145 2. Mainland Southeast Asia is a region of contrasts. Thailand and Malaysia have prospered as market economies. In Malaysia, people of Chinese and Indian descent have made the nation a leader in profitable industries. However, the government has also tried to include the Malay majority in the country's prosperity. By contrast, Myanmar, or Burma, has suffered under an autocratic government-a government that has unlimited power. The government has limited foreign trade, and living standards remain low. In 1990, elections were held in Myanmar, and a party that opposed military rule won. It was led by Aung San Suu Kyi. However, the military rejected the election results, and Suu Kyi was put under house arrest.
After World War II, Indonesia, formerly the Dutch East Indies, achieved its independence. Indonesia faced many obstacles to its unity. It consists of more than 13,000 islands. Javanese make up almost half of the population, but there are hundreds of ethnic groups. About 90 percent of Indonesians are Muslims, but the population includes Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus. After independence, Indonesia formed a democratic, parliamentary government under its first president, Sukarno. In 1966, an army general, Suharto, seized power and ruled as a dictator until he was forced to resign in 1998. Religious and ethnic tensions have fueled violence in parts of Indonesia. In 1975, Indonesia seized East Timor, a former Portuguese colony. The mostly Catholic East Timorese fought for independence, which they finally achieved in 2002.
IN THE PHILIPPINES, CATHOLICS ARE THE PREDOMINANT RELIGIOUS GROUP, BUT THERE IS A MUSLIM MINORITY IN THE SOUTH. In 1946, the Philippines gained freedom from United States control. Although the Filipino constitution established a democratic government, a wealthy elite controlled politics and the economy. Ferdinand Marcos, elected president in 1965, became a dictator and cracked down on basic freedoms. He even had Benigno Aquino, a popular rival, murdered. When Corazon Aquino was elected in 1986, Marcos tried to deny the results, but the people forced him to resign. Since then, democracy has struggled to survive in the Philippines. Communist and Muslim rebels continue to fight across the country.
2. What are some obstacles to Indonesia's unity?