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Saturday, April 2, 2011

What's common in Myanmar and Libya?

While they may be far away in geological terms, these two countries still have a lot in common.

British soldier in Libya

First, let's start with a little history. Libya was colonized by the Ottoman Empire in 1551. The Turkish rule lasted until 1912, when the Italo-Turkish War war resulted in an Italian victory. Libia Italiana was the official name after this, and until it was lost to the allied forces in 1943. Libya was then divided into three regions to be under British and French control. Between 1949 and 1951, there was a short-lived emirate set up in Benghazi, with British backing, under the name of Emirate of Cyrenaica.

In 1951 the UN granted Libya independence and so the United Kingdom of Libya was formed. This kingdom was also set up according to the wishes of the United Kingdom, as even the name of it implies.
Gadaffi gives speech after the coup
True independence only came with the 1969 coup d'├ętat under Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi. The country was unified under one flag and soon started to flourish thanks to the abundant oil-supplies of the eastern part of the country. You guessed right, Benghazi is in the east.

British India - with Burma
Let's now go to Asia and see how Myanmar was doing under British colonial rule. The name 'Burma' must sound familiar to all of you - no wonder, as it is still widely used by western governments and their mouthpiece media to refer to the Union of Myanmar.

Because of its location, with trade routes between China and India passing straight through the country, Myanmar was kept wealthy through constant trade, although self-sufficient agriculture was still the basis of the economy.

Before the British colonization the ruling Konbaung Dynasty practiced a tightly centralized form of government. The king was the chief executive with final say on all matters but he couldn’t make laws and could only issue administrative edicts.

Conflict began between Myanmar and the British, when the Konbaung Dynasty decided to expand into Arakan in the state of Assam, close to the British colony of India. This close contact led to the first Anglo-Burmese War (1824–26), which the British won with the help of the Siamese, and Myanmar had to give up Assam and other northern provinces. Then, in 1852, the Second Anglo-Burmese War was provoked by the British who wanted the teak forests in Lower Burma as well as a port between Calcutta and Singapore. The British were victorious in this war as well, but were still not satisfied, as they wanted access to the teak, oil and rubies of northern Myanmar. This prompted them to begin the Third Anglo-Burmese War in 1885. The British government justified their actions by claiming that the last independent king of Myanmar, Thibaw, was a tyrant and that he was conspiring to give France more influence in the country. Thus, in 1885, after three wars gaining them various parts of the country, the British finally occupied all of Myanmar, renamed it Burma, and made it a province of the British Raj (India).

Myanmar was liberated in 1942-1943 by the advancing Japanese forces. Sadly, as we all know, the Japanese could not advance any further, and, in the end, lost the war.
Liberating Japanese
One thing was still achieved by the Japanese: the end of the War also mean the end of the colonial era. Myanmar got back its independence in 1948 and was renamed the Union of Burma. Similarly to Libya, a coup followed in 1962 with the military taking control of this vast country. 

British politics of division. What's important to note here is that Burma (today's Myanmar) is inhabited by more than 130 different peoples. Some get along well, while others don't. While there, the British tried to make sure that many of them would not like the other by granting more rights to certain groups and less to others. By this they were hoping to prevent a unified stance against their rule. 

When they left in 1948, they left a divided country behind that only a strong, centralized government could hold together. That was the role of the military government. It was stable, unifying force in a nation divided in so many ways. 

Libya as we all know from the news has a somewhat similar makeup with several different tribes, many of whom are armed. 

Two truly independent countries, the Union of Myanmar and Libya under the Colonel, are nuisance in the eyes of many. They would protect their national interests and would not let foreign governments influence their policies.


  1. wow, thanks so much for the info. between Libya and Myanmar right now, i hope Myanmar gets another chance at a revolution.

  2. very interesting info you found

  3. Burma/Myanmar is screwed, the collapse of the regime has been more than expected for a long time now but I don't think it'll happen. They'll just turn to astrology again and do something awesome

  4. meng, they have a lot of problems, I hope things will work out fine for the new govt. BTW. the military was smart, they knew for the whole time what they were doing, how to deal with the sanctions (that were totally unjust in my view)


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