- Foreign relations of Burma
This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
Burma's foreign relations with many states are strained, mainly due to its human rights record. Burma (officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar), is sometimes considered an isolationist state. However, it generally shares closer connections with some of its neighbor states, and it is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
European Union and the United States
The United States has placed broad sanctions on Burma because of the military crackdown in 1988 and the military regime's refusal to honour the election results of the 1990 People's Assembly election. Similarly, the European Union has placed embargoes on Burma, including an arms embargo, cessation of trade preferences, and suspension of all aid with the exception of humanitarian aid.
US and European government sanctions against the military government, coupled with boycotts and other direct pressure on corporations by western supporters of the Burmese democracy movement, have resulted in the withdrawal from Burma of most U.S. and many European companies. However, several Western companies remain due to loopholes in the sanctions. Asian corporations have generally remained willing to continue investing in Burma and to initiate new investments, particularly in natural resource extraction.
The French oil company Total S.A. is able to operate the Yadana natural gas pipeline from Burma to Thailand despite the European Union's sanctions on Burma. Total is currently the subject of a lawsuit in French and Belgian courts for the condoning and use of Burman civilian slavery to construct the named pipeline. Experts say that the human rights abuses along the gas pipeline are the direct responsibility of Total S.A. and its American partner Chevron with aid and implementation by the Tatmadaw. Prior to its acquisition by Chevron, Unocal settled a similar human rights lawsuit for a reported multi-million dollar amount. There remains active debate as to the extent to which the American-led sanctions have had adverse effects on the civilian population or on the military rulers.
The Government of Ireland established diplomatic relations with Myanmar (Burma) on a non-resident basis on 10 February 2006. The Irish Government was still concerned by the continued detention of the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Burma Action Ireland is a pro-democracy group that freely operates in the Irish Republic.
Ireland supported a UN commission of inquiry and international level monitoring of the situation in Burma after 2008, as part of their efforts to support the Burmese people in their struggle for democracy and human rights. This became public knowledge after official papers were leaked in September 2010.
Franco-Burmese relations go back to the early 18th century, as the French East India Company attempted to extend its influence into Southeast Asia. French involvement started in 1729 when it built a shipyard in the city of Syriam. The 1740 revolt of the Mon against Burmese rule, however, forced the French to depart in 1742. They were able to return to Siam in 1751 when the Mon requested French assistance against the Burmese. A French envoy, Sieur de Bruno was sent to evaluate the situation and help in the defence against the Burmese. French warships were sent to support the Mon rebellion, but in vain. In 1756, the Burmese under Alaungpaya vanquished the Mon. Many French were captured and incorporated into the Burmese Army as an elite gunner corps, under Chevalier Milard. In 1769, official contacts resumed when a trade treaty was signed between King Hsinbyushin and the French East India Company.
Soon after, however, France was convulsed by the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, thus allowing overwhelming British influence in Burma. French contacts with Burma, effectively a British colony, became almost non-existent. Instead, from the second half of the 19th century, France concentrated on the establishment of French Indochina and the conflicts with China leading to the Sino-French War. Following the end of World War II, ambassador-level diplomatic relationships between France and Burma were established in 1948, soon after the Burmese nation became an independent republic on January 4, 1948, as Union of Burma, with Sao Shwe Thaik as its first President and U Nu as its first Prime Minister.
Burma – United States relations
The political relationship between the United States and Burma worsened after the 1988 military coup and violent suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations. Subsequent repression, including the crackdown on peaceful protestors in September 2007, further strained the relationship.
The United States has imposed broad sanctions against Burma under several different legislative and policy vehicles. The Burma Freedom and Democracy Act (BFDA), passed by Congress and signed by the President in 2003, includes a ban on all imports from Burma, a ban on the export of financial services to Burma, a freeze on the assets of certain Burmese financial institutions, and extended visa restrictions on Burmese officials. Congress has renewed the BFDA annually, most recently in July 2010.
Since September 27, 2007, the U.S. Department of Treasury designated 25 senior Burmese government officials as subject to an asset block under Executive Order 13310. On October 19, 2007, President George W. Bush announced a new Executive Order (E.O. 13448) which expands the authority to block assets to individuals who are responsible for human rights abuses and public corruption, as well as those who provide material and financial support to the regime.
In addition, since May 1997, the U.S. Government has prohibited new investment by U.S. persons or entities. A number of U.S. companies exited the Burma market even prior to the imposition of sanctions due to a worsening business climate and mounting criticism from human rights groups, consumers, and shareholders. The United States has also imposed countermeasures on Burma due to its inadequate measures to eliminate money laundering.
Due to its particularly severe violations of religious freedom, the United States has designated Burma a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act. Burma is also designated a Tier 3 Country in the Trafficking in Persons Report for its use of forced labour, and is subject to additional sanctions as a result. The political relationship between the United States and Burma worsened after the 1988 military coup and violent suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations. Subsequent repression, including the brutal crackdown on peaceful protestors in September 2007, further strained the relationship.
The United States downgraded its level of representation in Burma from Ambassador to Chargé d'Affaires after the government's crackdown on the democratic opposition in 1988 and its failure to honour the results of the 1990 parliamentary election.
In November 2011, President Barack Obama spoke to pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on the phone and announced that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be visiting Burma in December. Clinton will be the first Secretary of State to visit the country in 50 years.
Covert military activities in Burma
On September 10, 2007, the Burmese Government accused the CIA of assassinating a rebel Karen commander from the KNU who wanted to negotiate with the military government. For background on the conflict, see
Principal U.S. Embassy officials
- Chargé d'Affaires Larry Miles Dinger
- Deputy Chief of Mission Karl Stoltz
- Political/Economic Affairs Officer Leslie Hayden
- Public Affairs Officer Karl Stoltz, Acting
- Consul Lee McManis
- Management Officer Robert Bare
The U.S. Embassy in Burma is located in Rangoon.
- This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Department of State (Background Notes).Burma
Myanmar-Russia relations Map indicating locations of Myanmar and Russia
Bilateral relations with the Russian Federation are the strongest enjoyed by largely isolated Myanmar. Russia had established diplomatic relations with Myanmar (then known as Burma), at independence and these continued after the fall of the Soviet Union. China and Russia once vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution designed to punish Burma. Today Russia, along with China, still opposes the imposition of sanctions on Myanmar and supports a policy of dialogue. Russia, along with China, remains part of the UN Security Council which occasionally shields or weakens Myanmar from global pressure and criticism.
In 2007 Russia and Burma did a controversial nuclear research centre deal. According to the press release, "The centre will comprise a 10MW light-water reactor working on 20%-enriched uranium-235, an activation analysis laboratory, a medical isotope production laboratory, silicon doping system, nuclear waste treatment and burial facilities".
- (English) (Burmese) (Russian) Embassy of Russia in Yangon
Association of Southeast Asian Nations
Burma is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and part of ASEAN+3 and the East Asia Summit. While Burma's presence in ASEAN was seen as a test of the organisation's philosophy of constructive engagement, the presence of Burma in ASEAN however has started to be seen as an embarrassment to the organisation, because of Burma's human rights record and lack of democracy. Burma agreed to relinquish its turn to hold the rotating ASEAN presidency in 2006 due to others member states' concern.
Asean will not defend Burma at any international forum following the military regime's refusal to restore democracy. In April 2007, the Malaysian Foreign Ministry parliamentary secretary Ahmad Shabery Cheek said Malaysia and other Asean members had decided not to defend Burma if the country was raised for discussion at any international conference. "Now Burma has to defend itself if it was bombarded at any international forum," he said when winding up a debate at committee stage for the Foreign Ministry. He was replying to queries from Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang on the next course of action to be taken by Malaysia and Asean with the Burmese military junta. Lim had said Malaysia must play a proactive role in pursuing regional initiatives to bring about a change in Burma and support efforts to bring the situation in Burma to the UN Security Council's attention. Recently, ASEAN did take a stronger tone with Burma, particularly regards to the detention of now-released Aung San Suu Kyi.
Despite border (both territorial and nautical) tensions and the forced migration of 270,000 Rohingya Muslims from Buddhist Burma in 1978, relations with Bangladesh have generally been cordial, albeit tense at times.
Many Rohingya refugees, not recognised as an ethnic group and allegedly suffering abuse by the Burmese state, remain in Bangladesh, and have been threatened with forced repatriation to Burma. There are about 28,000 documented refugees remaining in camps in southern Bangladesh.
At the 2008 ASEAN Regional forum summit in Singapore, Bangladesh and Myanmar have pledged to solve their maritime boundary disputes as quickly as possible especially that a UN deadline in claiming maritime territories will expire in three years time. However in late 2008, Myanmar sent in ships into disputed waters in the Bay of Bengal for the exploration of oil and natural gas. Bangladesh responded by sending in three warships to the area and diplomatically pursued efforts to pressure the Myanmar junta to withdraw their own ships. During the crisis Myanmar deployed thousands of troops on its border with Bangladesh. However, within a week the ships withdrew and the crisis ended.
Relations between Burma and Thailand focus mainly on economic issues and trade. There is sporadic conflict with Thailand over the alignment of the border. Recently, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva made clear that dialogue encouraging political change is a priority for Thailand, but not through economic sanctions. He also made clear to reconstruct temples damaged in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis. However, there were tensions over detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, with Thailand calling for her release. She was released in 2010. In the Thaksin Shinawatra administration, relations have been characterised by conflicts and confrontations. Border disputes are now coming more prominent and Thailand as disturbed by the imprisonment of Burma’s dissident Aung San Suu Kyi.
Bilateral relations between Burma (officially the Union of Myanmar) and the Republic of India have improved considerably since 1993, overcoming strains over drug trafficking, the suppression of democracy and the rule of the military junta in Burma. Burma is situated to the south of the states of Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh in Northeast India. The proximity of the People's Republic of China give strategic importance to Indo-Burmese relations. The Indo-Burmese border stretches over 1,600 kilometers. India is generally friendly with Myanmar, but is concerned by the flow of tribal refugees and the arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi.
As a result of increased Chinese influence in Burma as well as the safe haven and arms trafficking occurring along the Indo-Burmese border, India has sought in recent years to shore up ties with the military junta. Numerous economic arrangements have been established including a roadway connecting the isolated provinces of Northeastern India with Mandalay which opens up trade with China, Burma, and gives access to the Burmese ports. Relations between India and Burma have been strained in the past however due to India's continuing support for the pro-democracy movement in Burma.
In an interview on the BBC, George Fernandes, former Indian Defence Minister and prominent Burma critic, said that Coco Island was part of India until it was donated to Burma by former Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru. Coco Island is located at 18 km from the Indian Nicobar Islands.
Burma has an embassy in New Delhi.
Covert military activities in Burma
Operation Leech is the name given to an armed operation on the Indo-Myanmar border. As the major player in South Asia, India always sought to promote democracy and install friendly governments in the region. To these ends, India's external intelligence agency, R&AW, cultivated Burmese rebel groups and pro-democracy coalitions, especially the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). India allowed the KIA to carry a limited trade in jade and precious stones using Indian territory and even supplied them with weapons. It is further alleged that KIA chief Maran Brang Seng met the R&AW chief in Delhi twice.
However, with increasing bonhomie between the Indian government and the Myanmar junta and KIA becoming the main source of training and weapons for all northeastern rebel groups, R&AW initiated Operation Leech, with the help of Army and paramilitary forces, to assassinate the leaders of the Burmese rebels as an example to other groups. Operation Leech is considered as a success but has been criticised on principle by many Human Rights group.
Other Asian countries
People's Republic of China
The People's Republic of China had poor relations with Burma until the late 1980s. Between 1967 and 1970, Burma broke relations with Beijing because of the latter's support for the Communist Party of Burma (CPB). Deng Xiaoping visited Yangon in 1978 and withdrew support for the long running insurgency of the Communist Party of Burma. However, in the early 1950s Burma enjoyed a hot-and-cold relationship with China. Burma's U Thant and U Nu lobbied for China's entry as a permanent member into the Security Council, but denounced the invasion of Tibet.
China and Burma have had many border disputes, dating long before the British annexation of Burma. The last border dispute culminated in 1956, when the People's Liberation Army invaded northern Burma, but were repulsed. A border agreement was reached in 1960.
In the late 1960s, due to Ne Win's propaganda that the Chinese were responsible for crop failures, and the increasing number of ethnic Chinese students supporting Mao Zedong, by carrying the Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong books, anti-Chinese riots broke out in June 1967. At the same time, many Sino-Burmese were influenced by the Cultural Revolution in China and began to wear Mao badges. Shops and homes were ransacked and burned. The Chinese government heavily berated the Burmese government and started a war of words, but no other actions were taken. The anti-Chinese riots continued till the early 1970s.
However, after 1986, China withdrew support for the CPB and began supplying the military junta with the majority of its arms in exchange for increased access to Burmese markets and a rumoured naval base on Coco Islands in the Andaman Sea. China is supposed to have an intelligence gathering station on the Great Coco Island to monitor Indian naval activity as well as ISRO & DRDO missile and space launch activities. The influx of Chinese arms turned the tide in Burma against the ethnic insurgencies, many of which had relied indirectly on Chinese complicity. As a result the military junta of Burma is highly reliant on the Chinese for their currently high level of power.
Republic of China
Although Burma does not officially recognize the Republic of China, there is much other interaction between the two countries. Many Taiwanese own businesses in Burma. There are direct air flights to Taipei, as there is to some major cities in the People's Republic of China, including Kunming, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.
In 1983, North Korean agents attempted to assassinate then South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan during a visit to Burma. Although the President was unharmed, 21 people were killed in the bombing, including the South Korean deputy Prime Minister, and Burma suspended diplomatic relations in response. Relations were normalised in April 2007 during a visit by North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Yong-il to Burma. Since then, it has been reported that North Korean workers are helping to build secret underground tunnels, for an emergency shelter and other unknown purposes, in Burma.
Pakistan and Myanmar have cordial relations with each other, with embassies in their respective capitals.
Bangladesh–Burma relations Map indicating locations of Bangladesh and Burma
The neighbouring countries of Bangladesh and Myanmar currently have an ambiguous bilateral relationship. Tensions exist between the two countries due to border disputes and the presence of over 270,000 Burmese Muslim refugees in Bangladesh, however.
Maritime border dispute
The maritime border between Burma and Bangladesh has never been demarcated, resulting in a number of clashes between the two countries. In 2007 Burma and Bangladesh resumed discussions about defining their maritime border after a 21 year period in which no talks were held on this topic. In November 2008 the two countries increased security along their land border and deployed warships to the Bay of Bengal during a dispute over oil and gas exploration in a disputed portion of the Bay of Bengal. In June 2010 eleven Bangladeshi fishermen were wounded after Burmese border security personnel opened fire on them in disputed waters.
Timeline of diplomatic representation
Below are the years that countries have established ambassador-level diplomatic relationships with Burma.
- 1947: Pakistan, United Kingdom, United States of America
- 1948: France, India, Netherlands, Russia, Thailand
- 1949: Indonesia, Sri Lanka
- 1950: Italy, China (as People's Republic of China), SFR Yugoslavia
- 1953: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Egypt, Israel
- 1954: Finland, Germany, Japan
- 1955: Cambodia, Denmark, Poland
- 1956: Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic and Slovakia), Hungary, Iraq, Lao, Mongolia, Norway, Philippines, Romania, Sweden
- 1957: Switzerland
- 1958: Canada, Greece, New Zealand, Malaysia, Turkey
- 1960: Nepal
- 1966: Singapore
- 1967: Spain
- 1968: Algeria, Iran
- 1970: Maldives, Nigeria
- 1972: Bangladesh, Syria
- 1975: Argentina, North Korea (withdrawn from 1983-but reinstated 2007), South Korea, Vietnam
- 1976: Albania, Cuba, Mauritania, Mexico, Portugal
- 1977: Costa Rica
- 1978: Mauritius, Morocco
- 1982: Brazil, Chile, Panama
- 1985: Cyprus
- 1987: Vanuatu
- 1988: Colombia
- 1989: Peru
- 1990: Venezuela
- 1991: Papua New Guinea
- 1993: Brunei
- 1995: Ghana, South Africa
- 1997: Kenya
- 1998: Kuwait
- 1999: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Croatia, Georgia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine
- 2000: Kyrgyzstan
- 2001: Uruguay, Uzbekistan
- 2003: Macedonia
- 2004: Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Sudan
- 2005: Qatar
- 2006: Timor, Montenegro, Slovenia
- 2007: North Korea
- 2009: Andorra, Zimbabwe, Bahrain
- 2010: Fiji, Oman
- 2011: Gambia
In 1961, U Thant, then Burma's Permanent Representative to the United Nations and former Secretary to the Prime Minister, was elected Secretary-General of the United Nations; he was the first non-Westerner to head any international organization and would serve as UN Secretary-General for ten years. Among the Burmese to work at the UN when he was Secretary-General was the young Aung San Suu Kyi.
Until 2005, the United Nations General Assembly annually adopted a detailed resolution about the situation in Burma by consensus. But in 2006 a divided United Nations General Assembly voted through a resolution that strongly called upon the government of Burma to end its systematic violations of human rights.
In January 2007, Russia and China vetoed a draft resolution before the United Nations Security Council calling on the government of Myanmar to respect human rights and begin a democratic transition. South Africa also voted against the resolution, arguing that since there were no peace and security concerns raised by its neighbours, the question did not belong in the Security Council when there were other more appropriate bodies to represent it, adding, "Ironically, should the Security Council adopt [this resolution] ... the Human Rights Council would not be able to address the situation in Myanmar while the Council remains seized with the matter." The issue had been forced onto the agenda against the votes of Russia and the China by the United States (veto power applies only to resolutions) claiming that the outflow from Burma of refugees, drugs, HIV-AIDS, and other diseases threatened international peace and security.
The following September after the uprisings began and the human rights situation deteriorated, the Secretary-General dispatched his special envoy for the region, Ibrahim Gambari, to meet with the government. After seeing most parties involved, he returned to New York and briefed the Security Council about his visit. During this meeting, the ambassador said that the country "indeed [has experienced] a daunting challenge. However, we have been able to restore stability. The situation has now returned to normalcy. Currently, people all over the country are holding peaceful rallies within the bounds of the law to welcome the successful conclusion of the national convention, which has laid down the fundamental principles for a new constitution, and to demonstrate their aversion to recent provocative demonstrations.
On 11 October the Security Council met and issued a statement and reaffirmed its "strong and unwavering support for the Secretary-General's good offices mission", especially the work by Ibrahim Gambari (During a briefing to the Security Council in November, Gambari admitted that no timeframe had been set by the Government for any of the moves that he had been negotiating for.)
- Outposts of tyranny
- List of diplomatic missions in Burma
- Burmese diplomatic missions
- Burma–Thailand relations
- Burma – People's Republic of China relations
- Burma–India relations
- United Nations Security Council Resolution 45
- Indo-Burma barrier
- Coco Channel
- Mol Len
- Andaman Sea
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Foreign relations of Burma Foreign relations of Asia Sovereign
- Burma (Myanmar)
- People's Republic of China
- East Timor (Timor-Leste)
- North Korea
- South Korea
- Saudi Arabia
- Sri Lanka
- United Arab Emirates
States with limited
CIA activities in the Near East, North Africa, South and Southwest Asia
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Foreign relations of Israel — Israel This article is part of the series: Politics and government of Israel Basic Laws Jerusalem Law … Wikipedia
Foreign relations of Greece — Greece This article is part of the series: Politics and government of Greece … Wikipedia
Foreign Relations — After Burma became an independent state in January 1948, the government of Prime Minister U Nu adopted a foreign policy based on the principles of neutralism and nonalignment, a trend that became more pronounced as the Cold War intensified in… … Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar)
Foreign relations of Bangladesh — Bangladesh This article is part of the series: Politics and government of Bangladesh … Wikipedia
Foreign relations of France — France This article is part of the series: Politics and government of France … Wikipedia
Foreign relations of the People's Republic of China — Diplomatic relations between world states and People s Republic of China People s Republic of China … Wikipedia
Foreign relations of the Republic of China — Building of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Taipei The Republic of China (ROC), commonly known as Taiwan, is recognized by 23 sovereign states. The course of the foreign relations of the ROC is dominated by maintaining diplomatic relations… … Wikipedia
Foreign relations of Mexico — Mexico This article is part of the series: Politics and government of Mexico … Wikipedia