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Context of Myanmar

Myanmar, officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, also known as Burma (the official name until 1989), is a country in Southeast Asia. It is the largest country by area in Mainland Southeast Asia, and had a population of about 54 million in 2017. It is bordered by Bangladesh and India to its northwest, China to its northeast, Laos and Thailand to its east and southeast, and the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal to its south and southwest. The country's capital city is Naypyidaw, and its largest city is Yangon (formerly Rangoon).

Early civilisations in the area included the Tibeto-Burman-speaking Pyu city-states in Upper Myanmar and the Mon kingdoms in Lower Myanmar. In the 9th century, the Bamar people entered the upper Irrawaddy valley, and following the establishment of the Pagan Kingdom in the 1050s, the Burmese language, culture, and Theravada Buddhism slowly became dominant in the country. The Pagan Kingdom fell...Read more

Myanmar, officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, also known as Burma (the official name until 1989), is a country in Southeast Asia. It is the largest country by area in Mainland Southeast Asia, and had a population of about 54 million in 2017. It is bordered by Bangladesh and India to its northwest, China to its northeast, Laos and Thailand to its east and southeast, and the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal to its south and southwest. The country's capital city is Naypyidaw, and its largest city is Yangon (formerly Rangoon).

Early civilisations in the area included the Tibeto-Burman-speaking Pyu city-states in Upper Myanmar and the Mon kingdoms in Lower Myanmar. In the 9th century, the Bamar people entered the upper Irrawaddy valley, and following the establishment of the Pagan Kingdom in the 1050s, the Burmese language, culture, and Theravada Buddhism slowly became dominant in the country. The Pagan Kingdom fell to Mongol invasions, and several warring states emerged. In the 16th century, reunified by the Taungoo dynasty, the country became the largest empire in the history of Southeast Asia for a short period. The early 19th-century Konbaung dynasty ruled over an area that included modern Myanmar and briefly controlled Manipur and Assam as well. The British East India Company seized control of the administration of Myanmar after three Anglo-Burmese Wars in the 19th century, and the country became a British colony. After a brief Japanese occupation, Myanmar was reconquered by the Allies. On 4 January 1948, Myanmar declared independence under the terms of the Burma Independence Act 1947.

Myanmar's post-independence history has continued to be checkered by unrest and conflict. The coup d'état in 1962 resulted in a military dictatorship under the Burma Socialist Programme Party. On 8 August 1988, the 8888 Uprising then resulted in a nominal transition to a multi-party system two years later, but the country's post-uprising military council refused to cede power, and has continued to rule the country through to the present. The country remains riven by ethnic strife among its myriad ethnic groups and has one of the world's longest-running ongoing civil wars. The United Nations and several other organisations have reported consistent and systemic human rights violations in the country. In 2011, the military junta was officially dissolved following a 2010 general election, and a nominally civilian government was installed. Aung San Suu Kyi and political prisoners were released and the 2015 Myanmar general election was held, leading to improved foreign relations and eased economic sanctions, although the country's treatment of its ethnic minorities, particularly in connection with the Rohingya conflict, continued to be a source of international tension and consternation. Following the 2020 Myanmar general election, in which Aung San Suu Kyi's party won a clear majority in both houses, the Burmese military (Tatmadaw) again seized power in a coup d'état. The coup, which was widely condemned by the international community, led to continuous ongoing widespread protests in Myanmar and has been marked by violent political repression by the military, as well as a larger outbreak of the civil war. The military also arrested Aung San Suu Kyi and charged her with crimes ranging from corruption to the violation of COVID-19 protocols, all of which have been labeled as "politically motivated" by independent observers, in order to remove her from public life.

Myanmar is a member of the East Asia Summit, Non-Aligned Movement, ASEAN, and BIMSTEC, but it is not a member of the Commonwealth of Nations despite once being part of the British Empire. The country is very rich in natural resources, such as jade, gems, oil, natural gas, teak and other minerals, as well as also endowed with renewable energy, having the highest solar power potential compared to other countries of the Great Mekong Subregion. However, Myanmar has long suffered from instability, factional violence, corruption, poor infrastructure, as well as a long history of colonial exploitation with little regard to human development. In 2013, its GDP (nominal) stood at US$56.7 billion and its GDP (PPP) at US$221.5 billion. The income gap in Myanmar is among the widest in the world, as a large proportion of the economy is controlled by cronies of the military junta. Myanmar is one of the least developed countries; as of 2020, according to the Human Development Index, it ranks 147 out of 189 countries in terms of human development. Since 2021, more than 600,000 people were displaced across Myanmar due to the surge in violence post-coup, with more than 3 million people in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

More about Myanmar

Basic information
  • Currency Myanmar kyat
  • Native name မြန်မာနိုင်ငံ
  • Calling code +95
  • Internet domain .mm
  • Mains voltage 230V/50Hz
  • Democracy index 3.04
Population, Area & Driving side
  • Population 53370609
  • Area 676577
  • Driving side right
  • This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources in this section. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.
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    Pyu city-states, c. 8th century; Pagan is shown for comparison only and is not contemporary.

    Archaeological evidence shows that Homo erectus lived in the region now known as Myanmar as early as 750,000 years ago, with no more erectus finds after 75,000 years ago.[1] The first evidence of Homo sapiens is dated to about 25,000 BP with discoveries of stone tools in central Myanmar.[2] Evidence of Neolithic age domestication of plants and animals and the use of polished stone tools dating to sometime between 10,000 and 6,000 BCE has been discovered in the form of cave paintings in Padah-Lin Caves.[3]

    The Bronze Age arrived c. 1500 BCE when people in the region were turning copper into bronze, growing rice and domesticating poultry and pigs; they were among the first people in the world to do so.[4] Human remains and artefacts from this era were discovered in Monywa District in the Sagaing Region.[5] The Iron Age began around 500 BCE with the emergence of iron-working settlements in an area south of present-day Mandalay.[6] Evidence also shows the presence of rice-growing settlements of large villages and small towns that traded with their surroundings as far as China between 500 BCE and 200 CE.[7] Iron Age Burmese cultures also had influences from outside sources such as India and Thailand, as seen in their funerary practices concerning child burials. This indicates some form of communication between groups in Myanmar and other places, possibly through trade.[8]

    Early city-states

    Around the second century BCE the first-known city-states emerged in central Myanmar. The city-states were founded as part of the southward migration by the Tibeto-Burman-speaking Pyu people, the earliest inhabitants of Myanmar of whom records are extant, from present-day Yunnan.[9] The Pyu culture was heavily influenced by trade with India, importing Buddhism as well as other cultural, architectural and political concepts, which would have an enduring influence on later Burmese culture and political organisation.[10]

    By the 9th century, several city-states had sprouted across the land: the Pyu in the central dry zone, Mon along the southern coastline and Arakanese along the western littoral. The balance was upset when the Pyu came under repeated attacks from Nanzhao between the 750s and the 830s. In the mid-to-late 9th century the Bamar people founded a small settlement at Bagan. It was one of several competing city-states until the late 10th century, when it grew in authority and grandeur.[11]

    Pagan Kingdom
    Pagodas and kyaungs in present-day Bagan, the capital of the Pagan Kingdom

    Pagan gradually grew to absorb its surrounding states until the 1050s–1060s when Anawrahta founded the Pagan Kingdom, the first ever unification of the Irrawaddy valley and its periphery. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the Pagan Empire and the Khmer Empire were two main powers in mainland Southeast Asia.[12] The Burmese language and culture gradually became dominant in the upper Irrawaddy valley, eclipsing the Pyu, Mon and Pali norms[clarification needed] by the late 12th century.[13] Theravada Buddhism slowly began to spread to the village level, although Tantric, Mahayana, Hinduism, and folk religion remained heavily entrenched. Pagan's rulers and wealthy built over 10,000 Buddhist temples in the Pagan capital zone alone. Repeated Mongol invasions in the late 13th century toppled the four-century-old kingdom in 1287.[13]

    Temples at Mrauk U.

    Pagan's collapse was followed by 250 years of political fragmentation that lasted well into the 16th century. Like the Burmans four centuries earlier, Shan migrants who arrived with the Mongol invasions stayed behind. Several competing Shan States came to dominate the entire northwestern to eastern arc surrounding the Irrawaddy valley. The valley too was beset with petty states until the late 14th century when two sizeable powers, Ava Kingdom and Hanthawaddy Kingdom, emerged. In the west, a politically fragmented Arakan was under competing influences of its stronger neighbours until the Kingdom of Mrauk U unified the Arakan coastline for the first time in 1437. The kingdom was a protectorate of the Bengal Sultanate at different time periods.[14]

    In the 14th and 15th centuries, Ava fought wars of unification but could never quite reassemble the lost empire. Having held off Ava, the Mon-speaking Hanthawaddy entered its golden age, and Arakan went on to become a power in its own right for the next 350 years. In contrast, constant warfare left Ava greatly weakened, and it slowly disintegrated from 1481 onward. In 1527, the Confederation of Shan States conquered Ava and ruled Upper Myanmar until 1555.

    Like the Pagan Empire, Ava, Hanthawaddy and the Shan states were all multi-ethnic polities. Despite the wars, cultural synchronisation continued. This period is considered a golden age for Burmese culture. Burmese literature "grew more confident, popular, and stylistically diverse", and the second generation of Burmese law codes as well as the earliest pan-Burma chronicles emerged.[15] Hanthawaddy monarchs introduced religious reforms that later spread to the rest of the country.[16] Many splendid temples of Mrauk U were built during this period.

    Taungoo and Konbaung
    Toungoo Empire under Bayinnaung in 1580
    Myanmar (缅甸国) delegates in Peking in 1761, at the time of Emperor Qianlong. 万国来朝图

    Political unification returned in the mid-16th century, through the efforts of Taungoo, a former vassal state of Ava. Taungoo's young, ambitious King Tabinshwehti defeated the more powerful Hanthawaddy in the Toungoo–Hanthawaddy War. His successor Bayinnaung went on to conquer a vast swath of mainland Southeast Asia including the Shan states, Lan Na, Manipur, Mong Mao, the Ayutthaya Kingdom, Lan Xang and southern Arakan. However, the largest empire in the history of Southeast Asia unravelled soon after Bayinnaung's death in 1581, completely collapsing by 1599. Ayutthaya seized Tenasserim and Lan Na, and Portuguese mercenaries established Portuguese rule at Thanlyin (Syriam).

    The dynasty regrouped and defeated the Portuguese in 1613 and Siam in 1614. It restored a smaller, more manageable kingdom, encompassing Lower Myanmar, Upper Myanmar, Shan states, Lan Na and upper Tenasserim. The restored Toungoo kings created a legal and political framework whose basic features continued 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. Its trade and secular administrative reforms built a prosperous economy for more than 80 years. From the 1720s onward, the kingdom was beset with repeated Meithei raids into Upper Myanmar and a nagging rebellion in Lan Na. In 1740, the Mon of Lower Myanmar founded the Restored Hanthawaddy Kingdom. Hanthawaddy forces sacked Ava in 1752, ending the 266-year-old Toungoo Dynasty.

    A British 1825 lithograph of Shwedagon Pagoda shows British occupation during the First Anglo-Burmese War.

    After the fall of Ava, the Konbaung–Hanthawaddy War involved one resistance group under Alaungpaya defeating the Restored Hanthawaddy, and by 1759 he had reunited all of Myanmar and Manipur and driven out the French and the British, who had provided arms to Hanthawaddy. By 1770, Alaungpaya's heirs had subdued much of Laos and fought and won the Burmese–Siamese War against Ayutthaya and the Sino-Burmese War against Qing China.[17]

    With Burma preoccupied by the Chinese threat, Ayutthaya recovered its territories by 1770 and went on to capture Lan Na by 1776. Burma and Siam went to war until 1855, but all resulted in a stalemate, exchanging Tenasserim (to Burma) and Lan Na (to Ayutthaya). Faced with a powerful China and a resurgent Ayutthaya in the east, King Bodawpaya turned west, acquiring Arakan (1785), Manipur (1814) and Assam (1817). It was the second-largest empire in Burmese history but also one with a long ill-defined border with British India.[18]

    The breadth of this empire was short-lived. In 1826, Burma lost Arakan, Manipur, Assam and Tenasserim to the British in the First Anglo-Burmese War. In 1852, the British easily seized Lower Burma in the Second Anglo-Burmese War. King Mindon Min tried to modernise the kingdom and in 1875 narrowly avoided annexation by ceding the Karenni States. The British, alarmed by the consolidation of French Indochina, annexed the remainder of the country in the Third Anglo-Burmese War in 1885.

    Konbaung kings extended Restored Toungoo's administrative reforms and achieved unprecedented levels of internal control and external expansion. For the first time in history, the Burmese language and culture came to predominate the entire Irrawaddy valley. The evolution and growth of Burmese literature and theatre continued, aided by an extremely high adult male literacy rate for the era (half of all males and 5% of females).[19] Nonetheless, the extent and pace of reforms were uneven and ultimately proved insufficient to stem the advance of British colonialism.

    British Burma (1885–1948)
    The landing of British forces in Mandalay after the last of the Anglo-Burmese Wars, which resulted in the abdication of the last Burmese monarch, King Thibaw Min
    British troops firing a mortar on the Mawchi road, July 1944

    In the 19th century, Burmese rulers, whose country had not previously been of particular interest to European traders, sought to maintain their traditional influence in the western areas of Assam, Manipur and Arakan. Pressing them, however, was the British East India Company, which was expanding its interests eastwards over the same territory. Over the next sixty years, diplomacy, raids, treaties and compromises, known collectively as the Anglo-Burmese Wars, continued until Britain proclaimed control over most of Burma.[20] With the fall of Mandalay, all of Burma came under British rule, being annexed on 1 January 1886.

    Throughout the colonial era, many Indians arrived as soldiers, civil servants, construction workers and traders and, along with the Anglo-Burmese community, dominated commercial and civil life in Burma. Rangoon became the capital of British Burma and an important port between Calcutta and Singapore. Burmese resentment was strong, and was vented in violent riots that periodically paralysed Rangoon until the 1930s.[21] Some of the discontent was caused by a disrespect for Burmese culture and traditions, such as the British refusal to remove shoes when they entered pagodas. Buddhist monks became the vanguards of the independence movement. U Wisara, an activist monk, died in prison after a 166-day hunger strike to protest against a rule that forbade him to wear his Buddhist robes while imprisoned.[22]

    On 1 April 1937, Burma became a separately administered colony of Great Britain, and Ba Maw became the first Prime Minister and Premier of Burma. Ba Maw was an outspoken advocate for Burmese self-rule, and he opposed the participation of Great Britain, and by extension Burma, in World War II. He resigned from the Legislative Assembly and was arrested for sedition. In 1940, before Japan formally entered the war, Aung San formed the Burma Independence Army in Japan.

    As a major battleground, Burma was devastated during World War II by the Japanese invasion. Within months after they entered the war, Japanese troops had advanced on Rangoon, and the British administration had collapsed. A Burmese Executive Administration headed by Ba Maw was established by the Japanese in August 1942. Wingate's British Chindits were formed into long-range penetration groups trained to operate deep behind Japanese lines.[23] A similar American unit, Merrill's Marauders, followed the Chindits into the Burmese jungle in 1943.[24]

    Beginning in late 1944, allied troops launched a series of offensives that led to the end of Japanese rule in July 1945. The battles were intense with much of Burma laid waste by the fighting. Overall, the Japanese lost some 150,000 men in Burma with 1,700 prisoners taken.[25] Although many Burmese fought initially for the Japanese as part of the Burma Independence Army, many Burmese, mostly from the ethnic minorities, served in the British Burma Army.[26] The Burma National Army and the Arakan National Army fought with the Japanese from 1942 to 1944 but switched allegiance to the Allied side in 1945. Overall, 170,000 to 250,000 Burmese civilians died during World War II.[27]

    Following World War II, Aung San negotiated the Panglong Agreement with ethnic leaders that guaranteed the independence of Myanmar as a unified state. Aung Zan Wai, Pe Khin, Bo Hmu Aung, Sir Maung Gyi, Sein Mya Maung, Myoma U Than Kywe were among the negotiators of the historic Panglong Conference negotiated with Bamar leader General Aung San and other ethnic leaders in 1947. In 1947, Aung San became Deputy Chairman of the Executive Council of Myanmar, a transitional government. But in July 1947, political rivals[28] assassinated Aung San and several cabinet members.[29]

    Independence (1948–1962)
    British governor Hubert Elvin Rance and Sao Shwe Thaik at the flag-raising ceremony on 4 January 1948 (Independence Day of Burma)

    On 4 January 1948, the nation became an independent republic, under the terms of the Burma Independence Act 1947. The new country was named the Union of Burma, with Sao Shwe Thaik as its first president and U Nu as its first prime minister. Unlike most other former British colonies and overseas territories, Burma did not become a member of the Commonwealth. A bicameral parliament was formed, consisting of a Chamber of Deputies and a Chamber of Nationalities,[30] and multi-party elections were held in 1951–1952, 1956 and 1960.

    The geographical area Burma encompasses today can be traced to the Panglong Agreement, which combined Burma Proper, which consisted of Lower Burma and Upper Burma, and the Frontier Areas, which had been administered separately by the British.[31]

    In 1961, U Thant, the Union of Burma's Permanent Representative to the United Nations and former secretary to the prime minister, was elected Secretary-General of the United Nations, a position he held for ten years.[32] Among the Burmese to work at the UN when he was secretary-general was Aung San Suu Kyi (daughter of Aung San), who went on to become winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize.

    When the non-Burman ethnic groups pushed for autonomy or federalism, alongside having a weak civilian government at the centre, the military leadership staged a coup d'état in 1962. Though incorporated in the 1947 Constitution, successive military governments construed the use of the term 'federalism' as being anti-national, anti-unity and pro-disintegration.[33]

    Military rule (1962–2011)

    On 2 March 1962, the military led by General Ne Win took control of Burma through a coup d'état, and the government had been under direct or indirect control by the military since then. Between 1962 and 1974, Myanmar was ruled by a revolutionary council headed by the general. Almost all aspects of society (business, media, production) were nationalised or brought under government control under the Burmese Way to Socialism,[34] which combined Soviet-style nationalisation and central planning.

    A new constitution of the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma was adopted in 1974. Until 1988, the country was ruled as a one-party system, with the general and other military officers resigning and ruling through the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP).[35] During this period, Myanmar became one of the world's most impoverished countries.[36] There were sporadic protests against military rule during the Ne Win years, and these were almost always violently suppressed. On 7 July 1962, the government broke up demonstrations at Rangoon University, killing 15 students.[34] In 1974, the military violently suppressed anti-government protests at the funeral of U Thant. Student protests in 1975, 1976, and 1977 were quickly suppressed by overwhelming force.[35]

    In 1988, unrest over economic mismanagement and political oppression by the government led to widespread pro-democracy demonstrations throughout the country known as the 8888 Uprising. Security forces killed thousands of demonstrators, and General Saw Maung staged a coup d'état and formed the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). In 1989, SLORC declared martial law after widespread protests. The military government finalised plans for People's Assembly elections on 31 May 1989.[37] SLORC changed the country's official English name from the "Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma" to the "Union of Myanmar" on 18 June 1989 by enacting the adaptation of the expression law.

    In May 1990, the government held free multiparty elections for the first time in almost 30 years, and the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, won[38] earning 392 out of a total 492 seats (i.e., 80% of the seats). However, the military junta refused to cede power[39] and continued to rule the nation, first as SLORC and, from 1997, as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) until its dissolution in March 2011. General Than Shwe took over the Chairmanship – effectively the position of Myanmar's top ruler – from General Saw Maung in 1992 and held it until 2011.[40]

    On 23 June 1997, Myanmar was admitted into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. On 27 March 2006, the military junta, which had moved the national capital from Yangon to a site near Pyinmana in November 2005, officially named the new capital Naypyidaw, meaning "city of the kings".[41]

    Protesters in Yangon during the 2007 Saffron Revolution with a banner that reads non-violence: national movement in Burmese. In the background is Shwedagon Pagoda.
    Cyclone Nargis in southern Myanmar, May 2008.

    In August 2007, an increase in the price of fuel led to the Saffron Revolution led by Buddhist monks that were dealt with harshly by the government.[42] The government cracked down on them on 26 September 2007, with reports of barricades at the Shwedagon Pagoda and monks killed. There were also rumours of disagreement within the Burmese armed forces, but none was confirmed. The military crackdown against unarmed protesters was widely condemned as part of the international reactions to the Saffron Revolution and led to an increase in economic sanctions against the Burmese Government.

    In May 2008, Cyclone Nargis caused extensive damage in the densely populated rice-farming delta of the Irrawaddy Division.[43] It was the worst natural disaster in Burmese history with reports of an estimated 200,000 people dead or missing, damages totalled to 10 billion US dollars, and as many as 1 million were left homeless.[44] In the critical days following this disaster, Myanmar's isolationist government was accused of hindering United Nations recovery efforts.[45] Humanitarian aid was requested, but concerns about foreign military or intelligence presence in the country delayed the entry of United States military planes delivering medicine, food, and other supplies.[46]

    In early August 2009, a conflict broke out in Shan State in northern Myanmar. For several weeks, junta troops fought against ethnic minorities including the Han Chinese,[47] Wa, and Kachin.[48][49] During 8–12 August, the first days of the conflict, as many as 10,000 Burmese civilians fled to Yunnan in neighbouring China.[48][49][50]

    Civil wars

    Civil wars have been a constant feature of Myanmar's socio-political landscape since the attainment of independence in 1948. These wars are predominantly struggles for ethnic and sub-national autonomy, with the areas surrounding the ethnically Bamar central districts of the country serving as the primary geographical setting of conflict. Foreign journalists and visitors require a special travel permit to visit the areas in which Myanmar's civil wars continue.[51]

    In October 2012, the ongoing conflicts in Myanmar included the Kachin conflict,[52] between the Pro-Christian Kachin Independence Army and the government;[53] a civil war between the Rohingya Muslims and the government and non-government groups in Rakhine State;[54] and a conflict between the Shan,[55] Lahu, and Karen[56][57] minority groups, and the government in the eastern half of the country. In addition, al-Qaeda signalled an intention to become involved in Myanmar. In a video released on 3 September 2014, mainly addressed to India, the militant group's leader Ayman al-Zawahiri said al-Qaeda had not forgotten the Muslims of Myanmar and that the group was doing "what they can to rescue you".[58] In response, the military raised its level of alertness, while the Burmese Muslim Association issued a statement saying Muslims would not tolerate any threat to their motherland.[59]

    Armed conflict between ethnic Chinese rebels and the Myanmar Armed Forces resulted in the Kokang offensive in February 2015. The conflict had forced 40,000 to 50,000 civilians to flee their homes and seek shelter on the Chinese side of the border.[60] During the incident, the government of China was accused of giving military assistance to the ethnic Chinese rebels.[61] Clashes between Burmese troops and local insurgent groups have continued, fuelling tensions between China and Myanmar.[62]

    Period of liberalisation, 2011–2021

    The military-backed Government had promulgated a "Roadmap to Discipline-flourishing Democracy" in 1993, but the process appeared to stall several times, until 2008 when the Government published a new draft national constitution, and organised a (flawed) national referendum which adopted it. The new constitution provided for election of a national assembly with powers to appoint a president, while practically ensuring army control at all levels.[63]

    U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Aung San Suu Kyi and her staff at her home in Yangon, 2012

    A general election in 2010 - the first for twenty years - was boycotted by the NLD. The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party declared victory, stating that it had been favoured by 80 per cent of the votes; fraud, however, was alleged.[64][65] A nominally civilian government was then formed, with retired general Thein Sein as president.[66]

    A series of liberalising political and economic actions – or reforms – then took place. By the end of 2011 these included the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission, the granting of general amnesties for more than 200 political prisoners, new labour laws that permitted labour unions and strikes, a relaxation of press censorship, and the regulation of currency practices.[67] In response, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Myanmar in December 2011 – the first visit by a US Secretary of State in more than fifty years[68] – meeting both President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.[69]

    Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD party participated in the 2012 by-elections, facilitated by the government's abolition of the laws that previously barred it.[70] In the April 2012 by-elections, the NLD won 43 of the 45 available seats. The 2012 by-elections were also the first time that international representatives were allowed to monitor the voting process in Myanmar.[71]

    Myanmar's improved international reputation was indicated by ASEAN's approval of Myanmar's bid for the position of ASEAN chair in 2014.[72]

    Map of Myanmar and its divisions, including Shan State, Kachin State, Rakhine State and Karen State.
    2015 general elections

    General elections were held on 8 November 2015. These were the first openly contested elections held in Myanmar since the 1990 general election (which was annulled[73]). The results gave the NLD an absolute majority of seats in both chambers of the national parliament, enough to ensure that its candidate would become president, while NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi is constitutionally barred from the presidency.[73][74]

    The new parliament convened on 1 February 2016,[75] and on 15 March 2016, Htin Kyaw was elected as the first non-military president since the military coup of 1962.[76] On 6 April 2016, Aung San Suu Kyi assumed the newly created role of state counsellor, a role akin to a prime minister.[77]

    Analysis of liberalisation period

    Throughout this decade of apparent liberalisation, opinions differed whether a transition to liberal democracy was underway. To some it appeared merely that the Burmese military was allowing certain civil liberties while clandestinely institutionalising itself further into Burmese politics and economy.[78]

    Coup d'état and civil war 2020 Election

    In Myanmar's 2020 parliamentary election, the ostensibly ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), the party of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, competed with various other smaller parties – particularly the military-affiliated Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). Other parties and individuals allied with specific ethnic minorities also ran for office.[79]

    Suu Kyi's NLD won the 2020 Myanmar general election on 8 November in a landslide, again winning supermajorities in both houses[79][80]—winning 396 out of 476 elected seats in parliament.[81]

    The USDP, regarded as a proxy for the military, suffered a "humiliating" defeat[82][83] – even worse than in 2015[83] – capturing only 33 of the 476 elected seats.[81][82]

    As the election results began emerging, the USDP rejected them, urging a new election with the military as observers.[79][83]

    More than 90 other smaller parties contested the vote, including more than 15 who complained of irregularities. However, election observers declared there were no major irregularities in the voting.[82]

    The military – arguing that it had found over 8 million irregularities in voter lists, in over 300 townships – called on Myanmar's Union Election Commission (UEC) and government to review the results, but the commission dismissed the claims for lack of any evidence.[81][84]

    The election commission declared that any irregularities were too few and too minor to affect the outcome of the election.[82] However, despite the election commission validating the NLD's overwhelming victory,[84] the USDP and Myanmar's military persistently alleged fraud[85][86] and the military threatened to "take action".[82][87][88][89][90] In January, 2021, just before the new parliament was to be sworn in, The NLD announced that Suu Kyi would retain her State Counsellor role in the upcoming government. [91]


    In the early morning of 1 February 2021, the day parliament was set to convene, the Tatmadaw, Myanmar's military, detained State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the ruling party.[82][92][93] The military handed power to military chief Min Aung Hlaing and declared a state of emergency for one year[94][92] and began closing the borders, restricting travel and electronic communications nationwide.[93]

    The military announced it would replace the existing election commission with a new one, and a military media outlet indicated new elections would be held in about one year – though the military avoided making an official commitment to that.[93]

    State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint were placed under house arrest, and the military began filing various charges against them. The military expelled NLD party Members of Parliament from the capital city, Naypyidaw.[93] By 15 March 2021 the military leadership continued to extend martial law into more parts of Yangon, while security forces killed 38 people in a single day of violence.[95]

    Protests and civil war
    Protesters against the military coup in Myanmar

    By the second day of the coup, thousands of protesters were marching in the streets of the nation's largest city, and commercial capital, Yangon, and other protests erupted nationwide, largely halting commerce and transportation. Despite the military's arrests and killings of protesters, the first weeks of the coup found growing public participation, including groups of civil servants, teachers, students, workers, monks and religious leaders – even normally disaffected ethnic minorities.[96][97][93]

    The coup was immediately condemned by the United Nations Secretary General, and leaders of democratic nations – including the United States President Joe Biden, western European political leaders, Southeast Asian democracies, and others around the world, who demanded or urged release of the captive leaders, and an immediate return to democratic rule in Myanmar. The U.S. threatened sanctions on the military and its leaders, including a "freeze" of US$1 billion of their assets in the U.S.[96][93]

    India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Russia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and China refrained from criticizing the military coup.[98][99][100][101] The representatives of Russia and China had conferred with the Tatmadaw leader Gen. Hlaing just days before the coup.[102][103][104] Their possible complicity angered civilian protesters in Myanmar.[105][106] However, both of those nations refrained from blocking a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the other detained leaders[96][93] – a position shared by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.[93]

    International development and aid partners – business, non-governmental, and governmental – hinted at suspension of partnerships with Myanmar. Banks were closed and social media communications platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, removed Tatmadaw postings. Protesters appeared at Myanmar embassies in foreign countries.[96][93]

    ^ Win Naing Tun (24 July 2015). "Prehistory to Protohistory of Myanmar: A Perspective of Historical Geography" (PDF). Myanmar Environment Institute. p. 1. Retrieved 22 November 2016. Homo erectus had lived in Myanmar 750,000 years ago
    Bowman, John Stewart Bowman (2013). Columbia Chronologies of Asian History and Culture. Columbia University Press. p. 476. ISBN 978-0-231-50004-3.
    ^ Schaarschmidt, Maria; Fu, Xiao; Li, Bo; Marwick, Ben; Khaing, Kyaw; Douka, Katerina; Roberts, Richard G. (January 2018). "pIRIR and IR-RF dating of archaeological deposits at Badahlin and Gu Myaung Caves – First luminescence ages for Myanmar". Quaternary Geochronology. 49: 262–270. doi:10.1016/j.quageo.2018.01.001. S2CID 133664286. ^ Cooler, Richard M. (2002). "The Art and Culture of Burma (Chapter 1)". DeKalb: Northern Illinois University. Archived from the original on 26 December 2016. Retrieved 22 March 2012. ^ Myint-U, p. 37 ^ Yee Yee Aung. "Skeletal Remains of Nyaunggan, Budalin Township, Monywa District, Sagaing Division". Perspective July 2002. Archived from the original on 28 December 2008. Retrieved 7 October 2008. ^ Myint-U, p. 45 ^ Hudson, Bob (March 2005). "A Pyu Homeland in the Samon Valley: a new theory of the origins of Myanmar's early urban system" (PDF). Myanmar Historical Commission Golden Jubilee International Conference: 1. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 November 2013. ^ Coupey, A. S. (2008). Infant and child burials in the Samon valley, Myanmar. In Archaeology in Southeast Asia, from Homo Erectus to the living traditions: choice of papers from the 11th International Conference of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists, 25–29 September 2006, Bougon, France ^ Hall, D.G.E. (1960). Burma (3rd ed.). Hutchinson University Library. pp. 8–10. ISBN 978-1-4067-3503-1.
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    Werner Gruhl, Imperial Japan's World War Two, 1931–1945 Transaction 2007 ISBN 978-0-7658-0352-8 (Werner Gruhl is former chief of NASA's Cost and Economic Analysis Branch with a lifetime interest in the study of the First and Second World Wars.)
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    "100,000 Protestors Flood Streets of Rangoon in "Saffron Revolution"".
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    ^ Fountain, Henry (6 May 2008). "Aid arrives in Myanmar as death toll passes 22,000, but worst-hit area still cut off –". International Herald Tribune. Archived from the original on 11 October 2008. ^ "Official: UN plane lands in Myanmar with aid after cyclone". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 6 September 2015. Retrieved 6 August 2015. ^ Stevenson, Rachel; Borger, Julian & MacKinnon, Ian (9 May 2008). "Burma snubs foreign aid workers". The Guardian. London. ^ "Burma: imperialists exploit natural disaster to promote regime change". Proletarian Online. June 2008. ^ "Fighting forces up to 30,000 to flee Myanmar". NBC News. 28 August 2009. Retrieved 20 November 2012. ^ a b "More fighting feared as thousands flee Burma". Mail & Guardian. Agence France-Presse. 27 August 2009. Retrieved 28 August 2009. ^ a b Fuller, Thomas (28 August 2009). "Refugees Flee to China as Fighting Breaks Out in Myanmar". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 August 2009. ^ "Thousands Flee Burma Violence". BBC News. 26 August 2009. Retrieved 28 August 2009. ^ "Restricted Areas in Burma". Tourism Burma. 2013. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 27 March 2013. ^ Fuller, Thomas (4 April 2013). "Ethnic Rifts Strain Myanmar as It Moves Toward Democracy". The New York Times. ^ Nadi, Nang Mya (25 September 2012). "Displaced by fighting, villagers take shelter in Hpakant". Democratic Voice of Burma. Archived from the original on 27 November 2012. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
    "Blood and Gold: Inside Burma's Hidden War". Al Jazeera. 4 October 2012. Archived from the original on 1 January 2019. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
    ^ "About 75,000 Rohingyas in Myanmar camps: Refugee International". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 29 September 2012. Retrieved 27 March 2013. ^ Power, Samantha (9 November 2012). "Supporting Human Rights in Burma". whitehouse.gov. Retrieved 27 March 2013 – via National Archives.
    "Myanmar Shan refugees struggle at Thai border". Al Jazeera. 2 October 2012.
    ^ Saw Khar Su Nyar (KIC) (16 March 2012). "Karen fighters and Burma Army soldiers killed over ceasefire breach". Karen News. Archived from the original on 15 June 2013. Retrieved 27 March 2013. ^ "Myanmar: Karen groups cautious on peace initiative". IRIN. 5 March 2012. ^ "Concern in India as Al Qaeda announces new India front". Myanmar News.Net. 4 September 2014. Retrieved 6 September 2014. ^ "Myanmar Muslim group rejects Al Qaeda statement". Myanmar News.Net. 6 September 2014. Retrieved 6 September 2014. ^ "Tens of thousands flee war, airstrikes in Kokang region". Democratic Voice of Burma. 12 February 2015. Archived from the original on 28 March 2015. Retrieved 31 March 2015. ^ "Myanmar Kokang Rebels Deny Receiving Chinese Weapons". Radio Free Asia. ^ Lintner, Bertil (5 April 2017). "A Chinese war in Myanmar". Asia Times. Retrieved 5 July 2022. ^ Steinberg, David I. (2010). Burma/Myanmar : what everyone needs to know. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 142–147. ISBN 978-0-19-539067-4. OCLC 318409825. ^ "A Changing Ethnic Landscape: Analysis of Burma's 2010 Polls". Transnational Institute – Burma Project. TNI. 14 December 2010. Retrieved 27 March 2013. ^ MacFarquhar, Neil (21 October 2010). "U.N. Doubts Fairness of Election in Myanmar". The New York Times. ^ "Myanmar profile - Timeline". BBC News. 3 September 2018. Archived from the original on 26 March 2021. Retrieved 25 September 2021. ^ Loyn, David (19 November 2011). "Obstacles lie ahead in Burma's bid for reform". BBC. Retrieved 20 November 2011. ^ Hepler, Lauren; Voorhees, Josh (1 December 2011). "Budding Friendship on Display as Clinton, Burma's Suu Kyi Meet Again". Slate. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 17 June 2013. Wrapping up a historic three-day visit to Myanmar [Burma], the first by a secretary of state to the Southeast Asian nation in more than 50 years ^ Myers, Steven Lee (2 December 2011). "Clinton Says U.S. Will Relax Some Restrictions on Myanmar". The New York Times. p. A6. Archived from the original on 1 December 2011. Retrieved 15 May 2013. ^ "US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to visit Burma". BBC. 18 November 2011. Retrieved 25 November 2011. ^ Golluoglu, Esmer (4 February 2012). "Aung San Suu Kyi hails 'new era' for Burma after landslide victory". The Guardian. London. ^ Cabellero-Anthony, Mely (March 2014). ""Myanmar's Chairmanship of ASEAN: Challenges and Opportunities", Myanmar's Growing Regional Role". NBR Special Report. ^ a b "Myanmar's 2015 landmark elections explained," 3 December 2015, BBC News, retrieved 1 March 2021 ^ "Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy Wins Majority in Myanmar". BBC News. 13 November 2015. Retrieved 13 November 2015. ^ "Suu Kyi's novice MPs learn ropes in outgoing Myanmar parliament". Channel NewsAsia. Archived from the original on 27 January 2016. Retrieved 28 January 2016. ^ Moe, Wae; Ramzy, Austin (15 March 2016). "Myanmar Lawmakers Name Htin Kyaw President, Affirming Civilian Rule". The New York Times. ^ Daniel Combs, Until the World Shatters: Truth, Lies, and the Looting of Myanmar (2021). ^ Stokke, Kristian; Aung, Soe Myint (April 2020). "Transition to Democracy or Hybrid Regime? The Dynamics and Outcomes of Democratization in Myanmar". The European Journal of Development Research. 32 (2): 274–293. doi:10.1057/s41287-019-00247-x. hdl:10852/82950. ISSN 0957-8811. S2CID 211408888. ^ a b c "Myanmar Election Delivers Another Decisive Win for Aung San Suu Kyi," 11 November 2020, The New York Times, retrieved 18 December 2020 ^ "Myanmar: Aung San Suu Kyi's party wins majority in election," 11 November 2020, BBC News, retrieved 18 December 2020 ^ a b c "Myanmar election commission rejects military's fraud claims," 29 January 2021, Associated Press, retrieved 28 February 2021 ^ a b c d e f "Explainer: Crisis in Myanmar after army alleges election fraud," 31 January 2021, updated 1 February 2021, Reuters News Service, retrieved 28 February 2021 ^ a b c "Military-Backed USDP Leaders Defeated by NLD in Myanmar Election," 12 November 2020, The Irrawaddy, retrieved 28 February 2021 ^ a b "Myanmar Election Body Rejects Military Allegations of Electoral Fraud," 28 January 2021, The Irrawaddy, retrieved 6 February 2021 ^ "Myanmar Military Condemns Speaker's Refusal to Probe Election Fraud Claims," 15 January 2021, The Irrawaddy, retrieved 7 February 2021 ^ "Myanmar Military Demands Proof November Election Was Fair," 21 January 2021, The Irrawaddy, retrieved 7 February 2021 ^ "Myanmar Military Refuses to Rule Out Coup as It Presses Claim of Fraud in Nov Election," 26 January 2021, The Irrawaddy, retrieved 7 February 2021 ^ "Military Thrests: Coup Fears Overshadow Myanmar Parliament Opening," Archived 30 January 2021 at the Wayback Machine Channel NewsAsia, ^ "Myanmar Military Chief Warns Constitution Should Be Revoked If Laws Not Followed," 28 January 2021, The Irrawaddy, retrieved 7 February 2021 ^ "UN, embassies fret over Myanmar coup talk," 28 January 2021, Bangkok Post, retrieved 30 January 2021 ^ "Myanmar's Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to Keep State Counselor Position NLD Says," 25 January 2021, The Irrawaddy, retrieved 6 February 2021 ^ a b "Myanmar coup: Aung San Suu Kyi detained as military seizes control," 1 February 2021, BBC News, retrieved 1 February 2021 ^ a b c d e f g h i "Myanmar coup: Week(s) of Feb.1 to Feb. 21, EU action in focus as foreign ministers set to meet; Candlelight vigil held in Yangon; Facebook removes military's 'True News' page," (reverse chronology) 1 February through 21 February 2021, Nikkei Asia, retrieved 1 March 2021 ^ "Myanmar Military Takes Power for One Year, Suu Kyi in Detention". Bloomberg.com. 31 January 2021 – via www.bloomberg.com. ^ Regan, Helen. "Chinese factories set on fire in Myanmar in deadliest day since coup". CNN. Retrieved 15 March 2021. ^ a b c d "Myanmar coup: Teachers join growing protests against military," 5 February 2021, BBC News, retrieved 28 February 2021 ^ "Tens of Thousands Take to Streets in Myanmar to Protest Military Regime," 12 November 2020, The Irrawaddy, retrieved 28 February 2021 ^ "On Bloodiest Day for Myanmar Civilians, India Attends Military Parade by Coup Leaders". The Wire. 28 March 2021. ^ "China Responds to Bloodshed in Myanmar With Deafening Silence". The Diplomat. 2 March 2021. ^ "India has a history of involvement in its neighbours' affairs. Why has it not condemned the Myanmar coup?". South China Morning Post. 24 February 2021. ^ "Myanmar coup: ASEAN split over the way forward". Deutsche Welle. 29 March 2021. ^ "Myanmar Military Rolls Out Red Carpet for Russian Defense Minister," 25 January 2021, The Irrawaddy retrieved 4 March 2021 ^ "Vladimir Putin's defence minister Sergei Shoigu courted in Burma days before coup," 14 February 2021, The Times[of London], retrieved 4 March 2021 ^ "China will give Myanmar some COVID-19 vaccines, says ministry," 12 January 2021, Reuters News Service, "...top diplomat... Yi, met the commander-in-chief... Senior General Min Aung Hlaing..." retrieved 4 March 2021 ^ "At UNHRC, Russia and China Still Dismiss Myanmar's Military Coup as an Internal Affair.htm," 13 February 2021, The Irrawaddy, "Myanmar protesters continued the demonstrations in front of both countries' embassies...", retrieved 4 March 2021 ^ "Myanmar protesters surround Chinese Embassy in Yangon amid anger at military coup," 17 February 2021, Yahoo News (Australia), retrieved 4 March 2021
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Stay safe
  • Stay safe Crime

    The government punishes crime, particularly against tourists, severely; as a result, as far as crime and personal safety go, Myanmar is extremely safe for tourists, and it is generally safe to walk on the streets alone at night. In fact, you are less likely to be a victim of crime in Myanmar than in Thailand or Malaysia. However, as with anywhere else, little crime does not mean no crime and it is still no excuse to ditch your common sense. As a foreigner, the most common crime you should be worried about is petty theft, so keep your belongings secured. Physical and verbal harassment towards foreigners is uncommon, even on urban walks near bars.

    Since 2005, Yangon and Mandalay have seen a barely perceptible rise in the very low level of street robberies. There were isolated bombings in 2005 in Mandalay and Yangon, and in 2006 in Bago.


    Despite traditional taboos against it, begging has become a major problem in the main tourist areas such as Bago and Bagan. Children and "mothers" carrying babies are often the ones who beg as they are more effective at soliciting pity. Most beggars are part of larger begging syndicates or just after easy money, as tourists are usually seen to be rich. In addition, the poor can always obtain food for free from the nearest monastery if they can't afford to pay for it, so begging is not necessary for their survival. If you choose to give, note that most Burmese earn only US$40 a month doing manual labour and so giving US$1 to a beggar is very generous.

    ...Read more
    Stay safe Crime

    The government punishes crime, particularly against tourists, severely; as a result, as far as crime and personal safety go, Myanmar is extremely safe for tourists, and it is generally safe to walk on the streets alone at night. In fact, you are less likely to be a victim of crime in Myanmar than in Thailand or Malaysia. However, as with anywhere else, little crime does not mean no crime and it is still no excuse to ditch your common sense. As a foreigner, the most common crime you should be worried about is petty theft, so keep your belongings secured. Physical and verbal harassment towards foreigners is uncommon, even on urban walks near bars.

    Since 2005, Yangon and Mandalay have seen a barely perceptible rise in the very low level of street robberies. There were isolated bombings in 2005 in Mandalay and Yangon, and in 2006 in Bago.


    Despite traditional taboos against it, begging has become a major problem in the main tourist areas such as Bago and Bagan. Children and "mothers" carrying babies are often the ones who beg as they are more effective at soliciting pity. Most beggars are part of larger begging syndicates or just after easy money, as tourists are usually seen to be rich. In addition, the poor can always obtain food for free from the nearest monastery if they can't afford to pay for it, so begging is not necessary for their survival. If you choose to give, note that most Burmese earn only US$40 a month doing manual labour and so giving US$1 to a beggar is very generous.

    Fake monks

    Theravada Buddhism is the main religion in Myanmar, and it is customary for monks to go on alms rounds in the morning. Unfortunately, there are also many bogus monks who hang out around the main tourist attractions preying on unsuspecting visitors. Alms rounds are solely for the purpose of collecting food: genuine monks are forbidden from accepting, or even touching money. Monks are forbidden from eating after noon, and are also not allowed to sell items or use high pressure tactics to solicit donations. Authentic monks are often found in single file lines with their alms bowls. If you see a single monk requesting money from foreigners he is a fraud.


    Myanmar is one of the world's most corrupt countries. Officials and other civil servants may discreetly ask you for a bribe, or invent issues (missing forms, closed offices, etc.) in order to get you to suggest one. Pretending not to understand or asking to speak to a superior may work. However, white visitors are rarely targeted, while those of Asian descent (including South Asians and East Asians) may be forced to give bribes, but the brunt of the problem hits normal Burmese.

    Westerners are very rarely asked for bribes, although most bribes are a US dollar or less, and requested by people earning as little as US$30/month.

    Driving conditions

    The poor road infrastructure, and a mixture of extremely ancient vehicles on the country's roads are all what best describe the road conditions. However, driving habits are not very aggressive compared to say, Vietnam, which does make the safety of the roads comfortable for almost everyone. Although rare, youths sometimes compete against each other on the roads, which has led to some casualties over the past few years. Bus drivers are among the worst dangers, although this is somewhat less of an issue since 2010 due to new, very harsh penalties imposed on bus drivers involved in accidents.

    Surprisingly, Burma has a mixture of both right-hand and left-hand drive vehicles, with the majority being right-hand drive but driving is generally done on the right side of the roads.

    Unless you have experience driving in countries with poorly disciplined drivers and very shabby vehicles, avoid driving in Burma.

    Civil conflict

    Various insurgent groups continue to operate in the Mon, and Chin (Zomi), states of Myanmar, along the Thai and Chinese borders. Travel to these regions generally requires a government permit. The government also sometimes restricts travel to Kayah State, Rakhine State, and Kachin State due to insurgent activity. However travel is entirely unrestricted to the districts of Yangon, Bago, Ayeyarwady, Sagaing, Taninthayi, Mandalay, and Magwe. Some areas that have been reported as closed have become open without notice, and areas previously regarded as open can become closed with no warning. In addition, local immigration offices may have their own interpretations of regulations.

    "Tatmadaw [Armed Forces] and the people in eternal unity. Anyone attempting to divide them is our enemy."

    Myanmar is again under strong military rule as it was from 1962 - 2012, with a reputation for repressing dissent, as in the case of the house arrest of democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi. There used to be more than 1,500 political prisoners (sentences of 65 years and hard labor in remote camps were given to leaders of the Saffron Revolution), although some have been released. When in Myanmar, abstain from political activities and don't insult the government.

    Discuss politics, if you must, with people who have had time to get a feel for you. The danger, however, is primarily posed to those you speak with, so let them lead the conversation. Also, realize that many phone lines are tapped. And if you absolutely must wave a democracy banner on the street, you'll simply find yourself on the next outbound flight.

    Between 2012-2020, liberty in general increased under the new government. A few politically critical articles have been published in government newspapers and a satirical film deriding the government's film censorship policy has been released, neither of which would have been possible in 2010. Returning visitors to Myanmar may find that locals have become ever so slightly more open to discussions regarding politics.

    However, under any circumstances avoid doing things that might make the military or police feel uncomfortable, such as taking pictures of police and police buildings or vehicles.

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