Burma obtained its independence from the British Commonwealth in 1948. From 1962 to his resignation in 1988, General Ne Win was the military ruler turned self-appointed president who was forced out of office due to widespread civil unrest. The military soon took over.
In 1990, multiparty elections occurred and resulted in the National League for Democracy (NLD) winning a decisive victory. However, the military coup, unwilling to hand over power, held NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, under house arrest for periods of time spanning from 1990 to 2010. After many years of unrest and struggle, the military coup proceeded with its May constitutional referendum, the first vote in Burma since 1990. The NLD boycotted the election while the international community viewed the election as flawed. The election resulted in the Union Solidarity and Development Party, the ruling party of the time, win 75% of the seats.
In 2011, Prime Minister Thein Sein was appointed president. Thein Sein and this national-level appointees, though mostly military officers, began a series of political and economic reform which resulted in opening up the once isolated country. The reforms including the release of political prisoners, a nationwide cease-fire, legal reform, and reducing restrictions on freedom of the press, association, and civil society. In another flawed but largely credible national election in November 2015, NLD won another decisive victory and used their majority in both housed of parliament to elect Htin Kyaw as president. After more than five decades of military dictatorship, Burma swore in their first civilian government on March 30,2016.
Unrest and violence still plague the country today. Since the 17-year cease-fire ending in 2011, about 100,000 people have been displaced due to fighting and hundreds killed. There are currently more than 20 nonstate armed groups occupying Burma. Violence continues to escalate between the rebel, minority ethnic groups and country's military despite the NLD's efforts of peace and establish a cease-fire by February 2017.
Burmese minorities have experienced oppression, hardship, starvation, and violence for more than half a century. There are currently about 700,000 minority tribespeople fleeing persecution and seeking refuge in neighboring countries, including Thailand.
Buddhism is the dominate religion in Burma with 87.9% of the population practicing the religion. Christians follow at 6.2% and Muslims at 4.3%.