Burma, as the only country in the region, has been led by
a military government since 1962. To see related acronyms about this country, please check ABBREVIATIONFINDER where you can see that MMR stands for Myanmar. Initially, defense
equipment was supplied to the country by Western suppliers,
but these were later replaced by the Soviet Union/Russian
Federation. China seems to have been the largest arms
supplier since 1999.
The defense comprises (2008) 406,000 men enlisted and is
organized in an army of about 375,000 men with 10 light
divisions and a large number of independent battalions. The
Navy comprises about 16,000 men with 3 frigates, 67 patrol
boats, 5 landing craft and 1 amphibious battalion. The Air
Force comprises 15,000 men with approximately 125 fighter
aircraft, of which 8 MiG-29B and 39 armed helicopters.
Semi-military security forces amount to 107,000 men.
Defense costs increased in 1985-2006 from 5.1% to 18.7%
of GDP. The opposition is extensive, at least 14 different
groupings, and can be divided into groups that (2008)
concluded a ceasefire agreement with the government (KIA,
8,000 men, UWSA, 15,000 men) and such, mainly in the border
area to Thailand, which do armed resistance.
After being named prime minister in August 2003, Khin
Nyunt presented a series of liberal constitutional reforms,
the reopening of the national convention that had been
suspended since 1996 and the establishment of a roadmap to
reach democratic principles.
From the 1988 uprising until 2003, the military had
entered into ceasefire agreements with over 20 ethnic
guerrilla groups. One of these - the United States Army -
has 20,000 under arms, more than half of which are under 12
In January 2004, the government and the Karen National
Union signed an agreement to end the armed conflict. In
April, Suu Kyi remained under house arrest, although there
was hope for her release following the government's promise
to set up a constitutional commission.
After a nine-year break, the National Convention met with
1,000 delegates again in May. It was to shape the main
points of a new constitution. The government declared that
the Convention was the first step towards a democratization
of the country. Still, the NLD criticized that the military
government did not allow a free debate on the new
constitution and continued to reject by release Aung San Suu
Kyi and Tin Oo. NLD spokesman Aung Shwe stated that he did
not think his party's participation in the convention would
benefit democracy if the military government continued to
refuse to release the detainees. He added that the
government continued to refuse to allow all NLD offices to
open. Only the Rangoon office had obtained this permit. The
NLD therefore decided to boycott the Convention and other
delegates declared that the initiative lost all legitimacy
without the participation of the NLD.
In the same month, the EU and the US criticized Myanmar
for human rights violations and continued detention of
opposition politicians. The EU extended its sanctions
against the country until 2005, at the same time pushing for
the government to release Suu Kyi. However, the EU also
encouraged the NLD to participate in the Convention.
However, this was still rejected by the NLD. From a foreign
perspective, it was vital to release Suu Kyi to secure the
country's democratic reconstruction. However, the military
government did not consider her presence in the new process
as important and therefore kept her trapped.
On May 17, the Convention went into effect. The biggest
criticism came from the EU and the US, which declared that
Myanmar was in danger of US national security. The
neighboring countries of ASEAN were more reserved with
criticism and merely encouraged the NLD to participate. UN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan declared that the Convention
had no credibility without Suu Kyi's participation.
On May 24, the government of Rangoon declared that the
United States should cease giving advice on democracy as a
system, as events in Afghanistan and Iraq had shown, as US
invasions in these aimed to force changes in the internal
affairs of the countries without regard for their national
sovereignty as states. The government declared it willing to
re-establish democracy in Myanmar, but in its own way. It
continued its criticism of the United States by stating
that: "In Myanmar there are no weapons of mass destruction,
terrorist organizations, missile development programs,
expansionist plans or enmity against the United States" and
that "recent experiences of Afghanistan and Iraq are a
classic example of where It goes wrong when another country
forcibly tries to introduce democracy from the outside ».
The military government continued,
In June, Khin Nyunt traveled to Thailand on his first
visit as prime minister. He and his Thai colleague, Thaksin
Shinawatra, discussed economic development, borders and
emigration. The visit took place in the wake of
international criticism and shortly after the UN human
rights envoy Paulo Pinheiro in Rangoon stated that the
Convention was not representative and therefore
anti-democratic. Diplomatic circles considered that Myanmar
had chosen a lonely and difficult path to democracy, but
that the country's neighboring countries did not want to
interfere in the country's internal affairs.
The same month, the ILO declared from its annual meeting
in Genoa that Myanmar continued to use forced labor in the
construction of roads, recruitment to the military, the
construction of housing, etc. The ILO further criticized
that the government had sentenced a boy of 15 years to 4
years in prison on charges of desertion, after he had
managed to escape from the navy. The plans for cooperation
between the government and the ILO were also in jeopardy
following the arrest of 3 persons with false identification
documents from the ILO. Initially, all 3 were sentenced to
death for treason, but on appeal, the penalty for one was
turned into life imprisonment and for the other two to 3
years in prison. The ILO stated that it was considering
withdrawing completely from Myanmar.