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 years old.
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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.