Myanmar History


Myanmar has a history that is rich and glorious which has endured plenty of battles that informed and shaped its character. Today, this country is taking huge strides to create a friendly and welcoming destination for the Myanmar travel packages.

Early years
The existence of the first humans was reported in Myanmar as far back as 11,000 years. But the first civilization to be properly identified is the Mon which dates back to 3000 BC. The first reported kingdom is believed to be Thaton in 300 BC. During this time there was a mixture of Indian and Mon culture and by the time the 9th century AD arrived, large swathes of southern Myanmar were dominated by the Mon.

But over time and with internal fighting, the country’s original settlers, the Mon lost their stronghold and was pushed from the lowlands by the 9th century. The Bamar arrived from the Tibetan Plateau and soon took dominance in the country.

In 1044 King Anawrahta created his court and the kingdom’s official religion was recognized as Theravada Buddhism. This started a period of great artistic, religious and architectural achievement. This era was regarded as a golden age in the country. The war spoils claimed by King Anawrahta were used to start the construction of the first Bagan (Pagan) temples.

Temple after temple was built under the rule of each the kings that followed, but the sizable effort and money used in this construction project left the kingdom in a weakened state. By 1287 Bagan was invaded by the Mongol hordes with Kublai Khan in command, which in turn lead to the country’s decline into the dark ages.

There is not that much known about the years that followed. History starts to pick up in the 16th century with the arrival of the Europeans, which first included the Portuguese.

By 1752 many of the influential kingdoms in the country fall due to intense wars that lead to plenty of rebellions and divisions. In 1753, the country was ruled by Alaungpaya who was a popular Burmese leader and was successful in expelling outside forces from the north of Myanmar. In further years, Alaungpaya’s son was able to take control of Ayutthaya (city in Thailand) which bought the interest of the Chinese. Between 1766 and 1769, there were four attempted invasions by the Chinese which were repelled.  

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British colonialism
Later in the early 1820’s, Maha Bandula who was a Burmese general led a force that was successful in taking control of Assam (a state in north-eastern India). This act of conflict led to British interest in the region. The continued conquest in the region by Myanmar was a concern for Britain and this resulted in the Anglo-Burmese wars that took place between 1824 and 1885. By 1886, Britain had taken control and Myanmar was made a province of India, and resulted in a separation of the church and state, and the end of the monarchy.

For the duration of the colonial era Myanmar suffered significant changes in relation to its infrastructure and demographics. A large number of Chinese nations were encouraged to enter the country in an attempt to stimulate trade, while Indians also poured into the country to work as civil servants.

There were many prosperous British companies at this time that made their money from trading in rice and teak, while the British also built ports and railways. Many features of the old colonial architecture are still present and easy to notice on the Myanmar tours.

But, the local Burmese wasn’t pleased with the colonial control. Over time, this resulted in a nationalist movement and demonstrations with the Buddhist monks leading the proceedings.

World War II & early independence
During World War II, the Japanese forces invaded the country and helped to force the British rulers out, which led to Myanmar being declared as an independent state. But, the presence of the Japanese wasn’t tolerated for long and their arrogant and harsh ways soon alienated the local Burmese people. By the later stages of World War II, the Burmese was no longer aligned with the Japanese and switched sides to join the Allies and helped push the Japanese from the country.

At the end of the war the freedom-fighter Bogyoke Aung San had emerged as the new leader of Myanmar. Aung San took responsibility for holding the country together while the shift to independence took shape. In 1947 the first election was held which gave a resounding victory to Aung San’s party, but this wasn’t to lead to a successful time in office. Shortly after the electron Aung San and the majority of his cabinet was assassinated. By 1948 independence was declared with U Nu at the helm. But, the country was still experiencing issues with ethnic conflicts and fighting between the ethnic groups continued.

Ne Win’s coup
General Ne Win was the leader of a left-wing army takeover which took place in 1962, and put the country on course for the Burmese Road to Socialism. The general started to nationalise all aspects of the country which included the retail shops, and in time this started to cripple the economy. After 25 years of this regime, the country was at a virtual standstill and the local population starting to tire of their incompetent government. By 1988, the Burmese people were involved in huge demonstrations with the military, which led to nearly 3000 deaths within a period of 6 weeks. Most of the demonstrations had the monks at the helm, and demanded that Ne Win left his position. In July 1988, General Ne Win left is position, but still retained a certain degree of dictatorial power.

By 1988, the country was seized by a military junta with the country name changed from Burma to Myanmar in 1989. Within a year, the elections were held with the opposition party: the NLD (National League for Democracy) winning with a major majority. However, this election result wasn’t accepted by the SLORC or military, and the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest.

In recent times the international attention in Myanmar has been awakened for this once ostracized region of Southeast Asia.

Some of the changes included the 2011 release of Aung San Syu Kyi from house arrest, the visits of top politicians from Europe, UK, and US, as well as an increased interest in Myanmar travel and tourism, and the removal of several international sanctions.