Answered below are some of the more frequently asked questions on democracy and human rights in Burma.
Where is Burma?
Burma is a Southeast Asian nation bordered by Bangladesh and India to the west, China to the north, Laos to the east and Thailand to the south east and east.
Should I say Burma or Myanmar? Rangoon or Yangon?
In 1989 the then-ruling military junta changed the name of the country, along with the names of many of Burma’s states, following its brutal suppression of the 8888 Uprising in 1988. The junta claimed two justifications for doing so: Burma is a colonially imposed name, and that it contained within it an ethnic-supremacism since it referred to the ‘Burman’ majority ethnic group. The latter argument is widely regarded as baseless, with critics stating that any ethnic supremacism implied by the name paled in comparison to that displayed through the junta’s policies. Moreover, though the words Burma and Myanmar look radically different in Roman scripts, in Burmese they are pronounced almost identically. It is for these reasons that ALTSEAN-BURMA rejects the military imposed names as a cynical politically motivated move, and uses Burma’s pre-1989 names in all of its communications.
What is the 8888 Uprising and why was the 1990 election important?
The 8888 Nationwide Popular Pro-Democracy Protests were a series of nationwide protests, marches and civil unrest in Burma that peaked in August 1988. Key events occurred on 8 August 1988 and therefore it is known as the 8888 Uprising. The protests began as a student movement and were organised largely by university students at the Rangoon Arts and Sciences University and the Rangoon Institute of Technology.
What is the significance of the 2008 constitution?
The military-drafted 2008 Constitution substantially violates international standards on fundamental human rights, legitimizes the subjugation of ethnic minorities, endangers democracy, and grants the Tatmadaw extensive political power over the country as well as de facto veto power over constitutional amendments.
What happened in the 2015 elections?
General elections were held in Burma on 8 November 2015 in the first openly contested election held in the country since 1990. The poll was preceded by the 2010 General Election, which was marred by a widespread boycott and allegations of systematic fraud by the victorious Union Solidarity and Development Party.
What are the eligibility requirements for holding elected office and the Presidency?
The requirements are similar, for members of both the the House of Representatives and the House of Nationalities. The age threshold for the House of Representatives is 25 years of age while the House of Nationalities requires an age of 30. The common requirements are that eligible candidates must be Burmese citizens, from parents who both were born in Burma; and the person must have resided in Burma for 10 consecutive years up to the elections.
Why is Aung San Suu Kyi the State Counsellor of Burma? Who is President?
According the constitution, eligible candidates for the Presidency or Vice Presidency cannot have parents, a spouse or children who are foreign nationals. Therefore, despite winning the election, NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi is constitutionally barred from the presidency due to her husband and children holding British citizenship. She remains de facto head of government in a newly created office, the State Counsellor of Burma, despite the President’s Office being held by Htin Kyaw.
Who are the Tatmadaw and what is their role in Burmese politics?
The Tatmadaw is the official name of the armed forces of Burma. It is administered by the Ministry of Defence and composed of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. Auxiliary services include the Myanmar Police Force, the People’s Militia Units and until 2013 the Frontier Forces, locally known as Na Sa Kha. The force is headed by the Commander in Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.