Political history

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Myanmar was under British rule from 1824–1948 when it gained independence contingent on the tragically short but pioneering leadership of Aung San, the father of Aung San Suu Kyi.[5] The assassination of Aung San tipped the country into various political reforms eventuating in almost five decades of military dictatorship from 1962.5 Under the military regime, long-standing civil wars between the Myanmar army (Tatmadaw) and armed militias have ravaged the border states. The civil war, along with systematic disinvestment in the public sector, has worn down the Burmese people and destroyed the economy, turning Myanmar into one of the poorest countries in the world.[6] Consequently, many thousands of people from Myanmar have been externally displaced and resettled as refugees abroad some of whom, the Rohingya, are in huge camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

 

 

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), almost 600,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) were living in Myanmar before the military coup d’état of 1 February 2021.[7] Consequently, the number of IDPs in Myanmar increased rapidly to at least one million.[7]  Healthcare in Myanmar has for many years been one of the poorest in the world, ranking 190/191 for overall health system performance as assessed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1997 (Tandon et al. 1997); the Myanmar government spent 2.3% of the country’s GDP on healthcare in 2014 which is an inconsequential amount compared to 3.7% in neighbouring Thailand, and 9.8% in the UK.[8],[9],[10]

 

After several decades of international pressure on the Burmese military dictators, exemplified by trade embargoes, the economy was in dire straits triggering a series of political, economic, and administrative reforms in the country. These included transition to a democratically elected civilian government in 2011, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Laureate and de facto leader (State Counsellor) of Myanmar.  Despite the new constitution, as a part of roadmap to democracy, the military reserved 25% of the “Hluttaw” legislature’s seats for themselves but the vast majority of the 75% contestable seats were won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party – the National League for Democracy (NLD).[11]  Under the quasi-democratic rule of the NLD, Myanmar opened to the world and bounced back to become the fastest growing economy in Asia in 2016.[12] Furthermore, many UK and international healthcare and research institutions have partnerships with those in Myanmar, exemplified by the UK Myanmar Health Alliance (MUKHA), with notable improvement in the country’s healthcare with strategic plans to develop universal health coverage (Latt et al. 2016).