Palaeolithic and neolithic cultures flourished in many
parts of Myanmar from about 20.000 years ago leaving behind much material
evidence as well as the wall painting of Padalin Cave in the Shan foothills
near Myirtha. A bronze culture later developed, well represented by the
Nyaunggan archaeological site near Monywa.
Transition to an urban civilization was made in the 2
nd century BC. A number of cities flourished, among them Wethali (Vaisali) of
the Rakhines, Thuwannabhumi (Suvannabhumi, "Land of Gold") of the Mons, and
Beikthano (Vishnu City), Hanlin and Thayekhittaya (Sriksetra, "Field of
Splendour") of the Pyus, a people whose language has become extinct but whose
architectural monuments - the Bawbawgyi, Payagyi and Payama pagoda of
Myanmar civilization achieved a high level of
development at Bagan from the middle of the 11th century to the end of the 13th
century. According to the chronicles, Bagan was founded in AD 107 by the
Thamoddarit and ruled by a line of 55 kings, but written evidences are
available only from Anawrahta (1044 - 1077) onwards. Anawrahta, the first
unifier of Myanmar. established Theravada Buddhism with the help of Buddhist
Missionary Shin Arahan and laid the foundation of Bagan's Greatness. A thriving
economy and the inspiration of Buddhism resulted in the great monuments of
Shwezigon, Ananda, Thatbinnyu, Gawdawpalin and a host of other pagodas, several
of than decorated with mural paintings on religious themes.
The decline of Bagan, brought about by a Mongol
invasion in 1287_ was followed by political confusion and the emergence of two
kingdoms: Inwa, founded by Thadominbya to 1365, and Hanthawady (Bago) founded
by Banya U in 1369. Nineteen kings ruled in Inwa from 1365 to 155'7 and I I
kings in Hanthawady from 1369 to 1538.From 1386 to 1422, there was war between
Inwa and Hanthawady.
Myanmar entered a new phase of greatness when the
kings of Toungoo moved their capital from 'loran goo to Bago and three of its
kings ruled there from 1538 to 1599.
Bayintnaung (1552-1581), known also as Lord of the
White Elephants and Conqueror of the Ten Directions, reunited the kingdom,
created the vast Hanthawady Empire and rebuilt Bago «n a magnificent scale.
The Inwa Kingdom
Following the break-up of the Hanthawady Empire,
Nyaungyan 11598-1606) established a new Myanmar kingdom, and ten kin-s reigned
in Inwa from 1598 to 1752. The most famous of the Inwa kings. Thalun
(1629-1648) built the Kaunghmudaw Pagoda near Sagaing. A rebellion which
started in Bago led to tile downfall of the kingdom in 1752.
The Konbaung Kin-rloni
In the tradition of Anawrahta and Bayintnaung,
Alaungpaya (1752-17611) reunited Myanmar and established the last Myanmar
dynasty of I I kings who ruled from 1752 to 1885. The kingdom had a number of
capitals, including Shwebo, Inwa and Amarapura, with the last capital,
Mandalay, being founded by Mindon ( 18521878) in 1859.
In 1785, the Rakhine kingdom whose capital was Mrauk -
U, Founded by (1430-1433) in 1430, and which had a line of 49 kings reigning
from 1430 to 1785, was made part of the Konbaung kingdom.
Myanmar fought three wars against the British and lost
Rakhinc and Taninthayi in 1826, Lower Myanmar in 1852 and its independence on I
British Colonial Rule
The British started to rule parts of Myanmar in 1826
and the whole country in 1886. Myanmar was first placed under a Chief
Commissioner, then a Lieutenant Governor in 1897. and then a Governor in 1923,
and ruled as part of British India until separation in 1937. In Myanmar itself,
the Shan States, the Kayah (Karenni) States and the hill areas were
administered separately from Myanmar Propcr.
An appointed advisory Council was established in 1897,
a partially elected leg, islative Council in 1923, and a bicameral legislature
with an elected House of Representatives in 1937.
Under British rule. an economic transformation took
place ,vilh the commercial production of rice and the development of Myanmar as
a major rice exporting country. British firms such as the Burmah Oil Company,
Steel Brothers, and the Bombay Burmah Trading Company. dominated the economy.
The Nationalist Movement
Armed resistance along traditional lines followed
British annexation in 1886. A modern nationalist movement began with the
founding of the Young Men's Buddhist Association [YMBA] in 1906 and developed
with the formation in 1920 of the General Council of Burmese Associations
[GCBA] which advocated constitutional advancement, and the staging of the
University Boycott of 19211 directed against the restrictive University Act.
The nationalist movement became more radical with the
peasant uprising led by Saya San in 1930 and the formation of the Dobama
Asiayon (We Myanmars Association) the same year. In 1938, the "Revolution of
(the Myanmar Year) 1300", which started with a strike in the Chauk -
Yenangyaung oilfields, brought the nationalist movement to a high level of
With the outbreak of World War II in Europe. Thakin
(later Bogyoke) Aung San of the Dobama Asiayon, making an effort to stage an
armed struggle, made contact with the Japanese Army. A group of young members
of the Dobama Asiayon, the Thirty Comrades. was given military training in
Hainan and the Burma Independence Army (BIA) was formed in Bangkok on 26
December 1942. The BIA advanced into Myanmar with the Japanese Army and forced
the withdrawal of the British in 1942.
The BIA, reorganized as the Burma Defence Army on 27
July 1942 joined other anti - fascist elements in the Anti - Fascist
Organization (AFO) in August 1944 and started an armed struggle against the
Japanese forces on 27 March 1945.
After the War, the AFO was reorganized as the Anti -
Fascist People's Freedom League (AFPFL) with Bogyoke Aung San as President.
Demonstrating its political strength in a general strike in September 1946, the
AFPFL was admitted into the Governor's Executive Council with Bogyoke Aung San
as Deputy Chairman of the Council. In November 1946 the AFPFL called for
independence within one year and discussions with the British Government
resulted in the Aung San - Attlee Agreement of 27 January 1947 which provided
for the functioning of the Executive Council as an interim government and the
holding of elections for a Constituent Assembly.
On 12 February 1947 Bogyoke Aung San concluded the
historic Pinlone Agreement with Shan, Kachin and Chin leaders which laid the
foundations for the establishment of a united independent Myanmar. Although
Bogyoke Aung San and other national leaders were assassinated on 19 July 1947,
Myanmar regained independence on 4 January 1948.
By the Constitution of 1947 Myanmar was formed as a
quasi - federal Union, with Kachin, Kayah, Kayin and Shan States as constituent
states, and with a governmental system in which the cabinet was responsible to
a bicameral legislature made up of the Chamber of Deputies and Chamber of
The AFPFL dominated early post - independence
politics, but the country was much troubled by a widespread insurgency and the
intrusion of Kuomintang forces retreating from China. The AFPFL Government
attempted to follow a liberal socialist economic policy and launched the eight
- year Pyidawtha Plan in 1952 in order to realize a welfare state.
The Caretaker Government and Its Aftermath
Because of a split within the ruling AFPEL, the
Parliament appointed the Chief of Staff General Ne Win as head of a Caretaker
Government on 28 October 1958 and entrusted him with the task of holding fair
and free parliamentary elections.
During its tenure of office the Caretaker Government
brought about the end of feudal rule in the Shan and Kayah States and concluded
an agreement delimiting the boundary between Myanmar and China. It held
elections on 6 February 1960 and on 4 April 1960 handed over power to the
Pyidaungsu Party which had won the elections.
However, the political situation rapidly deteriorated
under the new government with a split developing within the Pyidaungsu Party,
dissatisfaction against the making of Buddhism the State religion, and the
development of a movement for the creation of a truly federal state.
A military coup on 2 March 1962 resulted in the
establishment of a Revolutionary Council which formed Security and
Administrative Committees down to the ward and village levels and attempted to
restore the security situation. Proclaiming a Gereral Amnesty on 1 April 1963,
it started negotiations with various insurgent groups and concluded an
agreement with the Kayin Revolutionary Council on 12 March 1964.
The Revolutionary Council, taking a socialist stand,
formed the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) as a nucleus party on 4 July
1962 and announced its philosophy in The Correlation of Man and His Environment
in January 1963. In line with its socialist stand, the Revolutionary Council
nationalized many economic enterprises and started on the First FourYear Plan
The BSPP, developing from a nucleus party to a
people's party, held its First Congress from 28 June to 11 July 1971. The
Congress decided on the drafting of a State Constitution and a Commission was
appointed in September 1971. The constitution which was drafted and submitted
to a popular referendum was adopted on 3 January 1974.
Elections were held and the Revolutionary Council handed over power to the BSPP
Government on 2 March 1974.
The Constitution of 1974, drawn up on socialist
principles, designated the BSPP as the leading party. Under the guidance of the
BSPP, the unicameral Pyithu Hluttaw, elected on universal suffrage, was the
supreme State organ, enacting laws and appointing the executive and the
judiciary. Three new States -Chin, Mon and Rakhine were created in addition to
the four existing ones.
The BSPP, which was the ruliganized on the principle
of democratic centralism from the Central Committee downto the level of the
party cell. It held