Burma (Myanmar) existed as a colony of the United Kingdom, ruled as a province of British India, for more than a century before it gained independence from the British in 1948. Aft er a mere decade of independence, a coup by General Ne Win placed the country under direct military rule for nearly half a century. Th is period saw the proliferation of chronic civil wars, which, coupled with severe economic mismanagement, led Myanmar to become one of the most impoverished nations in the world. Decades of armed confl ict have not only resulted in tremendous loss of life and suff ering of the people, especially in ethnic minority areas on the country’s peripheries where most of the battles have taken place. Th ey have also caused Myanmar to become one of the world’s leading opium producing nations.