Burma was originally a part of India for Administrative reasons, when the British Empire controlled the entire region. But later it was separated from India and became a separate unit of the British Empire. What ever development like the railways, which we see now is courtesy the English rule. Burma became independent in 1948 and for the first 14 years had parliamentary democracy under U Nu.
Burma as a Democracy
But a sad part of this democracy was the deep rifts that had come up within opposing factions. A military Coup led by General Ne Win resulted in the Army being catapulted to power. This by itself appears strange as Burma is a Buddhist nation and this religion is known as a religion of peace. Out of the 4 nations that were granted independence by the British namely India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon, only Ceylon and India nurtured democratic values while the other two Burma and Pakistan were taken over by the Army. Pakistan is an Islamic state and Islam has a history of waging wars all over the world, for what ever reason, but Buddhist nations have generally no such history. However the Military led by Ne Win took over the reins of power in 1962.
General Ne Win and Military Rule
Who was General Ne Win? He was a soldier who had been part of the Burma National Army that early on during World War II collaborated with the Japanese. But that experience turned sour and Ne Win and the BNA joined the British in their drive against the Japanese. Subsequently he continued his rise in the hierarchy and was asked to be premier by U Nu in 1958.
Ne Win more than anybody else in the Military establishment can be credited for bringing and keeping the Army into politics. The result of this army rule is not very beneficial for the people at large and mass scale unrest and demonstrations at various times have over taken the nation. But the Army has been ruthless and has had no compunction in firing and killing its own people. On a number of occasions the Army has shot dead hundreds of students and protestors. This is unheard of even in Pakistan where the Army is the main driving force. For all these actions General Ne Win must bear full responsibility. He is credited with a statement that shows his state of mind. “Army would have to be called and I would like to declare from here that if the Army shoots it has no tradition of shooting into the air. It would shoot straight to hit.”
The General himself lived in comfort and disregarded the teachings of Gautama Buddha. The founder of Buddhism is also recognized as a Hindu Avatar and he gave up his matrimonial life in search of truth. But General Ne Win married at least 5 times.
General Ne Win’s Contribution
General Ne Win was forced to step down in 1988 as violent mass scale demonstrations set Burma on fire. The demonstrations were put down and the Army returned to power. The fact remains that the Army rules with an iron hand and dissident leaders including Aung Syn were put behind bars. Aung Syn was heading peaceful protests against the Military regime. Though now she is released, yet she is not in a position to campaign against the military regime.
The fact of the matter is that the military has a stranglehold over Burma, but the generals led by Ne Win have displayed little vision, so intent have they been in furthering their personal interests. The economy is in shambles and there is minimal progress with no freedom of speech. But Burma continues on its path and the world watches. General Ne Win expired in 2002, leaving behind a legacy of Military rule, no democracy and no development. He will be dammed in History for this.