Reportage by Getty Images
"Half a Century Without Freedom - Life under the Military Regime of Burma"
For almost five decades, the Burmese people have suffered under a regime that is both inept and repressive. The junta has waged a bloody war upon ethnic minorities resulting in more than five hundred thousand internally displaced refugees, while more than two million people have fled for neighboring countries. Inside the country's borders, civil disobedience has routinely been crushed and protesters made to serve long sentences in harsh prisons.
The regime's corrupt and faulted economic policies have resulted in double-digit inflation and devastated wages and salaries. An average Burmese lives on not much more than a few dollars per day and the country once dubbed "The Rice Bowl of Asia" has gone from being the richest in the region to one of the world's most impoverished nations and can now hardly feed itself.
While the majority of the Burmese live in poverty, military leaders and their business cronies exploit the country's riches such as timber, minerals, gemstones, hydropower, oil, and gas.
The junta is amongst the biggest military spenders worldwide but at the same time, the generals spend less than $1 per citizen per year on health care.
In a 2005 survey by the World Health Organization, Burma (Myanmar) had the second-poorest healthcare system in the world. Half of all Asia's malaria deaths occur in Burma; the country has some of the world's deadliest strains of TB; and the regime has a potentially devastating HIV epidemic on its hands and still people are at risk of archaic deceases like leprosy.
All communication is potentially monitored in Burma. Citizens need to obtain a special permit from the Ministry of Communication to own a cell phone or a satellite dish. During the crackdown on protests in September, Internet connection was cut off and alleged members of the opposition had their phone lines tapped and their cell phones cut off.
Besides the crackdown on the monk-led protests in 2007, the regime in Myanmar operates with a stick and carrot. For example, it is well known that lesser prominent members of the opposition party, NLD, are often offered cell phones and bigger apartments whilst at the same time threatened with imprisonment all in an effort to make them renounce their NLD membership.