|“||This is the story of Burma, once known as 'the Golden Land'. On the surface, everything appears serene. It's a country of extraordinary beauty and gracious people. But Burma is also a secret country, isolated for the past 34 years since a brutal dictatorship seized power, the assault on its people all but forgotten. To tell their story, we had to go undercover. What we found was a land of fear.||„|
|~ Introduction to the documentary Inside Burma: Land of Fear.|
The State Peace and Development Council was the military junta that ruled Burma from 1988 to 2011, commanded by chairman Saw Maung until 1992 and afterwards Than Shwe until its disbandment. It was originally formed as the State Law and Restoration Council/SLORC, which rose to power during the 8-8-88 Uprising and brutally suppressed it. SLORC denied the results of the legitimate 1990 election and proceeded to place winning candidate Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest. The State Law and Restoration Council was renamed to the SP(a)DC in 1997, and in 2007 it arrested protestors in the Saffron Revolution, along with killing Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai during the event.
SLORC was formed when the Burmese Armed Forces, commanded by General Saw Maung (later self-promoted to 'Senior General' Saw Maung, died July 1997), seized power from Ne Win on 18 September 1988 crushing the 'Four Eights Uprising'. On the day it seized power SLORC issued Order No.1/1988 stating that the Armed Forces had taken over power and announced the formation of the SLORC.
With Order No. 2/1988, the SLORC abolished all 'Organs of State Power' that were formed under the 1974 Burmese constitution. The Pyithu Hluttaw (the legislature under the 1974 Constitution), the Council of Ministers (the Cabinet), the Council of People's Justices (the Judiciary), the Council of People's Attorneys (the 'Attorney-General Office'), the Council of People's Inspectors (the 'Auditor-General Office'), as well as the State/Region, Township, Ward/Village People's Councils were abolished.
The SLORC also stated that the services of the Deputy Ministers in the previous Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) government which it replaced were also terminated. (Under the 1974 Burmese Constitution the 'Council of Ministers' acted as a Cabinet but since the Deputy Ministers were not considered to be formally part of the Council of Ministers, the SLORC made sure that the Deputy Ministers – together with the Ministers' – services in the previous BSPP government from whom it had taken over power were also terminated.)
The Orders that SLORC issued on the day of its takeover can be seen in the 19 September 1988 issue of The Working People's Daily. The first Chairman of SLORC was General Saw Maung, later Senior General, who was also the Prime Minister. He was removed as both Chairman of SLORC and Prime Minister on 23 April 1992 when General Than Shwe, later Senior General, took over both posts from him.
On 15 November 1997, SLORC was abolished and reconstituted as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). Most but not all members of the abolished SLORC were in the SPDC military regime.
Human rights violations
The SPDC has murdered thousands of citizens (mainly ethnic minorities or during the protests), imprisoned thousands of others for political dissidence, drafted children into their armed forces and forcibly evicted people from relief camps back to their destroyed homes during Cyclone Nargis. One of the worst atrocities in Burma took place during the uprising of August 1988, when millions of Burmese marched throughout the country calling for an end to military rule. Soldiers shot hundreds of protesters and killed an estimated 3,000 people in the following weeks. During the August and September demonstrations of 2007, at least 184 protesters were shot and killed and many were tortured. Under the SPDC, the Burmese army engaged in military offensives against ethnic minority populations, committing acts that violated international humanitarian law.
Western non-governmental organisations, such as the Burma Campaign UK, the US Campaign for Burma, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have made a variety of serious accusations against the SPDC. Reports by these organisations as well as the United Nations and the Karen Human Rights Group alleged gross human rights abuses that took place in Burma under their regime, including:
- Murder and arbitrary executions
- Torture and rape
- Recruitment of child soldiers
- Forced relocations
- Forced labour
- Political imprisonment in concentration camps.