Early History It is believed that the Mon people were the first to migrate into the Ayeyarwady Valley. This occurred in approx. 1500 BCE. The Mon were Theravada Bhuddists and dominated the southern areas of Burma. Following the Mon was the Pyu ( now known as Burmese) peoples who arrived in Burma in 1st century BC. These kingdoms declined in the 9th AD when what is present Yunnan attacked. Note: the Mon are still a prominent peoples in Burma, making up the 2nd largest population in the nation after the Burmese.
King Anawrahta (1044-1077 AD) King Anawrahta was the first King to rule over Myanmar as a single kingdom. He united the Burmese and the Mon into one nation and made Theravada Buddhism the national religion. His capital was at Bagan in the Ayeyarwaddy Valley and it flourish as a religious center filled with pagodas and shrines.
Kublai Khan/The Mongols/Tai-Shan In 1277 Kublai Khan’s forces began invading Burma, ending the Bagan kingdom. With the Mongols came the Tai-Shan ( of Yunnan ) who spread out into the areas of Burma, Thailand, and Cambodia. The Mongols leave in 1287, but the Kingdom of Bagan has been irreversibly split into four main kingdoms : Ava or Inwa ( controlling the Burmese upper state), the Mon kingdom of Hanthawady founded by King Wareru ( controlling lower Burma ), the Rakhine kingdom in the west, and the Shan states.
Taungoo (1531-1752) Led by the young king Tabinshweti, age nine, Taungoo defeated the power Mon kingdom at Bago, reunifying Southern Burma by 1540. Tabinshweti’s son, Bayinnnaung , continues on the kingdom by conquering Upper Burma, Manipur, the Shan States, Chiang Mai ( part of what is now northern Thailand ), Ayutthaya (part of Thailand), and Lan Xang ( a section of Laos. ) However, Bayinnaung’s empire unraveled almost immediately after his death in 1581.
Taungoo (cont’d) However, Bayinnaung’s grandson Anaukpetlun regrouped and reestablished a smaller kingdom covering Upper Burma, Lower Burma, and the Shan States. After Anaukpetlun’son Thalun’s reign (1629-1648) the kingdom slowly declined for the next hundred years until, with the help of the French and the Siamese, the Mon successfully rebel and finally divided the remains of the kingdom.
Konbaung (1752-1885) Founded by King Alaungpaya who also founded Yangon (also known as Rangoon.) The Qing dynasty of China attempted to invade Burma four times from 1765-1769 and failed each time. (1824-1826) British defeat Burma in the first Anglo- Burmese War. As a result Burma had to cede its land in Manipur, Assam, Rakhine, and Tanintharyi. After the Second Anglo-Burmese War, Britain captured the territories of Ayeryawaddy, Yangon, and Bago.
Konbaung Cont’d King Mindon founds Mandalay and makes it his capital in 1859. One of the most revered kings in Burmese history, Mindon successfully balances the growing threats of French and British conquests. In 1885 Britain officially lays claim to Burma, capturing Mandalay and exiling the royal family to India.
Colonnial Period (1886-1948) Burma is administered as a province of British India prior to becoming a self-governing colony in 1937. In a failed attempt to facilitate trade, Britain opened Burma’s borders to India and China. However, soon the new immigrants displaced the native Burmese in the larger urban areas. October 1919: Violence breaks out at the Eindawya Pagoda in Mandalay when Burmese monks try to prevent non- buddhist Britsh from entering. The head monk is sentenced to life in prison. Monks such as U Wisara become martyrs in new protests and uprisings against British Rule.
February 12 , 1947 The Panglong Agreement : Aung San’s administration reaches an agreement with the Shan, Kachin, and Chin peoples. It declared “full autonomy in internal administration for the Frontier Areas.” This agreement also established the Kachin State, the northernmost state in Burma. A Chin State was also brought into being the following year.
January 4th 1948 Burma is given its independence and becomes a republic known as the “Union of Burma.” Unlike most of the previous British colonies, Burma did not become part of the Britsh Commonwealth of Nations. The New Republic developed a bicameral parliament made up of a chamber of deputies ( lower house )and a chamber of nationalities ( upper house ).
Ne Win’s Coup Democratic rule of Burma is ended with the coup d’etat of General Ne Win. Originally the Burmese Prime Minister, Ne Win overthrew the government and took the titles of Chairman, Head of State, and leader of the Revolutionary Council. Though the coup was recorded as “bloodless” in the global media, the former president’s young son was shot dead by a soldier and demonstrations were violently suppressed. Ne Win makes a public statement over the radio stating : "if these disturbances were made to challenge us, I have to declare that we will fight sword with sword and spear with spear".
Ne Win’s Coup Cont’d July 7, 1962 : Rangoon University students try to speak out against the new leadership of Ne Win. Ne Win sends his troops to disperse the peaceful demonstration resulting in the shooting of approx 100 unarmed students. The next morning the Rangoon University Student Union Building is blown up. Ne Win denies any connection to the dynamiting of the Student Union Building. All universities closed for the next 2 years.
Burmese Way To Socialism (1962-1988) Ne Win begins an agenda of nationalization of industries, repression of minorities, and a police state. These ideals led to expulsion of foreigners, isolationism, and closing off the economy. Tried to enforce a state-sanctioned form of Buddhism. This agenda increased Burma’s stability and kept it separated from getting entangled in Asian Cold War conflicts. However, it also lead to a great increase in poverty and a military revolt. Ne Win develops government as a Military Junta.
Military Coup of 1988 In Ne Win’s farewell speech at his resignation, he threatened that even though he was stepping down from office, protestors would not be welcome in Burma and that the soldiers meant to put them down would “shoot straight to hit.” Tatmadaw Troops upheld this promise, systematically killing and maiming hundreds of protestors throughout the country. September 18, 1988 : General Saw Maung brutally crushes protestor uprisings in Yangon. There is rumor that Ne Win has helped to plan and execute the coup from the background.
May 1999 The Burmese Government holds its first free elections in 30 years. The National League for Democracy, the party of female Burmese hero Aung San Suu Kyi won by a landslide, however the Military Junta’s party, the State Peace and Development Council, annulled the results, refusing to step down. Aung San Suu Kyi was put under house arrest soon after and remains so today.
March 4, 2002 An alleged plot to overthrow the military junta developed by Ne Win’s son-in-law Aye Zaw Win was exposed. Aye Zaw Win and his wife (Ne Win’s daughter ) Sandar Win were put under house arrest along with Ne Win himself. That September Aye Zaw Win and his three sons were found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. They are still awaiting execution in Rangoon’s Insein Jail.
2007 Uprisings The uprisings in August were led by well-known rebels such as Min Ko Naing, who obtains the nom de guerre “ king of kings”. The Military crack down on the uprisings quickly and still refuses to allow the Red Cross to see Min Ko Naing who is in custody at Rangoon’s Insein Prison after being severely tortured. In that September several hundred monks staged protest marches in Rangoon and Sittwe. When the protests came into conflict with Junta soldiers, the violence that ensued resulted in a number of deaths and injuries. National reporters were warned not to report about the protests.
Cyclone Nargis May 3rd, 2008 : Cyclone Nargis devastated Burma when it struck the densely populated rice-farming area of Irrewaddy. Current reports suggest that more than 130,000 people are either missing or dead from the disaster. It is on record as the worst disaster in Burmese history. The Burmese Government failed to allow large-scale foreign aid services into the country, however news stories state that the foreign aid that was provided to disaster victims was modified to make it appear as if it was from the military regime, with all media running photos of General Than Shwe ceremonially handing out disaster relief.