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After decades of British colonial rule, Burma gained independence and elected its first president, Sao Shwe Thaik, in 1948. The government was instable and challenged by communist rebels such as the Red Flag insurgents. In 1962, senior military officers took power in Burma, declaring it a "socialist state." Then, in 1988, widespread pro-democracy protests challenged the military regime. After harsh repression, another military coup took place, followed by martial law. In 1989, the new leaders changed the name of the country to Myanmar.

In 1990, the government promised reform, and multiparty elections took place. The National League for Democracy, lead by Aung San Suu Kyi, won. But the military never accepted the results of the election and stayed in power. Ethnic armed guerilla movements destabilized the eastern border regions, while the urban population remained hostile to the regime. But the military rulers could rely on international economic and political support. The regime had lucrative oil and gas deals with companies from the United States, France and China. Arms supplies came from many sources including China and Russia. Feeling immune, the regime mobilized conscript labor to build a major gas pipeline, giving rise to many international NGO protests.

One of the generals, Kyin Nyunt, eventually agreed on a cease-fire with opposition groups and announced a seven-step "roadmap to democracy" in 2003. But there were no concrete results from this and other official gestures. The US government, for economic and geo-strategic reasons of its own, began to raise the issue of democracy in Burma and to press the UN Security Council for action. But other Council members, including China and Russia, insisted that the matter was purely internal and not a threat to international peace and security. For more than two years, they refused to allow Burma onto the Council's agenda.

In August and September 2007, a massive protest began in several major Burmese cities under the leadership of Buddist monks. The regime repressed the protesters violently, jailing large numbers. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called on the military to stop the violence, release the detainees and start a dialogue with the opposition to promote democracy. The Security Council finally took up the issue, as did ASEAN, the regional organization of South East Asia.

UN Documents | Reports | Articles

UN Documents

Statement by the President of the Security Council (October 11, 2007)

In an October presidential statement, the Security Council condemned Myanmar's repression and asked for the release of the political detainees. The Council also stressed the importance of the UN special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari. It requested that the military junta accept the UN and Gambari's recommendations. The statement reaffirmed the need for a dialogue with the opposition and the transition towards democracy. Moreover, it suggested the junta address the political, economic, humanitarian and human rights concerns of its people. Finally, the Council recognized Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition leadership, and urged that a government liaison officer work with her and the United Nations.


Total Impact: The Human Rights, Environmental, and Financial Impacts of Total and Chevron's Yadana Gas Project in Military-Ruled Burma

In this in-depth report, EarthRights International uncovers how the Yadana pipeline project operated by Chevron and Total in Burma has been responsible for keeping the Burmese military regime financially solvent. The multi-billion dollar profits generated by the project are deposited in bank accounts abroad, enabling the junta to ignore international pressure and deny democratic demands from the Burmese people. This report establishes a direct link between the regimes' gas revenues and its authoritarian behavior.


Picture Credit: Economist


Myanmar Can 'Taste Freedom', Says Obama (October 19, 2012)

Myanmar is attempting to transform from an isolated military dictatorship into a democracy. However, ethnic conflicts, including continued war in the northern Kachin state and an upsurge in communal violence against Muslim Rohingya in western Rakhine state, continue to afflict the nation. In November, Barack Obama was the first US president to visit Myanmar. Although he met with both president Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and used both Burma and Myanmar to refer to the country, human rights activists criticize the visit as premature, stressing that Myanmar’s leadership still needs to consolidate the proposed reforms. (Financial Times)

Blood and Gold: Inside Burma's Hidden War (October 4, 2012)

International euphoria about reform in Burma is premature. The government and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) are violently clashing in northern Burma. After a 17-year ceasefire, the war in Kachin reignited last year when the Burmese Army attacked a KIA post near a disputed hydropower dam site. At stake is the resource-rich Kachin state, in which China and international corporations also have an interest for its minerals and prime timber. Peace talks between the two parties in Burma have not been successful. (Al Jazeera)


Burma’s Military Junta Accused of Torturing and Killing Ethnic Rebels (December 18, 2011)

After a 17-year cease-fire, conflict has erupted between the Burmese government and ethnic minority rebels of Kachin in northern Burma. Mainstream media has largely turned a blind eye, but Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights have documented the last six months of violence. In an attempt to stamp out the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), government soldiers are killing civilians and have forced at least 30,000 to flee. The Burmese military has engaged in rights violations including forced labor, torture, sexual abuse of women, and destruction of property and livelihoods. According to International Crisis Group, the resumption of fighting in Kachin areas is a serious threat to peace in Myanmar. (Guardian)

Burma's Convicts Become Unwilling Pawns in a Long and Bitter Civil War (September 30, 2011)

Since 1948, Burma has been plunged into a bloody civil war between the army and ethnic rebels, including the Karen, who are fighting for their ethnic rights. This article points out that since 1992 the Burmese government has been using “porter convicts”, to transport goods and weapons during the fighting. The Burmese army is also abducting young men to forcibly enroll them. Though a civilian government has been in place since 2008, violence against the population continues and Burmese still flee across the border into Thailand to escape. (Guardian)

Burmese Wary of ‘Democracy’, after Decades of Oppression (August 25, 2011)

Following Senior General Than Shwe’s resignation from office in March, Myanmar has moved from a military dictatorship to what the state media calls a “discipline flourishing democracy.” But this transition has not really changed anything in the country and the population continues to fight for its survival.  The new government has made some progress towards openness, but Myanmar still struggles to address political, economic and social problems. (New York Times)

Burmese Crossroads: Oil & Gas Rush Stokes Civil War (July 26, 2011)

In 2009, Myanmar concluded a lucrative deal with South Korea and China, which allowed the construction of cross-country oil and gas pipelines. This project has led to more than $10 billion in investment into Myanmar but without improving the living conditions of the population. The Burmese government is dispossessing people of their land. These pipelines run through the Shan state in the northern part of Myanmar, a war zone where the Burmese army has committed serious human rights abuses. (Corp Watch)

Myanmar/ Thailand: Aid Workers Welcome Burmese Refugee Census (June 9, 2011)

Aid workers welcomed a headcount of refugees from Myanmar living in three of ten camps along the border with Thailand. The Thai government stopped screening and registering new refugees from Myanmar in 2005 after officially giving refugee status to nearly 140,000 people. An estimated 50,000 unregistered refugees now live as unofficial residents in government-run camps, struggling to gain access to vital services without a vote in internal elections. (IRIN)

Myanmar: Rights abuses continue unabated, activists say (May 24, 2011)

Six months ago Myanmar had its first general election in twenty years. The international community deemed the election a sham. The ‘elected’ government, however, promised that the election signified the beginning of a new policy towards the civilian population which would lead to greater civic participation in governance. However, human rights abuses continue unabated. One of the biggest problems in Myanmar is the impunity with which the government operates. Vijay Nambiar, the UN special envoy for Myanmar, said that the government needed to do more to assist all segments of society and that it needed to release all political prisoners. (IRIN)


Call for War Crimes Inquiry Foils UN Envoy's Trip (August 9, 2010)

In March, a UN human rights investigator for Burma called for an international inquiry to investigate whether the country's military regime committed war crimes. His report highlighted violations including deaths and torture of detainees, forced labor, arrest of dissidents and lack of freedom of expression and assembly. In response, the military junta has denied the UN special rapporteur an entry visa for his fourth visit to the country. Burmese activists told IPS that they hoped the report and subsequent treatment of Quintana would break the UN Security Council's silence on the issue. (IPS)

Burma's Nuclear Weapons Intent "Clear and Disturbing" (June 4, 2010)

A report produced by the Democratic Voice of Burma claims to show that the Burmese military junta intends to develop nuclear weapons. The evidence cited in the report includes pictures and documents smuggled out of the country by a former major in the Burmese army. Observers have compared the major to Mordechai Vanunu, the technician who provided evidence of Israel's nuclear program. As reports have also surfaced linking North Korea to Burma's alleged ambitions, U.S. Senator Jim Webb cancelled his planned trip to Burma. (The Guardian)

Read GPF's analysis of this story on our blog.

After Renewing Sanctions, EU Seeks Face-Time with Burma Junta (May 3, 2010)

The European Union has extended its sanctions against Myanmar until April 2011. The European Council stated that unfair election rules and the continued imprisonment of dissident politicians were reasons for the extension. NGOs argue that EU sanctions are insufficient because they fail to target the business cronies of the ruling junta. Further, the French refusal to support calls for Total to cease its oil and gas operations in Burma has undermined the sanctions.  (World Press)

The UN Singles Out Big Oil in Burma, With Good Reason (April 13, 2010)

UN Special Rapporteur on human rights Tomas Quintana has accused foreign oil companies operating in Burma of contributing to human rights violations occurring in the country. Oil pipelines, such as Chevron and Total, have played a large role in abuses such as forced labor, killings, rape and torture. Moreover, most of the money generated from the oil business has gone straight to the ruling military junta. (Huffington Post)

Standing Tall or Stepping Down? (March 30, 2010)

Aung San Suu Kyi's ‘National League for Democracy' (NLD) will boycott the upcoming elections in Myanmar, by refusing to register the party. NLD decided to reject the elections because of a set of restrictive and undemocratic election laws published by Myanmar's military junta. However, without the NLD, critics argue that no political party can successfully rival the junta-run Union Solidarity and Development Association. (ISN Security Watch)

Spate of Myanmar Privatizations Raises Questions (March 16, 2010)

Myanmar's junta has begun to privatize many state-owned companies and other assets, raising fears that the junta may be trying to take all the profits before the 2010 elections. The junta is trying to sell petrol stations, ports and state-owned buildings. The privatizations could signal positive economic reform and raising much needed revenues but this seems unlikely for a notoriously corrupt regime.  (AFP)

Myanmar Leaders Agree to Election Rules, Keeps Them Largely Secret (March 9, 2010)

The Burmese junta has finally decided on the rules for the upcoming election. However, the military leaders has released few details and have not yet announced an election date. This leaves the opposition very little time to organize, undermining further the credibility of an already dubious election. The junta is hoping that an election - however questionable - will give Myanmar enough international legitimacy to attract more investors. (LA Times)


Burma has been ruled by a tough military junta since 1962. The Burmese Prime Minister has recently promised the UN that the 2010 elections will be free and fair, but this is improbable. Still, there are some signs of hope. Burma has accepted the re engagement efforts of the UN, and it recently allowed Aung San Suu Kyi (leader of the opposition) out of house arrest to meet foreign diplomats. Simon Tisdall urges us to balance skepticism with optimism – at last Burma may be moving in a positive direction. (Guardian)

Burmese Villagers 'Forced To Work On Total Pipeline' (August 14, 2009)

Foreign companies' investment in Burma's oil and gas is coming under international scrutiny following the junta's decision to further detain opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. French energy company Total faces accusations of using Burmese villagers as forced labor to build a pipeline transporting gas from Burma to Thailand. An upcoming report by EarthRights International suggests that the Burmese regime is earning hundred of millions of dollars from the project. (The Independent)


Dead End in Burma for UN Envoy (August 21, 2008)

UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari visits Burma to discuss the release of political prisoners and the planned elections in 2010 with the Burmese junta government. This Mizzima article states that Gambari's mission could fail since both the government and the detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi do not want to talk to him. Aung San Suu Kyi only wants to meet Gambari after he has spoken with a senior governmental official. However, despite this resistance Gambari remains committed to opening communication.

Security Council Report Update: Myanmar (May 14, 2008)

France invokes the principle of "Responsibility to Protect" at the Security Council for a military intervention to help victims of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar. The Cyclone struck the Irradawdy Delta region of Myanmar on May 2, 2008 leaving tens of thousands dead. France criticizes the Myanmar government for an ineffectual response to the crisis, claiming that the ruling Junta prevents international aid workers from reaching affected areas. The French proposal has divided the Council; with China, Indonesia and South Africa claiming that a military solution will not help victims of the disaster. (Security Council Report)

Asia Has Interests in Myanmar (April 7, 2008)

Several UN Member States have an interest in preventing democratic reform in Myanmar, says the Jakarta Post. The editorial notes that China supports the military rulers in exchange for natural gas and the construction of a pipeline from Myanmar into its Yunnan province. Furthermore, India and Thailand offer the junta financial support, hoping to gain favorable trade deals in the country's rich natural resources. The author concludes that free from any effective pressure, "the Myanmarese military regime can continue to thumb its nose at the world."

Burma's Sham Constitution (March 12, 2008)

Despite claiming to accept a UN "road map to democracy", the Burmese junta has created a draft constitution barring opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from standing for office. The document also allows the junta to appoint 110 out of 440 delegates in parliament. The article notes that the regime is able to ignore an international outcry against its human rights record due to political and financial support from China, India and Malaysia; and lucrative oil deals from companies in the US and France. (Guardian)


Burma's "Saffron Revolution" Is Not Over (December 10, 2007)

According to a ITUC and FIDH joint report, the junta's violent repression of the monks created great resistance from the Burmese population. The report set out four principles of action for the international community in the Burma situation. These principals are: international pressure to stop the violence; national reconciliation; cutting the junta's economic support, especially in the oil, gas, timber and gem sectors; and support of a peaceful transition to democracy.

Burma: Crackdown Bloodier Than Government Admits (December 7, 2007)

Human Rights Watch has released a report claiming that Burma's government crackdown had more violent consequences than it claims. The report denounces the junta's large scale persecution of protesters, monks and civilians. It also says that the government still represses the opposition. HRW has called upon the international community, especially the UN Security Council, and countries that have a close relationship with Burma, to effectively pressure the junta to stop.

Asian Leaders, Seeking Myanmar's Gas, May Go Soft on Sanctions (November 20, 2007)

China, one of the major ASEAN countries, does not support sanctions against Myanmar's military junta. India, once a supporter of Aung San Suu Ky's democratic movement, recently joined its ASEAN partners, China and Thailand in economic trade agreements with Myanmar's junta. Only Japan canceled its gas and oil contracts with Myanmar, joining the US and EU in their pro-democratic campaign. Ironically, Chevron Corp, a US oil-giant stated it will keep its natural-gas project in the country even if that means losing US government tax benefits. (Bloomberg)

Myanmar Should Agree on Change Timetable, UN Says (November 13, 2007)

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declared that Myanmar's junta should work with the opposition and the UN on a timetable for political change. Ban Ki-moon insisted Ibrahim Gambari's visit to the country ended positively. He believes a process leading to a dialogue with concrete outcomes has started between the parties. Unfortunately, China did not reinforce the need for a timetable, as it believes that pressure may worsen the situation. China and Thailand represent the biggest economic partners of Myanmar's military junta. (Bloomberg)

UN Rights Envoy Enters Burma (November 12, 2007)

Myanmar's military government allowed Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, UN Human Rights investigator for Myanmar, to enter the country after a four year ban. The government has felt pressure from the international community following repression of protests in August and September 2007. Mr. Pinheiro has a volatile history with the military junta, because he accused the government of making false excuses about its political prisoners. The mission's objective is to determine the real number of people arrested and killed, and if the government tortured the prisoners. (Independent)

The Geopolitical Stakes of 'Saffron Revolution' (October 17, 2007)

The US media has acknowledged that the mass protest in Myanmar was due, in particular, to the extreme rise in gasoline prices, which ironically was a result of IMF and World Bank demands. However, this Asia Times article says that Washington helped orchestrate the protests to increase its influence in the Far East and secure access to oil.

Burma: Protest, Crackdown – and Now? (October 12, 2007)

According to this openDemocracy analysis, the Burmese conflict has three different but interconnected tensions. The first stems from disagreements between the military regime and the democratic opposition, in which the monks play an important role as mediators of possible future negotiations. The second demonstrates the division within the military government, as different factions struggle for leadership. The third focuses on excluded ethnic groups that fight the militant government through armed insurgencies. In addition, the author suggests that a transition to democracy should be gradual and all social sectors should be involved in making the constitution.

Security Council Issues Its First Official Censure of Burmese Junta (October 11, 2007)

The US and Europe hope for greater action against Burma's military junta, however China and Russia differ. These two countries only agreed to the Security Council statement because it offers diplomatic support to the mediation efforts of special UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari. According to Human Rights Watch, China and Russia, as well as India, supply arms to and have economic interests with the Burmese military government. (Washington Post)

UN Chief Calls Crackdown in Myanmar 'Abhorrent' (October 6, 2007)

UN representative Ibrahim Gambari told the Security Council that the violence in Burma/Myanmar continues and that the military junta reports an unrealistically small number of causalities. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon asks for a united stance by the Security Council to support the efforts of the UN special envoy. Unity seems hard to achieve, especially since China believes increased pressure will only lead to confrontations and a loss of dialogue between the UN and the junta. (New York Times)

Chevron's Pipeline Is the Burmese Regime's Lifeline (October 3, 2007)

As the junta continues to kill and imprison monks and civilians in Burma, the resource-rich, but sanctioned country stays economically afloat. Burma is rich in natural gas, something that US oil company Chevron benefits from. US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, a former Chevron board member, speaks critically against the human rights violations in Burma, while remaining quiet on who is financing the military regime. (AlterNet)

UN Envoy to Meet Myanmar Junta General (October 2, 2007)

The Security Council unanimously requested that Myanmar's military junta and the opposition, especially the National League for Democracy, start a dialogue mediated by UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon urged the junta to stop civilian repression and to release the imprisoned protesters. He also urged the junta, which controls the country's natural resources, to respect the rights of the people and promote national reconciliation through democratic reform. (Reuters)

UN Envoy Tries to Ease Tensions in Myanmar (October 1, 2007)

The United Nations envoy to Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari met with the military junta and the opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Gambari and US representative, Shari Villarosa, demanded that the junta stop the violence and reach an agreement with the opposition. Analysts argue that the junta will not change its strategy unless China, its economic ally and political "buffer," puts pressure through sanctions or economic boycotts, which does not seem likely. (New York Times)

Democracy, Democracy, No It Is Oil, Oil in Myanmar (September 28, 2007)

The author of this Daily Mirror article criticizes selective humanitarian intervention and the motives of the international community's decisions. Myanmar suffers from military oppression, human rights violations, government corruption and a lack of democracy. Yet western countries won't take active measures against the same military junta that provides significant oil and gas contracts to China, Russia, US, France and India. The UN Security Council has divided opinions as the US and China re-enact an old Cold War battle of geo-political power over Burma and the Asian region and its riches.

Violence Continues in Myanmar (September 27, 2007)

China and Russia vetoed a preliminary UN Security Council draft resolution led by the US to pressure Myanmar's government into stopping the violence. Although the international community disapproves of the Myanmar crackdown, China and Russia, for economic reasons, insist Council action is unnecessary. Experts monitoring the situation claim that the military response could have been more violent, if not for the presence of the highly revered monks and China's influence. (Council on Foreign Relations)

A Biography of Aung San Suu Kyi (May 28, 2007)

Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of Aung San, Burma's independent leader against British colonization, has become a pro-democratic icon. She started to resist the military junta in 1988 when she joined the National League for Democracy (NLD) movement. Even under house arrest, Suu Kyi manages to lead the opposition against the junta and has won several international peace awards. This Burma Campaign article shows the chronology of her fight throughout the years.

Security Council Fails to Adopt Draft Resolution on Myanmar (January 12, 2007)

China and Russia vetoed a draft resolution on Myanmar introduced by the US and the UK in the Security Council. The resolution called on the Burmese government to cease violent oppression against the protesters, and begin negotiations towards democracy. China and Russia defended their vetoes, arguing that the Council was exceeding its mandate by interfering in an internal issue of the sovereign state of Myanmar. Exposing the Council's double standards, the two veto powers pointed out that the Council does not take action on other countries with similar problems as Myanmar. (UN News)


How Strong Is the Military Regime? (December 21, 2000)

This analysis gives an overview of the Burma/Myanmar military regime also known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). After 1988, the SPDC opened the country's economic borders, promoting foreign investments especially within the oil and gas sector. The junta profited from these oil deals and relations with China, India and the ASEAN countries flourished. Civilian resistance has increased and international pressure for democracy continues. Despite this, the SPDC shows no signs of releasing its stronghold on the country. (International Crisis Group)


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