Myanmar Government and Politics

Constitution and political system

Burma Country Flag

Myanmar’s 1974 constitution was put into effect after the 1988 military coup, and the country has since had an authoritarian military regime; from 1997, the country is headed by a “state peace and development council” of 19 members. The head of the council is the head of state and the head of government. The regime held elections for a legislative assembly in 1990, but did not allow the winning party, the National League for Democracy, to seize power and declared that the assembly should only serve as constitutional. But work on the new constitution has not progressed. Contradictions have been strong, and the regime has tightened control; blue. it has put the general secretary of the party that won the 1990 election, Aung San Suu Kyi, into house arrest. Her party NLD got 392 of the 485 seats in parliament.

Myanmar has had authoritarian, militarily dominated, regimes since 1962; the first was socialist, while the present has increasingly liberalized economic policy. The regime is unstable; the pressure both inside and outside is great. Inside, the pressure comes from an urban-based opposition, where Buddhist monks and students play an important role, and from minority groups in the border areas. The minority groups have resisted armed opposition to the central power; they want to make Myanmar a federal state.

Administrative division

The country is divided into seven states (minority areas) and the same number of divisions, further into urban areas and smaller local areas. These are now tightly controlled from the center.


Following the coup in 1988, the system of politically influenced public courts was replaced by a system of more conventional courts, with the Supreme Court as the supreme court. Otherwise, there are courts at the various administrative levels.

Myanmar’s foreign policy

Myanmar’s foreign policy was limited before 2011 as the dictatorial regime, which was accused of violating human rights, was isolated internationally with the exception of cooperation with China and trade with some other Asian countries.

In the wake of the post-2011 democratization process, Myanmar was gradually accepted by countries that had previously advocated a strict sanctions policy against the country. The ASEAN presidency in 2014 marked a milestone that showed that the country was interested in taking responsibility internationally. However, the abuses against the Rohingya population in 2017 led to strong condemnation from many countries, especially from European countries and countries with Muslim majority populations. Criticism was also raised from a number of ASEAN member countries.

In the role of Myanmar’s protector, China has always held on to the principle that no government has the right to interfere in another state’s internal affairs. Myanmar is of major strategic importance to Beijing, which has secured access to ports on the Indian Ocean. China is among others Myanmar’s largest arms supplier, and has made investments on a broad front in the country.

Both India and Myanmar’s smaller neighbors have followed China’s example to varying degrees.

Norway – Myanmar

Under the military regime, the Norwegian government urged Norwegian citizens and industry organizations not to trade, invest in or travel to Myanmar. Norway also supported the EU’s common position on Myanmar with partial import bans, arms embargo, visa denials and freezing of funds to key members of the regime.

However, following the 2008 cyclone Nargis, Norway began to involve itself bilaterally with Myanmar. State Secretary Raymond Johansen went to a donor conference in Yangon, where Norway provided NOK 110 million for the recovery following the cyclone disaster. Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre expressed skepticism about the isolation and boycott line in the Storting, and promoted dialogue as the best tool. Development Minister Erik Solheim also stated that he considered the boycott as unsuccessful when Myanmar’s neighboring countries had stepped outside. Solheim visited Myanmar in 2009, and then announced expanded humanitarian assistance.

At the request of President Thein Sein, in 2012 Norway initiated a program to support the ceasefire agreements Myanmar had signed with ethnic armed groups. The initiative was named Myanmar Peace Support Initiative (MPSI). Norway has also taken an active role in supporting the reform processes in Myanmar. In 2012, Norway established an embassy office in Yangon, formally subject to the Norwegian embassy in Bangkok. A full-fledged Norwegian embassy was opened in 2013. Myanmar opened its embassy in Oslo in 2015. Total Norwegian aid to Myanmar totaled NOK 251.1 million in 2017.

Myanmar’s defense

Myanmar has military service with a first-time service of 24 to 36 months. The strength of Myanmar’s armed forces is 406,000 active personnel (2018, IISS). In addition, the country has 107,000 semi-military police forces and militia.

The army has a workforce of about 375,000 active personnel. Materials include about 185 tanks (10 T-55, 50 T-72, about 25 type 59 and 100 type 69), 105 light tanks, 10 storm tanks, and about 431 armored personnel vehicles.

The Air Force has a personnel force of about 15,000 active personnel. Material comprising 63 fighters (which 31 F-7 AirGuard and 32 MiG-29), six fighter category JF-17, 22 attack aircraft of type A-5, 20 transport, 82 trainers, 78 helicopters, 10 of combat helicopters of the type Mi -35, and four heavy drones.

The Navy has a workforce of around 16,000 active personnel. The fleet includes five frigates, three corvettes, 74 patrol vessels, 15 landing craft and 13 auxiliary vessels.

Myanmar Head of Government

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