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1500 BCE - 2023

History of Myanmar

The history of Myanmar, also known as Burma, covers the period from the time of first-known human settlements 13,000 years ago to the present day. The earliest inhabitants of recorded history were a Tibeto-Burman-speaking people who established the Pyu city-states ranged as far south as Pyay and adopted Theravada Buddhism.

Another group, the Bamar people, entered the upper Irrawaddy valley in the early 9th century. They went on to establish the Pagan Kingdom (1044–1297), the first-ever unification of the Irrawaddy valley and its periphery. The Burmese language and Burma culture slowly came to replace Pyu norms during this period. After the First Mongol invasion of Burma in 1287, several small kingdoms, of which the Kingdom of Ava, the Hanthawaddy Kingdom, the Kingdom of Mrauk U and the Shan States were principal powers, came to dominate the landscape, replete with ever-shifting alliances and constant wars.

In the second half of the 16th century, the Toungoo dynasty (1510–1752) reunified the country, and founded the largest empire in the history of Southeast Asia for a brief period. Later Taungoo kings instituted several key administrative and economic reforms that gave rise to a smaller, more peaceful and prosperous kingdom in the 17th and early 18th centuries. In the second half of the 18th century, the Konbaung dynasty (1752–1885) restored the kingdom, and continued the Taungoo reforms that increased central rule in peripheral regions and produced one of the most literate states in Asia. The dynasty also went to war with all its neighbours. The Anglo-Burmese wars (1824–85) eventually led to British colonial rule.

British rule brought several enduring social, economic, cultural and administrative changes that completely transformed the once-agrarian society. British rule highlighted out-group differences among the country's myriad ethnic groups. Since independence in 1948, the country has been in one of the longest running civil wars involving insurgent groups representing political and ethnic minority groups and successive central governments. The country was under military rule under various guises from 1962 to 2010 and again from 2021-present, and in the seemingly cyclical process has become one of the least developed nations in the world.

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1500 BCE Jan 1 - 200 BCE

Prehistory of Myanmar

Myanmar (Burma)

The prehistory of Burma (Myanmar) spanned hundreds of millennia to about 200 BCE. Archaeological evidence shows that the Homo erectus had lived in the region now known as Burma as early as 750,000 years ago, and the Homo sapiens about 11,000 BCE, in a Stone Age culture called the Anyathian. Named after the central dry zone sites where most of the early settlement finds are located, the Anyathian period was when plants and animals were first domesticated and polished stone tools appeared in Burma. Though these sites are situated in fertile areas, evidence shows these early people were not yet familiar with agricultural methods.[1]

The Bronze Age arrived c. 1500 BCE when people in the region were turning copper into bronze, growing rice, and domesticating chickens and pigs. The Iron Age arrived around 500 BCE when iron-working settlements emerged in an area south of present-day Mandalay.[2] Evidence also shows rice growing settlements of large villages and small cities that traded with their surroundings and as far as China between 500 BCE and 200 CE.[3] Bronze-decorated coffins and burial sites filled with the earthenware remains of feasting and drinking provide a glimpse of the lifestyle of their affluent society.[2]

Evidence of trade suggests ongoing migrations throughout the prehistory period though the earliest evidence of mass migrations only points to c. 200 BCE when the Pyu people, the earliest inhabitants of Burma of whom records are extant,[4] began to move into the upper Irrawaddy valley from present-day Yunnan.[5] The Pyu went on to found settlements throughout the plains region centred on the confluence of the Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers that had been inhabited since the Paleolithic.[6] The Pyu were followed by various groups such as the Mon, the Arakanese and the Mranma (Burmans) in the first millennium CE. By the Pagan period, inscriptions show Thets, Kadus, Sgaws, Kanyans, Palaungs, Was and Shans also inhabited the Irrawaddy valley and its peripheral regions.[7]

Pyu city-states
Bronze Age in Southeast Asia ©Image Attribution forthcoming. Image belongs to the respective owner(s).
100 BCE Jan 1 - 1050

Pyu city-states

Myanmar (Burma)

The Pyu city states were a group of city-states that existed from about the 2nd century BCE to the mid-11th century in present-day Upper Burma (Myanmar). The city-states were founded as part of the southward migration by the Tibeto-Burman-speaking Pyu people, the earliest inhabitants of Burma of whom records are extant.[8] The thousand-year period, often referred to as the Pyu millennium, linked the Bronze Age to the beginning of the classical states period when the Pagan Kingdom emerged in the late 9th century.

The Pyu entered the Irrawaddy valley from present-day Yunnan, c. 2nd century BCE, and went on to found city-states throughout the Irrawaddy valley. The original home of the Pyu is reconstructed to be Qinghai Lake in present-day Qinghai and Gansu.[9] The Pyu were the earliest inhabitants of Burma of whom records are extant.[10] During this period, Burma was part of an overland trade route from China to India. Trade with India brought Buddhism from South India, as well as other cultural, architectural and political concepts, which would have an enduring influence on the political organisation and culture of Burma. By the 4th century, many in the Irrawaddy valley had converted to Buddhism.[11] The Pyu script, based on the Brahmi script, may have been the source of the Burmese script used to write the Burmese language.[12] Of the many city-states, the largest and most important was the Sri Ksetra Kingdom southeast of modern Pyay, also thought to once be the capital city.[13] In March 638, the Pyu of Sri Ksetra launched a new calendar that later became the Burmese calendar.[10]

The major Pyu city-states were all located in the three main irrigated regions of Upper Burma: the Mu River Valley, the Kyaukse plains and Minbu region, around the confluence of the Irrawaddy and Chindwin Rivers. Five major walled cities- Beikthano, Maingmaw, Binnaka, Hanlin, and Sri Ksetra - and several smaller towns have been excavated throughout the Irrawaddy River basin. Hanlin, founded in the 1st century CE, was the largest and most important city until around the 7th or 8th century when it was superseded by Sri Ksetra (near modern Pyay) at the southern edge of the Pyu Realm. Twice as large as Halin, Sri Ksetra was eventually the largest and most influential Pyu centre.[10]

Eighth-century Chinese records identify 18 Pyu states throughout the Irrawaddy valley, and describe the Pyu as a humane and peaceful people to whom war was virtually unknown and who wore silk cotton instead of actually silk so that they would not have to kill silkworms. The Chinese records also report that the Pyu knew how to make astronomical calculations, and that many Pyu boys entered the monastic life at seven to the age of 20.[10]

It was a long-lasting civilisation that lasted nearly a millennium to the early 9th century until a new group of "swift horsemen" from the north, the Bamars, entered the upper Irrawaddy valley. In the early 9th century, the Pyu city-states of Upper Burma came under constant attacks by Nanzhao (in modern Yunnan). In 832, the Nanzhao sacked Halingyi, which had overtaken Prome as the chief Pyu city-state and informal capital.

The Bamar people set up a garrison town at Bagan (Pagan) at the confluence of the Irrawaddy and Chindwin Rivers. Pyu settlements remained in Upper Burma for the next three centuries but the Pyu gradually were absorbed into the expanding Pagan Kingdom. The Pyu language still existed until the late 12th century. By the 13th century, the Pyu had assumed the Burman ethnicity. The histories and legends of the Pyu were also incorporated to those of the Bamar.[14]

Kingdom of Dhanyawaddy
300 Jan 1 - 370

Kingdom of Dhanyawaddy

Rakhine State, Myanmar (Burma)

Dhanyawaddy was the capital of the first Arakanese Kingdom, located in what is now Northern Rakhine State, Myanmar. The name is a corruption of the Pali word Dhannavati, which means "large area or rice cultivation or the rice bowl". Like many of its successors, the Kingdom of Dhanyawadi was based on trade between the East (pre-Pagan Myanmar, Pyu, China, the Mons), and the West (Indian subcontinent). Earliest recording evidence suggests the Arakanese civilization founded around the 4th century CE. "The presently dominant Rakhine are a Tibeto-Burman race, the last group of people to enter Arakan during 10th century and on.” Ancient Dhanyawadi lies west of the mountain ridge between the Kaladan and Le-mro rivers.Its city walls were made of brick, and form an irregular circle with a perimeter of about 9.6 kilometres (6.0 miles), enclosing an area of about 4.42 km2 (1,090 acres). Beyond the walls, the remains of a wide moat, now silted over and covered by paddy fields, are still visible in places. At times of insecurity, when the city was subject to raids from the hill tribes or attempted invasions from neighbouring powers, there would have been an assured food supply enabling the population to withstand a siege. The city would have controlled the valley and the lower ridges, supporting a mixed wet-rice and taungya (slash and burn) economy, with local chiefs paying allegiance to the king.

370 Jan 1 - 818


Mrauk-U, Myanmar (Burma)

It has been estimated that the centre of power of the Arakanese world shifted from Dhanyawadi to Waithali in the 4th century CE as Dhanyawadi Kingdom ended in 370 CE. Although it was established later than Dhanyawadi, Waithali is the most Indianized of the four Arakanese kingdoms to emerge. Like all of the Arakanese Kingdoms to emerge, the Kingdom of Waithali was based on trade between the East (Pyu city-states, China, the Mons), and the West (India, Bengal, and Persia). The kingdom flourished off of China-India maritime routes.[34] Waithali was a famed trade port with thousands of ships coming annually at its height. The city was built on the banks of a tidal creek and was enclosed by brick walls. The layout of the city had significant Hindu and Indian influence.[35] According to the Anandachandra Inscription, carved in 7349 CE, the subjects of the Waithali Kingdom practiced Mahayana Buddhism, and proclaims that the ruling dynasty of the kingdom were descendants of the Hindu god, Shiva. The Kingdom eventually declined in the 10th century, with Rakhine's political core moving to the Le-mro valley states at the same time as the rise of the Bagan Kingdom in central Myanmar. Some historians conclude that the decline was from a takeover or from the immigration of the Mranma (Bamar people) in the 10th century.[34]

Mon Kingdoms
©Maurice Fievet
400 Jan 1 - 1000

Mon Kingdoms

Thaton, Myanmar (Burma)

The first recorded kingdom attributed to the Mon people is Dvaravati,[15] which prospered until around 1000 CE when their capital was sacked by the Khmer Empire and a significant portion of the inhabitants fled west to present-day Lower Burma and eventually founded new polities. Another Mon-speaking state Haripuñjaya also existed in northern Thailand down to the late 13th century.[16 ]

According to the colonial era scholarship, as early as the 6th century, the Mon began to enter the present-day Lower Burma from the Mon kingdoms of Haribhunjaya and Dvaravati in modern-day Thailand. By the mid 9th century, the Mon had founded at least two small kingdoms (or large city-states) centred around Bago and Thaton. The states were important trading ports between Indian Ocean and mainland Southeast Asia. Still, according to traditional reconstruction, the early Mon city-states were conquered by the Pagan Kingdom from the north in 1057, and that Thaton's literary and religious traditions helped to mould early Pagan civilisation.[17] Between 1050 and about 1085, Mon craftsmen and artisans helped to build some two thousand monuments at Pagan, the remains of which today rival the splendors of Angkor Wat.[18] The Mon script is considered to be the source of the Burmese script, the earliest evidence of which was dated to 1058, a year after the Thaton conquest, by the colonial era scholarship.[19]

However, research from the 2000s (still a minority view) argues that Mon influence on the interior after Anawrahta's conquest is a greatly exaggerated post-Pagan legend, and that Lower Burma in fact lacked a substantial independent polity prior to Pagan's expansion.[20] Possibly in this period, the delta sedimentation — which now extends the coastline by three miles (4.8 kilometres) in a century — remained insufficient, and the sea still reached too far inland, to support a population even as large as the modest population of the late precolonial era. The earliest evidence of Burmese script is dated to 1035, and possibly as early as 984, both of which are earlier than the earliest evidence of the Burma Mon script (1093). Research from the 2000s argues that the Pyu script was the source of the Burmese script.[21]

Though the size and importance of these states are still debated, all scholars accept that during the 11th century, Pagan established its authority in Lower Burma and this conquest facilitated growing cultural exchange, if not with local Mon, then with India and with Theravada stronghold Sri Lanka. From a geopolitical standpoint, Anawrahta's conquest of Thaton checked the Khmer advance in the Tenasserim coast.[20]

849 - 1294
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849 Jan 2 - 1297

Pagan Kingdom

Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)

The Kingdom of Pagan was the first Burmese kingdom to unify the regions that would later constitute modern-day Myanmar. Pagan's 250-year rule over the Irrawaddy valley and its periphery laid the foundation for the ascent of Burmese language and culture, the spread of Bamar ethnicity in Upper Myanmar, and the growth of Theravada Buddhism in Myanmar and in mainland Southeast Asia.[22]

The kingdom grew out of a small 9th-century settlement at Pagan (present-day Bagan) by the Mranma/Burmans, who had recently entered the Irrawaddy valley from the Kingdom of Nanzhao. Over the next two hundred years, the small principality gradually grew to absorb its surrounding regions until the 1050s and 1060s when King Anawrahta founded the Pagan Empire, for the first time unifying under one polity the Irrawaddy valley and its periphery. By the late 12th century, Anawrahta's successors had extended their influence farther to the south into the upper Malay peninsula, to the east at least to the Salween river, in the farther north to below the current China border, and to the west, in northern Arakan and the Chin Hills.[23] In the 12th and 13th centuries, Pagan, alongside the Khmer Empire, was one of two main empires in mainland Southeast Asia.[24]

The Burmese language and culture gradually became dominant in the upper Irrawaddy valley, eclipsing the Pyu, Mon and Pali norms by the late 12th century. Theravada Buddhism slowly began to spread to the village level although Tantric, Mahayana, Brahmanic, and animist practices remained heavily entrenched at all social strata. Pagan's rulers built over 10,000 Buddhist temples in the Bagan Archaeological Zone of which over 2000 remain. The wealthy donated tax-free land to religious authorities.[25]

The kingdom went into decline in the mid-13th century as the continuous growth of tax-free religious wealth by the 1280s had severely affected the crown's ability to retain the loyalty of courtiers and military servicemen. This ushered in a vicious circle of internal disorders and external challenges by the Arakanese, Mons, Mongols and Shans. Repeated Mongol invasions (1277–1301) toppled the four-century-old kingdom in 1287. The collapse was followed by 250 years of political fragmentation that lasted well into the 16th century.[26 ]The Pagan Kingdom was irreparably broken up into several small kingdoms. By the mid-14th century, the country had become organised along four major power centres: Upper Burma, Lower Burma, Shan States and Arakan. Many of the power centres were themselves made up of (often loosely held) minor kingdoms or princely states. This era was marked by a series of wars and switching alliances. Smaller kingdoms played a precarious game of paying allegiance to more powerful states, sometimes simultaneously.

Shan States
1287 Jan 1 - 1563

Shan States

Mogaung, Myanmar (Burma)

Early history of the Shan states is clouded in myth. Most states claimed having been founded upon a predecessor state with a Sanskrit name Shen/Sen. Tai Yai chronicles usually begin with the story of two brothers, Khun Lung and Khun Lai, who descended from heaven in the 6th century and landed in Hsenwi, where the local population hailed them as kings.[30] The Shan, ethnic Tai peoples, have inhabited the Shan Hills and other parts of northern modern-day Burma as far back as the 10th century CE. The Shan kingdom of Mong Mao (Muang Mao) existed in Yunnan as early as the 10th century CE but became a Burmese vassal state during the reign of King Anawrahta of Pagan (1044–1077).[31]

The first major Shan State of that era was founded in 1215 at Mogaung, followed by Mone in 1223. These were part of the larger Tai migration that founded the Ahom Kingdom in 1229 and the Sukhothai Kingdom in 1253.[32] The Shans, including a new migration that came down with the Mongols, quickly came to dominate an area from northern Chin State and northwestern Sagaing Region to the present-day Shan Hills. The newly founded Shan States were multi-ethnic states that included a substantial number of other ethnic minorities like the Chin, Palaung, Pa-O, Kachin, Akha, Lahu, Wa and Burmans. The most powerful Shan states were Mohnyin (Mong Yang) and Mogaung (Mong Kawng) in present-day Kachin State, followed by Theinni (Hsenwi), Thibaw (Hsipaw), Momeik (Mong Mit) and Kyaingtong (Keng Tung) in present-day northern Shan State.[33]

Hanthawaddy Kingdom
The Forty Years' War between the Burmese-speaking Kingdom of Ava and the Mon-speaking Kingdom of Hanthawaddy. ©Anonymous
1287 Jan 1 - 1552

Hanthawaddy Kingdom

Mottama, Myanmar (Burma)

The Hanthawaddy Kingdom was a significant polity in lower Burma (Myanmar) that existed in two distinct periods: from 1287[27] to 1539 and briefly from 1550 to 1552. Founded by King Wareru as a vassal state to the Sukhothai Kingdom and the Mongol Yuan dynasty[28], it eventually gained independence in 1330. However, the kingdom was a loose federation comprising three major regional centers—Bago, the Irrawaddy Delta, and Mottama—with limited centralized authority. The reign of King Razadarit in the late 14th and early 15th centuries was pivotal in unifying these regions and fending off the Ava Kingdom to the north, marking a high point in Hanthawaddy's existence.

The kingdom entered a golden age after the war with Ava, emerging as the most prosperous and powerful state in the region from the 1420s to the 1530s. Under gifted rulers such as Binnya Ran I, Shin Sawbu, and Dhammazedi, Hanthawaddy thrived economically and culturally. It became an important center of Theravada Buddhism and established robust commercial ties across the Indian Ocean, enriching its treasury with foreign goods such as gold, silk, and spices. It established strong ties with Sri Lanka and encouraged reforms that later spread throughout the country.[29]

However, the kingdom met a sudden downfall at the hands of the Taungoo dynasty from Upper Burma in the mid-16th century. Despite its greater resources, Hanthawaddy, under King Takayutpi, failed to fend off the military campaigns led by Tabinshwehti and his deputy general Bayinnaung. Hanthawaddy was ultimately conquered and absorbed into the Taungoo Empire, although it briefly revived in 1550 following Tabinshwehti's assassination. The kingdom's legacy lived on among the Mon people, who would eventually rise again to found the Restored Hanthawaddy Kingdom in 1740.

Kingdom of Ava
1365 Jan 1 - 1555

Kingdom of Ava

Inwa, Myanmar (Burma)

The Kingdom of Ava, founded in 1364, considered itself the legitimate successor to the Pagan Kingdom and initially sought to recreate the earlier empire. At its zenith, Ava was able to bring the Taungoo-ruled kingdom and some Shan states under its control. However, it failed to regain full control over other regions, leading to a 40-year war with Hanthawaddy that left Ava weakened. The kingdom faced recurring rebellions from its vassal states, particularly when a new king ascended the throne, and eventually started losing territories, including the Prome Kingdom and Taungoo, in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

Ava continued to weaken due to intensified raids from the Shan states, culminating in 1527 when the Confederation of Shan States captured Ava. The Confederation imposed puppet rulers on Ava and held sway over Upper Burma. However, the Confederation was unable to eliminate the Taungoo Kingdom, which remained independent and gradually gained power.

Taungoo, surrounded by hostile kingdoms, managed to defeat the stronger Hanthawaddy Kingdom between 1534–1541. Turning its focus towards Prome and Bagan, Taungoo successfully captured these regions, paving the way for the kingdom's rise. Finally, in January 1555, King Bayinnaung of the Taungoo dynasty conquered Ava, marking the end of Ava's role as the capital of Upper Burma after nearly two centuries of rule.

Forty Years' War
1385 Jan 1 - 1423

Forty Years' War

Inwa, Myanmar (Burma)

The Forty Years' War was a military war fought between the Burmese-speaking Kingdom of Ava and the Mon-speaking Kingdom of Hanthawaddy. The war was fought during two separate periods: 1385 to 1391, and 1401 to 1424, interrupted by two truces of 1391–1401 and 1403–1408. It was fought primarily in today's Lower Burma and also in Upper Burma, Shan State, and Rakhine State. It ended in a stalemate, preserving the independence of Hanthawaddy, and effectively ending Ava's efforts to rebuild the erstwhile Pagan Kingdom.

Mrauk U Kingdom
1429 Feb 1 - Apr 18

Mrauk U Kingdom

Arakan, Myanmar (Burma)

In 1406,[36] Burmese forces from the Kingdom of Ava invaded Arakan. The control of Arakan was part of the Forty Years' War between Ava and Hanthawaddy Pegu on the Burmese mainland. The control of Arakan would change hands a few times before Hanthawaddy forces drove out Ava forces in 1412. Ava would retain a toehold in northern Arakan until 1416/17 but did not try to retake Arakan. The Hanthawaddy influence ended after King Razadarit's death in 1421. The former Arakanese ruler Min Saw Mon received asylum in the Bengal Sultanate and lived there in Pandua for 24 years. Saw Mon became close to the Bengal Sultan Jalaluddin Muhammad Shah, serving as a commander in the king's army. Saw Mon convinced the sultan to help restore him to his lost throne.[37]

Saw Mon regained control of the Arakanese throne in 1430 with military assistance from Bengali commanders Wali Khan and Sindhi Khan. He later founded a new royal capital, Mrauk U. His kingdom would become known as the Mrauk U Kingdom. Arakan became a vassal state of the Bengal Sultanate and recognized Bengali sovereignty over some territory of northern Arakan. In recognition of his kingdom's vassal status, the kings of Arakan received Islamic titles, despite being Buddhists, and legalized the use of Islamic gold dinar coins from Bengal within the kingdom. The kings compared themselves to Sultans and employed Muslims in prestigious positions within the royal administration. Saw Mon, now styled as Suleiman Shah died in 1433, and was succeeded by his younger brother Min Khayi.

Though started out as a protectorate of the Bengal Sultanate from 1429 to 1531, Mrauk-U went on to conquer Chittagong with the help of the Portuguese. It twice fended off the Toungoo Burma's attempts to conquer the kingdom in 1546–1547, and 1580–1581. At its height of power, it briefly controlled the Bay of Bengal coastline from the Sundarbans to the Gulf of Martaban from 1599 to 1603.[38] In 1666, it lost control of Chittagong after a war with the Mughal Empire. Its reign continued until 1785, when it was conquered by the Konbaung dynasty of Burma. It was home to a multiethnic population with the city of Mrauk U being home to mosques, temples, shrines, seminaries and libraries. The kingdom was also a center of piracy and the slave trade. It was frequented by Arab, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese traders.

1510 - 1752
First Toungoo Empire
1510 Jan 1 - 1599

First Toungoo Empire

Taungoo, Myanmar (Burma)

Beginning in the 1480s, Ava faced constant internal rebellions and external attacks from the Shan States, and began to disintegrate. In 1510, Taungoo, located in the remote southeastern corner of the Ava kingdom, also declared independence.[39] When the Confederation of Shan States conquered Ava in 1527, many refugees fled southeast to Taungoo, a landlocked petty kingdom in peace, and one surrounded by larger hostile kingdoms.

Taungoo, led by its ambitious king Tabinshwehti and his deputy general Bayinnaung, would go on to reunify the petty kingdoms that had existed since the fall of the Pagan Empire, and found the largest empire in the history of Southeast Asia. First, the upstart kingdom defeated a more powerful Hanthawaddy in the Taungoo–Hanthawaddy War (1534–41). Tabinshwehti moved the capital to newly captured Bago in 1539. Taungoo had expanded its authority up to Pagan by 1544 but failed to conquer Arakan in 1545–47 and Siam in 1547–49. Tabinshwehti's successor Bayinnaung continued the policy of expansion, conquering Ava in 1555, Nearer/Cis-Salween Shan States (1557), Lan Na (1558), Manipur (1560), Farther/Trans-Salween Shan states (1562–63), the Siam (1564, 1569), and Lan Xang (1565–74), and bringing much of western and central mainland Southeast Asia under his rule.

Bayinnaung put in place a lasting administrative system that reduced the power of hereditary Shan chiefs, and brought Shan customs in line with low-land norms.[40] But he could not replicate an effective administrative system everywhere in his far flung empire. His empire was a loose collection of former sovereign kingdoms, whose kings were loyal to him, not the kingdom of Taungoo. The over-extended empire, held together by patron-client relationships, declined soon after his death in 1581. Siam broke away in 1584 and went to war with Burma until 1605. By 1597, the kingdom had lost all its possessions, including Taungoo, the ancestral home of the dynasty. In 1599, the Arakanese forces aided by Portuguese mercenaries, and in alliance with the rebellious Taungoo forces, sacked Pegu. The country fell into chaos, with each region claiming a king. Portuguese mercenary Filipe de Brito e Nicote promptly rebelled against his Arakanese masters, and established Goa-backed Portuguese rule at Thanlyin in 1603.

Despite being a tumultuous time for Myanmar, the Taungoo expansions increased the international reach of the nation. Newly rich merchants from Myanmar traded as far as the Rajahnate of Cebu in the Philippines where they sold Burmese Sugar (śarkarā) for Cebuano gold.[41] Filipinos also had merchant communities in Myanmar, historian William Henry Scott, quoting the Portuguese manuscript Summa Orientalis, noted that Mottama in Burma (Myanmar) had a large presence of merchants from Mindanao, Philippines.[42] The Lucoes, a rival to the other Filipino group, the Mindanaoans, who instead came from the island of Luzon, were also hired as mercenaries and soldiers for both Siam (Thailand) and Burma (Myanmar), in the Burmese-Siamese Wars, the same case as the Portuguese, who were also mercenaries for both sides.[43]

Confederation of Shan States
1527 Jan 1

Confederation of Shan States

Mogaung, Myanmar (Burma)

The Confederation of Shan States were a group of Shan States that conquered the Ava Kingdom in 1527 and ruled Upper Burma until 1555. The Confederation originally consisted of Mohnyin, Mogaung, Bhamo, Momeik, and Kale. It was led by Sawlon, the chief of Mohnyin. The Confederation raided Upper Burma throughout the early 16th century (1502–1527) and fought a series of war against Ava and its ally Shan State of Thibaw (Hsipaw). The Confederation finally defeated Ava in 1527, and placed Sawlon's eldest son Thohanbwa on the Ava throne. Thibaw and its tributaries Nyaungshwe and Mobye also came over to the confederation.

The enlarged Confederation extended its authority down to Prome (Pyay) in 1533 by defeating their erstwhile ally Prome Kingdom because Sawlon felt that Prome did not provide sufficient help in their war against Ava. After the Prome war, Sawlon was assassinated by his own ministers, creating a leadership vacuum. Although Sawlon's son Thohanbwa naturally tried to assume the leadership of the Confederation, he was never fully acknowledged as the first among equals by other saophas.

An incoherent confederation neglected to intervene in the first four years of Toungoo–Hanthawaddy War (1535–1541) in Lower Burma. They did not appreciate the gravity of the situation until 1539 when Toungoo defeated Hanthawaddy, and turned against its vassal Prome. The saophas finally banded together and sent in a force to relieve Prome in 1539. However, the combined force was unsuccessful in holding Prome against another Toungoo attack in 1542.

In 1543, the Burmese ministers assassinated Thohanbwa and placed Hkonmaing, the saopha of Thibaw, on the Ava throne. Mohnyin leaders, led by Sithu Kyawhtin, felt that the Ava throne was theirs. But in light of the Toungoo threat, Mohnyin leaders grudgingly agreed to Hkonmaing's leadership. The Confederation launched a major invasion of Lower Burma in 1543 but its forces were driven back. By 1544, Toungoo forces had occupied up to Pagan. The confederation would not attempt another invasion. After Hkonmaing died in 1546, his son Mobye Narapati, the saopha of Mobye, became king of Ava. The confederation's bickering resumed in full force. Sithu Kyawhtin set up a rival fiefdom in Sagaing across the river from Ava and finally drove out Mobye Narapati in 1552. The weakened Confederation proved no match for Bayinnaung's Toungoo forces. Bayinnaung captured Ava in 1555 and conquered all of Shan States in a series of military campaigns from 1556 to 1557.

Toungoo–Hanthawaddy War
1534 Nov 1 - 1541 May

Toungoo–Hanthawaddy War

Irrawaddy River, Myanmar (Burm

The Toungoo–Hanthawaddy War was a defining moment in the history of Burma (Myanmar) that set the stage for the subsequent expansion and consolidation of the Toungoo Empire. This military conflict was characterized by a series of military, strategic, and political maneuvers by both sides.

One of the fascinating aspects of this war is how the smaller, relatively new Toungoo Kingdom managed to overcome the more established Hanthawaddy Kingdom. A combination of clever tactics, including misinformation, and the weak leadership on the part of Hanthawaddy, helped the Toungoo in achieving their objectives.

Tabinshwehti and Bayinnaung, the key leaders of Toungoo, exhibited tactical brilliance, first by causing discord within Hanthawaddy and then by capturing Pegu. Moreover, their determination to chase the retreating Hanthawaddy forces and the successful battle of Naungyo turned the tides in their favor. They recognized the necessity to quickly neutralize the Hanthawaddy military might before they could regroup.

Martaban’s resistance, characterized by its fortified harbor and the assistance of Portuguese mercenaries[44], did offer a substantial obstacle. Yet, even here, Toungoo forces showed adaptability by constructing bamboo towers on rafts and effectively using fire-rafts to disable the Portuguese warships defending the harbor. These actions were crucial to bypassing the harbor's fortifications, ultimately allowing for the sack of the city.

The final victory at Martaban sealed the fate of Hanthawaddy and greatly expanded the Toungoo Empire. It is also worth noting how both sides employed foreign mercenaries, particularly the Portuguese, who brought new warfare technologies like firearms and artillery into the regional conflicts of Southeast Asia.

In essence, the war reflected not just a contest for territorial control but also a clash of strategies, with leadership and tactical innovation playing a significant role in the outcome. The fall of Hanthawaddy marked the end of one of the most powerful post-Pagan kingdoms[44], allowing the Toungoo to use the acquired resources for further expansion, including reunification of other fragmented Burmese states. This war thus holds a crucial place in the larger narrative of Burmese history.

Toungoo–Ava War
Bayinnaung ©Kingdom of War (2007).
1538 Nov 1 - 1545 Jan

Toungoo–Ava War

Prome, Myanmar (Burma)

The Toungoo–Ava War was a military conflict that took place in present-day Lower and Central Burma (Myanmar) between the Toungoo Dynasty, and the Ava-led Confederation of Shan States, Hanthawaddy Pegu, and Arakan (Mrauk-U). Toungoo's decisive victory gave the upstart kingdom control of all of central Burma, and cemented its emergence as the largest polity in Burma since the fall of Pagan Empire in 1287.[45]

The war began in 1538 when Ava, through its vassal Prome, threw its support behind Pegu in the four-year-old war between Toungoo and Pegu. After its troops broke the siege of Prome in 1539, Ava got its Confederation allies agreed to prepare for war, and formed an alliance with Arakan.[46] But the loose alliance crucially failed to open a second front during the seven dry-season months of 1540–41 when Toungoo was struggling to conquer Martaban (Mottama).

The allies were initially unprepared when Toungoo forces renewed the war against Prome in November 1541. Due to poor coordination, the armies of the Ava-led Confederation and Arakan were driven back by better organized Toungoo forces in April 1542, after which the Arakanese navy, which had already taken two key Irrawaddy delta ports, retreated. Prome surrendered a month later.[47] The war then entered an 18-month hiatus during which Arakan left the alliance, and Ava underwent a contentious leadership change. In December 1543, the largest army and naval forces of Ava and the Confederation came down to retake Prome. But Toungoo forces, which had now enlisted foreign mercenaries and firearms, not only drove back the numerically superior invasion force but also took over all of Central Burma up to Pagan (Bagan) by April 1544.[48] In the following dry season, a small Ava army raided down to Salin but was destroyed by larger Toungoo forces.

The successive defeats brought the long simmering disagreements between Ava and Mohnyin of the Confederation to the forefront. Faced with a serious Mohnyin-backed rebellion, Ava in 1545 sought and agreed to a peace treaty with Toungoo in which Ava formally ceded all of Central Burma between Pagan and Prome.[49] Ava would be beset by the rebellion for the next six years while an emboldened Toungoo would turn its attention to conquering Arakan in 1545–47, and Siam in 1547–49.

First Burmese–Siamese War
Queen Suriyothai (center) on her elephant putting herself between King Maha Chakkraphat (right) and the Viceroy of Prome (left). ©Prince Narisara Nuvadtivongs
1547 Oct 1 - 1549 Feb

First Burmese–Siamese War

Tenasserim Coast, Myanmar (Bur

The Burmese–Siamese War (1547–1549), also known as the Shwehti war, was the first war fought between the Toungoo dynasty of Burma and the Ayutthaya Kingdom of Siam, and the first of the Burmese–Siamese wars that would continue until the middle of the 19th century. The war is notable for the introduction of early modern warfare to the region. It is also notable in Thai history for the death in battle of Siamese Queen Suriyothai on her war elephant; the conflict is often referred to in Thailand as the War that Led to the Loss of Queen Suriyothai.

The casus belli have been stated as a Burmese attempt to expand their territory eastwards after a political crisis in Ayutthaya[53 ]as well as an attempt to stop Siamese incursions into the upper Tenasserim coast.[54] The war, according to the Burmese, began in January 1547 when Siamese forces conquered the frontier town of Tavoy (Dawei). Later in the year, the Burmese forces led by Gen. Saw Lagun Ein retook the Upper Tenasserim coast down to Tavoy. Next year, in October 1548, three Burmese armies led by King Tabinshwehti and his deputy Bayinnaung invaded Siam through the Three Pagodas Pass. The Burmese forces penetrated up to the capital city of Ayutthaya but could not take the heavily fortified city. One month into the siege, Siamese counterattacks broke the siege, and drove back the invasion force. But the Burmese negotiated a safe retreat in exchange for the return of two important Siamese nobles (the heir apparent Prince Ramesuan, and Prince Thammaracha of Phitsanulok) whom they had captured. The successful defense preserved Siamese independence for 15 years. Still, the war was not decisive.

Burmese Conquest of Lan Na
Images of Wat Suwan Dararam. ©Mural Paintings
1558 Apr 2

Burmese Conquest of Lan Na

Chiang Mai, Mueang Chiang Mai

The Lan Na Kingdom came to conflict over Shan states with the expansionist Burmese king Bayinnaung. Bayinnaung's forces invaded Lan Na from the north, and Mekuti surrendered on 2 April 1558.[50] Encouraged by Setthathirath, Mekuti revolted during the Burmese–Siamese War (1563–64). But the king was captured by Burmese forces in November 1564, and sent to the-then Burmese capital of Pegu. Bayinnaung then made Wisutthithewi, a Lan Na royal, the queen regnant of Lan Na. After her death, Bayinnaung appointed one of his sons Nawrahta Minsaw (Noratra Minsosi), viceroy of Lan Na in January 1579.[51] Burma allowed a substantial degree of autonomy for Lan Na but strictly controlled the corvée and taxation.

By the 1720s, the Toungoo Dynasty was on its last legs. In 1727, Chiang Mai revolted because of high taxation. The resistance forces drove back the Burmese army in 1727–1728 and 1731–1732, after which Chiang Mai and Ping valley became independent.[52] Chiang Mai became a tributary again in 1757 to the new Burmese dynasty. It revolted again in 1761 with Siamese encouragement but the rebellion was suppressed by January 1763. In the 1765, the Burmese used Lan Na as a launching pad to invade the Laotian states, and Siam itself.

War over the White Elephants
Burmese Toungoo Kingdom Besieges Ayutthaya. ©Peter Dennis
1563 Jan 1 - 1564

War over the White Elephants

Ayutthaya, Thailand

The Burmese-Siamese War of 1563–1564, also known as the War over the White Elephants, was a conflict between the Toungoo Dynasty of Burma and the Ayutthaya Kingdom of Siam. King Bayinnaung of the Toungoo Dynasty sought to bring the Ayutthaya Kingdom under his rule, part of a broader ambition to build a large Southeast Asian empire. After initially demanding two white elephants from Ayutthaya King Maha Chakkraphat as tribute and being refused, Bayinnaung invaded Siam with an extensive force, capturing several cities like Phitsanulok and Sukhothai along the way. The Burmese army reached Ayutthaya and initiated a weeks-long siege, which was aided by the capture of three Portuguese warships.

The siege did not lead to the capture of Ayutthaya, but resulted in a negotiated peace at a high cost for Siam. Chakkraphat agreed to make the Ayutthaya Kingdom a vassal state of the Toungoo Dynasty. In exchange for the withdrawal of the Burmese army, Bayinnaung took hostages, including Prince Ramesuan, as well as four Siamese white elephants. Siam also had to give annual tributes of elephants and silver to the Burmese, while allowing them tax-collection rights at the port of Mergui.

The treaty led to a short-lived period of peace lasting until a 1568 revolt by Ayutthaya. Burmese sources claim that Maha Chakkraphat was taken back to Burma before being allowed to return to Ayutthaya as a monk, while Thai sources say that he abdicated the throne and his second son, Mahinthrathirat, ascended. The war was a significant event in the series of conflicts between the Burmese and Siamese, and it temporarily extended the influence of the Toungoo Dynasty over the Ayutthaya Kingdom.

Nandric War
Single combat between King Naresuan and the Crown Prince of Burma, Mingyi Swa at the Battle of Nong Sarai in 1592. ©Anonymous
1584 Jan 1 - 1593

Nandric War

Tenasserim Coast, Myanmar (Bur

The Burmese-Siamese War of 1584–1593, also know as the Nandric War, was a series of conflicts between the Toungoo Dynasty of Burma and the Ayutthaya Kingdom of Siam. The war began when Naresuan, the King of Ayutthaya, declared independence from Burmese suzerainty, renouncing his vassal status. This action led to several Burmese invasions aimed at subduing Ayutthaya. The most notable invasion was led by the Burmese Crown Prince Mingyi Swa in 1593, which resulted in the famous elephant duel between Mingyi Swa and Naresuan, where Naresuan killed the Burmese prince.

Following the death of Mingyi Swa, Burma had to withdraw its forces, leading to a shift in power dynamics in the region. This event greatly boosted the morale of the Siamese troops and helped solidify Naresuan's status as a hero in Thai history. Ayutthaya took advantage of the situation to launch counter-attacks, capturing several cities and regaining territory that had previously been lost to the Burmese. These military gains weakened Burmese influence in the region and strengthened Ayutthaya’s position.

The Burmese-Siamese War significantly altered the balance of power in Southeast Asia. While it ended inconclusively, the conflict weakened Burmese influence and power while bolstering Ayutthaya's independence and regional standing. The war is particularly famous for the elephant duel, which is a seminal event in Thai history, often cited as a symbol of national heroism and resistance against foreign invasion. It set the stage for ongoing conflicts and fluctuating relations between the two kingdoms, which continued for centuries.

Siam Invasion of Burma
King Naresuan enters an abandoned Pegu in 1600, mural painting by Phraya Anusatchitrakon, Wat Suwandararam, Ayutthaya. ©Image Attribution forthcoming. Image belongs to the respective owner(s).
1593 Jan 1 - 1600 May

Siam Invasion of Burma


The Burmese-Siamese War of 1593–1600 followed closely on the heels of the 1584-1593 conflict between the two nations. This new chapter was ignited by Naresuan, King of Ayutthaya (Siam), when he decided to take advantage of the Burmese internal issues, especially the death of Crown Prince Mingyi Swa. Naresuan launched invasions into Lan Na (Northern Thailand today), which was under Burmese control, and even into Burma itself, with an attempt to reach the Burmese capital of Pegu. However, these ambitious campaigns were largely unsuccessful and led to heavy casualties on both sides.

While Naresuan was unable to achieve his primary objectives, he did manage to secure his kingdom's independence and regain some territory. He conducted several sieges and engaged in various battles, including the siege of Pegu in 1599. However, the campaigns were unable to sustain their initial momentum. Pegu was not taken, and the Siamese army had to withdraw due to logistical issues and an epidemic that broke out among the troops. The war ended without any decisive victor, but it contributed to the weakening of both kingdoms, draining their resources and manpower.

The 1593–1600 conflict between Burma and Siam had lasting repercussions. While neither side could claim outright victory, the war did serve to solidify Ayutthaya's independence from Burmese suzerainty, and it weakened the Burmese Empire to a significant extent. These events set the stage for future conflicts and shaped the geopolitical landscape of Southeast Asia. The war is seen as a continuation of the centuries-long rivalry between the two nations, characterized by shifting alliances, territorial ambitions, and the struggle for regional dominance.

Restored Taungoo Kingdom
Restored Taungoo Kingdom. ©Kingdom of War (2007)
1599 Jan 1 - 1752

Restored Taungoo Kingdom


While the interregnum that followed the fall of Pagan Empire lasted over 250 years (1287–1555), that following the fall of First Taungoo was relatively short-lived. One of Bayinnaung's sons, Nyaungyan Min, immediately began the reunification effort, successfully restoring central authority over Upper Burma and nearer Shan states by 1606. His successor Anaukpetlun defeated the Portuguese at Thanlyin in 1613. He recovered the upper Tanintharyi coast to Dawei and Lan Na from the Siamese by 1614. He also captured the trans-Salween Shan states (Kengtung and Sipsongpanna) in 1622–26. His brother Thalun rebuilt the war-torn country. He ordered the first ever census in Burmese history in 1635, which showed that the kingdom had about two million people. By 1650, the three able kings–Nyaungyan, Anaukpetlun, and Thalun–had successfully rebuilt a smaller but far more manageable kingdom.

More importantly, the new dynasty proceeded to create a legal and political system whose basic features would continue under the Konbaung dynasty well into the 19th century. The crown completely replaced the hereditary chieftainships with appointed governorships in the entire Irrawaddy valley, and greatly reduced the hereditary rights of Shan chiefs. It also reined in the continuous growth of monastic wealth and autonomy, giving a greater tax base. Its trade and secular administrative reforms built a prosperous economy for more than 80 years.[55] Except for a few occasional rebellions and an external war—Burma defeated Siam's attempt to take Lan Na and Mottama in 1662–64—the kingdom was largely at peace for the rest of the 17th century.

The kingdom entered a gradual decline, and the authority of the "palace kings" deteriorated rapidly in the 1720s. From 1724 onwards, the Meitei people began raiding the upper Chindwin River. In 1727, southern Lan Na (Chiang Mai) successfully revolted, leaving just northern Lan Na (Chiang Saen) under an increasingly nominal Burmese rule. Meitei raids intensified in the 1730s, reaching increasingly deeper parts of central Burma. In 1740, the Mon in Lower Burma began a rebellion, and founded the Restored Hanthawaddy Kingdom, and by 1745 controlled much of Lower Burma. The Siamese also moved their authority up the Tanintharyi coast by 1752. Hanthawaddy invaded Upper Burma in November 1751, and captured Ava on 23 March 1752, ending the 266-year-old Taungoo dynasty.

Restored Hanthawaddy Kingdom
Burmese warriors, mid 18th century ©Anonymous
1740 Jan 1 - 1757

Restored Hanthawaddy Kingdom

Bago, Myanmar (Burma)

The Restored Hanthawaddy Kingdom was the kingdom that ruled Lower Burma and parts of Upper Burma from 1740 to 1757. The kingdom grew out of a rebellion by the Mon led population of Pegu, who then rallied the other Mon as well as Delta Bama and Karens of Lower Burma, against the Toungoo Dynasty of Ava in Upper Burma. The rebellion succeeded in expelling Toungoo loyalists and restored the Mon-speaking Kingdom of Hanthawaddy which ruled Lower Burma from 1287 to 1539. The restored Hanthawady kingdom also claim heritage to Bayinaung's early Toungoo Empire whose capital was based in Pegu and guaranteed the loyalty of the non-Mon population of Lower Burma. Supported by the French, the upstart kingdom quickly carved out a space for itself in Lower Burma, and continued its push northward. In March 1752, its forces captured Ava, and ended the 266-year-old Toungoo dynasty.[56]

A new dynasty called Konbaung led by King Alaungpaya rose in Upper Burma to challenge the southern forces, and went on to conquer all of Upper Burma by December 1753. After Hanthawaddy's invasion of Upper Burma failed in 1754, the kingdom came unglued. Its leadership in self-defleating measures killed off the Toungoo royal family, and persecuted loyal ethnic Burmans in the south, both of which only strengthened Alaungpaya's hand.[57] In 1755, Alaungpaya invaded Lower Burma. Konbaung forces captured the Irrawaddy delta in May 1755, the French defended port of Thanlyin in July 1756, and finally the capital Pegu in May 1757. The fall of Restored Hanthawaddy was the beginning of the end of Mon people's centuries-old dominance of Lower Burma. Konbaung armies' reprisals forced thousands of Mons to flee to Siam.[58] By the early 19th century, assimilation, inter-marriage, and mass migration of Burman families from the north had reduced the Mon population to a small minority.[57]

1752 - 1885
Konbaung Dynasty
King Hsinbyushin of Konbaung Myanmar. ©Anonymous
1752 Jan 1 - 1885

Konbaung Dynasty


The Konbaung dynasty, also known as Third Burmese Empire,[59] was the last dynasty that ruled Burma/Myanmar from 1752 to 1885. It created the second-largest empire in Burmese history[60] and continued the administrative reforms begun by the Toungoo dynasty, laying the foundations of the modern state of Burma. An expansionist dynasty, the Konbaung kings waged campaigns against Manipur, Arakan, Assam, the Mon kingdom of Pegu, Siam (Ayutthaya, Thonburi, Rattanakosin), and the Qing dynasty of China – thus establishing the Third Burmese Empire. Subject to later wars and treaties with the British, the modern state of Myanmar can trace its current borders to these events.

Konbaung–Hanthawaddy War
Konbaung–Hanthawaddy War. ©Kingdom of War (2007)
1752 Apr 20 - 1757 May 6

Konbaung–Hanthawaddy War


The Konbaung–Hanthawaddy War was the war fought between the Konbaung Dynasty and the Restored Hanthawaddy Kingdom of Burma (Myanmar) from 1752 to 1757. The war was the last of several wars between the Burmese-speaking north and the Mon-speaking south that ended the Mon people's centuries-long dominance of the south.[61] The war began in April 1752 as independent resistance movements against Hanthawaddy armies which had just toppled the Toungoo Dynasty. Alaungpaya, who founded the Konbaung Dynasty, quickly emerged as the main resistance leader, and by taking advantage of Hanthawaddy's low troop levels, went on to conquer all of Upper Burma by the end of 1753. Hanthawaddy belatedly launched a full invasion in 1754 but it faltered. The war increasingly turned ethnic in character between the Burman (Bamar) north and the Mon south. Konbaung forces invaded Lower Burma in January 1755, capturing the Irrawaddy Delta and Dagon (Yangon) by May. The French defended port city of Syriam (Thanlyin) held out for another 14 months but eventually fell in July 1756, ending French involvement in the war. The fall of the 16-year-old southern kingdom soon followed in May 1757 when its capital Pegu (Bago) was sacked. Disorganized Mon resistance fell back to the Tenasserim peninsula (present-day Mon State and Tanintharyi Region) in the next few years with Siamese help but was driven out by 1765 when Konbaung armies captured the peninsula from the Siamese. The war proved decisive. Ethnic Burman families from the north began settling in the delta after the war. By the early 19th century, assimilation and intermarriage had reduced the Mon population to a small minority.[61]

Fall of Ayoudhia
Fall of Ayutthaya city ©Image Attribution forthcoming. Image belongs to the respective owner(s).
1765 Aug 23 - 1767 Apr 7

Fall of Ayoudhia

Ayutthaya, Thailand

The Burmese–Siamese War (1765–1767), also known as the fall of Ayoudhia was the second military conflict between the Konbaung dynasty of Burma (Myanmar) and the Ban Phlu Luang dynasty of the Ayutthaya Kingdom of Siam, and the war that ended the 417-year-old Ayutthaya Kingdom.[62] Nonetheless, the Burmese were soon forced to give up their hard-won gains when the Chinese invasions of their homeland forced a complete withdrawal by the end of 1767. A new Siamese dynasty, to which the current Thai monarchy traces its origins, emerged to reunify Siam by 1771.[63]

This war was the continuation of the 1759–60 war. The casus belli of this war was also the control of the Tenasserim coast and its trade, and Siamese support for rebels in the Burmese border regions.[64] The war began in August 1765 when a 20,000-strong northern Burmese army invaded northern Siam, and was joined by three southern armies of over 20,000 in October, in a pincer movement on Ayutthaya. By late-January 1766, the Burmese armies had overcome numerically superior but poorly coordinated Siamese defenses, and converged before the Siamese capital.[62]

The siege of Ayutthaya began during the first Chinese invasion of Burma. The Siamese believed that if they could hold out until the rainy season, the seasonal flooding of the Siamese central plain would force a retreat. But King Hsinbyushin of Burma believed that the Chinese war was a minor border dispute, and continued the siege. During the rainy season of 1766 (June–October), the battle moved to the waters of the flooded plain but failed to change the status quo.[62] When the dry season came, the Chinese launched a much larger invasion but Hsinbyushin still refused to recall the troops. In March 1767, King Ekkathat of Siam offered to become a tributary but the Burmese demanded unconditional surrender.[65] On 7 April 1767, the Burmese sacked the starving city for the second time in its history, committing atrocities that have left a major black mark on Burmese-Thai relations to the present day. Thousands of Siamese captives were relocated to Burma.

The Burmese occupation was short-lived. In November 1767, the Chinese again invaded with their largest force yet, finally convincing Hsinbyushin to withdraw his forces from Siam. In the ensuing civil war in Siam, the Siamese state of Thonburi, led by Taksin, had emerged victorious, defeating all other breakaway Siamese states and eliminating all threats to his new rule by 1771.[66] The Burmese, all the while, were preoccupied defeating a fourth Chinese invasion of Burma by December 1769.

By then, a new stalemate had taken hold. Burma had annexed the lower Tenasserim coast but again failed to eliminate Siam as the sponsor of rebellions in her eastern and southern borderlands. In the following years, Hsinbyushin was preoccupied by the Chinese threat, and did not renew the Siamese war until 1775—only after Lan Na had revolted again with Siamese support. The post-Ayutthaya Siamese leadership, in Thonburi and later Rattanakosin (Bangkok), proved more than capable; they defeated the next two Burmese invasions (1775–1776 and 1785–1786), and vassalized Lan Na in the process.

Qing Invasions of Burma
Qing Green Standard Army ©Anonymous
1765 Dec 1 - 1769 Dec 22

Qing Invasions of Burma

Shan State, Myanmar (Burma)

The Sino-Burmese War, also known as the Qing invasions of Burma or the Myanmar campaign of the Qing dynasty,[67] was a war fought between the Qing dynasty of China and the Konbaung dynasty of Burma (Myanmar). China under the Qianlong Emperor launched four invasions of Burma between 1765 and 1769, which were considered one of his Ten Great Campaigns. Nonetheless, the war, which claimed the lives of over 70,000 Chinese soldiers and four commanders,[68]] is sometimes described as "the most disastrous frontier war that the Qing dynasty had ever waged",[67] and one that "assured Burmese independence".[69] Burma's successful defense laid the foundation for the present-day boundary between the two countries.[68]

At first, the Qing emperor envisaged an easy war, and sent in only the Green Standard Army troops stationed in Yunnan. The Qing invasion came as the majority of Burmese forces were deployed in their latest invasion of Siam. Nonetheless, battle-hardened Burmese troops defeated the first two invasions of 1765–1766 and 1766–1767 at the border. The regional conflict now escalated to a major war that involved military maneuvers nationwide in both countries. The third invasion (1767–1768) led by the elite Manchu Bannermen nearly succeeded, penetrating deep into central Burma within a few days' march from the capital, Ava (Inwa).[70] But the bannermen of northern China could not cope with unfamiliar tropical terrains and lethal endemic diseases, and were driven back with heavy losses.[71] After the close call, King Hsinbyushin redeployed his armies from Siam to the Chinese front. The fourth and largest invasion got bogged down at the frontier. With the Qing forces completely encircled, a truce was reached between the field commanders of the two sides in December 1769.[67]

The Qing kept a heavy military lineup in the border areas of Yunnan for about one decade in an attempt to wage another war while imposing a ban on inter-border trade for two decades.[67] The Burmese, too, were preoccupied with the Chinese threat, and kept a series of garrisons along the border. Twenty years later, when Burma and China resumed a diplomatic relationship in 1790, the Qing unilaterally viewed the act as Burmese submission, and claimed victory.[67] Ultimately, the main beneficiaries of this war were the Siamese, who reclaimed most of their territories in the next three years after having lost their capital Ayutthaya to the Burmese in 1767.[70]

Anglo-Burmese Wars
British soldiers dismantling cannons belonging to King Thibaw's forces, Third Anglo-Burmese War, Ava, 27 November 1885. ©Hooper, Willoughby Wallace
1824 Jan 1 - 1885

Anglo-Burmese Wars


Faced with a powerful China in the northeast and a resurgent Siam in the southeast, King Bodawpaya turned westward for expansion.[72] He conquered Arakan in 1785, annexed Manipur in 1814, and captured Assam in 1817–1819, leading to a long ill-defined border with British India. Bodawpaya's successor King Bagyidaw was left to put down British instigated rebellions in Manipur in 1819 and Assam in 1821–1822. Cross-border raids by rebels from the British protected territories and counter-cross-border raids by the Burmese led to the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824–26).

Lasting 2 years and costing 13 million pounds, the first Anglo-Burmese War was the longest and most expensive war in British Indian history,[73] but ended in a decisive British victory. Burma ceded all of Bodawpaya's western acquisitions (Arakan, Manipur and Assam) plus Tenasserim. Burma was crushed for years by repaying a large indemnity of one million pounds (then US$5 million).[74] In 1852, the British unilaterally and easily seized the Pegu province in the Second Anglo-Burmese War.

After the war, King Mindon tried to modernise the Burmese state and economy, and made trade and territorial concessions to stave off further British encroachments, including ceding the Karenni States to the British in 1875. Nonetheless, the British, alarmed by the consolidation of French Indochina, annexed the remainder of the country in the Third Anglo-Burmese War in 1885, and sent the last Burmese king Thibaw and his family to exile in India.

British Rule in Burma
Arrival of British forces in Mandalay on 28 November 1885 at the end of the Third Anglo-Burmese War. ©Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837–1912)
1824 Jan 1 - 1948

British Rule in Burma

Myanmar (Burma)

The British rule in Burma spanned from 1824 to 1948 and was marked by a series of wars and resistance from various ethnic and political groups in Burma. The colonization began with the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824–1826), leading to the annexation of Tenasserim and Arakan. The Second Anglo-Burmese War (1852) resulted in the British taking control of Lower Burma, and finally, the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885) led to the annexation of Upper Burma and the deposition of the Burmese monarchy.

Britain made Burma a province of India in 1886 with the capital at Rangoon. Traditional Burmese society was drastically altered by the demise of the monarchy and the separation of religion and state.[75] Though war officially ended after only a couple of weeks, resistance continued in northern Burma until 1890, with the British finally resorting to a systematic destruction of villages and appointment of new officials to finally halt all guerrilla activity. The economic nature of society also changed dramatically. After the opening of the Suez Canal, the demand for Burmese rice grew and vast tracts of land were opened up for cultivation. However, to prepare the new land for cultivation, farmers were forced to borrow money from Indian moneylenders called chettiars at high interest rates and were often foreclosed on and evicted losing land and livestock. Most of the jobs also went to indentured Indian labourers, and whole villages became outlawed as they resorted to 'dacoity' (armed robbery). While the Burmese economy grew, most of the power and wealth remained in the hands of several British firms, Anglo-Burmese people, and migrants from India.[76] The civil service was largely staffed by the Anglo-Burmese community and Indians, and Bamars were largely excluded almost entirely from military service.

British rule had profound social, economic, and political impacts on Burma. Economically, Burma became a resource-rich colony, with British investment focused on extraction of natural resources such as rice, teak, and rubies. Railroads, telegraph systems, and ports were developed, but largely to facilitate resource extraction rather than for the benefit of the local population. Socio-culturally, the British implemented the "divide and rule" strategy, favoring certain ethnic minorities over the majority Bamar people, which exacerbated ethnic tensions that persist to this day. Education and legal systems were overhauled, but these often disproportionately benefited the British and those who collaborated with them.

1824 - 1948
British Ruleornament
Burmese Resistance Movement
A Burmese rebel being executed at Shwebo, Upper Burma, by Royal Welch Fusiliers. ©Image Attribution forthcoming. Image belongs to the respective owner(s).
1885 Jan 1 - 1892

Burmese Resistance Movement

Myanmar (Burma)

The Burmese resistance movement from 1885 to 1895 was a decade-long insurgency against British colonial rule in Burma, following the annexation of the kingdom by the British in 1885. The resistance was initiated right after the capture of Mandalay, the Burmese capital, and the exile of King Thibaw, the last Burmese monarch. The conflict featured both conventional warfare and guerrilla tactics, and resistance fighters were led by various ethnic and royalist factions, each operating independently against the British. The movement was characterized by notable battles such as the Siege of Minhla, as well as the defense of other strategic locations.

Despite local successes, the Burmese resistance faced significant challenges, including a lack of centralized leadership and limited resources. The British had superior firepower and military organization, which eventually wore down the disparate rebel groups. The British adopted a "pacification" strategy that involved the use of local militias to secure villages, the deployment of mobile columns to engage in punitive expeditions, and the offering of rewards for the capture or killing of resistance leaders.

By the mid-1890s, the resistance movement had largely dissipated, although sporadic revolts would continue in the following years. The defeat of the resistance led to the consolidation of British rule in Burma, which would last until the country gained independence in 1948. The legacy of the movement had a lasting impact on Burmese nationalism and laid the groundwork for future independence movements in the country.

Burma during World War II
Japanese troops at Shwethalyaung Buddha, 1942. ©同盟通信社 - 毎日新聞社
1939 Jan 1 - 1940

Burma during World War II

Myanmar (Burma)

During World War II, Burma became a significant point of contention. Burmese nationalists were divided on their stance towards the war. While some saw it as an opportunity to negotiate concessions from the British, others, particularly the Thakin movement and Aung San, sought complete independence and opposed any form of participation in the war. Aung San co-founded the Communist Party of Burma (CPB)[77] and later the People’s Revolutionary Party (PRP), eventually aligning with the Japanese to form the Burma Independence Army (BIA) when Japan occupied Bangkok in December 1941.

The BIA initially enjoyed some autonomy and formed a provisional government in parts of Burma by spring of 1942. However, differences arose between the Japanese leadership and the BIA over the future governance of Burma. The Japanese turned to Ba Maw to form a government and reorganized the BIA into the Burma Defence Army (BDA), still under Aung San’s leadership. When Japan declared Burma "independent" in 1943, the BDA was renamed the Burma National Army (BNA).[77]

As the war turned against Japan, it became clear to Burmese leaders like Aung San that the promise of true independence was hollow. Disillusioned, he began working with other Burmese leaders to form the Anti-Fascist Organisation (AFO), later renamed the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League (AFPFL).[77] This organization was in opposition to both Japanese occupation and fascism on a global scale.

Informal contacts were established between the AFO and the British through Force 136, and on March 27, 1945, the BNA launched a countrywide rebellion against the Japanese.[77] This day was subsequently celebrated as ‘Resistance Day.’ Post-rebellion, Aung San and other leaders officially joined the Allies as the Patriotic Burmese Forces (PBF) and began negotiations with Lord Mountbatten, the British Commander of Southeast Asia.

The impact of the Japanese occupation was severe, resulting in the deaths of 170,000 to 250,000 Burmese civilians.[78] The wartime experiences significantly influenced the political landscape in Burma, setting the stage for the country’s future independence movements and negotiations with the British, culminating in Burma gaining independence in 1948.

Post-Independent Burma
U Nu ©Image Attribution forthcoming. Image belongs to the respective owner(s).
1948 Jan 1 - 1962

Post-Independent Burma

Myanmar (Burma)

The early years of Burmese independence were fraught with internal conflict, featuring insurgencies from various groups including the Red Flag and White Flag Communists, the Revolutionary Burma Army, and ethnic groups like the Karen National Union.[77] China's Communist victory in 1949 also led to the Kuomintang establishing a military presence in Northern Burma.[77] In foreign policy, Burma was notably impartial and initially accepted international aid for rebuilding. However, ongoing American support for Chinese Nationalist forces in Burma led the country to reject most foreign aid, refuse membership in the South-East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), and to instead support the Bandung Conference of 1955.[77]

By 1958, despite economic recovery, political instability was on the rise due to divisions within the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League (AFPFL) and an unstable parliamentary situation. Prime Minister U Nu barely survived a no-confidence vote and, seeing the rising influence of 'crypto-communists' in opposition,[77] eventually invited Army Chief of Staff General Ne Win to assume power.[77] This led to the arrest and deportation of hundreds of suspected communist sympathizers, including key opposition figures, and the shutdown of prominent newspapers.[77]

The military regime under Ne Win successfully stabilized the situation enough to hold new general elections in 1960, which returned U Nu's Union Party to power.[77 ] However, stability was short-lived. A movement within the Shan State aspired for a 'loose' federation and insisted on the government honoring a right to secession, which had been provided for in the 1947 Constitution. This movement was perceived as separatist, and Ne Win acted to dismantle the feudal powers of the Shan leaders, replacing them with pensions, thus further centralizing his control over the country.

Independent Burmaornament
Burmese Independence
Burma's Independence Day. The British governor, Hubert Elvin Rance, left , and Burma's first president, Sao Shwe Thaik, stand at attention as the new nation's flag is raised on January 4, 1948. ©Anonymous
1948 Jan 4

Burmese Independence

Myanmar (Burma)

After World War II and the surrender of the Japanese, Burma underwent a period of political turbulence. Aung San, the leader who had allied with the Japanese but later turned against them, was at risk of being tried for a 1942 murder, but British authorities deemed it impossible due to his popularity.[77] British Governor Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith returned to Burma and prioritized physical reconstruction over independence, causing friction with Aung San and his Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League (AFPFL). Divisions arose within the AFPFL itself between Communists and Socialists. Dorman-Smith was later replaced by Sir Hubert Rance, who managed to quell an escalating strike situation by inviting Aung San and other AFPFL members to the Governor's Executive Council.

The Executive Council under Rance began negotiations for Burma's independence, resulting in the Aung San-Attlee Agreement on January 27, 1947.[77] However, this left factions within the AFPFL unsatisfied, pushing some into opposition or underground activities. Aung San also succeeded in bringing ethnic minorities into the fold through the Panglong Conference on February 12, 1947, which is celebrated as Union Day. The AFPFL’s popularity was confirmed when it won decisively in the April 1947 constituent assembly elections.

Tragedy struck on July 19, 1947, when Aung San and several of his cabinet members were assassinated,[77] an event now commemorated as Martyrs' Day. Following his death, rebellions broke out in several regions. Thakin Nu, a Socialist leader, was asked to form a new government and oversaw Burma’s independence on January 4, 1948. Unlike India and Pakistan, Burma chose not to join the Commonwealth of Nations, reflecting the strong anti-British sentiment in the country at the time.[77]

Burmese Way to Socialism
Flag of the Burma Socialist Programme Party ©Image Attribution forthcoming. Image belongs to the respective owner(s).
1962 Jan 1 - 1988

Burmese Way to Socialism

Myanmar (Burma)

The "Burmese Way to Socialism" was an economic and political program initiated in Burma (now Myanmar) after the 1962 coup led by General Ne Win. The plan aimed to transform Burma into a socialist state, combining elements of Buddhism and Marxism.[81] Under this program, the Revolutionary Council nationalized the economy, taking over key industries, banks, and foreign businesses. Private enterprises were replaced by state-owned entities or cooperative ventures. This policy essentially cut Burma off from international trade and foreign investment, pushing the country towards self-reliance.

The results of implementing the Burmese Way to Socialism were disastrous for the country.[82] The nationalization efforts led to inefficiencies, corruption, and economic stagnation. Foreign exchange reserves dwindled, and the country faced severe food and fuel shortages. As the economy tanked, black markets flourished, and the general population faced extreme poverty. Isolation from the global community led to technological backwardness and further decay of infrastructure.

The policy had profound socio-political implications as well. It facilitated decades of authoritarian rule under the military, suppressing political opposition and stifling civil liberties. The government imposed strict censorship and promoted a form of nationalism that left many ethnic minorities feeling marginalized. Despite its aspirations for egalitarianism and development, the Burmese Way to Socialism left the country impoverished and isolated, and it significantly contributed to the complex web of social and economic issues Myanmar faces today.

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1962 Mar 2

1962 Burmese coup d'état

Rangoon, Myanmar (Burma)

The 1962 Burmese coup d'état occurred on March 2, 1962, led by General Ne Win, who seized power from the democratically elected government of Prime Minister U Nu.[79] The coup was justified by Ne Win as necessary to preserve the unity of the country, as there were rising ethnic and communist rebellions. The immediate aftermath of the coup saw the abolition of the federal system, dissolution of the constitution, and the establishment of a Revolutionary Council headed by Ne Win.[80] Thousands of political opponents were arrested, and Burmese universities were closed for two years.

Ne Win's regime implemented the "Burmese Way to Socialism," which included nationalizing the economy and cutting off almost all foreign influence. This led to economic stagnation and hardships for the Burmese people, including food shortages and a scarcity of basic services. Burma became one of the world's most impoverished and isolated countries, with the military maintaining strong control over all aspects of society. Despite these struggles, the regime remained in power for several decades.

The 1962 coup had long-lasting impacts on Burmese society and politics. It not only set the stage for decades of military rule but also deeply exacerbated ethnic tensions in the country. Many minority groups felt marginalized and excluded from political power, fueling ongoing ethnic conflicts that persist to this day. The coup also stifled political and civil liberties, with significant restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly, shaping the political landscape of Myanmar (formerly Burma) for years to come.

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1986 Mar 12 - 1988 Sep 21

8888 Uprising

Myanmar (Burma)

The 8888 Uprising was a series of nationwide protests,[83] marches, and riots[84] in Burma that peaked in August 1988. Key events occurred on 8 August 1988 and therefore it is commonly known as the "8888 Uprising".[85] The protests began as a student movement and were organised largely by university students at the Rangoon Arts and Sciences University and the Rangoon Institute of Technology (RIT).

The 8888 uprising was started by students in Yangon (Rangoon) on 8 August 1988. Student protests spread throughout the country.[86] Hundreds of thousands of monks, children, university students, housewives, doctors and common people protested against the government.[87] The uprising ended on 18 September after a bloody military coup by the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). Thousands of deaths have been attributed to the military during this uprising,[86] while authorities in Burma put the figure at around 350 people killed.[88]

During the crisis, Aung San Suu Kyi emerged as a national icon. When the military junta arranged an election in 1990, her party, the National League for Democracy, won 81% of the seats in the government (392 out of 492).[89] However, the military junta refused to recognise the results and continued to rule the country as the State Law and Order Restoration Council. Aung San Suu Kyi was also placed under house arrest. The State Law and Order Restoration Council would be a cosmetic change from the Burma Socialist Programme Party.[87]

State Peace and Development Council
SPDC members with Thai delegation in an October 2010 visit to Naypyidaw. ©Image Attribution forthcoming. Image belongs to the respective owner(s).
1990 Jan 1 - 2006

State Peace and Development Council

Myanmar (Burma)

In the 1990s, Myanmar's military regime continued to exercise control despite the National League for Democracy (NLD) winning multiparty elections in 1990. NLD leaders Tin Oo and Aung San Suu Kyi were kept under house arrest, and the military faced increasing international pressure after Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. Replacing Saw Maung with General Than Shwe in 1992, the regime eased some restrictions but maintained its grip on power, including stalling attempts to draft a new constitution.

Throughout the decade, the regime had to address various ethnic insurgencies. Notable cease-fire agreements were negotiated with several tribal groups, although a lasting peace with the Karen ethnic group remained elusive. Additionally, U.S. pressure led to a deal with Khun Sa, an opium warlord, in 1995. Despite these challenges, there were attempts to modernize the military regime, including a name change to the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1997 and moving the capital from Yangon to Naypyidaw in 2005.

The government announced a seven-step "roadmap to democracy" in 2003, but there was no timetable or verification process, leading to skepticism from international observers. The National Convention reconvened in 2005 to rewrite the Constitution but excluded major pro-democracy groups, leading to further criticism. Human rights violations, including forced labor, led the International Labour Organization to seek prosecution of junta members for crimes against humanity in 2006.[90]

Cyclone Nargis
Damaged boats after Cyclone Nargis ©Image Attribution forthcoming. Image belongs to the respective owner(s).
2008 May 1

Cyclone Nargis

Myanmar (Burma)

In May 2008, Myanmar was hit by Cyclone Nargis, one of the deadliest natural disasters in the country's history. The cyclone resulted in winds up to 215 km/h and caused devastating loss, with over 130,000 people estimated dead or missing and damage amounting to 12 billion US dollars. Despite the urgent need for aid, Myanmar's isolationist government initially restricted the entry of foreign assistance, including United Nations planes delivering essential supplies. The UN described this hesitation to permit large-scale international relief as "unprecedented."

The government's restrictive stance drew sharp criticism from international bodies. Various organizations and countries urged Myanmar to allow unrestricted aid. Eventually, the junta agreed to accept limited types of aid such as food and medicine but continued to disallow foreign aid workers or military units in the country. This hesitation led to accusations of the regime contributing to a "man-made catastrophe" and potentially committing crimes against humanity.

By May 19, Myanmar allowed aid from the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and later agreed to allow all aid workers, regardless of nationality, into the country. However, the government remained resistant to the presence of foreign military units. A U.S. carrier group full of aid was forced to leave after being denied entry. In contrast to international criticism, the Burmese government later praised U.N. aid, though reports also emerged of the military trading aid for labor.

Myanmar Political Reforms
Aung San Suu Kyi addresses crowds at the NLD headquarters shortly after her release. ©Htoo Tay Zar
2011 Jan 1 - 2015

Myanmar Political Reforms

Myanmar (Burma)

The 2011–2012 Burmese democratic reforms were an ongoing series of political, economic and administrative changes in Burma undertaken by the military-backed government. These reforms included the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest and subsequent dialogues with her, establishment of the National Human Rights Commission, general amnesties of more than 200 political prisoners, institution of new labour laws that allow labour unions and strikes, relaxation of press censorship, and regulations of currency practices.

As a consequence of the reforms, ASEAN approved Burma's bid for the chairmanship in 2014. United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Burma on 1 December 2011, to encourage further progress; it was the first visit by a US Secretary of State in more than fifty years. United States President Barack Obama visited one year later, becoming the first US president to visit the country.

Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy, participated in by-elections held on 1 April 2012 after the government abolished laws that led to the NLD's boycott of the 2010 general election. She led the NLD in winning the by-elections in a landslide, winning 41 out of 44 of the contested seats, with Suu Kyi herself winning a seat representing Kawhmu Constituency in the lower house of the Burmese Parliament. 2015 election results gave the National League for Democracy an absolute majority of seats in both chambers of the Burmese parliament, enough to ensure that its candidate would become president, while NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi is constitutionally barred from the presidency.[91] However, clashes between Burmese troops and local insurgent groups continued.

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2016 Oct 9 - 2017 Aug 25

Rohingya Genocide

Rakhine State, Myanmar (Burma)

The Rohingya genocide is a series of ongoing persecutions and killings of the Muslim Rohingya people by the military of Myanmar. The genocide has consisted of two phases[92] to date: the first was a military crackdown that occurred from October 2016 to January 2017, and the second has been occurring since August 2017.[93] The crisis forced over a million Rohingya to flee to other countries. Most fled to Bangladesh, resulting in the creation of the world's largest refugee camp, while others escaped to India, Thailand, Malaysia, and other parts of South and Southeast Asia, where they continue to face persecution. Many other countries refer to the events as "ethnic cleansing".[94]

The persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar dates back to at least the 1970s.[95] Since then, the Rohingya people have been persecuted on a regular basis by the government and Buddhist nationalists.[96] In late 2016, Myanmar's armed forces and police launched a major crackdown against the people in Rakhine State which is located in the country's northwestern region. The UN[97] found evidence of wide-scale human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings; summary executions; gang rapes; arson of Rohingya villages, businesses, and schools; and infanticides. The Burmese government dismissed these findings by stating they are "exaggerations".[98]

The military operations displaced a large number of people, triggering a refugee crisis. The largest wave of Rohingya refugees fled Myanmar in 2017, resulting in the largest human exodus in Asia since the Vietnam War.[99] According to UN reports, over 700,000 people fled or were driven out of Rakhine State, and took shelter in neighbouring Bangladesh as refugees as of September 2018. In December 2017, two Reuters journalists who were covering the Inn Din massacre were arrested and imprisoned. Foreign Secretary Myint Thu told reporters Myanmar was prepared to accept 2,000 Rohingya refugees from camps in Bangladesh in November 2018.[100] Subsequently, in November 2017, the governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a deal to facilitate the return of Rohingya refugees to Rakhine State within two months, which drew mixed responses from international onlookers.[101]

The 2016 military crackdown on the Rohingya people was condemned by the UN (which cited possible "crimes against humanity"), the human rights organization Amnesty International, the U.S. Department of State, the government of neighbouring Bangladesh, and the government of Malaysia. The Burmese leader and State Counsellor (de facto head of government) and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was criticised for her inaction and silence over the issue and did little to prevent military abuses.[102]

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2021 Feb 1

2021 Myanmar coup d'état

Myanmar (Burma)

A coup d'état in Myanmar began on the morning of 1 February 2021, when democratically elected members of the country's ruling party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), were deposed by the Tatmadaw—Myanmar's military—which then vested power in a military junta. Acting president Myint Swe proclaimed a year-long state of emergency and declared power had been transferred to Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Min Aung Hlaing. It declared the results of the November 2020 general election invalid and stated its intent to hold a new election at the end of the state of emergency.[103] The coup d'état occurred the day before the Parliament of Myanmar was due to swear in the members elected at the 2020 election, thereby preventing this from occurring.[104] President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi were detained, along with ministers, their deputies, and members of Parliament.[105]

On 3 February 2021, Win Myint was charged with breaching campaign guidelines and COVID-19 pandemic restrictions under section 25 of the Natural Disaster Management Law. Aung San Suu Kyi was charged with breaching emergency COVID-19 laws and for illegally importing and using radio and communication devices, specifically six ICOM devices from her security team and a walkie-talkie, which are restricted in Myanmar and need clearance from military-related agencies before acquisition.[106] Both were remanded in custody for two weeks.[107] Aung San Suu Kyi received an additional criminal charge for violating the National Disaster Act on 16 February,[108] two additional charges for violating communications laws and an intent to incite public unrest on 1 March and another for violating the official secrets act on 1 April.[109]

Armed insurgencies by the People's Defence Force of the National Unity Government have erupted throughout Myanmar in response to the military government's crackdown on anti-coup protests.[110] As of 29 March 2022, at least 1,719 civilians, including children, have been killed by the junta forces and 9,984 arrested.[111] Three prominent NLD members also died while in police custody in March 2021,[112] and four pro-democracy activists were executed by the junta in July 2022.[113]

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2021 May 5

Myanmar Civil War

Myanmar (Burma)

The Myanmar civil war is an ongoing civil war following Myanmar's long-running insurgencies which escalated significantly in response to the 2021 military coup d'état and the subsequent violent crackdown on anti-coup protests.[114] In the months following the coup, the opposition began to coalesce around the National Unity Government, which launched an offensive against the junta. By 2022, the opposition controlled substantial, though sparsely populated, territory.[115] In many villages and towns, the junta's attacks drove out tens of thousands of people. On the second anniversary of the coup, in February 2023, the chairman of the State Administration Council, Min Aung Hlaing, admitted to losing stable control over "more than a third" of townships. Independent observers note the real number is likely far higher, with as few as 72 out of 330 townships and all major population centres remaining under stable control.[116]

As of September 2022, 1.3 million people have been internally displaced, and over 13,000 children have been killed. By March 2023, the UN estimated that since the coup, 17.6 million people in Myanmar required humanitarian assistance, while 1.6 million were internally displaced, and 55,000 civilian buildings had been destroyed. UNOCHA said that over 40,000 people fled into neighboring countries.[117]

A Quiz is available for this HistoryMap.



Myanmar's Geographic Challenge

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Burmese War Elephants: the Culture, Structure and Training

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Burmese War Elephants: Military Analysis & Battlefield Performance

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Wars and Warriors: Royal Burmese Armies: Introduction and Structure

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Wars and Warriors: The Burmese Praetorians: The Royal Household Guards

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Wars and Warriors: The Ahmudan System: The Burmese Royal Militia

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The Myin Knights: The Forgotten History of the Burmese Cavalry

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