Karen, Chin, Kachin and other peoples under federalism were never really addressed; this was exacerbated by clauses in the constitution that granted nominal rights to secession to some groups.[2] Due to the split of the party in power, the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League (AFPFL) became used as a transitional military government from 1958 to 1960.

The 1962 Burmese coup d'état brought Ne Win to power, and widespread human rights violations in frontier areas followed, intensifying the insurgency. Today organizations out of the ethnic groups of the Karen and Shan (Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army) in the east of the country fight against the government. The increasing persecution of the Rohingya people in the western part of the country and racialization of Islam has led to the formation of small but active armed groups in the region, using refugee camps in Bangladesh as bases. Also in other regions, there are sporadic battles. Due to the conflicts, around 160,000 Burmese refugees live in Thailand and many more live in other countries in the region.

Currently, around 25 different ethnic groups had agreed ceasefires with the military government.[3]

1988 Uprising

On August 8, 1988, student protests spread throughout the country. Hundreds of thousands of ochre-robed monks, young children, university students, housewives, and doctors demonstrated against the regime.[4][5] The uprising ended on September 18, after a bloody military coup by the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). Thousands of deaths have been attributed to the military during this uprising.[6][7][8] But authorities in Myanmar put the figure at around 350 people killed.[9][10]

During the crisis, Aung San Suu Kyi emerged as a national icon. When the military junta arranged an election in 1990, her party, the National League for Democracy, won. However, the military junta refused to recognize the results and placed Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest. The State Law and Order Restoration Council would be a cosmetic change from the Burma Socialist Programme Party.[4]

As a result of these uprisings the new government agreed to sign separate peace treaties with some insurgent groups.

Recent events

In November 2005, the military junta started moving the government away from Yangon to a location near Kyatpyay just outside Pyinmana, to a newly designated capital city. This public action follows a long term unofficial policy of moving critical military and government infrastructure away from Yangon to avoid a repetition of the events of 1988. On Armed Forces Day (March 27, 2006), the capital was officially named Naypyidaw Myodaw (Royal City of the Seat of Kings), but is commonly called Naypyidaw. Over 7,000 people, almost all participating in anti-government uprisings have been killed in the conflict.

Since 2006, an offensive of the Burmese army against the Karen National Union has been going on in Karen State, resulting in the displacement of tens of thousands. An estimated half a million people have been displaced within eastern Burma due to armed conflict and the forcible relocation of villages.[11]

There is an informal yet relatively widespread controversy about what would be the most accurate term to describe Burma's internal conflict. A common argument would be that a civil war would have started in 1948 as the result of the social, economic and political background of the country and thus current violence could not be considered an isolated phenomenon. This application of the term civil war to the ensuing conflict that began in Burma has been considered debatable by some, as another position held by several analysts would point out that the conflict's characteristics, scale and intensity have not reached those of a full blown civil war.

In August 2007, about 160,000 Burma refugees fled to the Thai boundary provinces of Chiang Mai and Ratchaburi. The refugee camps lie mostly directly at the border with Burma. Of the refugees, about 62% are Karen. Thailand has formed humanitarian organizations to help the refugees.

In recent reports, the Burmese government has accused the governments of the United Kingdom, France and Singapore for giving incentives to rebels against Burma[citation needed]. France had also planned for talks with Thailand to join the incentives. On the other hand, Singapore have also been criticized for its investment in Burma, as a substantial sum of the investment is said to be used to fund the junta's activity and oppression of ethnic minority.

2011 Zwe Man Hein Campaign

In 2011, the Burmese army undertook an offensive against rebel groups in Shan State, in a military operation called "Zwe Man Hein" (ဇွဲမန်ဟိန်း).[12] Territory of the National Democratic Alliance Army and Shan State Army (North) were captured with most violent conflict taking place against the Shan State Army. The offensive was in response to a refusal of rebel groups to accept Burma's 'One Nation One Army' policy and integration to the border guards. [13]

On 7 January 2011, Burma's army bombed a National Democracy Alliance Army base at Loi Parng Nao. The Burmese army fired 15 rounds of 155mm artillery.[14]

-January 26- It was reported that locally owned land was being taken by the Burmese military for new bases to be built.[15]

-February 24- The Burmese military shut down all roads to Shan State Army rebel areas.[16]

-March 14- Shan State Army (North) and the Burmese military exchanged gunfire. The Northern army was among the groups agreeing to a cease-fire with the Burmese military.

-March 16- After a day long battle the Burmese army captured the Shan State Army North's base of Namlao. [17]

-March 17- The Burmese military gave the Shan State Army North an ultimatum to surrender with demands to withdraw from all bases except the headquarters at Wanhai. The Burmese military is estimated to have 2,000 troops involved in the ongoing conflict against Shan State Army North. Four Shan State Army North bases have been captured. [18]

See also


  1. ^ Burma: world's longest war nears its end (2009!). In Burma the war has go on from 1949, the war i Sudan start in 1955.
  2. ^ Lall, Marie (November 23, 2009). Ethnic Conflict and the 2010 Elections in Burma. Chatham House.
  3. ^ Smith, M. (2007). State of Strife: The Dynamics of Ethnic Conflict in Burma. Policy Studies, 36, p. 1. East West Centre, Washington.
  4. ^ a b Steinberg (2002)
  5. ^ Aung-Thwin, Maureen. (1989). Burmese Days. Foreign Affairs.
  6. ^ Ferrara (2003), pp. 313
  7. ^ Fogarty, Phillipa (August 7, 2008). Was Burma's 1988 uprising worth it?. BBC News.
  8. ^ Wintle (2007)
  9. ^ Ottawa Citizen. September 24, 1988. pg. A.16
  10. ^ Associated Press. Chicago Tribune. September 26, 1988.
  11. ^ Burma Campaign UK: Crisis in Karen State
  12. ^ Htwe, Ko (8 April 2011). "Conflict in Shan State Spreading". The Irrawaddy. Retrieved 16 July 2011. 
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ Hseng, Khio Fah (10 January 2011). "Mongla base shelled by Burma Army artillery". Shan Herald Agency. Retrieved 16 July 2011. 
  15. ^ Hseng, Khio Fah (26 January 2011). "Mongla base shelled by Burma Army artillery". Shan Herald Agency. Retrieved 16 July 2011. 
  16. ^ [2]
  17. ^ [3]
  18. ^ [4]

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