Burma

Introduction Britain conquered Burma over a period of 62 years (1824-1886) and incorporated it into its Indian Empire. Burma was administered as a province of India until 1937 when it became a separate, self-governing colony; independence from the Commonwealth was attained in 1948. Gen. NE WIN dominated the government from 1962 to 1988, first as military ruler, then as self-appointed president, and later as political kingpin. Despite multiparty legislative elections in 1990 that resulted in the main opposition party - the National League for Democracy (NLD) - winning a landslide victory, the ruling junta refused to hand over power. NLD leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient AUNG SAN SUU KYI, who was under house arrest from 1989 to 1995 and 2000 to 2002, was imprisoned in May 2003 and subsequently transferred to house arrest. After Burma's ruling junta in August 2007 unexpectedly increased fuel prices, tens of thousands of Burmese marched in protest, led by prodemocracy activists and Buddhist monks. In late September 2007, the government brutally suppressed the protests, killing at least 13 people and arresting thousands for participating in the demonstrations. Since then, the regime has continued to raid homes and monasteries and arrest persons suspected of participating in the pro-democracy protests. The junta appointed Labor Minister AUNG KYI in October 2007 as liaison to AUNG SAN SUU KYI, who remains under house arrest and virtually incommunicado with her party and supporters.
History

Early history

The Mon people are thought to be the earliest group to migrate into the lower Ayeyarwady valley, and by the mid-900s BC were dominant in southern Burma.[18] The Mons became one of the first in South East Asia to embrace Theravada Buddhism.

The Tibeto-Burman speaking Pyu arrived later in the 1st century BC, and established several city states - of which Sri Ksetra was the most powerful - in central Ayeyarwady valley. The Mon and Pyu kingdoms were an active overland trade route between India and China. The Pyu kingdoms entered a period of rapid decline in early 9th century AD when the powerful kingdom of Nanzhao (in present-day Yunnan) invaded Ayeyarwady valley several times. In 835, Nanzhao decimated the Pyu by carrying off many captives to be used as conscripts.

Bagan (1044-1287)

Tibeto-Burman speaking Burmans, or the Bamar, began migrating to the Ayeyarwady valley from present-day Yunnan's Nanzhao kingdom starting in 7th century AD. Filling the power gap left by the Pyu, the Burmans established a small kingdom centered in Bagan in 849. But it was not until the reign of King Anawrahta (1044-1077) that Bagan's influence expanded throughout much of present-day Burma.

After Anawrahta's capture of the Mon capital of Thaton in 1057, the Burmans adopted Theravada Buddhism from the Mons. The Burmese script was created, based on the Mon script, during the reign of King Kyanzittha (1084-1112). Prosperous from trade, Bagan kings built many magnificent temples and pagodas throughout the country - many of which can still be seen today.

Bagan's power slowly waned in 13th century. Kublai Khan's Mongol forces invaded northern Burma starting in 1277, and sacked Bagan city itself in 1287. Bagan's over two century reign of Ayeyarwady valley and its periphery was over.

Small kingdoms (1287-1531)

The Mongols could not stay for long in the searing Ayeyarwady valley. But the Tai-Shan people from Yunnan who came down with the Mongols fanned out to the Ayeyarwady valley, Shan states, Laos, Siam and Assam, and became powerful players in South East Asia.

The Bagan empire was irreparably broken up into several small kingdoms:
The Burman kingdom of Ava or Innwa (1364-1555), the successor state to three smaller kingdoms founded by Burmanized Shan kings, controlling Upper Burma (without the Shan states)
The Mon kingdom of Hanthawady Pegu or Bago (1287-1540), founded by a Mon-ized Shan King Wareru (1287-1306), controlling Lower Burma (without Taninthayi).
The Rakhine kingdom of Mrauk U (1434-1784), in the west.
Several Shan states in the Shan hills in the east and the Kachin hills in the north while the northwestern frontier of present Chin hills still disconnected yet.

This period was characterized by constant warfare between Ava and Bago, and to a lesser extent, Ava and the Shans. Ava briefly controlled Rakhine (1379-1430) and came close to defeating Bago a few times, but could never quite reassemble the lost empire. Nevertheless, Burmese culture entered a golden age. Hanthawady Bago prospered. Bago's Queen Shin Saw Bu (1453-1472) raised the gilded Shwedagon Pagoda to its present height.

By the late 15th century, constant warfare had left Ava greatly weakened. Its peripheral areas became either independent or autonomous. In 1486, King Minkyinyo (1486-531) of Taungoo broke away from Ava and established a small independent kingdom. In 1527, Mohnyin (Shan: Mong Yang) Shans finally captured Ava, upsetting the delicate power balance that had existed for nearly two centuries. The Shans would rule Upper Burma until 1555.

Taungoo (1531-1752)

Reinforced by fleeing Burmans from Ava, the minor Burman kingdom of Taungoo under its young, ambitious king Tabinshwehti (1531-1551) defeated the more powerful Mon kingdom at Bago, reunifying all of Lower Burma by 1540. Tabinshwehti's successor King Bayinnaung (1551-1581) would go on to conquer Upper Burma (1555), Manipur (1556), Shan states (1557), Chiang Mai (1557), Ayutthaya (1564, 1569) and Lan Xang (1574), bringing most of western South East Asia under his rule. Bayinnaung died in 1581, preparing to invade Rakhine, a maritime power controlling the entire coastline west of Rakhine Yoma, up to Chittagong province in Bengal.

Bayinnaung's massive empire unraveled soon after his death in 1581. Ayutthaya Siamese had driven out the Burmese by 1593 and went on to take Tanintharyi. In 1599, Rakhine forces aided by the Portuguese mercenaries sacked the kingdom's capital Bago. Chief Portuguese mercenary Filipe de Brito e Nicote (Burmese: Nga Zinga) promptly rebelled against his Rakhine masters and established Portuguese rule in Thanlyin (Syriam), then the most important seaport in Burma. The country was in chaos.

The Burmese under King Anaukpetlun (1605-1628) regrouped and defeated the Portuguese in 1611. Anaukpetlun reestablished a smaller reconstituted kingdom based in Ava covering Upper Burma, Lower Burma and Shan states (but without Rakhine or Taninthayi). After the reign of King Thalun (1629-1648), who rebuilt the war-torn country, the kingdom experienced a slow and steady decline for the next 100 years. The Mons successfully rebelled starting in 1740 with French help and Siamese encouragement, broke away Lower Burma by 1747, and finally put an end to the House of Taungoo in 1752 when they took Ava.

Konbaung (1752-1885)

King Alaungpaya (1752-1760), established the Konbaung Dynasty in Shwebo in 1752.[19] He founded Yangon in 1755. By his death in 1760, Alaungpaya had reunified the country. In 1767, King Hsinbyushin (1763-1777) sacked Ayutthya. The Qing Dynasty of China invaded four times from 1765 to 1769 without success. The Chinese invasions allowed the new Siamese kingdom based in Bangkok to repel the Burmese out of Siam by the late 1770s.

King Bodawpaya (1782-1819) failed repeatedly to reconquer Siam in 1780s and 1790s. Bodawpaya did manage to capture the western kingdom of Rakhine, which had been largely independent since the fall of Bagan, in 1784. Bodawpaya also formally annexed Manipur, a rebellion-prone protectorate, in 1813.

King Bagyidaw's (1819-1837) general Maha Bandula put down a rebellion in Manipur in 1819 and captured then independent kingdom of Assam in 1819 (again in 1821). The new conquests brought the Burmese adjacent to the British India. The British defeated the Burmese in the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826). Burma had to cede Assam, Manipur, Rakhine (Arakan) and Tanintharyi (Tenessarim).

In 1852, the British attacked a much weakened Burma during a Burmese palace power struggle. After the Second Anglo-Burmese War, which lasted 3 months, the British had captured the remaining coastal provinces: Ayeyarwady, Yangon and Bago, naming the territories as Lower Burma.

King Mindon (1853-1878) founded Mandalay in 1859 and made it his capital. He skillfully navigated the growing threats posed by the competing interests of Britain and France. In the process, Mindon had to renounce Kayah (Karenni) states in 1875. His successor, King Thibaw (1878-1885), was largely ineffectual. In 1885, the British, alarmed by the French conquest of neighboring Laos, grabbed Upper Burma. The Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885) lasted a mere one month insofar as capturing the capital Mandalay was concerned. The Burmese royal family was exiled to Ratnagiri, India. British forces spent at least another four years pacifying the country - not only in the Burman heartland but also in the Shan, Chin and Kachin hill areas. By some accounts, minor insurrections did not end until 1896.

Colonial era (1886-1948)

To stimulate trade and facilitate changes, the British brought in Indians and Chinese, who quickly displaced the Burmese in urban areas. To this day Yangon and Mandalay have large ethnic Indian populations. Railroads and schools were built, as well as a large number of prisons, including the infamous Insein Prison, then as now used for political prisoners. Burmese resentment was strong and was vented in violent riots that paralyzed Yangon on occasion all the way until the 1930s.[20] Much of the discontent was caused by a perceived disrespect for Burmese culture and traditions, for example, what the British termed the Shoe Question: the colonisers' refusal to remove their shoes upon entering Buddhist temples or other holy places. In October 1919, Eindawya Pagoda in Mandalay was the scene of violence when tempers flared after scandalised Buddhist monks attempted to physically expel a group of shoe-wearing British visitors. The leader of the monks was later sentenced to life imprisonment for attempted murder. Such incidents inspired the Burmese resistance to use Buddhism as a rallying point for their cause. Buddhist monks became the vanguards of the independence movement, and many died while protesting. One monk-turned-martyr was U Wisara, who died in prison after a 166-day hunger strike to protest a rule that forbade him from wearing his Buddhist robes while imprisoned.[21]

Rudyard Kipling's poem 'Mandalay' is now all that most people in Britain remember of Burma's difficult and often brutal colonisation. Eric Blair, better known as the writer George Orwell, served in the Indian Imperial Police in Burma for five years and wrote about his experiences. An earlier writer with the same convoluted career path was Saki. During the colonial period, intermarriage between European settlers and Burmese women, as well as between Anglo-Indians (who arrived with the British) and Burmese caused the birth of the Anglo-Burmese community. This influential community was to dominate the country during colonial rule and through the mid 1960's.

The Colonial Flag (1937-1948)

On 1 April 1937, Burma became a separately administered territory, independent of the Indian administration. The vote for keeping Burma in India, or as a separate colony "khwe-yay-twe-yay" divided the populace, and laid the ground work for the insurgencies to come after independence. In the 1940s, the Thirty Comrades, commanded by Aung San, founded the Burma Independence Army. The Thirty Comrades received training in Japan.[22]

During World War II, Burma became a major frontline in the Southeast Asian Theatre. The British administration collapsed ahead of the advancing Japanese troops, jails and asylums were opened and Rangoon was deserted except for the many Anglo-Burmese and Indians who remained at their posts. A stream of some 300,000 refugees fled across the jungles into India; known as 'The Trek', all but 30,000 of those 300,000 arrived in India. Initially the Japanese-led Burma Campaign succeeded and the British were expelled from most of Burma, but the British counter-attacked using primarily troops of the British Indian Army. By July 1945, the British had retaken the country. Although many Burmese fought initially for the Japanese, some Burmese also served in the British Burma Army. In 1943, the Chin Levies and Kachin Levies were formed in the border districts of Burma still under British administration. The Burma Rifles fought as part of the Chindits under General Orde Wingate from 1943-1945. Later in the war, the Americans created American-Kachin Rangers who also fought for the occupiers. Many others fought with the British Special Operations Executive. The Burma Independence Army under the command of Aung San and the Arakan National Army fought with the Japanese from 1942-1944, but switched allegiance to the Allied side in 1945.

In 1947, Aung San became Deputy Chairman of the Executive Council of Burma, a transitional government. But in July 1947, political rivals assassinated Aung San and several cabinet members.[22]

Democratic republic (1948-1962)

Sao Shwe Thaik

On 4 January 1948, the nation became an independent republic, named the Union of Burma, with Sao Shwe Thaik as its first President and U Nu as its first Prime Minister. Unlike most other former British colonies and overseas territories, it did not become a member of the Commonwealth. A bicameral parliament was formed, consisting of a Chamber of Deputies and a Chamber of Nationalities.[23]

The geographical area Burma encompasses today can be traced to the Panglong Agreement, which combined Burma Proper, which consisted of Lower Burma and Upper Burma, and the Frontier Areas, which had been administered separately by the British.[24]

In 1961, U Thant, then Burma's Permanent Representative to the United Nations and former Secretary to the Prime Minister, was elected Secretary-General of the United Nations; he was the first non-Westerner to head any international organization and would serve as UN Secretary-General for ten years.[25] Among the Burmese to work at the UN when he was Secretary-General was a young Aung San Suu Kyi.

Military rule (1962-present)

Democratic rule ended in 1962 when General Ne Win led a military coup d'état. He ruled for nearly 26 years and pursued policies under the rubric of the Burmese Way to Socialism. Between 1962 and 1974, Burma was ruled by a Revolutionary Council headed by the general and almost all aspects of society (business, media, production) were nationalized or brought under government control (including the Boy Scouts).[26] In an effort to consolidate power, General Ne Win and many top general resigned from the military and took civilian posts and, from 1974, instituted elections in a one party system. Between 1974 and 1988, Burma was effectively ruled by General Ne Win through the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP).[27]

Almost from the beginning there were sporadic protests against the military rule, many of which were organized by students, and these were almost always violently suppressed by the government. On July 7th, 1962 the government broke up demonstrations at Rangoon University killing 15 students.[26] In 1974, the military violently suppressed anti-government protests at the funeral of U Thant. Student protests in 1975, 1976 and 1977 were quickly suppressed by overwhelming force.[27].

In 1988, unrest over economic mismanagement and political oppression by the government led to widespread pro-democracy demonstrations throughout the country known as the 8888 Uprising. Security forces committed the massacre of hundreds of demonstrators, and General Saw Maung staged a coup d'état and formed the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). In 1989, SLORC declared martial law after widespread protests. The military government finalized plans for People's Assembly elections on 31 May 1989.[28]

SLORC changed the country's official English name from the "Union of Burma" to the "Union of Myanmar" in 1989.

In May 1990, the government held free elections for the first time in almost 30 years. The National League for Democracy (NLD), the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, won 392 out of a total 489 seats, but the election results were annulled by SLORC, which refused to step down.[29] Led by Than Shwe since 1992, the military regime has made cease-fire agreements with most ethnic guerrilla groups. In 1992, SLORC unveiled plans to create a new constitution through the National Convention, which began 9 January 1993. To date, this military-organized National Convention has not produced a new constitution despite well over ten years of operation.[30] In 1997, the State Law and Order Restoration Council was renamed the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

On 23 June 1997, Burma was admitted into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The National Convention continues to convene and adjourn. Many major political parties, particularly the NLD, have been absent or excluded, and little progress has been made.[30] On 27 March 2006, the military junta, which had moved the national capital from Yangon to a site near Pyinmana in November 2005, officially named it Naypyidaw, meaning "city of the kings".[31]

In November 2006, the International Labour Organization announced it will be seeking "to prosecute members of the ruling Myanmar junta for crimes against humanity" over the continuous forced labour of its citizens by the military at the International Court of Justice.[32]

2007 protests and consequences

The August 2007 demonstrations were led by well-known dissidents, such as Min Ko Naing (with the nom de guerre Conqueror of Kings), Su Su Nway (now in hiding) and others. The military quickly cracked down and still has not allowed the International Red Cross to visit Min Ko Naing and others who are reportedly in Insein Prison after being severely tortured. Reports have surfaced of at least one death, of activist Win Shwe, under interrogation.[33]

Following the August protests, the monks of Burma, coordinated by an underground organization, stepped into the foreground and added new life to the movement. Under Suu Kyi's leadership, passive resistance, with Suu herself worshiping with leading monks, has been the norm since 1988.[34]

On 19 September 2007, several hundred (possibly 2000 or more) monks staged a protest march in the city of Sittwe.[35] Larger protests in Rangoon and elsewhere ensued over the following days. Security became increasingly heavy handed, resulting in a number of deaths and injuries.[36] By 28 September, internet access had been cut[37] and journalists reputedly warned not to report on protests.[38] Internet access was restored by at least midnight of 5 October, Burmese time.[citation needed] Sources in Burma[attribution needed] said on 6 October that the internet seems to be working from 22:00 to 05:00 local time.

On October 13, 2007, the military junta of Burma made people march in a government rally, reportedly paying some participants 1000 kyat (approximately $0.80) each. Junta officials also approached local factories and demanded they provide 50 workers each; if they didn't, they were to be fined.[39]

On 7 February 2008, SPDC announced that there will be referendum for the Constitution in May 2008, and Election by 2010.

Various global corporations have been criticized for profiting from the dictatorship by financing Burma's military junta.

World governments remain divided on how to deal with the military junta. Calls for further sanctions by United Kingdom, United States, and France are opposed by neighboring countries; in particular, China has stated its belief that "sanctions or pressure will not help to solve the issue".

Geography Location: Southeastern Asia, bordering the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, between Bangladesh and Thailand
Geographic coordinates: 22 00 N, 98 00 E
Map references: Southeast Asia
Area: total: 678,500 sq km
land: 657,740 sq km
water: 20,760 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Texas
Land boundaries: total: 5,876 km
border countries: Bangladesh 193 km, China 2,185 km, India 1,463 km, Laos 235 km, Thailand 1,800 km
Coastline: 1,930 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Climate: tropical monsoon; cloudy, rainy, hot, humid summers (southwest monsoon, June to September); less cloudy, scant rainfall, mild temperatures, lower humidity during winter (northeast monsoon, December to April)
Terrain: central lowlands ringed by steep, rugged highlands
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Andaman Sea 0 m
highest point: Hkakabo Razi 5,881 m
Natural resources: petroleum, timber, tin, antimony, zinc, copper, tungsten, lead, coal, some marble, limestone, precious stones, natural gas, hydropower
Land use: arable land: 14.92%
permanent crops: 1.31%
other: 83.77% (2005)
Irrigated land: 18,700 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 1,045.6 cu km (1999)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 33.23 cu km/yr (1%/1%/98%)
per capita: 658 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: destructive earthquakes and cyclones; flooding and landslides common during rainy season (June to September); periodic droughts
Environment - current issues: deforestation; industrial pollution of air, soil, and water; inadequate sanitation and water treatment contribute to disease
Environment - international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: strategic location near major Indian Ocean shipping lanes
Politics

The Union of Myanmar is governed by a strict military regime. The current head of state is Senior General Than Shwe, who holds the posts of "Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council" and "Commander in Chief of the Defense Services". General Khin Nyunt was prime minister until 19 October 2004, when he was replaced by General Soe Win, after the purge of Military Intelligence sections within the Burma armed forces. The majority of ministry and cabinet posts are held by military officers, with the exceptions being the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Labour, and the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development, posts which are held by civilians.[42]

Elected delegates in the 1990 People's Assembly election formed the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), a government-in-exile since December 1990, with the mission of restoring democracy.[43] Dr. Sein Win, a first cousin of Aung San Suu Kyi, has held the position of prime minister of the NCGUB since its inception. The NCGUB has been outlawed by the military government.

Major political parties in the country are the National League for Democracy and the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, although their activities are heavily regulated and suppressed by the military government. Many other parties, often representing ethnic minorities, exist. The military government allows little room for political organizations and has outlawed many political parties and underground student organizations. The military supported the National Unity Party in the 1990 elections and, more recently, an organization named the Union Solidarity and Development Association.[44]

Several human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have reported on human rights abuses by the military government.[45][46] They have claimed that there is no independent judiciary in Burma. The military government restricts Internet access through software-based censorship that limits the material citizens can access on-line.[47][48] Forced labour, human trafficking, and child labour are common.[49] The military is also notorious for rampant use of sexual violence as an instrument of control, including systematic rapes and taking of sex slaves as porters for the military. A strong women's pro-democracy movement has formed in exile, largely along the Thai border and in Chang Mai. The Women's League of Burma is the leading women's civil society organization, an umbrella organization uniting many smaller women's ethnic organizations into a political force working for democracy and women's human rights in Burma. There is a growing international movement to defend women's human rights issues.[50]

In 1988, the army violently repressed protests against economic mismanagement and political oppression. On 8 August 1988, the military opened fire on demonstrators in what is known as 8888 Uprising and imposed martial law. However, the 1988 protests paved way for the 1990 People's Assembly elections. The election results were subsequently annulled by Senior General Saw Maung's government. The National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won over 60% of the vote and over 80% of parliamentary seats in the 1990 election, the first held in 30 years. The military-backed National Unity Party won less than 2% of the seats. Aung San Suu Kyi has earned international recognition as an activist for the return of democratic rule, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. The ruling regime has repeatedly placed her under house arrest. Despite a direct appeal by former U.N Secretary General Kofi Annan to Senior General Than Shwe and pressure by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the military junta extended Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest another year on 27 May 2006 under the 1975 State Protection Act, which grants the government the right to detain any persons on the grounds of protecting peace and stability in the country.[51][52] The junta faces increasing pressure from the United States and the United Kingdom. Burma's situation was referred to the UN Security Council for the first time in December 2005 for an informal consultation. In September 2006, ten of the United Nations Security Council's 15 members voted to place Burma on the council's formal agenda.[53] On Independence Day, 4 January 2007, the government released 40 political prisoners, under a general amnesty, in which 2,831 prisoners were released.[54] On 8 January 2007, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the national government to free all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi.[55] Three days later, on 11 January, five additional prisoners were released from prison.[54]

ASEAN has also stated its frustration with the Union of Myanmar's government. It has formed the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus to address the lack of democratisation in the country.[56] Dramatic change in the country's political situation remains unlikely, due to support from major regional powers such as India, Russia, and, in particular, China.[57][58]

In the annual ASEAN Summit in January 2007, held in Cebu, Philippines, member countries failed to find common ground on the issue of Burma's lack of political reform.[59] During the summit, ASEAN foreign ministers asked Burma to make greater progress on its roadmap toward democracy and national reconciliation.[60] Some member countries contend that Burma's human rights issues are the country's own domestic affairs, while others contend that its poor human rights record is an international issue.[60]

According to Human Rights Defenders and Promoters (HRDP), on April 18, 2007, several of its members (Myint Aye, Maung Maung Lay, Tin Maung Oo and Yin Kyi) were met by approximately a hundred people led by a local official, U Nyunt Oo, and beaten up. Due to the attack, Myint Hlaing and Maung Maung Lay were badly injured and are now hospitalized. The HRDP believes that this attack was condoned by the authorities and vows to take legal action. Human Rights Defenders and Promoters was formed in 2002 to raise awareness among the people of Burma about their human rights.

People Population: 47,373,958
note: estimates for this country take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 26.1% (male 6,277,073/female 6,084,001)
15-64 years: 68.6% (male 16,089,764/female 16,425,299)
65 years and over: 5.3% (male 1,075,868/female 1,421,953) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 27.4 years
male: 26.8 years
female: 28 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.815% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 17.48 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 9.33 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.032 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.757 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 50.68 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 57.33 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 43.63 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 62.49 years
male: 60.29 years
female: 64.83 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.95 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 1.2% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 330,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 20,000 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria
water contact disease: leptospirosis
animal contact disease: rabies
note: highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2008)
Nationality: noun: Burmese (singular and plural)
adjective: Burmese
Ethnic groups: Burman 68%, Shan 9%, Karen 7%, Rakhine 4%, Chinese 3%, Indian 2%, Mon 2%, other 5%
Religions: Buddhist 89%, Christian 4% (Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic 1%), Muslim 4%, animist 1%, other 2%
Languages: Burmese, minority ethnic groups have their own languages
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 89.9%
male: 93.9%
female: 86.4% (2000 est.)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Union of Burma
conventional short form: Burma
local long form: Pyidaungzu Myanma Naingngandaw (translated by the US Government as Union of Myanma and by the Burmese as Union of Myanmar)
local short form: Myanma Naingngandaw
former: Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma
note: since 1989 the military authorities in Burma have promoted the name Myanmar as a conventional name for their state; this decision was not approved by any sitting legislature in Burma, and the US Government did not adopt the name, which is a derivative of the Burmese short-form name Myanma Naingngandaw
Government type: military junta
Capital: name: Rangoon (Yangon)
geographic coordinates: 16 48 N, 96 09 E
time difference: UTC+6.5 (11.5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
note: Nay Pyi Taw is administrative capital
Administrative divisions: 7 divisions (taing-myar, singular - taing) and 7 states (pyi ne-myar, singular - pyi ne)
divisions: Ayeyarwady, Bago, Magway, Mandalay, Sagaing, Tanintharyi, Yangon
states: Chin, Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Mon, Rakhine, Shan
Independence: 4 January 1948 (from UK)
National holiday: Independence Day, 4 January (1948); Union Day, 12 February (1947)
Constitution: 3 January 1974; suspended since 18 September 1988; national convention convened in 1993 to establish principles to guide in the drafting of a new constitution concluded in 2007; it did not include participation of major democratic and ethnic majority representatives; a constitutional drafting committee appointed by the junta began meeting in December 2007
Legal system: based on English common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) Sr. Gen. THAN SHWE (since 23 April 1992)
head of government: Prime Minister, Lt. Gen THEIN SEIN (since 24 October 2007)
cabinet: Cabinet is overseen by SPDC; military junta assumed power 18 September 1988 under name State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC)
elections: none
Legislative branch: unicameral People's Assembly or Pyithu Hluttaw (485 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 27 May 1990, but Assembly never allowed by junta to convene (junta has anounced plans to hold elections in 2010)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NLD 392 (opposition), SNLD 23 (opposition), NUP 10 (pro-government), other 60
Judicial branch: remnants of the British-era legal system are in place, but there is no guarantee of a fair public trial; the judiciary is not independent of the executive
Political parties and leaders: National League for Democracy or NLD [AUNG SHWE, AUNG SAN SUU KYI]; National Unity Party or NUP (pro-regime) [TUN YE]; Shan Nationalities League for Democracy or SNLD [HKUN HTUN OO]; and other smaller parties
Political pressure groups and leaders: Ethnic Nationalities Council or ENC (based in Thailand); Federation of Trade Unions-Burma or FTUB (exile trade union and labor advocates); National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma or NCGUB (self-proclaimed government in exile) ["Prime Minister" Dr. SEIN WIN] consists of individuals, some legitimately elected to the People's Assembly in 1990 (the group fled to a border area and joined insurgents in December 1990 to form parallel government in exile); Kachin Independence Organization or KIO; Karen National Union or KNU; Karenni National People's Party or KNPP; National Council-Union of Burma or NCUB (exile coalition of opposition groups); several Shan factions; United Wa State Army or UWSA; Union Solidarity and Development Association or USDA (pro-regime, a social and political mass-member organization) [HTAY OO, general secretary]; 88 Generation Students (pro-democracy movement) [MIN KO NAING]
International organization participation: ADB, APT, ARF, ASEAN, BIMSTEC, CP, EAS, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, ISO (correspondent), ITU, NAM, OPCW (signatory), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires MYINT LWIN
chancery: 2300 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 332-3344
FAX: [1] (202) 332-4351
consulate(s) general: New York
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Shari VILLAROSA
embassy: 110 University Avenue, Kamayut Township, Rangoon
mailing address: Box B, APO AP 96546
telephone: [95] (1) 556-509, 535-756
FAX: [95] (1) 650-306
Flag description: red with a blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner bearing 14, white, five-pointed stars encircling a cogwheel containing a stalk of rice; the 14 stars represent the seven administrative divisions and seven states
Culture

A diverse range of indigenous cultures exist in Burma, the majority culture is primarily Buddhist and Bamar. Bamar culture has been influenced by the cultures of neighbouring countries. This is manifested in its language, cuisine, music, dance and theatre. The arts, particularly literature, have historically been influenced by the local form of Theravada Buddhism. Considered the national epic of Burma, the Yama Zatdaw, an adaptation of Ramayana, has been influenced greatly by Thai, Mon, and Indian versions of the play.[140] Buddhism is practiced along with nat worship which involves elaborate rituals to propitiate one from a pantheon of 37 nats.[141][142]

In a traditional village, the monastery is the centre of cultural life. Monks are venerated and supported by the lay people. A novitiation ceremony called shinbyu is the most important coming of age events for a boy when he enters the monastery for a short period of time.[143] All boys of Buddhist family need to be a novice (beginner for Buddhism) before the age of twenty and to be a monk after the age of twenty. It is compulsory for all boys of Buddhism. The duration can be at least one week. Girls have ear-piercing ceremonies () at the same time.[143] Burmese culture is most evident in villages where local festivals are held throughout the year, the most important being the pagoda festival.[144][145] Many villages have a guardian nat, and superstition and taboos are commonplace.

British colonial rule also introduced Western elements of culture to Burma. Burma's educational system is modelled after that of the United Kingdom. Colonial architectural influences are most evident in major cities such as Yangon.[146] Many ethnic minorities, particularly the Karen in the southeast, and the Kachin and Chin who populate the north and northwest, practice Christianity.[147]

Language

Burmese, the mother tongue of the Bamar and official language of Burma, is linguistically related to Tibetan and to the Chinese languages.[135] It is written in a script consisting of circular and semi-circular letters, which comes from the Mon script. The Burmese alphabet adapted the Mon script, which in turn was developed from a southern Indian script in the 700s. The earliest known inscriptions in the Burmese script date from the 1000s. The script is also used to write Pali, the sacred language of Theravada Buddhism. The Burmese script is also used to write several ethnic minority languages, including Shan, several Karen dialects, and Kayah (Karenni), with the addition of specialised characters and diacritics for each language.[148] The Burmese language incorporates widespread usage of honorifics and is age-oriented.[144] Burmese society has traditionally stressed the importance of education. In villages, secular schooling often takes place in monasteries. Secondary and tertiary education take place at government schools.

Religion

Many religions are practiced in Burma and religious edifices and religious orders have been in existence for many years and religious festivals can be held on a grand scale. The Muslim and Christian populations do, however, face religious persecution and it is hard, if not impossible, for non-Buddhists to join the army or get government jobs, the main route to success in the country [149]. The military government has revoked the citizenship of the Muslim Rohingya[150] of Northern Rakhine and attacked Christian ethnic minority populations. Such persecution and targeting of civilians is particularly notable in Eastern Burma, where over 3000 villages have been destroyed in the past ten years.[151][152][153]

The majority of the population embraces Buddhism (mostly Theravada) with 89% but other religions can be practised freely. In the country, Christianity occupies 4% of the population, Islam 4%, traditional Animistic beliefs 1% and other (Mahayana Buddhism, Hinduism, Chinese religions, etc) 2%.[154][155][156]

Education

The educational system of Myanmar is operated by the government Ministry of Education. Universities and professional institutes from upper Myanmar and lower Myanmar are run by two separate entities, the Department of Higher Education of Upper Myanmar and the Department of Higher Education of Lower Myanmar. Headquarters are based in Yangon and Mandalay respectively. The education system is based on the United Kingdom's system, due to nearly a century of British and Christian presences in Myanmar. Nearly all schools are government-operated, but there has been a recent increase in privately funded English language schools. Schooling is compulsory until the end of elementary school, probably about 9 years old, while the compulsory schooling age is 15 or 16 at international level.

There are 101 universities, 12 institutes, 9 degree colleges and 24 colleges in Myanmar, a total of 146 higher education institutions.[157]

There are 10 Technical Training Schools, 23 nursing training schools, 1 sport academy and 20 midwifery schools.

There are 2047 Basic Education High Schools, 2605 Basic Education Middle Schools, 29944 Basic Education Primary Schools and 5952 Post Primary Schools. 1692 multimedia classrooms exist within this system.

One international school is acknowledged by WASC and College Board, it's Yangon International Educare Center(YIEC) in Yangon.

Economy Economy - overview: Burma, a resource-rich country, suffers from pervasive government controls, inefficient economic policies, and rural poverty. The junta took steps in the early 1990s to liberalize the economy after decades of failure under the "Burmese Way to Socialism," but those efforts stalled, and some of the liberalization measures were rescinded. Despite Burma's increasing oil and gas revenue, socio-economic conditions have deteriorated due to the regime's mismanagement of the economy. Lacking monetary or fiscal stability, the economy suffers from serious macroeconomic imbalances - including rising inflation, fiscal deficits, multiple official exchange rates that overvalue the Burmese kyat, a distorted interest rate regime, unreliable statistics, and an inability to reconcile national accounts to determine a realistic GDP figure. Most overseas development assistance ceased after the junta began to suppress the democracy movement in 1988 and subsequently refused to honor the results of the 1990 legislative elections. In response to the government of Burma's attack in May 2003 on AUNG SAN SUU KYI and her convoy, the US imposed new economic sanctions in August 2003 including a ban on imports of Burmese products and a ban on provision of financial services by US persons. Further, a poor investment climate hampers attracting outside investment slowing the inflow of foreign exchange. The most productive sectors will continue to be in extractive industries, especially oil and gas, mining, and timber with the latter especially causing environmental degradation. Other areas, such as manufacturing and services, are struggling with inadequate infrastructure, unpredictable import/export policies, deteriorating health and education systems, and endemic corruption. A major banking crisis in 2003 shuttered the country's 20 private banks and disrupted the economy. As of 2007, the largest private banks operated under tight restrictions limiting the private sector's access to formal credit. Moreover, the September 2007 crackdown on prodemocracy demonstrators, including thousands of monks, further strained the economy as the tourism industry, which directly employs about 500,000 people, suffered dramatic declines in foreign visitor levels. In November 2007, the European Union announced new sanctions banning investment and trade in Burmese gems, timber and precious stones, while the United States expanded its sanctions list to include more Burmese government and military officials and their family members, as well as prominent regime business cronies, their family members, and associated companies. Official statistics are inaccurate. Published statistics on foreign trade are greatly understated because of the size of the black market and unofficial border trade - often estimated to be as large as the official economy. Though the Burmese government has good economic relations with its neighbors, better investment and business climates and an improved political situation are needed to promote serious foreign investment, exports, and tourism.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $91.13 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $13.7 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 5.5% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $1,900 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 53.9%
industry: 10.6%
services: 35.5% (2007 est.)
Labor force: 29.26 million (2007 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 70%
industry: 7%
services: 23% (2001)
Unemployment rate: 5.2% (2007 est.)
Population below poverty line: 32.7% (2007 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 2.8%
highest 10%: 32.4% (1998)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 39.5% (2007 est.)
Investment (gross fixed): 12.2% of GDP (2007 est.)
Budget: revenues: NA
expenditures: NA (2006 est.)
Agriculture - products: rice, pulses, beans, sesame, groundnuts, sugarcane; hardwood; fish and fish products
Industries: agricultural processing; wood and wood products; copper, tin, tungsten, iron; cement, construction materials; pharmaceuticals; fertilizer; natural gas; garments, jade and gems
Industrial production growth rate: 3.9% (2007 est.)
Electricity - production: 6.154 billion kWh (FY06)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 44.5%
hydro: 43.4%
nuclear: 0%
other: 12.1% (2002)
Electricity - consumption: 3.744 billion kWh (FY06)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2005)
Oil - production: 7,700 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil - consumption: 20,460 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil - exports: 5,000 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil - imports: 19,180 bbl/day (2004 est.)
Oil - proved reserves: less than 1.963 billion bbl (2007 est.)
Natural gas - production: 460.5 billion cu m (FY06 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 3.971 billion cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 460 billion cu m (FY06 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 0 cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 271.6 billion cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: $1.676 billion (2007 est.)
Exports: $6.6 billion f.o.b.
note: official export figures are grossly underestimated due to the value of timber, gems, narcotics, rice, and other products smuggled to Thailand, China, and Bangladesh (2007 est.)
Exports - commodities: gas, wood products, pulses, beans, fish, rice, clothing, jade and gems
Exports - partners: Thailand 48.8%, India 12.7%, China 5.2%, Japan 5.2% (2006)
Imports: $2.642 billion f.o.b.
note: import figures are grossly underestimated due to the value of consumer goods, diesel fuel, and other products smuggled in from Thailand, China, Malaysia, and India (2007 est.)
Imports - commodities: fabric, petroleum products, fertilizer, plastics, machinery, transport equipment; cement, construction materials, crude oil; food products, edible oil
Imports - partners: China 35.1%, Thailand 22.1%, Singapore 16.4%, Malaysia 4.8% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient: $144.7 million (2005 est.)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $1.762 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external: $6.914 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $NA
Currency (code): kyat (MMK)
Currency code: MMK
Exchange rates: kyats per US dollar - 1,296 (2007), 1,280 (2006), 5.761 (2005), 5.7459 (2004), 6.0764 (2003)
note: unofficial exchange rates ranged in 2004 from 815 kyat/US dollar to nearly 970 kyat/US dollar, and by yearend 2005, the unofficial exchange rate was 1,075 kyat/US dollar; data shown for 2003-05 are official exchange rates
Fiscal year: 1 April - 31 March
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 503,900 (2005)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 214,200 (2006)
Telephone system: general assessment: meets minimum requirements for local and intercity service for business and government; international service is good
domestic: system capable of providing basic service; cellular mobile phone system functions more efficiently than traditional lines
international: country code - 95; landing point for the SEA-ME-WE-3 optical telecommunications submarine cable that provides links to Asia, the Middle East, and Europe; satellite earth stations - 2, Intelsat (Indian Ocean), and ShinSat (2007)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 2, shortwave 3 (2007)
Radios: 4.2 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 4 (2008)
Televisions: 320,000 (2000)
Internet country code: .mm
Internet hosts: 101 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1
note: as of September 2000, Internet connections were legal only for the government, tourist offices, and a few large businesses (2000)
Internet users: 31,500 (2005)
Transportation Airports: 86 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 25
over 3,047 m: 8
2,438 to 3,047 m: 10
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 61
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 14
914 to 1,523 m: 14
under 914 m: 32 (2007)
Heliports: 4 (2007)
Pipelines: gas 2,790 km; oil 558 km (2007)
Railways: total: 3,955 km
narrow gauge: 3,955 km 1.000-m gauge (2006)
Roadways: total: 27,000 km
paved: 3,200 km
unpaved: 23,800 km (2005)
Waterways: 12,800 km (2007)
Merchant marine: total: 33 ships (1000 GRT or over) 364,447 GRT/549,310 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 7, cargo 20, passenger 2, passenger/cargo 3, specialized tanker 1
foreign-owned: 8 (Germany 5, Japan 3) (2007)
Ports and terminals: Moulmein, Rangoon, Sittwe
Military Military branches: Myanmar Armed Forces (Tatmadaw): Army, Navy, Air Force (Tatmadaw Lay) (2008)
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age for voluntary military service for both sexes; forced conscription of children, although officially prohibited, reportedly continues (2007)
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 12,268,850
females age 18-49: 12,469,771 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 18-49: 7,946,701
females age 18-49: 8,543,705 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually: males age 18-49: 469,841
females: 455,689 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 2.1% (2005 est.)
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: over half of Burma's population consists of diverse ethnic groups who have substantial numbers of kin in neighboring countries; Thailand must deal with Karen and other ethnic rebels, illegal cross-border activities, Karen and other refugees, and asylum seekers from Burma; Thailand is studying the feasibility of jointly constructing the Hatgyi Dam on the Salween River near the border with Burma; in 2004, international environmentalist pressure prompted China to halt construction of 13 dams on the Salween River which flows through China, Burma, and Thailand; India seeks cooperation from Burma to keep Indian Nagaland separatists, such as the United Liberation Front of Assam, from hiding in remote Burmese Uplands; Burmese Rohingya Muslim refugees reside in two camps in Bangladesh
Refugees and internally displaced persons: IDPs: 540,000 (government offensives against ethnic insurgent groups near the eastern borders; most IDPs are ethnic Karen, Karenni, Shan, Tavoyan, and Mon) (2006)
Trafficking in persons: current situation: Burma is a source country for men, women, and children trafficked to East and Southeast Asia for sexual exploitation, domestic service, and forced commercial labor; a significant number of victims are economic migrants who wind up in forced or bonded labor and forced prostitution; to a lesser extent, Burma is a country of transit and destination for women trafficked from China for sexual exploitation; internal trafficking of persons occurs primarily for labor in industrial zones and agricultural estates; internal trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation occurs from villages to urban centers and other areas; the military junta's economic mismanagement, human rights abuses, and policy of using forced labor are driving factors behind Burma's large trafficking problem
tier rating: Tier 3 - Burma does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so
Illicit drugs: remains world's second largest producer of illicit opium with an estimated production in 2005 of 380 metric tons, up 13% from 2004 and cultivation in 2005 was 40,000 hectares, a 10% increase from 2004; the decline in opium production in the United Wa State Army's areas of greatest control was more than offset by increases in south and east Shan state; lack of government will to take on major narcotrafficking groups and lack of serious commitment against money laundering continues to hinder the overall antidrug effort; major source of methamphetamine and heroin for regional consumption; currently under Financial Action Task Force countermeasures due to continued failure to address its inadequate money-laundering controls (2005)