The Burma Project

The page below is ARCHIVED information related to a past initiative of Global Source Education, the parent organization of EduCulture. Though these are not current projects of EduCulture, we feel there are valuable resources and information for educational purposes.

The Burma Project is an educational initiative developed at Global Source in 2000 to introduce and support the study of modern Burma in secondary education.

Why Study Burma?

There are many points of departure to the study of Burma. Several include:

A Modern Struggle towards Democracy

Living under military rule since 1962 and in the midst of ongoing civil wars, the Burmese people exhibit a resilience that is not often publicized in the West.

Ethnic Studies

Since over 50% of Burma’s population is comprised of ethnic minorities, Burma offers a rich history of observing how different ethnic and cultural groups relate to one another.

Religious Studies

Most of Burma’s population is Buddhist, though Christians, Animists, and Muslims represent sizeable minorities. Many of contemporary political issues in Burma are based on religious difference and on conflict.

World Leader and Peacemaker

The leader of the democracy movement, Aung San Suu Kyi, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and has since raised the profile of the Burmese struggle on the world stage. Her strategy of non-violent resistance has been compared to other world leaders such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Mohatma Ghandi.

Understanding The Current Situation in Burma

Burma gained independence from Great Britain in 1948 after 62 years of colonial rule, and a tumultuous modern era in the country’s history commenced. A brief experiment with democracy was cut short by a military coup in 1962, and a series of military regimes have ruled ever since with an iron fist. The New York Times recently called Burma a “perfect dictatorship”, referencing the extent of the current junta’s power that has devastated the economy, isolated Burmese citizens, and crushed dissent.

By 1988, the military’s policies had caused extensive food shortages in a land once considered the “Rice Bowl” of Southeast Asia, and such policies resulted in widespread distrust of the junta. Seeking democratic leadership, the Burmese people turned to Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of revolutionary hero General Aung San. She rose to prominence as the leader of the National League of Democracy (NLD) and became an articulate voice for the democracy movement, as well as a symbol of hope to many Burmese.

On August 8, 1988 (8-8-88), tension exploded in the streets of Rangoon. Their tolerance exhausted, millions of Burmese people took to the streets to demand an end to military oppression. The student-led popular rebellion demanded that the military forces yield power to an elected civilian regime. Soldiers responded by firing on nonviolent protestors, killing thousands of citizens. Shortly thereafter, the regime renamed itself the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), jailed thousands of political prisoners, and consolidated military power through the quick and methodical suppression of dissent. The junta placed Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest and jailed and tortured many elected NLD members of parliament.

Responding to international and national outcries, SLORC held a national election on May 27, 1990. Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD party won an overwhelming 82% of the seats, but SLORC refused to honor the results of the election. More political prisoners were seized, and the Army increased its presence in both urban and rural areas, building a surveillance network that continues to monitor and crush pro-democracy activities.

There are many points of departure for the study of Burma; one is to consider the pluralism of Burmese society, and the challenges this poses towards building a representative government. Among the dozens of ethnic groups in Burma, their only commonality is geographic inclusion within the national borders. People living in Burma have different cultures, religions, and languages, and are all struggling to preserve their heritage and lifestyles.

The on-going civil wars with Burma’s ethnic minority groups have resulted in hundreds of thousands of refugees spilling into neighboring countries, human rights abuses against minority peoples of genocidal proportions, food shortages, a burgeoning and grossly neglected HIV/Aids crisis, environmental devastation, and a narcotics-dependent economy. Seeking to be left alone by the Burmese military, many armed revolutionary groups have signed cease-fire agreements with the junta only to find that soldiers become more pervasive and menacing in their daily lives. Other groups hold out against surrender, walking a thin line between a desire to preserve their autonomy and the possibility of outright extinction.

Although the military junta adopted a new Constitution in 1997, renaming itself the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the lack of political freedom in Burma has not changed. Thousands of political prisoners remain jailed. Aung San Suu Kyi is once again under house arrest and unable to perform her political activities. Political organizing is outlawed and there is no freedom of assembly or speech. Information is similarly censored, and consequently the 45 million Burmese people have no access to democratic ideas. This “perfect dictatorship” has succeeded in creating a palpable climate of fear in Burma, thwarting many popular efforts to usher in democracy.

The international community, including the United States, has responded to the crisis with sanctions and diplomatic pressure especially on Southeast Asian nations to cut trade with Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi has advocated a ban on tourism, as well as a halt on foreign aid and investment, claiming that international transactions only legitimize and strengthen the junta, failing to relieve the suffering of the Burmese people. Recently the International Labour Organization (ILO) dealt a significant blow to the junta in calling on its member nations, employer and worker groups to impose sanctions against a fellow member for the first time in the organization’s 80 year history. In 1997 the Clinton administration imposed U.S. sanctions banning new investment in Burma. Many corporations have divested their interests in Burma under pressure from international human rights groups, though some still preserve their investments there.

International pressure is mounting against the regime, but still Burma does not receive the media attention that other conflicts such as Kosovo or East Timor elicited. The situation in Burma may be compared to other global conflicts and non-violent resistance movements. Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s approach parallels that of the Dalai Lama, the Reverend Desmond Tutu, and Martin Luther King, Jr. The study of Burma is an appropriate model to examine the pros and cons of the non-violent philosophy in a historical and modern context.

By Katrina Anderson, Global Source Education, 2001


Suggested Source Material for the Study of Burma

The source materials we have compiled on the study of Burma is by no means exhaustive. They are meant to serve as a point of departure for educators and students to begin examining Burma from multiple perspectives.

A Starter Library Package for the Study of Modern Burma

Educational tools for the study of Burma in Secondary Education:

– Age-appropriate resources
– Teacher background reading
– Curricular suggestions for different academic disciplines
For ordering information, please see the the Burma Titles page in the Global Source Catalog

Contents of Starter Library Package:

1. Aung San Suu Kyi: Fearless Voice of Burma
by Whitney Stewart. Lerner Publications, Minneapolis, 1997.
A biography of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Includes photos of the 1988 uprising, Aung San Suu Kyi and family, and daily life in Burma.
Appropriate for grades 5-8. Library Bound.


Freedom from Fear
Autobiography by Aung San Suu Kyi. Penguin Books, London, 1995.
A collection of writings by the Nobel Peace Laureate and leader of the Burmese democracy movement. Aung San Suu Kyi explores her country’s history and movement towards democracy, as well as the many challenges that lie ahead in the ongoing struggle to overturn military rule.
Appropriate for grades 9-12, Educator background reading. Paperback.

2. Burma: Human Rights, Forgotten Wars & Survival
Cultural Survival Quarterly, Fall 2000.
Periodical with 14 articles written by human rights leaders, Burma scholars, and Burmese refugees about the current situation concerning the people of Burma, with special focus on the persecution against Burma’s indigenous populations.

3. Burma: The Richest of Poor Countries
By Joel L. Swerdlow. National Geographic, July 1995.
An American writer returns to Burma, the country he lived in as a young child. There he discovers the paradox of modern Burma.

4. Burma: A Cry for Freedom
The New Internationalist, June 1996.
A magazine with eleven articles on Burma written by leading Burma scholars and activists covering topics as diverse as drug trafficking, the democracy movement, forced labor, and the ethnic people in Burma.

5. Burma: Country in Crisis
The Burma Project Program of the Open Society Institute, 1998.
A booklet featuring one-page backgrounders on different subject areas relating to the political, economic, and social situation in Burma.

6. Burma: The Next Killing Fields?
By Alan Clements, forward by The Dalai Lama. Odonian Press, 1992.
Based on interviews with hundreds of Burmese citizens, this book gives a good introduction to the daily lives of people living under military rule.

Books for the Study of Burma

Aung San Suu Kyi: Fearless Voice of Burma.
By Whitney Stewart, Lerner Publications, Minneapolis, 1997.
A biography of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, appropriate for grades 4-8. Includes photos of the 1988 uprising, Aung San Suu Kyi and family, and daily life in Burma. Appropriate for grades 5-12, 122 pages.

Freedom from Fear
By Aung San Suu Kyi, Penguin Books, London, 1995.
The Nobel Laureate examines the long struggle against oppressive military rule in Burma. Suu Kyi tells the story of modern Burma, which is inextricably tied to her own history as the daughter of a well-beloved independence hero, General Aung San. Suu Kyi unexpectedly assumed the role of the leader of the democracy movement when the Burmese people took to the streets in 1988 to demand a resration of civilian rule. Includes a forward by Vaclav Havel. Appropriate for grades 9-12, 374 pgs.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2000, New York, Dec. 1999.
The chapter on Burma records the human rights situation in Burma during the year 1999. Appropriate for grades 9-12.

Burma: Voices of Women in the Struggle
By Altsean Burma, 1998.
This multi-genre collection of written work by women from Burma describes the hopes and anxieties of women, as well as the personal sacrifices they are required to make, especially the separation from their homelands and loved ones. Includes a forward by Aung San Suu Kyi. Appropriate for grades 7-12. 100 pages.

Burma: The Struggle for Democracy and Freedom, A Resource Guide for Teachers
By American Federation of Teachers International Affairs Department
A collection of articles, resources, and curricular suggestions for educators of grades K-12 who aim to introduce the study of Burma in their classrooms.

Burma: Country in Crisis
The Burma Project of the Open Society Institute, New York, 1998.
Prepared by the Open Society Institute to provide an overview of the current situation in Burma. The 12 sections in the booklet examine the country through different lenses, from the Human Rights situation to the Environment to Health and Education. Includes a FAQ section and lists of resources. Appropriate for grades 6-12, 26 pages.

Burma in Revolt: Opium and Insurgency Since 1948
By Bertil Lintner. Westview Press, Boulder, CO. 1994.
This is recognized as the most authoritative book on the interrelationship of drugs, insurgency, counterinsurgency, and politics in Burma. Lintner drew on his extensive travels and meetings with rebel commanders, ethnic leaders, and other key figure to present a compelling picture of politcs and society in a poor and bitterly divided country. Teacher background reading, 500 pages.

Burma: The Next Killing Fields?
By Alan Clements, Odonian Press, Berkeley, 1992.
Written by an American who traveled to Burma and interviewed hundreds of Burmese citizens, this book examines modern Burma through the eyes of ordinary people. Appropriate for grades 6-12, 95 pages.

Burma for Beginners
By Gus Miclat, Gus, ed., Initiatives for International Dialogue, Philippines, 1998.
The story of Burma told through the eyes of a young boy who is a resistance soldier. Illustrated, appropriate for grades 5-8.

Burmese Looking Glass
By Edith Mirante, Grove Press, New York, 1995.
The story of an American woman’s journey through rural Burma in the 1990s, which led her to campaign for human rights in Burma. Appropriate for grades 9-12.

Burmese Family
By Mi Mi Khaing. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1962.
Written by a Burmese woman educated in Brittish schools, Mi Mi Khaing paints a full portrait of Burmese daily life, inside homes, schools, and monasteries in villages, towns, and cities. She gives a comprehensive view of Burmese culture, including Buddhist influences and the impact of British colonization on traditional Burmese society. Illustrated, appropriate for grades 7-12. 200 pages.

Human Rights and the Environment
By Earthrights International, January 1997.
Presented to the Center for Human Rights at the United Nations Office in Geneva in January 1997, this report examines Burma as a case study to address abuses committed against indigenous peoples and their natural environment. Appropriate for grades 9-12.

Migrating with Hope: Burmese Women Working in the Sex Industry
By Images Asia, 1997.
“This report attempts to present and highlight the needs, interests, and realities of undocumented migrant women from Burma working as sex-workers in Thailand. We look at the lives of women in Burma, the migration processes, processes of entry into the sex industry, and factors which govern women’s well-being or suffering during the time of migration to Thailand.” – from Migrating with Hope. Appropriate for grades 8-12, 50 pages.

No Childhood At All: Child Soldiers in Burma
By Images Asia, 1997.
A comprehensive report on the use of child soldiers by the Tatmadaw, or Burmese military, within the context of militarization of Burmese society as a whole. Contains testimony of child soldiers and documentation by NGOs of human rights abuses by the SPDC. Appropriate for grades 8-12, 75 pages.

The Voice of Hope: Conversations with Alan Clements
By Aung San Suu Kyi and Alan Clements, Seven Stories Press, New York, 1997.
The transcripts of a series of conversations with American journalist Alan Clements. Suu Kyi speaks about leadership and power, truth and reconciliation, and illuminates the repression the Burmese people are suffering under the military regime. Appropriate for grades 8-12. 300 pages.

The Moral Architecture of World Peace: Nobel Laureates Discuss Our Global Future
By Helena Cobban, University of Virginia Press, Charlottesville, VA, 2000.
This book profiles nine world leaders, all Nobel Peace Laureates, and is based on a dialogue between them at the University of Virginia in November 1998. Though absent due to her ongoing house arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi was represented by Harn Yawnghwe, who helps tell her story in a chapter titled, The Individual and the Totalitarian State: Aung San Suu Kyi and the Question of Human Rights in Burma.

Land of Jade: A Journey Through Insurgent Burma
By Bertil Lintner. White Lotus, Bangkok, 1990.
The first foreigner to cross northern Burma since the 1940s, Lintner travels by foot, jeep, bicycle, and elephant to record the stories of the armed revolutionaries fighting a civil war against the Burmese military regime. His analysis of the conflict raging in modern Burma emerges from a thorough account of the similarities and differences among the ethnic people he encounters on his journey. Appropriate for grades 11-12 and teacher background reading. 314 pages.

Revolution: Faces of Change
Edited by Aaron Kenedi and Ed Miller, Thunder’s Mouth Press, New York, 2000.
In this book of portraits of world leaders, a chapter on Aung San Suu Kyi is excerpted from an article written by Polish journalist Anna Husarska. Though heavily edited, the chapter provides an introduction to The Lady and the influence she exerts over her followers. Appropriate for grades 9-12.

School for Rape: The Burmese Military and Sexual Violence
By Betsy Apple, EarthRights International, 1998.
This report documents the strategies of the Burmese Military, the Tatmadaw and its systemic use of rape. Written in four parts, the report examines the Context for Rape, the Structural Causes of Rape, the Perpetrators (the Tatmadaw and its officers), and the Consequences of a Violent Culture. Appropriate for grades 9-12 and teacher background reading. 120 pages.

Total Denial Continues
Report by EarthRights International, May 2000.
This report is the second publication of a comprehensive investigation into the human rights abuses and environmental devastation occurring in eastern Burma as a result of the Yadana and Yetagun Pipeline construction, in which U.S.-based Unocal Corp. (among others) has partnered with the junta. Based on interviews with hundreds of villagers who were forced to work on the pipline, this report reveals the devastating complicity between foreign corporations and the brutal Burmese regime. 180 pages.

The Union of Burma: A Study of the First Years of Independence, 4th ed.
By Hugh Tinker. Oxford University Press, London, 1967.
Widely recognized as the standard work on Burma since independence, this book chronicles the problem of building a nation out of different peoples, races, languages, and religions which have been long divided. This is a comprehensive study of the building of modern Burma and the ways the country has faced its many challenges. Teacher background reading. 425 pages.

War in the Blood: Sex, Politics, and AIDS in Southeast Asia
By Chris Beyrer. Zed Books, London, 1998.
This book investigates the course of the HIV epidemic in 7 countries of Southeast Asia. Beyrer examines the inter-connected forces facilitating the spread of HIV/Aids, including the Heroin trade, sex workers, prisoners, HIV and the US military. In a chapter on Burma, he shows how the denial of the epidemic by the military forces has resulted in a full-scale crisis that plagues not only its own citizens, but its neighbors as well. He also examines public policy and the work of activists to stem the crisis, and asserts the real possibility for affirmative action.

The World of Burmese Women
By Mi Mi Khaing. Zed Books, London, 1984.
The first study of Burmese women by a Burmese woman, this books is a frank portrait of Burmese women in all spheres of life. It examines the basic question, Why has there not been a womens movement of note in Burma?. Both sociological and personal, this book brings to life the character, warmth and wisdom of Burmese women. Appropriate for grades 9-12. 195 pages,

Compiled by Katrina Anderson, Global Source Education, 2001

Burma Periodicals

A Land of War, A Journey of the Heart
By Paula Bock, The Seattle Times, September 28, 1997.
The personal account of a Seattle journalist who travels to the Thai/Burma border and listens to the stories of thousands of refugees. It gives an historical context for the arrival of over 100,000 Karen refugees in Thailand and describes daily life in refugee camps, including an emphasis on health care. Appropriate for grades 6-12.

Burma: A Cry for Freedom
The New Internationalist, No. 280, June 1996.
In a special issue on Burma, The New Internationalist examines issues such as narcotics production, political prisoners, the Aids crisis in Burma, ethnic populations, and tourism. Also includes a special interview with Aung San Suu Kyi. Appropriate for grades 6-12, paper, 38 pages.

Burma: Human Rights, Forgotten Wars, and Survival
Cultural Survival Quarterly, Volume 24, Issue 3, Fall 2000.
In individual articles of this special issue on Burma, Burma experts, scholars and activists examine various aspects of the Burma situation focusing on Ethnic Politics, Refugees, and the use of foreign courts by the Free Burma Movement. Appropriate for grades 9-12, paper, 72 pages.

Grim Regime: A special report. For Burmese: Repression, AIDS and Denial
By Blain Harden, New York Times, November 14, 2000.
An introduction to the political situation in Burma and the consequences for ordinary Burmese citizens, including an examination of the silent and devastating Aids crisis ravaging Burmese people. Appropriate for grades 9-12.

Burma: The Richest of Poor Countries
By Joel L. Swerdlow, National Geographic, Vol. 188, No.1, July 1995.
An author who grew up in Burma examines the historical, cultural, and political landscape of Modern Burma. A comprehensive investigation into the political conflict and way of life of Burmese people. Appropriate for grades 6-12, 28 pages.

When will the Snake Charming Act End?
By U Than Maung, Burma Debate, May/June 1996.
A spokesman for the military accuses Aung San Suu Kyi of undermining the authority of the State, and for deceiving the majority of Burmese citizens with a pro-democracy political agenda. Appropriate for grades 9-12.



Beyond Rangoon
Produced by NBC Dateline, 10 minutes. An introduction to the political conflict in Burma, including an interview with Aung San Suu Kyi.

Beyond Rangoon
Feature Film, 1995. 100 minutes. Political uprising, democracy movement, human rights abuses.

Burma Diary
Documentary, 1992. 55 minutes. Democracy/Resistance Movement, Civil War, ChildrenÍs Rights Abuses.

The Field Afar
Episode of a television series. 26 minutes. Ethnic Cleansing, Refugees, Religion. Produced by Maryknolls fathers.

The Heroin Wars, Parts 1-3
Documentary by Bullfrog Films. This 3-part series was filmed by Adrian Cowell and Chris Menges who went to the mountainous Shan region of eastern Burma. They filmed the Shan revolutionary forces in their bloody civil war against the military dictatorship of Burma. They show that the Shan had one choice in order to fund their liberation: opium.

Road to Nowhere
Documentary film by Images Asia. 1999. 35 minutes. Documentary Forced labor in Burma, in the context of the ILO Commission of Inquiry findings. Examines the impacts of tourism and foreign investment as well.

Documentary by Ellen Bruno. 50 minutes. The trafficking of Burmese girls has soared in recent years as a direct result of political repression in Burma. Human rights abuses, war and ethnic cleansing have displaced thousands of families; an offer of employment in Thailand is a rare chance for many families to escape extreme poverty. Sacrifice examines the social, cultural, and economic forces at work in the trafficking of Burmese girls into prostitution in Thailand.

Unocal in Burma
Produced by ABC Nightline, 3/28/2000, 22 min. The story UNOCAL, the U.S. oil company that is the lead investor in an oil pipeline in Burmas southeast region. Human rights activists accuse UNOCAL of complicity with the Burmese military in the displacement of thousands of villagers, environmental destruction of the region, and forced labor.

Compiled by Katrina Anderson, Global Source Education, 2001


Websites for the Study of Modern Burma

Amnesty International
Aung San Suu Kyi website: http://www.dassk. com
Current political news of Burma and the life history of Aung San Suu Kyi. Maintained by Burmese political exiles.
Burma Debate Magazine:
A quarterly magazine of current topics on Burma funded by the Open Society InstituteÍs Burma Project.
BurmaNet News Website:
Provides a summary of daily news on Burma from international news sources
Ellen Bruno Films:
Award-winning films on child prostitution in Burma, Tibetan Buddhist nuns, and war-torn Cambodia. Age appropriate for 9-12.
Free Burma Coalition:
Information about the worldwide movement for democracy led by Burma activists in exile around the globe.
Human Rights Watch:
Images Asia:
Multi-media resources on Burma and an online catalog
International Labor Organization (for kids!):
Site designed for children; explains the mission and activities of the International Labor Organization, as well as its actions against Burma after proving allegations of forced labor.
Official Myanmar Government site:
Mainly geared to tourists, though it provides the point of view of the junta on such issues as democracy and narcotics.
One World:
Information about democracy movements and human rights issues worldwide; excellent country-by-country breakdown.
Seattle Times Article by Paula Bock A Land of War, a Journey of the Heart:
Award-winning article by a Seattle-based writer about her personal experience working with Karen refugees along the Thai/Burma border. A teachers guide for this story on Burma and others by this author, can be found at:

Compiled by Global Source Education, 2001

Past Programs:

The New World of Corporate Accountability: the Case of UNOCAL in Burma
A forum for K-12 Educators, university educators, students, and the public. Co-sponsored by the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Washington and the Center for Human Rights and Justice. May 2001, Seattle, WA

A 4th R Dialogue on Teaching and Learning about Burma
Wednesday, November 28, 5-8pm, Greenwood Senior Center, 525 North 85th St., Seattle

When we are concerned with fairness, justice, diversity, safety, caring, respect, and responsibility in our teaching and learning, we are dealing with issues of human rights. “Rights” have become the fourth “R” in a growing number of K-12 classrooms and schools.

Global Source organized a special professional dialogue for elementary and secondary educators on teaching and learning about the current situation in Burma, which once again has the attention of the international community.

We explored ways to study the current conflict in Burma in our curriculum, including how to use Burma as a topic of study for the Causes of Conflict Social Studies CBA.  We shared the resources of Global Source’s Burma Project and featured guest speakers including local Burma expert, Larry Dohrs, with the US Campaign for Burma and Seattle Burma Roundtable.

These Were Our Goals:

– Build knowledge and awareness about modern Burma (Myanmar) and the current conflict in this country.
– Share ways to integrate the study of Burma into our teaching and learning.
– Discuss how we teach and learn about countries in conflict, human rights issues, and democratic movements, and international intervention.
– Explore how social studies educators can use Burma as a topic of study for the Causes of Conflict CBA.

Content for the Burma Project at Global Source developed and compiled by Larry Dohrs and Katrina Anderson.