Mianmar -- Geography --
Official Name: Republic of Mianmar
Capital City: Yangon
Official Language: Burmese
Official Currency: kyat (K) (mmK)
Religions: Buddist (89%), Christian (4%), Islam (4%), others
Population: 47,373,958 (24th)
Ethnic groups: Burman (64%), Shan (9%), Karen (7%), Rakhine (4%), Chinese (3%), others(13%)
Land Area: 657 741 sq km
Geographic situation: Myanmar is bordered by China on the north, Laos on the east, Thailand on the southeast, Bangladesh on the west, and India on the northwest, with the Bay of Bengal to the southwest. One-third of Myanmar 's total perimeter, 1,930 kilometres, forms an uninterrupted coastline.
Landforms: In the north, the Hengduan Shan mountains form the border with China. Hkakabo Razi, at an elevation of 5,881 m, is the highest point in Myanmar. Three mountain ranges: the Rakhine Yoma, the Bago Yoma, and the Shan Plateau exist within Myanmar, all of which run north-to-south from the Himalayas. The mountain chains divide Myanmar’s three river systems, which are the Ayeyarwady, Thanlwin, and the Sittang rivers. The Ayeyarwady River, Myanmar’s longest river, nearly 2,170 kilometres long, flows into the Gulf of Martaban. Fertile plains exist in the valleys between the mountain chains. The majority of Myanmar’s population lives in the Ayeyarwady valley.
Much of Myanmar lies between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator. Myanmar receives over 5,000 mm of rain annually. Northern regions of the country are the coolest, with average temperatures of 21°C. Coastal and delta regions have mean temperatures of 32°C.
Land Divisions: 14 subdivisions: 7 states and 7 divisions
Mianmar -- History --
The Mon and the Pyu are thought to have come from India, while the now dominant Bamar (Burmese) migrated through Tibet and, by 849, had founded a powerful kingdom centered on Pagan. For the next millennium, the Burmese empire grew through conquests of Thailand (Ayutthaya) and India (Manipur), and shrank under attacks from China and internal rebellions.
Eventually, Britain conquered Myanmar over a period of 62 years (1824-1886) and incorporated it into its Indian Empire. It was administered as a province of India until 1937 when it became a separate self-governing colony. During the Second World War, Myanmar was a major battleground as the Allies fought the Japanese for dominance over Asia. Large parts of Western Myanmar, particularly the hilly areas bordering India and the city of Mandalay were severely damaged during the war. Independence under the name Union of Burma was attained in 1948.
General Ne Win dominated the government from 1962 to 1988, first as military ruler, then as self-appointed president, and later as political kingpin. Pro-democracy demonstrations in 1988 were violently crushed, with general Saw Maung taking over in a coup and installing the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) to rule the country, now renamed Myanmar.
Multiparty legislative elections were held in 1990, with the main opposition party - the National League for Democracy (NLD) - winning a landslide victory (392 of 489 seats). But SLORC refused to hand over power, instead placing NLD leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest, where she remains to this day.
Today Myanmar, 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. Most overseas development assistance ceased after the junta began to suppress the democracy movement in 1988 and subsequently refused to honour the results of the 1990 legislative elections.
The summer of 2007 was marked by demonstrations against the military government which were again brutally suppressed by firing on crowds, arresting monks, closing monasteries, and shutting down all Internet communications with the rest of the world. Because of the brutal suppression of these protests, many countries, lead by the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom have imposed new sanctions on the Myanmar government.
Myanmar's prehistory begins with the migration of four groups into the country: the Pyu from either present-day Tibet or India, the Mons from what is now Cambodia, the Mongol Burmans from the eastern Himalayas, and the Thai tribes from northern Thailand. The 11th-century Burman kingdom of Bagan was the first to gain control of the territory that is present-day Myanmar, but it failed to unify the disparate racial groups and collapsed before Kublai Khan's Tartar invasion in 1287. For the next 250 years, Burma remained in chaos, and the territory was not reunified until the mid-16th century when a series of Taungoo kings extended their domain and convincingly defeated the Siamese. In the 18th century, the country fractured again as Mons and hill tribes established their own kingdoms. In 1767, the Burmans invaded Siam and sacked Ayuthaya, forcing the Siamese to move their capital to Bangkok. The British saw their chance to invade in 1824, and then again in 1852 and 1883. Burma became a part of British India and a major rice exporter. Indians and Chinese arrived with the British to complicate the racial mix. In 1937, Burma was administratively separated from British India and there was nascent murmuring for self-rule. The Japanese drove the British from Burma in WWII and attempted to enlist Burman support politically. The Burmans were briefly tempted by an opportunity for independence, but a resistance movement soon sprang up. In 1948, Burma became independent and almost immediately began to disintegrate as hill tribes, communists, Muslims and Mons all revolted. In 1962, a left-wing army revolt led by General Ne Win deposed the troubled democratic government and set the country on the path of socialism. The Burman economy crumbled over the next 25 years until, in 1987 and 1988, the Burman people decided they'd had enough. Huge demonstrations called for Ne Win's resignation, and massive confrontations between pro-democracy demonstrators and the military resulted in 3000 deaths in a six-week period. Several puppets were appointed by Ne Win and then a military coup (believed to be instigated by Ne Win) handed control to General Saw Maung and his State Law & Order Council (Slorc). The new leader promised elections in 1989. The opposition quickly formed a coalition party called the National League for Democracy (NLD), under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of assasinated independence hero Bogyoke Aung San (still openly revered). In 1989, the government placed Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest. Despite her imprisonment, the NLD scored an overwhelming victory at the polls. The junta prevented the elected party leaders from taking office, then went about the brutal business of quashing Karen rebels and engaging the private army of drug baron Khun Sa. Reports of Khun Sa's 'house arrest' at a cushy villa in Yangon, with personal aides, luxury cars, a military escort and a hotel and real estate empire, has given rise to suspicion of a smacked-out peace deal between the government junta and Khun Sa's Heroin Inc. Secret talks with the government through a United Nations negotiator led to Suu Kyi's release in May 2002. However, in May 2003 she was arrested again. Prime Minister General Khin Nyunt drafted a seven-point 'roadmap' to 'disciplined democracy' in September 2003. It was dismissed as a diversion by the US, which, along with the EU and Japan, tightened sanctions against Myanmar following Suu Kyi's re-arrest. Efforts to bring both parties back to the table continued with a constitutional convention in May 2004, although its legitimacy was undermined due to an NLD boycott. The replacement, a few months later, of Khin Nyunt as prime minister was taken as a sign of ongoing unease at the top levels of the junta. However, in late 2004, Khin Nyunt was removed from office in a surprising take-over from hard-liner Soe Win, who promised he'd continue Khin Nyunt's program. The capital was moved to Naypyidaw, 460km (300mi) north of Myanmar's largest city and former capital, Yangon, in 2006.
Mianmar -- Economy --
Myanmar is one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia, suffering from decades of stagnation, mismanagement and isolation. Myanmar’s GDP grows at a rate of 2.9% annually – the lowest rate of economic growth in the Greater Mekong Subregion.
Under British administration, Myanmar was one of the wealthiest countries in Southeast Asia. It was once the world’s largest exporter of rice. During British administration, Myanmar supplied oil. It also had a wealth of natural and labour resources. It produced 75% of the world’s teak and had a highly literate population. The country was believed to be on the fast track to development.
After a parliamentary government was formed in 1948, Prime Minister U Nu attempted to make Myanmar a welfare state. His administration adopted the Two-Year Economic Development Plan, which was a failure. The 1962 was followed by an economic scheme called the Burmese Way to Socialism, a plan to nationalize all industries, with the exception of agriculture. In 1989, the Burmese government began decentralizing economic control. It has since liberalised certain sectors of the economy. Lucrative industries of gems, oil and forestry remain heavily regulated. They have recently been exploited by foreign corporations and governments which have partnered with the local government to gain access to Myanmar’s natural resources.
Myanmar was designated a least developed country in 1987. In recent years, both China and India have attempted to strengthen ties with the government for economic benefit. Many nations, including the United States, Canada, and the European Union, have imposed investment and trade sanctions on Myanmar. Foreign investment comes primarily from China, Singapore, South Korea, India, and Thailand.
Today, Myanmar lacks adequate infrastructure. Goods travel primarily across the Burmese-Thai border, where most illegal drugs are exported, and along the Irrawaddy River. Railroads are old and rudimentary, with few repairs since their construction in the late nineteenth century. Highways are normally unpaved, except in the major cities. Energy shortages are common throughout the country including in Yangon. Myanmar is also the world’s second largest producer of opium, accounting for 8% of entire world production and is a major source of illegal drugs, including amphetamines. Other industries include agricultural goods, textiles, wood products, construction materials, gems, metals, oil and natural gas.
The major agricultural product is rice which covers about 60% of the country’s total cultivated land area. Rice accounts for 97% of total food grain production.
The lack of an educated workforce skilled in modern technology contributes to the growing problems of the Burmese economy.
Inflation is a serious problem for the Burmese economy. The skyrocketing inflation was impeding economic growth. It is the critical source of the current economic crisis.
Myanmar's rulers depend on sales of precious stones such as sapphires, pearls and jade to fund their regime. Rubies are the biggest earner; 90% of the world's rubies come from Myanmar, whose red stones are prized for their purity and hue. Myanmar's "Valley of Rubies", the mountainous Mogok area, 200 km north of Mandalay, is noted for its rare pigeon's blood rubies and blue sapphires. But working conditions in the mines are horrendous - mining operators used drugs on employees to improve productivity.
Since 1992, the government has encouraged tourism in Myanmar. However, fewer than 750,000 tourists enter the country annually.
Tourism has been promoted by a minority of advocacy groups as a method of providing economic benefit to Burmese civilians, and to avoid isolating the country from the rest of the world.
Mianmar -- Culture --
A diverse range of indigenous cultures exist in Myanmar, 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 Burmese form of Theravada Buddhism.
Buddhism is the most spread religion in Myanmar. Many ethnic minorities practice Christianity.
In a traditional Burmese village, the monastery is the centre of cultural life. Monks are venerated and supported by the lay people.
British colonial rule also introduced Western elements of culture to Myanmar. Myanmar’s educational system is modelled after that of the United Kingdom. Colonial architectural influences are most evident in major cities such as Yangon.
Mianmar -- Political system, law and government --
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. 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.
Major political parties in Myanmar 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.
Several human rights organizations have reported on human rights abuses by the military government. They have claimed that there is no independent judiciary in Myanmar. The military government restricts Internet access through software-based censorship that limits the material citizens can access online. Forced labour, human trafficking, and child labour are common.
In 1988, the Burmese 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.
Burma fought for independence from Great Britain in the late 1940s under the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League led by Aung San, U Nu, and Ne Win. The independence movement was a pro-Burman, anti-British, and anti-foreign movement that emphasized Burmese values, symbols, and experiences. This movement had very strong socialist leanings in response to Chinese and Indian domination of the Burmese economy during the British rule. In 1948, the country became independent under the leadership of U Nu because his political opponents had already killed Aung San, the father of Burmese nationalism. In 1962 the army, under the leadership of Ne Win, overthrew the democratic government and set up the Burmese Socialist Party, nationalized schools, banks, and factories, and followed a policy of socialist central planning and international isolationism. Later on, the party of the generals changed its name to the Burma Socialist Program Party. In 1974, all political parties were abolished. In September of 1988, amid massive demonstrations against the government, a new regime seized power in a military coup. Calling themselves the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), the new regime also changed the name of the country from Burma to Myanmar, something that opposition groups still object to. Following the anti-government protests, riots, and bloodshed in 1988, the opposition parties coalesced into the National League for Democracy (NLD) under the leadership Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of the martyred national hero, Aung San. Responding to nationwide protests, the SLORC allowed national elections in May of 1990. The NLD dominated the elections, winning 80 percent of the seats in the National Assembly, but the ruling SLORC refused to concede power and imprisoned NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Since that time the SLORC has exercised complete control over all branches of government. The National Assembly elected in 1990 has in fact never convened, the judicial system is bankrupt, and all executive positions are held by military representatives of the SLORC. In 1997 the ruling SLORC was reorganized as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) amid a shakeup that saw several high officials dismissed for corruption. Five top generals, including Secretary Khin Nyunt, consolidated their power but showed no signs of ceding control of the government to the opposition, most of which was banned from any official forms of organization. Like the SLORC, the SPDC is primarily concerned with cracking down on opposition and not on improving the economic fortunes of the country. « Encyclopedia of the Nations :: Asia and the Pacific :: Burma (Myanmar) Burma (Myanmar) Politics, government, and taxation Burma fought for independence from Great Britain in the late 1940s under the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League led by Aung San, U Nu, and Ne Win. The independence movement was a pro-Burman, anti-British, and anti-foreign movement that emphasized Burmese values, symbols, and experiences. This movement had very strong socialist leanings in response to Chinese and Indian domination of the Burmese economy during the British rule. In 1948, the country became independent under the leadership of U Nu because his political opponents had already killed Aung San, the father of Burmese nationalism. In 1962 the army, under the leadership of Ne Win, overthrew the democratic government and set up the Burmese Socialist Party, nationalized schools, banks, and factories, and followed a policy of socialist central planning and international isolationism. Later on, the party of the generals changed its name to the Burma Socialist Program Party. In 1974, all political parties were abolished. In September of 1988, amid massive demonstrations against the government, a new regime seized power in a military coup. Calling themselves the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), the new regime also changed the name of the country from Burma to Myanmar, something that opposition groups still object to. Following the anti-government protests, riots, and bloodshed in 1988, the opposition parties coalesced into the National League for Democracy (NLD) under the leadership Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of the martyred national hero, Aung San. Responding to nationwide protests, the SLORC allowed national elections in May of 1990. The NLD dominated the elections, winning 80 percent of the seats in the National Assembly, but the ruling SLORC refused to concede power and imprisoned NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Since that time the SLORC has exercised complete control over all branches of government. The National Assembly elected in 1990 has in fact never convened, the judicial system is bankrupt, and all executive positions are held by military representatives of the SLORC. In 1997 the ruling SLORC was reorganized as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) amid a shakeup that saw several high officials dismissed for corruption. Five top generals, including Secretary Khin Nyunt, consolidated their power but showed no signs of ceding control of the government to the opposition, most of which was banned from any official forms of organization. Like the SLORC, the SPDC is primarily concerned with cracking down on opposition and not on improving the economic fortunes of the country. The government's mounting deficit financing, resulting mostly from declining tax revenue and escalating military expenditures, has had a negative impact on the economy. The regime's policies led to the growth in the money supply and accelerated inflation. Mounting foreign debt and depleting foreign exchange reserves also affected the health of the economy. Military expenditures increased while the funding for health and education declined. The government's oppressive attitude towards the opposition has caused international censure, prompting foreign firms to pull out or cut back on their activities. Because of foreign economic sanctions, Burma is unable to get assistance from other countries or loans from international funding sources. The country's tax base shrank in the last years of the 20th century, due to the government's inability to collect taxes because of a corrupt bureaucracy and a black market perhaps as large as the legitimate market. The sources of government revenue include general sales and value-added taxes, income from state enterprises, taxes on international trade, fees, and grants from donor nations and international agencies. The government also collects customs at its border posts, but most of the border trade is unrecorded. The judicial system that Burma inherited from its British colonial masters was abolished in 1974. The new constitution calls for a council of People's Justices. In addition, there are lower courts at the state, town, village and ward level. The courts settle both civil and criminal cases. The armed forces—controlling most aspects of the country's politics and government—also exert influence over Burma's judicial system.