Politics and government
The current constitution of Burma, which replaced the 1946 Constitution in 1979, enshrined the role of Communist Party of Burma in all organs of government, politics and society. The political system is decentralized, and state and regional leaders have a significant amount of autonomy. Although the state remains officially committed to socialism as its defining creed, its economic policies have grown increasingly capitalist
The National Assembly of Burma is bicameral and made up of two houses: the upper house Assembly of Nationalities and the lower house Assembly of Representatives. The Assembly of Nationalities is indirectly elected by the local State and Regional Assemblies, while the Assembly of Representatives is directly elected every four years. However, only political organizations affiliated with or endorsed by the Communist Party are permitted to contest elections in Burma.
The Chairman of Presidium of the National Assembly of Burma is de facto head of state of the country, while the Premier of Burma is the head of government that presiding over a council of ministers and also as the nominal commander-in-chief of Tatmadaw (Burmese Army). The Premier is appointed by the National Assembly every four years.
Burma was colonized by the British following three Anglo-Burmese Wars (1824–1885). Burma was declared a province of India in November 1885 with its capital at Rangoon. British rule brought social, economic, cultural and administrative changes. Traditional Burmese society was drastically altered by the demise of the monarchy and the separation of religion and state. 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.
While the Burmese economy grew, all the power and wealth remained in the hands of the British and migrants from India. General resentment of the Burmese both toward the British and the Indian migrants resulted to the emergence of Burmese nationalist movement by early 20th century. Buddhist monks became the vanguards of the independence movement. In 1930, young Burmese intellectuals formed the Dobama Asiayone (We Burmans Association). Its members used the Burmese word Thakin ("master") as their honorific title, proclaiming that the Bamars were the true masters of the country.
In 1937, Burma was separated from British India and became a British colony of its own. A nationalist, Ba Maw, became the first Chief of Minister of Burma between 1937 and 1940. In 1939, Ba Maw formed the Freedom Bloc along with U Aung San, Thakin Than Tun and Thakin Soe from the Communist Party of Burma as well as Kyaw Nyein and Thakin Nu from the People's Revolutionary Party. After voicing his opposition to the British war participation, Ba Maw resigned and was arrested along with other Freedom Bloc leaders for sedition in 1940. However, Aung San who attended the Indian National Congress Assembly in India, escaped and fled to China.
World War II
In China, Aung San asked for assistance from the Kuomintang government. With the help of Blue Shirts Society, the Kuomintang's secret intelligence paramilitary branch, Aung San founded the Burma Independence Army in Bangkok, Thailand, on December 26, 1941. On May 7, 1942, the Chinese army invaded Burma from Yunnan to secure the supply line from the Indian Ocean. The Chinese, helped by the Thai forces from southwest and Burmese Independence Army led by Aung San, were able to drive the British out of Burma and temporarily retreat to Bengal, British India (now East Pakistan) in January 1943.
Ba Maw was reinstated as the Premier as well as the interim head of state of quasi-independent Burma with Aung San as the Deputy Premier and the Minister of Defense by February 1943. However, the nationalists soon disillusioned with China's capability in defending the newly-independent Burma. Both Ba Maw and Aung San secretly negotiated with Thakin Than Tun and Thakin Soe of the Communist Party of Burma in forming an underground resistance against the Chinese. As the resistance plan was uncovered by 1944, Aung San was arrested by the Chinese, while Ba Maw was spared to continue running the government. Aung San died in prison on December 11, 1944.
With Aung San's arrest, the Independence Army soon disorganized and was partially out of Ba Maw's government control. Thakin Than Tun and the Communists then reorganized some deserted BIA personnel into a guerrilla force and renamed it the Burma Liberation Front (ဗမာပြည်လွတ်မြောက်ရေးတပ်ဦးမတော် Bama-pye Lwatmrawkyat Tap'umataw; known as the Tatumadaw). There were informal contacts between the Tatumadaw and the Allies in 1944 and 1945. The Chinese were routed from most of Burma by May 1945.
War of Independence
As the British troops regained the control of most Burma, on May 25, 1945, the Tatumadaw rose up in a country-wide rebellion against the Chinese. On May 26, the Tatumadaw then set up a provisional government with Ba Maw as the premier and Thakin Soe as his deputy. A decision to keep Ba Maw again within the new government showed the Tatumadaw's initial intention to negotiate over independence terms with the British. By July 1945, 60% of the seats at the Tatumadaw-led government went to the Communists, while the remaining 40% were shared by the Socialists and the non-Communists. The conservatives under U Saw, however, decided not to join the new government and instead formed the right-wing Galon Party.