In Myanmar, the army seized power by force on 1 February 2021. Since then, massive protests have taken place in the country. The Foreign Office issued a warning to avoid all travel to Myanmar, and to leave the country as soon as possible if you are currently still there. The army itself has declared a state of emergency for the coming year. Stay informed about developments, so you know right away when applying for a Myanmar visa is possible again.
The recent history of Myanmar in a nutshell
Burma (Myanmar) became independent in 1948. Before that, the country was a colony of British India. The British named the country after the Bamar - the largest ethnic group in the country. From 1962 to 2011, the country came under the absolute power of a military government, also known as a junta. Under the rule of the ruling military, the name of the country was changed from Burma to Myanmar in 1989, because the name Burma was too closely associated with the colonial past. The name Burma is now mainly used in the English-speaking world, while in other countries the name Myanmar is mainly used.
After years of poverty and economic stagnation, the so-called Saffron Revolution took place in 2007 after the announcement of the abolition of fuel subsidies. This revolution, led by Buddhist monks, led to the fall of the junta. In 2011 the military government handed over power to a civilian government and in 2015 free elections were held for the first time.
The years 2011 to 2015 were marked by political, economic and administrative reforms. These included the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission new labour laws and a relaxation of censorship. In addition, the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi - Myanmar's leader of the human rights and democracy movement and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 - was lifted, allowing her to move freely again. She then participated in the 2015 general election, which was decisively won by her party, the National League for Democracy. Suu Kyi became the country's political leader. However, the military claimed so many seats in parliament that changes to the constitution were only possible with the approval of the armed forces. In the year 2020, her party won the general election again with as much as 60% of the votes.
However, the generals claimed that the voting in the 2020 general elections had not been fair and called for new elections. The Election Commission and election observers said there was no evidence to support these claims. The army staged a coup and many NLD politicians, including Suu Kyi, were imprisoned. The charges against Suu Kyi are possession of illegal walkie-talkies, violation of the Covid-19 rules and disturbing public order.
The army in control
After ten years of democracy, the country of about 54 million people is back in the hands of the army. The commander-in-chief of the army, General Min Aung Hlaing, was able to maintain the army's power and influence, even as the country moved towards democracy. The state of emergency declared after the coup will last for a year. Min Aung Hlaing tried to justify the seizure of power by saying that the army is behind the people and by promising free and fair elections in the future.
Immediately after the coup, however, demonstrations and strikes against the military regime began. The country now has the largest protests since the Saffron Revolution of 2007. Among the protesters are teachers, lawyers, students, bank employees and government workers. The security forces are cracking down on the protesters. Several protesters have already lost their lives. The people of Myanmar can hardly count on any help from outside. Neighbouring countries Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines regard the conflicts as an internal matter that must be resolved within Myanmar itself.
Safety risks for tourists
Over the years, Myanmar has become a popular destination for backpackers. Currently, however, travelling to Myanmar is strongly discouraged. The states of Chin, Rakhine, Kachin and Shan are particularly volatile. In these regions, either violent and armed ethnic groups are active, or conflicts are ongoing between these groups or between ethnic groups and the ruling army.
Travelling to Myanmar is currently not possible due to the coronavirus lockdown. The state of emergency declared in the country in February 2021 does not help much in that regard. Due to the state of emergency, the military has closed the country's borders, further restricted entry and exit, closed roads and restricted access to the internet.
Are you planning to explore Myanmar once the situation clears up again? Then you need a Myanmar visa. You can apply for the visa online. before departure. The application only takes five minutes and the cost is £74.95 per person. If you need a visa urgently, you can indicate this in the application form. For an urgent application, a surcharge of £15.00 per person applies. In 95% of the cases, the visa is granted within 24 hours.