Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Burma - Current

The current flag of Burma is red with a blue canton containing a white emblem of a cog wheel and ears of rice encircled with fourteen white stars of equal size. The centre of the cog wheel coincides with the centre of the blue canton. The cog wheel has fourteen cogs of equal size and within it are two ears of rice consisting of 34 grains. At the top of each cog is a star with five vertices. The ratio of the flag seems to be unprescribed as various sources give 5:9, 2:3 and 6:11.[1]

The Symbolism of the flag is given as follows, the 14 stars represent the unity and equality between the 14 member states of the Union.[2] Together, the socialist symbols of the cogwheel and ears of rice represent the country's industry and agriculture, as well as the union of the workers and the peasant class.[3] The red of the flag stands for courage and decisiveness[4] or courage and gallantry.[5] The blue stands for peace and integrity[4] or peace and endurance.[5] The white signifies purity and virtue[4] or purity and honor.[5]

The flag of Burma was adopted on 3rd January 1974 upon the declaration of a socialist republic. The flag originated in the Burmese Resistance, which adopted a red flag with a white star when fighting the occupying Japanese forces during World War II. Upon independence, the star was modified to a blue canton with 5 small stars surrounding one large one. The emblem was changed in 1974 to represent the new socialist ideology in the country. The 5 stars were changed to 14, encircling the cog wheel and a rice plant.[6]

In recent years due to constitutional changes brought about by the National Convention, set up by the ruling junta, there have been proposals put forward for a new flag. The first proposal to come forward was that of a flag “…marked with green, yellow and red stripes in a proportionate ratio. On the left end of the green stripe at the top of the flag is a large white star directing upwards.”[7] The proposed flag lends back to that of the 1940s State of Burma flag, a puppet state set up under Japanese occupation which was a horizontal tricolour of yellow, green and red defaced with a peacock in the centre.

[Fig 4] - Proposal A

[Fig 5] - Flag of Burma 1943

The symbolism of the new flag was said to be “the colour green…for peace and tranquillity and lush and verdant environment, yellow depicts solidarity…red means valour and decisiveness.”[7] The National Convention felt that the flag was “endowed with essence and meaning.” However they felt something was missing and decided to add a “…white star, which reflects perpetual existence of the consolidated Union…” this was placed on the left end of the green stripe. The flag including the white star bares a remarkable similarity to the flag of the Karen division of Burma. However when the proposal for changing the flag was put forward by the commission working under the National Convention, it was rejected a few days later, by delegates of the National Convention.[8]

[Fig 6] - Flag of Karen Division

The commission went back to the drawing board and in September 2007 came up with a second proposal for a new flag. This time the flag had a large white star overlapping all three stripes and the colour of the stripes in a different order; yellow, green then red, the same order as used in the flag of the State of Burma.[9] This version was included in the new constitution, and was adopted with the 2008 referendum. The new flag will come into use in 2010.[8] The new proposal also resembles the flag of the Shan division of Burma.

[Fig 2] - Proposal B

[Fig 3] - Proposal B Construction Sheet

[Fig 7] - Flag of Shan Division

Many people in Burma are not happy with the design of the new flag, Cin Sian Thang, a Rangoon-based ethnic leader and chairman of the Zomi National Congress said “I felt very sad…only one star in the new flag shows clearly that the military leaders want to drive the country as a unilateral state.”

One Burmese blogger wrote “I don’t like the newly proposed flag either. When I first saw the flag, it first reminded me of African flags, because of its colours.” Others used the new flag to emphasise their views on the current regime: “According to the constitutional convention attendees, the color green represents peace, tranquility, and the verdant landscape of Burma, yellow represents solidarity, and red represents valor and decisiveness.” “…the new flag symbolizes something that may never be achievable in an undemocratic regime controlled by military personnel…. perhaps only the red remains true, as the military government is indeed decisive.”[11]

Another wrote, “Now, Burma is going to get her third flag since independence…the regime is making up a new ugly militant-looking flag to signify the military’s perpetual dominance in Burma. When Burma’s army was first founded, it used a three-colour flag with a peacock in it. And so, the regime is now giving Burma a new flag with the same three-colour stripes to show off their dominance. Moreover, it contains only one big star instead of the usual group of stars. It clearly shows that they see Burma as a solidly unified country. It demonstrates that they have no intention to give federalism to the ethnic groups in Burma. The new flag obviously illustrate SPDC regime’s real intentions and the true nature of their constitution. The ugly flag in fact is a warning sign that a horrible future lies ahead for Burma under perpetual military domination.” [12]

[1] Željko Heimer, Flags of the World, http://www.fotw.net/flags/mm.html
[2] Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Burma
[3] World Flags 101.com, http://www.worldflags101.com/m/myanmar-flag.aspx
[4] Dov Gutterman, Flags of the World, http://www.fotw.net/flags/mm.html
[5] World Flags 101.com, http://www.worldflags101.com/m/myanmar-flag.aspx
[6] Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Burma
[7] Translation of proposals to be included in drafting the State Constitution presented by the Delegate Group of Intellectuals and Intelligentsia at the Plenary Session of the National Convention held at Pyidaungsu Hall of Nyaunghnapin Camp in Hmawby Township, Yangon Division, on 28th December 2006, Jonathan Dixon, Flags of the World, http://www.fotw.net/flags/mm.html
[8] Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Burma
[9] The New Light of Myanmar newspaper for 3rd September 2007, Jan Oskar Engene, Flags of the World, http://www.fotw.net/flags/mm.html
[10] Proposed New Flag in Burma Stirs Controversy, Aye Lae, The Irrawaddy Newspaper, http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=8478
[11] Fifty Viss Blog, a collection of thoughts and writings on Burma, http://viss.wordpress.com/2007/01/02/new-flag-for-burma/
[12] Ugly Flag & Nasty Constitution, Dr Tayza, http://shanstatenews1.googlepages.com/2006112806
[fig1] Željko Heimer, Flags of the World, http://flagspot.net/flags/mm.html
[fig2] António Martins-Tuválkin, Flags of the World, http://flagspot.net/flags/mm%212007.html
[fig3] António Martins-Tuválkin, Flags of the World, http://flagspot.net/flags/mm%212007.html
[fig4] António Martins-Tuválkin, Flags of the World, http://flagspot.net/flags/mm%212007.html
[fig5] Flag of Burma 1943, Hellerick, VexiWiki, http://flags.wikia.com/wiki/File:Burma_1943.png
[fig6] Flag of Karen division of Burma, Oleg B. Kozlov, Encyclopaedia Heraldica, http://eh.stanemte.org/english/3as/burma/bma-div.htm
[fig7] Flag of Shan division of Burma, Oleg B. Kozlov, Encyclopaedia Heraldica, http://eh.stanemte.org/english/3as/burma/bma-div.htm

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