Myanmar: Asia’s Last Frontier

Developed by Nay Min, B.A. in Political Science, Penn State

Unit Overview

This unit sheds light on a country that’s unknown to most of the world called Myanmar. Currently plagued by ethnic conflicts and communal violence, this country was a once the center of Buddhism. Myanmar’s last king was dethroned in 1885 in the last Anglo-Burma war and the country became a British colony. It gained its independence to become a democratic country in 1948. In 1962, it was robbed of its democracy in a military coup, but since then, the country has been known for its fight for democracy. After decades of fighting for freedom, the country nominally became a democracy in 2010, and held a free and fair election in 2015.  Its most famous citizen is a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a symbol of freedom, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. 

Why should we learn about Myanmar?

We live in a globalized and an interconnected world the products we use are made in different places in the world, where events in a country can be seen live through social media, and where a situation in a country has indirect, if not direct, impact on another country. Myanmar began to liberalize its economy and started its reforms in 2011. Myanmar, unlike most countries in the world, has remained in history as its military shut off the country from the world between 1962 until now. Many of the pagodas that were built centuries ago stay intact, and the country is also known to have been frozen in time.  

Currently, the country is in need of experts in virtually all fields for its development efforts. It can mean business opportunities for many corporations abroad as well as job opportunities for the people in Myanmar. It can mean learning opportunities for scholars all over the world. It is an opening of opportunities for modernizers as well as preservers.  

In addition, Myanmar allows students an opportunity to study a country’s history as well as development in political, social, and economic aspects. For instance, students can examine how a non-western democracy differ from Myanmar as well as how people think and act differently. Students can also explore different economic practices. In sum, students can learn how a country has developed its identity and how it will impact its development in the future.

Day 1 - Introduction to Myanmar

Standards (Grades 9-10)
  1. Standard - CC.8.5.9-10.A
    Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
  2. Standard - CC.8.5.9-10.B
    Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
  3. Standard - CC.8.5.9-10.I
    Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.
  4. Standard - 7.1.9.B
    Explain and locate regions and their shared connections as defined by physical and human features.
  5. Standard - 7.2.9.A
    Explain the physical characteristics of places and regions, including spatial patterns of Earth’s physical systems.
  6. Standard - 7.3.9.A
    Explain the human characteristics of places and regions using the following criteria:
  • Population
  • Culture
  • Settlement
  • Economic activities
  • Political activities

Standards (Grades 11-12)

  1. Standard - CC.8.5.11-12.A
    Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  2. Standard - CC.8.5.11-12.B
    Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
  3. Standard - CC.8.5.11-12.I
    Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
  4. Standard - 7.1.12.B
    Assess how physical changes to a region may have global impact.
  5. Standard - 7.2.12.A
    Analyze the physical characteristics of places and regions, including the interrelationships among the components of Earth’s physical systems.
  6. Standard - 7.3.12.A
    Analyze the human characteristics of places and regions using the following criteria:
  • Population
  • Culture
  • Settlement
  • Economic activities
  • Political activities

The BIG Idea

Rice farming and Buddhism are the two of the three pillars of Myanmar. 

Objective

  • To have a general idea of Myanmar
  • Understand the importance of Agriculture and Buddhism on Myanmar 

Homework (to be done before class)

Note: Questions following assignments can be assigned as written discussion questions to be completed the night before. 

  1. Read "Myanmar Geography: 101." What’s unique about the geography and the climate of Myanmar?   
  2. Read "Theravada Buddhism: 101." Who is the founder of Theravada Buddhism and what are the basic tenants of it?
  3. Read "Myanmar Agriculture 101." Recognize the difference between the role rice play in the global market in Myanmar’s past and present. How does the perception of Myanmar rice differ from reality for the Burmese people? Which agriculture products should Burmese people focus on instead? 

Activity (in class)

  1. Watch the 5 days in Myanmar in Five Minutes and discuss what the students’ think of the Myanmar and what they already know about the country.
  2. Discussion: "Myanmar Geography: 101." What’s unique about the geography and the climate of Myanmar?
  3. Discussion: "Theravada Buddhism: 101." Who is the founder of Theravada Buddhism and what are the basic tenants of it?
  4. Discuss the importance of Geography, Buddhism, and Agriculture on shaping Myanmar’s identity.
  5. Discussion: "Myanmar Agriculture 101." How does the perception of the importance of Myanmar’s rice by the Burmese people differ from reality? Which agriculture products should Burmese people focus on instead?   
  6. Small group brainstorming activity (can be done through creating a written list, verbal discussion, or online blog post): What is the importance of agriculture, Buddhism, or geography in shaping Myanmar?

Materials

5 Days in Myanmar in Five Minutes (Video)

Myanmar Geography 101

Theravada Buddhism 101

Myanmar Agriculture 101

Day 2 - Origin Story

Standards (Grades 9-10)
  1. Standard - CC.8.5.9-10.A
    Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
  2. Standard - CC.8.5.9-10.B
    Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
  3. Standard - CC.8.5.9-10.I
    Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.
  4. Standard - 8.4.9.A
    Compare the role groups and individuals played in the social, political, cultural, and economic development throughout world history.
  5. Standard - 8.4.9.B
    Contrast the importance of historical documents, artifacts, and sites which are critical to world history.
  6. Standard - 8.4.9.C
    Analyze how continuity and change have impacted world history.
  • Belief systems and religions
  • Commerce and industry
  • Technology
  • Politics and government
  • Physical and human geography
  • Social organization

Standards (Grades 11-12)

  1. Standard - CC.8.5.11-12.A
    Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  2. Standard - CC.8.5.11-12.B
    Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
  3. Standard - CC.8.5.11-12.I
    Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
  4. Standard - 8.4.12.A
    Evaluate the role groups and individuals played in the social, political, cultural, and economic development throughout world history.
  5. Standard - 8.4.12.B
    Evaluate the importance of historical documents, artifacts, and sites which are critical to world history.
  6. Standard - 8.4.12.C
    Evaluate how continuity and change have impacted the world today.
  • Belief systems and religions
  • Commerce and industry
  • Technology
  • Politics and government
  • Physical and human geography
  • Social organization

The BIG Idea

Myanmar’s national identity is built upon its rich history of warrior kings who built and expanded their Buddhist Kingdoms. These kingdoms are the third pillar of Myanmar.

Objective

  • Identify major factors that define Burmese nationalism
  • How big of a role does Buddhism plays in Burmese history 

Homework (to be done before class)

Note: Questions following assignments can be assigned as written discussion questions to be completed the night before. 

  1. Read "Myanmar 101: Ancient Kings and Lost Empire." Myanmar’s different kingdoms are ruled by different people in different locations. Why do you think they are categorized under Burmese kingdoms? What are the similarities and differences between these kingdoms? What sort of change do you see among these empires overtime?   
  2. Read the selected pages from ‘the Glass Palace of the Kings of Burma.’ How is the power transferred from one king to another? What place does the king hold in ancient Myanmar? What kind of power does the king have?
  3. Read "We were Kings: Burma’s Lost Royal Family." This article serves as a compliment to the video, ‘The Last King of Myanmar.’ This article serves as a transition from the age of kings to the age of British colonialism and subsequent military rule. How did the Burmese kingdoms end? Do you think Myanmar should give a place to the lost loyal in its society as a way to preserve its history? Why?
  4. Optional: Watch "The Last King of Myanmar."

Activity (in class)

  1. Watch "Pagodas: The Ancient Burmese Status Symbols." Discuss the connection between the kings and the pagodas. What do the pagodas mean to the Burmese people?
  2. Discussion: Myanmar 101: Ancient Kings and Lost Empire. Myanmar’s different kingdoms are ruled by different people in different locations. Why do you think they are categorized under Burmese kingdoms? What are the similarities and differences between these kingdoms? What sort of change do you see among these empires overtime?  
  3. Watch "What is the Glass Palace Chronicle and why is it important." Use this video as well as "The Glass Palace Chronicle" to do activity 4.
  4. Discussion: The Glass Palace of the Kings of Burma.  How is power transferred from one king to another? What place does the king hold in ancient Myanmar? What kind of power does the king have?
  5. Discussion: We were Kings: Burma’s lost royal family. How did the Burmese kingdoms end? Do you think Myanmar should give a place to the lost loyal in its society as a way to preserve its history? Why?
  6. Optional: Watch "The Last King of Myanmar."
  7. Small group brainstorming activity (can be done through creating a written list, verbal discussion, or online blog post): What is the role the Burmese kingdoms play in creating Burmese identity 

Materials

Myanmar 101: Ancient Kings and Lost Empire 

Pagodas: The Ancient Burmese Status Symbols (Video) 

What is the Glass Palace Chronicle and why is it important? (Video)

The Glass Palace of the Kings of Burma (the first two paragraphs of the introduction, pages 1 to 4, pg. 62-72)

We Were Kings: Burma’s Lost Royal Family 

The Last King of Myanmar (Video)

Day 3 - Modern Burmese History

Standards (Grades 9-10)
  1. Standard - CC.8.5.9-10.A
    Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
  2. Standard - CC.8.5.9-10.B
    Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
  3. Standard - CC.8.5.9-10.I
    Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.
  4. Standard - 8.4.9.A
    Compare the role groups and individuals played in the social, political, cultural, and economic development throughout world history.
  5. Standard - 8.4.9.B
    Contrast the importance of historical documents, artifacts, and sites which are critical to world history.
  6. Standard - 8.4.9.C
    Analyze how continuity and change have impacted world history.
  • Belief systems and religions
  • Commerce and industry
  • Technology
  • Politics and government
  • Physical and human geography
  • Social organization

Standards (Grades 11-12)

  1. Standard - CC.8.5.11-12.A
    Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  2. Standard - CC.8.5.11-12.B
    Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
  3. Standard - CC.8.5.11-12.I
    Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
  4. Standard - 8.4.12.A
    Evaluate the role groups and individuals played in the social, political, cultural, and economic development throughout world history.
  5. Standard - 8.4.12.B
    Evaluate the importance of historical documents, artifacts, and sites which are critical to world history.
  6. Standard - 8.4.12.C
    Evaluate how continuity and change have impacted the world today.
  • Belief systems and religions
  • Commerce and industry
  • Technology
  • Politics and government
  • Physical and human geography
  • Social organization

The BIG Idea

Modern Burmese history is constituted of a legacy of British colonialism followed by military repression, and the fight for freedom. 

Objective

Examine the parallels between British colonialism and military coup as well as the parallels between independence movement and democratic movement

Homework (to be done before class)

Note: Questions following assignments can be assigned as written discussion questions to be completed the night before.

  1. Read "Myanmar History 101: How British Defeated Burma." Was the British invasion of Myanmar in the first, second, and third Anglo-Burma war just? Why or why not?
  2. Read "Myanmar 101: The Life and Legacy of Bogyoke Aung San." Who is Bogyoke (General) Aung San. Why do you think he’s deemed as a founding father, a hero, or an icon in Myanmar?
  3. Read "Burma Coup D’etat." Discuss the parallels and differences between British colonialism and military rule.
  4. Read "Challenging the Authoritarian State: Buddhist Monks and Peaceful Protest in Burma" Pg. 125-129 (Introduction) and 141-142 (Conclusion). Why did the Saffron Revolution occur? What role did the Saffron Revolution play in ending half a century long military rule? 

Activity (in class)

  1. Discussion: "Myanmar History 101: How British Defeated Burma." Was the British invasion of Myanmar in the first, second, and third Anglo-Burma war just? Why or why not?
  2. Discussion: "Myanmar 101: The Life and Legacy of Bogyoke Aung San." Who is Bogyoke (General) Aung San. Why do you think he’s deemed as a founding father, a hero, or an icon in Myanmar?
  3. Watch "Burma Independence Day (January 4, 1948)."
  4. Discussion: "Burma Coup D’etat." Discuss the parallels and differences between British colonialism and military rule.
  5. Watch "Myanmar 101: The 8888 Uprising" and "Burma’s 1988 Failed Uprising."  Discuss the parallels and differences between the independence movement from the British and the democratic movement from the military.
  6. Watch Myanmar’s Saffron Revolution. Discussion: Challenging the Authoritarian State: Buddhist Monks and Peaceful Protest in Burma. Why did the Saffron Revolution occur? What role did the Saffron Revolution play in ending half a century long military rule?
  7. Small group brainstorming activity (can be done through creating a written list, verbal discussion, or online blog post): What is the difference between the independence movement and democracy movement.

Materials

Myanmar History 101: How British Defeated Burma 

Myanmar 101: The Life and Legacy of Bogyoke Aung San

Burma Independence Day (January 4, 1948)

Burma Coup D’etat

Myanmar 101: The 8888 Uprising (Video) 

Burma’s 1988 Failed Uprising (Video) 

Myanmar’s Saffron Revolution (Video) 

Challenging the Authoritarian State: Buddhist Monks and Peaceful Protest in Burma (Pg. 125-129 (Introduction) and 141-142 (Conclusion))

Day 4 - Aung San Suu Kyi and Democratic Transition

Standards (Grades 9-10)
  1. Standard - CC.8.5.9-10.A
    Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
  2. Standard - CC.8.5.9-10.B
    Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
  3. Standard - CC.8.5.9-10.I
    Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.
  4. Standard - 8.4.9.A
    Compare the role groups and individuals played in the social, political, cultural, and economic development throughout world history.

Standards (Grades 11-12)

  1. Standard - CC.8.5.11-12.A
    Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  2. Standard - CC.8.5.11-12.B
    Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
  3. Standard - CC.8.5.11-12.I
    Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
  4. Standard - 8.4.12.A
    Evaluate the role groups and individuals played in the social, political, cultural, and economic development throughout world history.

The BIG Idea

Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of General Aung San, is the leader of the democratic movement in Myanmar and is the epitome of peace and freedom in Myanmar 

Objective

Know who Aung San Suu Kyi is and the role she plays in Myanmar’s Democratic Movement 

Homework (to be done before class)

Note: Questions following assignments can be assigned as written discussion questions to be completed the night before. 

Read BBC Profile: Aung San Suu Kyi. Who is Aung San Suu Kyi. What are the similarities and differences between she and her father, General Aung San? 

Activity (in class)

  1. Watch "Who is Aung San Suu Kyi," and watch the trailer of the movie, "The Lady" which depicts the life of Aung San Suu Kyi.
  2. Discussion: Using "Profile: Aung San Suu Kyi" along with the two videos discuss the following questions. Who is Aung San Suu Kyi? What role did she play in the democratic movement in Myanmar? What are the similarities and differences between she and her father, General Aung San?
  3. Watch the documentary, "Myanmar’s Turn by 101 East." How has the country change since the 2010 election?
  4. Small group brainstorming activity (can be done through creating a written list, verbal discussion, or online blog post). How has Myanmar’s democratic movement changed the country?

Materials 

Profile: Aung San Suu Kyi 

Who is Aung San Suu Kyi? (Video) 

The Lady Trailer Official 2012 [HD] - Michelle Yeoh, David Thewlis (Video)

Myanmar’s Turn: 101 East (Video)

Day 5 - Current Issues

Standards (Grades 9-10)
  1. Standard - CC.8.5.9-10.A
    Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
  2. Standard - CC.8.5.9-10.B
    Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
  3. Standard - CC.8.5.9-10.I
    Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.
  4. Standard - 8.4.9.A
    Compare the role groups and individuals played in the social, political, cultural, and economic development throughout world history.
  5. Standard - CC.8.6.9-10.A
    Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content.

Standards (Grades 11-12)

  1. Standard - CC.8.5.11-12.A
    Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  2. Standard - CC.8.5.11-12.B
    Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
  3. Standard - CC.8.5.11-12.I
    Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
  4. Standard - 8.4.12.A
    Evaluate the role groups and individuals played in the social, political, cultural, and economic development throughout world history.
  5. Standard - CC.8.6.11-12.A
    Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content.

The BIG Idea

Myanmar is currently facing the longest and ongoing ethnic conflicts, as well as a communal violence and many more that comes with reform.

Objective

Understand current issues facing Myanmar 

Homework (to be done before class)

Note: Questions following assignments can be assigned as written discussion questions to be completed the night before.

Read  "Peace in Myanmar Depends on Settling Centuries Old Ethnic Conflicts." What is the Rohingya Crisis? Explain the ethnic conflicts in Myanmar? 

Activity (in Class)

  1. Discussion: "Peace in Myanmar Depends on Settling Centuries Old Ethnic Conflicts." What is the crisis in Rakhine? Explain the ethnic conflicts in Myanmar? What are the causes of the respective conflicts?
  2. Watch "What is Happening in Myanmar?" Establishing peace in Myanmar is the priority in Government’s agenda. Should peace be the priority for Myanmar’s government? Why? Do you think we should take peace for granted in the United States?
  3. Summative Assessment: Students will write a one page argumentative essay where they answer the questions: Based on everything you’ve learned about Myanmar, what do you think was the biggest cause of the crisis that is happening now? How do you think it could be prevented?

Materials

What is Happening in Myanmar? 

Peace in Myanmar depends on settling centuries old ethnic conflicts

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