Myanmar (Burma)

Myanmar (Burma)

Burma or Myanmar, officially called the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, is a sovereign state in Southeast Asia. It borders India and Bangladesh to the west, Thailand and Laos to the east, China to the north and northeast, and the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea to the south. It has an area of 676,578 km² and a population in 2023 of about 59 and a half million inhabitants. Its capital since 2005 is Naypyidaw and its most populous city and former capital, Yangon.

The first indications of a complex society in Burmese territory are those of the Pyu civilization in the second century BC, but until the year 849 does not appear a unified state, the Kingdom of Pagan. After independence from the United Kingdom in 1948, the country was ruled by a military dictatorship from 1988 to 2011, during which time elections were held only twice. In 1990 the SPDC military junta lost the election overwhelmingly to the National League for Democracy.

Myanmar (Burma)
State seal of Myanmar
State seal of Myanmar
Name Myanmar
Full Name (in English) the Republic of the Union of Myanmar
Full Name (in Burmese) ပြည်ထောင်စု သမ္မတ မြန်မာနိုင်ငံတော်
Alternative Name Burma
Anthem (in English) Till The World Ends
Anthem (in Burmese) ကမ္ဘာမကျေ
Myanmar location on the globe
Myanmar’s location on the globe
Capital Naypyidaw
Capital coordinates 19°45′N 96°6′E
Most populous city Yangon
Most populous city coordinates 16°47′42″N 96°09′36″E
Official language Burmese
Demonym Burmese / Myanma
Form of government Unitary parliamentary republic under a military junta
Legislative body Union Assembly
Total area 676 578 km² (rank 39th)
Water surface 3.06%
Borders 6522km
Coastline 1930km
Highest point Hkakabo Razi
Total population 57 970 293 hab. (2023) – 26th place
Population density 83 hab./km²
Total GPD $278.156 billion (64th)
GDP per capita $5,132
HDI (2021) 0.585​ (149th) – Medium
Currency Kyat (K, MMK)
Time zone UTC+6:30
ISO code 104/MMR/MM
Internet domain .mm
Old internet domain .bu
Telephone prefix +95
Radio prefix XYA-XZZ
Country abbreviations for aircraft XY
Country acronyms for automobiles MYA
Member UN

Faced with such events, the government ignored the results. As part of a regime of repression, it arrested opposition leaders. After seventeen years, in 2007 the military junta was affected by massive protests led by Buddhist monks, which were suppressed. For the 2010 elections, the National League for Democracy was outlawed and could not participate because it did not expel political prisoners from its ranks, as requested by the military junta. Since the rebellion of February 2021, the government is headed by Min Aung Hlaing as leader of the state and Myint Swe as president.

The country is rich in jade, gems, oil, natural gas and other mineral resources. In 2013, its GDP (nominal) stood at US$56.7 billion and its GDP (PPP) at US$221.5 billion. The income gap in Burma is among the widest in the world, as a large proportion of the economy is controlled by supporters of the previous military government. As of 2016, Burma ranks 145th out of 188 countries in human development, according to the Human Development Index.

Etymology of Myanmar

The official name of the state is “Republic of the Union of Myanmar” (ပြည်ထောင်စုသမ္မတ မြန်မာနိုင်ငံတော်, Pyidaunzu Thanmăda Myăma Nainngandaw). In Western languages it is known as Burma, both names derived from the same origin; the ethnic group of the Bamar, Myanmar being the literary form of Burma. The use of the name “Myanmar” is controversial, both internally and externally, given that it was imposed by the military junta that ruled the country without international recognition; that is why there are countries that even today refuse to use it, in favor of variants of the traditional ‘Burma’.

Myanmar History


Bagan, ancient Pagan, capital of the kingdoms that would make up Burma (Myanmar)
Bagan, ancient Pagan, capital of the kingdoms that would make up Burma

From the second century BC until the fifteenth century AD, the Pegu, the Ava, the Mon and other disappeared peoples such as the Pyu would perpetuate themselves in dynasties and peoples in internal wars that would cover relatively unified territories such as the Kingdom of Pagan. But it was not until the Toungoo dynasty (1531-1752) that a process that would lead to the unification of the country began, passing through other dynasties that would maintain the union.

In 1519 the Portuguese concluded a treaty with the king of Pegu, establishing factories in Martaban and Siriam. A Portuguese attempt at emancipation failed in 1585, and the city of Ava was destroyed. But in 1601 the Peguanos are expelled, and Ava is rebuilt and chosen as the capital of the United Empire.

In 1612 the British East India Company appointed agents for this territory and set up factories at Syriam, Prome and Ava.

A hunter from Mozzobo revolted the country in 1753, and with the help of the British, managed to banish the Peguanos. Once proclaimed king with the name of Alaung-Phra, the ancient hunter founded Rangoon and added to his territories Martaban, Tavoy and Tenasserim, dying shortly after. The new king Bodau-Phra took up residence at Amapura, occupied Arakan, and persecuted the Buddhists. With this king, Burma reached a high degree of splendor. During the reign of her grandson Phagydan, Ava was again chosen as the capital.

British colony

The first war against the British took place in 1824. General Campbell dominated Rangoon, but his troops suffered heavy casualties. The peace of 1826 ceded the provinces of Arakan and Tenasserim to the United Kingdom. In 1851 the Burmese viceroy of Rangoon, faced with the oppression of British merchants, broke the peace. Successively Martaban, Rangoon, Prome and Pegu were occupied by British troops. The province of Pegu, or Lower Burma, was incorporated into the British Empire of British India, eliminating King Meng-dan-Meng. A forced Anglo-Burmese trade treaty assured the British free navigation of the Irrawaddy River.

Thibau, son and successor of the overthrown king, began his reign by murdering all the traitors in his family. The British envoy to the region, after suffering several humiliations, was dismissed in 1879. In this way, General Prendergast went up the Irawadi River with a war fleet; conquering the forts of Minhla, besieging Ava and finally entering Mandalay. King Thibau surrendered and was taken to Madras, where he died in prison. In 1886 Upper Burma was definitively annexed to the British Empire of India, appointing a chief commissioner. Ten years later the British government appointed a governor for British Burma.

During World War II Burma was occupied by the Japanese, but was retaken by the United Kingdom in 1945. In 1948, the United Kingdom was forced to grant independence.

Republic and Socialist State

In 1949 there was a communist uprising dominated by the U Nu government. In 1962 a military regime headed by the general, Ne Win, overthrew U Nu. After the adoption of a new constitution, which defined the country as a socialist republic in January 1974, two months later Ne Win was elected president and re-elected in March 1978. He resigned in June 1981 and was succeeded by General San Yun although he remained at the head of the Socialist Program Party of Burma. In August 1988 a revolt known as Uprising 8888 broke out, which demanded the political opening of the country, however, ended with the formation of a military junta with General Saw Maung at the head.

Military dictatorship

In 1989, the military government, the result of a rebellion in 1988, changed the name of the country to the Union of Myanmar. This change was and is rejected by opponents of the current government, both inside and outside the country, who claim that the government did not have the authority to make such a change. The title of Union of Myanmar is recognized by the UN and the European Union, but rejected by some governments.

In 1990 free elections were held for the first time in almost thirty years, but the sweeping victory of the NLD, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, was annulled by the military, which refused to resign.

The important Karen ethnic minority founded in 1947 the KNU whose armed wing is the KNLA commanded by Saw Ba Thin since 2000, in favor of negotiation, the guerrilla has 7000 members. The KNU-KNLA is not involved in drug trafficking like many other rebel groups and they are willing to lay down their arms if the government gives them political guarantees and political benefits from gas exploitation in their territory.

One of the leading figures in twentieth-century Burmese history was General Aung San. His daughter Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, becoming an icon of democracy, world peace and freedom. The third most recognized Burmese figure in the world is U Thant, who served two terms as Secretary-General of the United Nations. Burma also suffered from the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.

At present, numerous clashes occur between ethnic minorities within the country itself and the inhabitants still live in poverty and repression. The military rapes, enslaves, tortures and kills with impunity, sometimes just for singing forbidden songs. Military repression is largely focused on ethnic minorities, such as the Karen.

The Burmese government completely ignores the demands of neighboring countries to open a process of democratization. The United States is also calling for this process before the United Nations Security Council. This organization repeatedly called on the military authorities to release Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been detained under house arrest and in strict custody since 1996. She was finally released on November 13, 2010. She was greeted at the door of her home by about 3,000 people. Suu Kyi had spent fifteen of the past twenty-one years imprisoned or deprived of liberty, either in prison or under house arrest.

Since 9 June 2011, the government’s offensive against the Kachin Army for Independence has displaced thousands and resulted in thousands of displaced and deaths. The Kachin Conflict was the largest conflict in Burma in 2012.

2007 protests

Monk protests in Yangon
Monk protests in Yangon

On August 15, 2007, the government took the decision to significantly increase fuel prices and thus transportation costs, which led to protests by sectors opposed to the regime. The repression of a group of Buddhist monks who had supported these early demands led to the mass mobilization of Burmese monks, who peacefully protested against the military junta to demand political and social change.

Since 23 September 2007, at least 20,000 people, 10,000 Buddhist monks and as many supporters, have gathered in the streets of Rangoon to demonstrate in favor of democracy. They also supported Aung San Suu Kyi, a prominent leader of the opposition to military rule who, under strict house arrest, appeared in public for the first time in four years.

Since then, there has been a succession of international pressures demanding freedom and transparency of information. On 29th September senior members of the military junta received Ibrahim Gambari, a UN special envoy. Gambari also had the opportunity to meet with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The pro-government press said the incidents were “comparable to the events of 1988”. “All those who were likely to lead the marches were arrested. The generals are afraid that they will turn into larger protests, like in 1988,” said Win Min, a Burma specialist. On September 27, the authorities gave a time of 10 minutes to break up demonstrations that were taking place in the center of the city of Yangon, at the end of the deadline and opened fire on the demonstrators which increased the estimates of deaths in the protests until that day which fluctuate between 9 and 15 people including a photographer of Japanese nationality of 50 years of age identified as Kenji Nagai. A German photographer is also believed to have died while trying to pass a police barrier near Sule Pagoda.

The military junta banned taking photos of the protests; however, in the absence of foreign journalists, the Internet has been a fundamental channel in the transmission of information abroad. On September 28, Internet access was restricted throughout the country, although due to international pressure, it was restored a few days later.

As the weeks passed, the demonstrations subsided and in mid-October, the military government was regaining control of the situation. Human rights associations have repeatedly denounced the repression exercised by the military junta, which has arrested opponents of the regime and participants in peaceful demonstrations.

As a result of these events, part of the international community (the United States and the European Union, among others) imposed some economic sanctions against the military regime, which continued to have the support of neighboring states, mainly China.

On the other hand, the military junta announced that a new constitution would be drafted as part of a “plan towards democracy” that was supposed to lead to free elections. Representatives of the United Nations expressed some skepticism about this process in which representatives of the opposition would not apparently participate.

Cyclone Nargis and the New Constitution

On May 2, 2008, a major cyclone hit the southern coast of the country and caused 28,458 deaths, 33,019 injuries and 33,416 missing, according to official data, however, some non-governmental organizations (including UN dependents) estimate that there would be more than 100,000 victims and two million displaced.

The government authorities did not allow the entry into the country of foreign specialists sent to coordinate the distribution of humanitarian aid sent by different governments, while they seized four consignments of assistance that were finally delivered to the civilian population in boxes that were printed with the figures of the military leadership that runs the country. In addition, much of the aid was sold on the black market.

In February 2008, the military junta had announced the holding of a constitutional referendum in May 2008 and the holding of general elections in 2010 as part of its Roadmap to Democracy. Despite the catastrophe of Nargis, the military junta decided to go ahead with its plan to approve the new constitution. They had planned to hold a constitutional referendum on May 10 and did so, although they postponed it until the 24th in the areas damaged by the cyclone.

On 15th May they published the results of the first part of the referendum with overwhelming results: a turnout of over 99% and support of 92.4%. Both the opposition and the international community denounced the massive fraud. The new Constitution establishes, among others, that 25% of the seats in Parliament that will come out of the next elections will be for the military, so that they can guard it. In addition, it prohibits anyone with foreign relations from standing as a candidate,  effectively preventing Aung San Suu Kyi from running for president, as she is a widow and mother of British people.

On November 21, 2008, comedian U Maung Thura was sentenced to 45 years in prison for criticizing the government’s handling of the disaster.

2010 legislative elections

In accordance with its plan, the Electoral Laws were published on 10 March 2010. In addition, on March 11 they published another law that annulled the results of the 1990 elections. These laws required parties to register in a new party register; they also demanded that no persons were or had been imprisoned among their ranks, effectively forcing the National League for Democracy to expel all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, from its ranks. The National League for Democracy refused to accept these rules, did not register, and became an underground party and could not stand in these elections.

Nevertheless, on August 13, 2010, the Junta publicly established November 7 as the date for legislative elections, the first in twenty years.

According to preliminary results reported by members of the government, the Union, Solidarity and Development Party, supported by the ruling military junta, won around 80 percent of the seats, while turnout would have hovered around 70 percent.

The elections were considered fraudulent and not free by the internal political opposition. U.S. President Barack Obama declared that the elections were “neither free nor fair,” while several foreign leaders and organizations have spoken out similarly.

Civil war in Myanmar

Civil wars have been a constant feature of Burma’s socio-political landscape since independence in 1948. These wars have predominantly sought ethnic and subnational autonomy, with the areas surrounding the central districts of the country populated by the Bamar being the main geographical site of confrontation. The cause of the conflict is mainly over the rights of minorities who constitute approximately 35% of the population and their representation in the government and the economy which is largely controlled by state-owned enterprises.

Journalists and foreign visitors need a special travel permit to reach areas where Burma’s civil wars continue. In October 2012, conflicts in Burma included the conflict in Kachin, between the Kachin Army for Independence (KIA) and the Burmese government; a civil war between Rohingya Muslims and government and non-governmental groups in Arakan State; and a conflict between the Shan, Lahu and Karen minorities and the government in the eastern half of the country.

Rapist battalions are groups of Burmese soldiers, sometimes high-ranking soldiers, engaged in the systematic and targeted rape of women and girls from the Shan ethnic minority, who live on the Myanmar-Thai border. These squads were created with the intention of terrifying, demoralizing, repressing and controlling this ethnic group and ultimately getting them exiled to Thailand. According to a UNHCR complaint of 23 May 2006, their modus operandi is to visit Burmese populations by recruiting girls who are forced to parade, abducted from their homes and raped every night until soldiers tired of them decide to murder them in cold blood.

According to a complaint in The Boston Globe (June 2005):

“Women who are seven months pregnant are gang-raped. Girls are forced into forced labor during the day and raped at night for months on end. Mothers and daughters are raped together. Girls as young as 4 years old are raped”.

These facts were documented and made known by Charm Tong, a Burmese exile in Thailand since she was six years old.

Since 2017 during the ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya Muslim ethnic group, the Myanmar armed forces have used rape as a method of repression against Rohingya Muslim women.

One widely reported conflict was the 2012 Rakhine State riots, a series of clashes involving mainly Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine State. An estimated 90,000 people were displaced as a result of the unrest. and that also resulted in the death of 60 Burmese soldiers.

Myanmar’s government had previously identified the Rohingya as a group of illegal migrants; however, this ethnic group has lived in present-day Burma for many centuries.

In 2007, German university professor Bassam Tibi suggested that the Rohingya conflict could be motivated by an Islamist political agenda aimed at imposing religious laws, although non-religious causes such as persistent resentment over violence during the Japanese occupation of Burma during World War II have also been proposed.  in which the British allied with the Rohingya and fought against the puppet government of the state of Burma (composed mostly of Burmese Japanese) that helped establish the Tatmadaw military organization that remains in power as of March 2013.

A UN envoy reported that in March 2013 unrest had re-emerged between Burma’s Buddhists and Muslim communities, with violence spreading to towns closest to Yangon. The BBC news channel obtained a video of a man with severe burns who received no assistance from passers-by or police even though he was lying on the ground in a public place. The video was filmed by members of the Burmese police force in the town of Meiktila and was used as evidence that Buddhists continued to kill Muslims following sanctions imposed by the European Union on April 23, 2013.

2020 elections and 2021 rebellion

The NLD won Burma’s 2020 general election on November 8 in a landslide, again winning supermajorities in both houses. The army alleged fraud and threatened to “take action.”

On the night of February 1, 2021, the day parliament was convened, the Tatmadaw, Burma’s military, arrested State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the ruling party. The military handed over power to military chief Min Aung Hlaing and declared a one-year state of emergency.

Government and politics

Burma was and is ruled by a military dictatorship. The self-styled Council for the Restoration of Law and Order of the State, following a rebellion on 18 September 1988, abolished the Constitution of 3 January 1974. The Council dissolved the parliament and assumed all the powers of the State, which dismantled the regional and municipal organization while creating bodies of equal denomination for all territorial areas.

After a failed attempt to draft a new constitutional text in 1990, in which Aung San Suu Kyi won the elections but the military junta refused to hand over power, it failed again in 1996 where the work of the different political parties that had been negotiating for three years was abruptly frustrated by the military junta. The Restoration Council was dissolved in 1997 to be constituted under another name: Council for Peace and State Development.

A referendum was held on 10 May 2008 to approve a constitutional amendment that would establish a “democracy with discipline” and the calling for free, multiparty elections by 2010. According to government sources, the amendment was approved by 92.4% of the vote.

However, the context in which the consultation took place was highly criticized, since at the time of the vote around two million people were affected after the passage of Cyclone Nargis.On the other hand, the approved text does not respect or guarantee human rights such as the non-application of torture or other ill-treatment, or the right to a fair trial, among others.

Foreign policy

The Union of Myanmar is actively involved in regional forums, especially in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which it is an active member.

On the contrary, the country has struggled in its relations with the West due to serious and massive human rights violations by the military junta. These human rights violations are denounced every year by the General Assembly of the United Nations (for example, among many others, Resolution 61/132 of 22 December 2006 on the situation of human rights in Myanmar). Similarly, the United Nations Human Rights Council opened a special public procedure on the human rights situation in Burma in 1992 (HRC Resolution 1992/58), a procedure that has remained open continuously since then.

This situation has led to trade embargoes by the European Union and the United States, however it has not prevented the entry of European, American and Asian investors, who find cheap labor in Burma, as well as the rapprochement with its neighbors India and Thailand, which have in Burma a supplier of natural gas.

China is undoubtedly its closest ally. After withdrawing support for the Communist Party of Burma, today it is consolidated as the first commercial partner and in terms of military cooperation, including a Chinese military base in the Cocos Islands to monitor Indian naval activity, in addition to two loans in the order of two hundred million dollars.

Another of the countries with which the military regime has strengthened its commercial relations is Thailand, with whom progress has recently been made in terms of opening new avenues of cooperation with Burma in the development of energy and hydroelectric power, as well as in the economic and commercial field, this despite the conflict they still maintain over the definition of borders.

Due to an attempt against South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan in 1983, Burma breaks relations with North Korea; These would be re-established on April 26, 2007.

Human rights in Myanmar

Mae La refugee camp in Tak province, Thailand, where according to UNHCR there are some 700,000 exiles who have fled the war in Myanmar
Mae La refugee camp in Tak province, Thailand, where according to UNHCR there are some 700,000 exiles who have fled the war in Myanmar

Burma’s ethnic minorities have fled famine, war and torture under military rule for decades. Amnesty International has documented cases of villagers being beaten, stabbed or shot and killed. There is a group of military personnel, sometimes high-ranking members, particularly engaged in mass rape of ethnic minority women, known as the Rapists’ Battalion.

The number of attacks and the systematic way in which they are carried out have led Burmese organizations in exile to denounce that the military junta has developed a policy of “license to rape” to terrorize opponents. The parades organized in the barracks are used so that the military can choose their victims within a system of gratification and entertainment reminiscent of the one created by the Japanese during the occupation of Asia in the first half of the twentieth century.

In 1988, shortly before the Tiananmen massacre in China, at least 3,000 people were killed during an anti-government uprising. According to other sources, such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, the number of victims would amount to 10,000. The only images that show what happened are owned by the Japanese company NHK that has prevented them from being broadcast by Western televisions so as not to destabilize the military regime.

The military government has imprisoned many opponents, most for minor crimes or even for expressing opinions or singing songs opposed to power. Countless allegations of torture and enslavement have made the government worthy of condemnation from different organizations dedicated to the issue of Human Rights such as Amnesty International and the United Nations itself. The level of repression has increased in recent years, with extremes such as considering it a criminal act to have a fax or hosting a foreigner in a private home.

Myanmar’s military government was accused in 2016 by the UN of carrying out genocide against the Rohingya Muslim ethnic group.


Map of Burma (Myanmar) showing its first level administrative divisions
Map of Burma (Myanmar) showing its first-level administrative divisions

Burma is organized into seven states and seven regions, formerly divisions. The ethnic composition of the regions is Bamar, so the majority of the population is from the predominant ethnic group of the country. States are regions with significant ethnic minorities. Administrative divisions are subdivided into districts, which are again subdivided into urban areas, constituencies, and villages.

Below are the various states and regions of Burma:

Kachin State
Kayah State
Kayin State
Chin State
Sagaing Region
Tanintharyi Region
Bago Region
Magway Region
Mandalay Region
Mon State
Rakhine State
Yangon Region
Shan State
Ayeyarwady Region

Myanmar Geography

Shan state rural landscape
Shan State rural landscape

Burma, which stretches from the Himalayan confines in the north to the Malay Peninsula in the south, opens to the west over the Bay of Bengal, whose coastline is dominated by the nearby Arakan mountain range. The mountainous relief culminates at its northern end, with the maximum height at Hkakabo Razi peak (5967 m), in the Gaoligong Mountains. There are many dormant volcanoes. The ranges, arranged from north to south, isolate the plains irrigated by the Chindwin, Irrawady, Sittang and Salween rivers. Another important river that passes through this country the Mekong.

The climate is variable, with a predominance of hot tropical, with a thermal average of 25 ° C.  Much of the country lies between the Tropic of Cancer and Ecuador. The country is located in the monsoon region of Asia, with its coastal regions receiving annually from rainfall more than 5000 mm. The annual rainfall in the delta region is about 2500 mm, while average annual rainfall in the dry zone, which is located in central Burma, is less than 1000 mm. Northern regions of the country are the coldest, with average temperatures of 21 °C.  Coast and delta regions have an average maximum temperature of 32 °C.


The Mali or Malikha river in the north of the country near the border with China (Kachin State)
The Mali or Malikha river in the north of the country near the border with China (Kachin State)

Burma has a land border of 6523 km bordering five countries and covering a total area of 676 580 km².

The border between Bangladesh and Burma begins at the mouth of the Naf River in the Bay of Bengal and heads north around the Mayu mountain range in a wide arc before turning north through the Chittagong Hill Tracts to the triple point with India at Teen Matha peak,  with a total of 270 km (168 miles).

The India-Burma border heads north through the Chin Hills towards the Tiau River. It continues upstream and then crosses several rivers near Manipur before going northeast through the Patkai range to the Chaukan pass and the Mishmi hills for a total of 1468 km.

The triple point with China and India is disputed due to the Sino-Indian border conflict, but is de facto located north of the Diphu Pass. The border between China and Burma runs northeast to Hkakabo Razi, just 1.5 km west of its summit. It then turns southeast following the Hengduan and Gaoligong Mountains through many jagged lines to the Taping River and the Shweli River. It then heads southeast through the distant Shan Hills, following hills and rivers, until it reaches the Mekong River. In addition, it follows the Mekong to the triple point with Laos, for a total of 2145 km.

The border between Laos and Burma runs entirely along the Mekong River, from the triangular point with China to the triangular point with Thailand, at the confluence of the Kok and Mekong Rivers, along 238 km.

In addition, the border between Burma and Thailand briefly follows the Kok River and the Sai River before continuing overland in a series of irregular lines southward through the Daen Lao mountain range before heading southwest to the Salween River.

The border follows the Salween and then the Moei River before passing again overland through the Tenasserim Hills towards the Malay Peninsula. Near Prachuap Khiri Khan, the border is about 10.96 km from the Gulf of Thailand. It then heads south towards the Kraburi River, which continues to a wide estuary before emptying into the Andaman Sea, forming Burma’s longest border at 2416 km.

The southern maritime boundary follows the coordinates marked by both Burma and Thailand towards the maritime triangle with the Indian islands of Andaman and Nicobar. The maritime border between India and Burma resumes south of the Cocos Islands before heading towards Burma’s narrow boundary with the international waters of the Bay of Bengal. Burma has a total coastline of 2227 km and has several islands and archipelagos, among which the Mergui archipelago stands out. It has a total water area of 23,100 km² and an Exclusive Economic Zone of 532,780 km².


Phangram Razi (ဖန်ဂရန် ရာဇီ) in northern Myanmar, reaching about 4,328 meters above sea level
Phangram Razi (ဖန်ဂရန် ရာဇီ) in northern Myanmar, reaching about 4,328 meters above sea level
Shan Hills
Shan Hills
Mount Loi Sam Sip
Mount Loi Sam Sip
Bridges over the Irawadi River
Bridges over the Irawadi River

The mountains of Myanmar form five distinct physiographic regions.

  • Northern Mountains: The Northern Mountains are characterized by complex mountain ranges centered around the eastern ends of the Himalayas and the northeastern boundary of the Indian-Australian plate. The mountain ranges at the southern end of the Hengduan System form the border between Myanmar and China. Hkakabo Razi, the highest point in the country at 5,881 m, is located in the far north. This mountain is part of a series of parallel mountain ranges ranging from the foothills of the Himalayas to the border areas with Assam, Nagaland and Mizoram.
  • Central Lowlands: Myanmar is characterized by its central lowlands, which extend from north to south between several mountain ranges. This area was deeply excavated by many rivers and today forms the basin of large rivers such as the Irrawaddy, the Chindwin and the Sittaung. The Bago Yoma (Pegu Mountain Range) is a prominent but relatively low mountain range between the Irrawaddy River and the Sittaung in lower central Myanmar. Many smaller mountain ranges run through the lowlands, such as the Zeebyu Taungdan, Min-wun Taungdan, Hman-kin Taungdan and Gangaw Taungdan mountain ranges. Mount Popa, an extinct volcano and sacred place of the Nat cult, rises prominently above the surrounding lowlands in these lowlands.
  • Western Cordillera: The western ranges are characterized by the Arakan Mountains, which extend from Manipur to western Myanmar, southwards, through Rakhine State, almost to Cape Negrais, on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, in the Ayeyarwady region. The mountains reappear as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands further into the Andaman Sea. These mountains are ancient crystalline rocks that separate the coast of Arakan from the rest of the country. The Arakan Mountain Range includes the Naga Hills, the Chin Hills, and the Patkai Mountain Range, which includes the Lushai Hills. The Arakan coast of the Bay of Bengal extends west of these mountains, with prominent island archipelagos and coral reefs.
  • Shan Plateau: In eastern Myanmar, the Shan Plateau rises steeply from the central lowlands in steps of about 600 m (2,000 ft). The highest point of the Shan Hills is the 2,563 m high Loi Pangnao, one of the most prominent peaks in Southeast Asia. The Shan Hills form, together with the Karen Hills, the Dawna Range and the Tenasserim Hills, a natural border with Thailand, as well as the Kayah-Karen montane humid forest ecoregion, included in the Global 200 list of ecoregions identified by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) as priorities for conservation. The plateau was formed during the Mesozoic Era and is much older than the other mountain ranges of Myanmar, creating a series of elevated mountain ranges and valleys, among which the Salween River basin, covering 283,000 km, stands out.
  • Southeast Hills: The hills of southeastern Myanmar and the Tenasserim plains have western shores backed by the Tenasserim mountain range, respectively. The Tenessarim plains are largely formed by the western slopes of the Bilauktaung, the highest part of the Tenasserim mountain range, which extends southward forming the central mountain range of the Malay Peninsula. The Dawna mountain range also extends along the northern parts of Myanmar’s Tenasserim tail. Many hills in this area, such as Mount Zwegabin and Kyaiktiyo, are important cultural and religious sites. The offshore islands protrude from the sea and form multiple island archipelagos with coral reefs, especially in the Mergui archipelago.


The Thandi (Thande) river in central Burma (Myanmar)
The Thandi (Thande) river in central Burma (Myanmar)

The Irrawaddy, Burma’s main river, flows north-south through the central Burmese basin and empties into a broad delta. The Mekong River flows from the Tibetan Plateau to Laos, passing through Yunnan (China) and northeastern Burma. The basin has important mining resources and forest ecosystems. Its fertile delta also generates 60% of annual rice harvests. The river has historical significance, with the temples of Bagan on its banks and the homeland of the Kachin people near the source of the river, the confluence of the N’mai and Mali rivers.

In the east, the Salween and Sittaung Rivers run along the western side of the Shan Hills and the northern end of the Dawna Range. The Salween rises in China, where it is called the Chinese Nu River: 怒江; pinyin: Nù Jiāng, and runs south through 17 degrees latitude through the Shan Plateau. In Mandarin, the Salween is called the Furious River, because its swift waters meander through mountainous terrain for almost all of its 2,400 km in length. In the narrow southeastern part of Burma, the Ye, Heinze, Dawei (Tavoy), Great Tenasserim (Tanintharyi) and Lenya rivers are relatively short and flow into the Andaman Sea. Further south, the Kraburi River forms the southern border between Thailand and Burma.


8 real coin with Burmese overstamp containing a legend in Siamese and the country's coat of arms with a lion
8 real coin with Burmese overstamp containing a legend in Siamese and the country’s coat of arms with a lion

During the reign of the Mindon dynasty (1853-1878), the weakness of the economy meant that all the coins circulating in the country were foreign pieces. In order to revalue these coins, a curious circular punch was used that was stamped on reales of eight Spaniards, 5 French francs, thalers of Maria Theresa I of Austria and 960 reis. This awl bore a double inner circle with a legend in Siamese and the shield of Burma with a lion.

At present, the economic situation in Burma is quite delicate. Agriculture is the main economic activity; It employs almost 2/3 of the economically active population and contributes 40% to the Gross Domestic Product. The predominant crop is rice, which occupies about half of the arable land. Other crops (cotton, groundnuts, hevea, tea) are secondary. It is also noteworthy the cultivation of opium poppy, being the second illegal producer of this plant to process opiates such as heroin in the world after Afghanistan, according to data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Logging is intense: Burma occupies the world’s leading position in teak production. The extractive industries, once prominent, are now in decline, as is oil production. The outdated industrial sector is currently experiencing a delicate moment, with a notable lack of investment, despite the efforts of the State to attract foreign capital.

The situation in general of extreme hardship favors the proliferation of corruption, smuggling and the black market.

According to the Global Innovation Index, run by the World Intellectual Property Organization, in 2022, Burma ranked 116th in innovation among 132 countries in the world.


The Government receives a significant percentage of tourism service revenues from the private sector. Myanmar’s most popular available tourist destinations include major cities such as Yangon and Mandalay; religious sites in Mon, Pindaya, Bago and Hpa-An state; nature trails at Inle Lake, Kengtung, Putao, Pyin Oo Lwin; ancient cities such as Bagan and Mrauk-U; as well as beaches in Nabule, Ngapali, Ngwe-Saung, Mergui. However, much of the country is off-limits to tourists, and interactions between foreigners and Myanmar’s population, particularly in border regions, are subject to police scrutiny. Politics should not be discussed with foreigners, under penalty of imprisonment, and in 2001, the Myanmar Tourism Promotion Board issued an order for local officials to protect tourists and limit “unnecessary contact” between ordinary foreigners and Burmese.

The most common way to enter the country is by air. According to the Lonely Planet website, entering Myanmar is problematic: “No bus or train service connects Myanmar with another country, nor can you travel by car or motorbike across the border; You have to cross it on foot.” In addition, they state that “it is not possible for foreigners to go to/from Myanmar by sea or river.” There are a few border crossings that allow the passage of private vehicles, such as the border between Ruili (China) and Mu-se, the border between Htee Kee (Myanmar) and Phu Nam Ron (Thailand) – the most direct border between Dawei and Kanchanaburi – and the border between Myawaddy and Mae Sot (Thailand). At least one tourism company has successfully managed overland trade routes across these borders since 2013.

Flights are available from most countries, although direct flights are mainly limited to Thai and other ASEAN airlines. According to Eleven magazine, “In the past, there were only 15 international airlines and more and more airlines have started launching direct flights from Japan, Qatar, Taiwan, South Korea, Germany and Singapore. The expansions were planned for September 2013, but these are mainly Thai airlines and other Asian countries.


Kosmochloro jade from the Hpakan-Tawmaw zone (near Jurassic, 147 million years old) of northern Burma (Myanmar)
Kosmochloro jade from the Hpakan-Tawmaw zone (near Jurassic, 147 million years old) of northern Burma (Myanmar)

Myanmar produces precious stones such as rubies, sapphires, pearls and jade. Rubies are the largest source of income; 90% of the world’s rubies come from the country, whose red stones are appreciated for their purity and hue. Thailand buys most of the country’s gems. Myanmar’s “Ruby Valley”, the mountainous area of Mogok, 200 km north of Mandalay, is noted for its rare pigeon blood rubies and blue sapphires.

Many American and European jewelry companies, including Bulgari, Tiffany and Cartier, refuse to import these stones due to reports of deplorable working conditions in the mines. Human Rights Watch has urged a total ban on the purchase of Burmese gems based on these reports and because almost all profits go to the ruling junta, as most of the country’s mining activity is run by the government. The Myanmar government controls the gem trade through direct ownership or joint ventures with private mine owners.

Rare earth elements are also an important export, as Myanmar supplies about 10% of the world’s rare earths. The conflict in Kachin State has threatened its mine operations as of February 2021.

Other industries include agricultural products, textiles, wood products, building materials, gems, metals, oil, and natural gas. The Myanmar Engineering Society has identified at least 39 sites capable of producing geothermal energy and some of these hydrothermal deposits are located quite close to Yangon, which is an important underutilized resource for electricity production.


Agriculture in Myanmar (also known as Burma) is the country’s main industry, accounting for 60% of GDP and employing about 65% of the working population. Burma was once Asia’s largest rice exporter, and rice remains the country’s most important agricultural product.

Other important crops are pulses, beans, sesame, groundnuts, sugar cane, timber and fish. In addition, cattle are raised as a source of food and labor.

Historically and today, the main method of obtaining arable land is slash-and-burn (also known as “shifting cultivation” or “swiddening”), which consists of setting fire to areas of primary or secondary forest to create fields in which to cultivate. After these fields are used for a while and soil nutrients are depleted, the land is abandoned and allowed to grow freely. Growth begins one to three years after abandonment of the land, and within 10 to 20 years it is again able to host an established secondary forest.

Sometimes this arable land is converted into rice paddies, a common agricultural technique in South and East Asia. In Burma, rice paddies are only occasionally flooded by rivers, while most of the time farmers depend on the monsoon season for the necessary water. The rice paddies have an “impermeable subsoil”, on top of which there is a saturated layer of mud and, finally, about 10 to 15 centimeters of water.

Burmese farmers raise livestock for both food and work. Among them are cows, water buffaloes, goats, sheep, oxen, chickens and pigs. Oxen and water buffalo are used as draught animals throughout the country, while most cattle are raised in the more arid northern regions. Farmers raise goats on pastures for their milk.

Farmers in Myanmar were affected by the outbreak of the H5N1 strain of bird flu in Asia. At first, the Burmese regions of Mandalay and Sagaing were affected, resulting in the culling of several thousand chickens, quails and their eggs. However, starting in 2006, the country’s livestock authorities announced a plan to finance the replenishment of poultry and feed for affected poultry farms.

Fisheries account for a large part of Burma’s food production. It is fished in both salt and fresh water, and it is estimated that there are up to 300 species in Burmese freshwater. Of these, there are several endemic species, such as the Indostromus paradoxus from Lake Indawgyi, in northern Burma. In addition, dried and salted fish is an integral part of the country’s cuisine and the main source of protein in the Burmese diet.

In Burma, there are several types of fishing: coastal and deep-sea. Most of these fish are caught by commercial means, including the use of trawls, purse seines, driftnets and gillnets. A minority continues to use traditional techniques, such as hook and line, throwing net, bag net, trammel gillnet, lifting net and trapping. In 2003, trawling accounted for 40 percent of catches.

In the 1980s, the Burmese government tried to encourage deep-sea fishing, and since then there has been a steady increase in annual catches. Also, in 1989, Thai companies obtained permission to fish in Burma’s coastal waters, using trawlers to catch fish.

Myanmar demography

Its population, of around 60 million inhabitants, is eminently rural, and with one of the lowest life expectancies in the region, fruit among other reasons of the great instability of the country for years, which has also caused a significant exodus to other countries, mainly to the United Kingdom and Australia, among other English-speaking countries in search of better living conditions.

Ethnic groups

Myanmar is an ethnically diverse country. The government recognizes 135 distinct ethnic groups. There are at least 108 different ethnolinguistic groups in Myanmar, consisting mainly of distinct Tibeto-Burman peoples, but with sizable populations of Tai-Kadai, Hmong-Mien, and Austroasiatic (Mon-Khmer) peoples.

It is estimated that the Bamar or Burmese constitute 68% of the population, the Shan 10%, the Kayin 7% and the Rakhine 4%. Overseas Chinese make up about 3% of the population. Ethnic minority groups in Myanmar prefer the term “ethnic nationality” to “ethnic minority”, as the term “minority” fosters their sense of insecurity in the face of what is often described as “Burmanization”, i.e. the proliferation and domination of the dominant Bamar culture over minority cultures.

The Mon, who constitute 2% of the population, are ethnolinguistically related to the Khmers. Overseas Indians are 2%. The rest are Kachin, Chin, Rohingya, Anglo-Indians, Gurkha, Nepalese and other ethnic minorities. This group includes the Anglo-Burmese. The Anglo-Burmese, who once formed a large and influential community, left the country in steady flows from 1958 onwards, mainly to Australia and the United Kingdom. An estimated 52,000 Anglo-Burmese remain in Myanmar. In 2009, 110,000 Burmese refugees lived in refugee camps in Thailand.

There are refugee camps along the borders with India, Bangladesh and Thailand, and several thousand in Malaysia. According to conservative estimates, there are more than 295,800 refugees from Myanmar’s minorities, mostly Rohingya, Karen and Karenni, mainly along the Thai-Myanmar border. There are nine permanent refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmar border, most of which were set up in the mid-1980s. The refugee camps are under the care of the Burmese-Thai Border Consortium (TBBC). Since 2006, more than 55,000 Burmese refugees have been resettled in the United States.

The persecution of Burmese Indians, Burmese Chinese and other ethnic groups following the military rebellion led by General Ne Win in 1962 led to the expulsion or emigration of 300,000 people, who emigrated to escape racial discrimination and the widespread nationalization of private enterprise in 1964. The Anglo-Burmese of this era fled the country or changed their names and mixed with Burmese society at large.

Many Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar. Many refugees made their way to neighboring Islamic-majority Bangladesh, including 200,000 in 1978 as a result of Operation Dragon King in Arakan. 250,000 more left in 1991.

Languages of Burma

Burma is quite an ethnolinguistically diverse country. In its territory converge three great linguistic families of Asia: the Tibeto-Burman family, the Austroasiatic family and the Tai-Kadai family. The main language of the country, the Burmese language, is a Tibeto-Burman language of the Lolo-Burmic group.


Mawlamyaing University of Technology in Mon State
Mawlamyaing University of Technology in Mon State

There are three types of education in the country: public, private and religious, mainly Buddhist. The Ministry of Education (the Ministry of Religious Affairs for monastic schools and the Ministry of Border Affairs for unsafe ethnic minority areas) provides officially free and compulsory five-year education for children aged five to nine. Secondary education, which is subject to a review of core subjects, consists of a four-year “middle school” and a two-year “secondary school”.

At the end of the course, passing the matriculation exam allows access to universities and institutes. The school year starts in June and ends in March. Higher education, whose main centers are in Yangon, Mandalay and Taunggyi, is also mainly the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and includes universities and institutes, equivalent to the French grandes écoles. Access to these institutions is based on the marks obtained in the matriculation examination. The studies are organized according to the Anglo-Saxon system, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate etc. Distance learning has existed since 1992. The French Institute of Burma (IFB), formerly Alliance Française, is located in Yangon.

Most of the universities closed and/or moved to the outskirts in December 1996 for security reasons have reopened. But the school system at all levels remains very poor, due to the country’s socio-economic situation, insufficient funding (1.93% of GDP in 2019), inadequate teacher training and endemic corruption. Schooling improved undeniably between 2010 and 2014, and the number of out-of-school children fell from 649,341 to 284,278, according to UNESCO, but, on the same date, one in five children (1.7 million 000) was still working instead of going to school. Many families cannot afford school supplies and uniforms, while schools have to rely on donations to provide essential equipment, and teachers’ salaries are derisory. According to UNICEF, in 2010 only 28% of children from the poorest families were in school.

The need to reform the education system was underlined by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, who signed the preface to the National Education Strategic Plan (NESP). This ambitious program, developed over three years with the help of foreign donors and advisers and presented at the end of February 2017, covers the period 2016-202195. It envisages far-reaching transformations to reach a level close to that of the education systems of the ASEAN countries: increasing basic education from 11 to 13 years of age, developing, especially early childhood care, modifying curricula and methods to encourage initiative and open-mindedness of pupils, while today “memorization” reigns.  and making vocational education and training effective, opening up skilled jobs in step with the country’s economic progress.


Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon
Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon

89% of the population practices Buddhism (mostly Theravāda). 9% of the population professes Christianity, another 4% Islam, 1% have animistic beliefs; and 2% follow other religions including Mahāyāna Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions of China.

Buddhism in Burma is predominantly of Theravada tradition mixed with local beliefs. According to the 2014 census conducted by the Government under the auspices of the United Nations, it is practiced by almost 88% of the population, especially among the Bamar, Rakhine, Shan, Mon and Chinese. Theravada Buddhism was introduced to Burma by envoys of King Ashoka in the second century BC. Mahayana Buddhism did not appear until ten centuries later, in the regions near the Chinese border, soon followed by Vajrayana.

The three schools coexisted until the reign of King Anawrahta (eleventh century), who opted for Theravada and tried to restore it to its original purity. He wanted, for example, to ban the worship of the Nats, but realizing that the Burmese were not willing to abandon this belief and could therefore move away from Buddhism, he allowed the presence of Nats in the shrines, provided that the preeminence of Buddha was maintained.

The originality of Burmese Buddhism lies precisely in the way it has assimilated popular beliefs about spirits. At present, 85% of the population practices Theravada Buddhism, in which animist, tantric, Hindu and Mahayana influences are still strongly felt. The Shwedagon Pagoda (“Golden Dragon” in Burmese), built between the fifth and tenth centuries, is one of the main temples in Burma.

Christianity is practiced by at least 6% of the population, mainly among ethnic minorities, Chin, Kachin, Menton, Kayin, as well as among Eurasians. 85.9% of the population of Chin State is Christian. About four-fifths of the country’s Christians are from various Protestant groups. The Myanmar Baptist Convention was founded in 1865. In 2017, it reportedly had 5,126 churches and 999,316 members. Catholics arrived in the sixteenth century, apolitical (politically neutral) Jehovah’s Witnesses began their activity in 1914 constitute the rest. In 1548, St. Francis Xavier asked Father Rodriguez for missionaries for Pegu, but nothing is known of the outcome of his request.

In 1603, the mercenary Filipe de Brito e Nicote established in Thanlyin a Portuguese government supported by Goa. The country was in chaos. During this period, the Catholic mission depended on the Portuguese in Burma. King Anaukpetlun, the grandson of Bayinnaung, defeated the Portuguese in 1613 and missionary work was interrupted. During that period, the well-known Burmese crown prince and poet Natshinnaung converted to Catholicism and was baptized by a Goan priest.

In 1699, the Vicar Apostolic of Siam and the Bishop of Meliapur (Portuguese India) had a dispute over jurisdiction over Pegu, and Charles-Thomas Maillard De Tournon, Legatus a latere, decided against the Vicar Apostolic.

The true work of evangelization of Ava and Pegu began under the pontificate of Innocent XIII, who, in 1722, sent to Burma Father Sigismond of Calchi, Barnabite, and Father Vittoni, of the same order. After many trials and tribulations, they succeeded in obtaining permission to freely preach the Gospel of Christ. In 1741, Benedict XIV definitively established the mission, appointing Father Galizia apostolic vicar and putting the Barnabites in charge of the work. The best-known of the Barnabites was Father Sangermano, who worked in Ava and Rangoon from 1783 to 1808; his Description of the Burmese Empire was first published in 1833.

When the Congregation of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary withdrew from the mission, the vicariate came under the control of the Vicar Apostolic of Siam in 1855. At this date, the kingdoms of Ava and Pegu had 11 priests and 5320 Catholics.

There are currently approximately 750,000 Catholics in Burma. The country is divided into sixteen dioceses, three of them archdioceses. Each of the archdioceses is also metropolitan.

Islam, mainly Sunni, is practiced by just over 4% of the population, which contradicts the claims of the Ma Ba Tha, a group of extremist Buddhist monks, one of whom, Ashin Sopaka, claimed that their proportion was 22%. Muslims are divided into Indians, Indo-Burmans, Persians, Arabs, Pantos and Rohingya.

Hinduism is practiced mainly by the Indo-Burmese.

The Muslim and Christian populations suffer religious persecution. The military government revoked citizenship from Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine and ethnic Christian minority populations came under attack. This persecution of civilians is especially noticeable in eastern Burma, where more than 3,000 villages have been destroyed in the past decade.

Since 5 September 2007, when Buddhist monks were beaten by Burmese junta militiamen during a demonstration in Pakokku, 500 kilometers north of Yangon, a protest movement by monks has developed throughout Burma. This movement follows demonstrations organized since 19 August 2007 in Rangoon to protest against the massive increase in fuel and public transport prices. Initiated by members of the opposition National League for Democracy, it is led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

Since 2016, persecution and violence against Rohingya minorities (mostly Muslims) have been on the rise. Hundreds of thousands of people of this ethnicity have fled to Bangladesh.


Burmese culture is a centuries-old blend of Burmese, Chinese, Indian and Thai influences. This is reflected in their language, in the kitchen, and in the music. Art has historically been influenced by Theravada Buddhism as well as literature.

Today, however, Burma’s culture is increasingly Westernized; This is very noticeable in urban areas. Many people, both women and men, wear a sarong called longyi, better known as pa-so in the case of men.


Myanmar’s first film was a documentary about the funeral of Tun Shein, a prominent politician of the 1910s who campaigned for Burmese independence in London. The first Burmese silent film was Myitta Ne Thuya (Love and Liquor) in 1920, which was a great success, despite its poor quality due to the fixed position of the camera and the inadequate props of the film. During the 1920s and 1930s, many Burmese film companies made and produced various films. The first Burmese sound film was produced in 1932 in Bombay, India, with the title Ngwe Pay Lo Ma Ya (Money Can’t Buy It). After World War II, Burmese cinema continued to address political issues. Many of the films produced at the beginning of the Cold War had a strong propaganda component.

In the aftermath of the political events of 1988, the film industry has been increasingly controlled by the government. Movie stars who had participated in political activities were banned from appearing in films. The government dictates strict censorship rules and largely determines who produces the films, as well as who gets the Academy Awards.

Over the years, the film industry has also transitioned to producing many low-budget direct-to-video films. Most films produced today are comedies. In 2008, only 12 films worthy of being considered for an Academy Award were made, although at least 800 VCDs were produced. Myanmar is the subject of a 2007 graphic novel titled Chroniques Birmanes by Quebec author and animator Guy Delisle. The graphic novel was translated into English under the title Burma Chronicles in 2008. In 2009, a documentary about Burmese video journalists titled Burma VJ was released, which was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 2010 Academy Awards. Its world premiere took place on September 12, 2011, at the 36th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival.

Media and Internet

Due to Myanmar’s political climate, there are not many media companies relative to the country’s population. Some are privately owned. All programming must be approved by the censorship board. The Burmese government announced on 20 August 2012 that it would stop censoring the media before publication. Following the announcement, newspapers and other media no longer need the approval of state censors; However, the country’s journalists may still face consequences for what they write and say. In April 2013, international media reports were published to account for the enactment of media liberalization reforms announced in August 2012. For the first time in many decades, privately owned newspapers began to be published in the country.

Internet usage is estimated to be relatively low compared to other countries. The Internet in Myanmar used to be subject to censorship, and authorities viewed emails and blog posts on the Internet until 2012, when the government removed media censorship. During the days of strict censorship, Internet café activity was regulated, and a blogger named Zarganar was sentenced to prison for posting a video of the destruction caused by Cyclone Nargis in 2008; Zarganar was released in October 2011.

In terms of communications infrastructure, Myanmar is the last Asian country in the World Economic Forum’s Network Readiness Index (NRI), an indicator to determine the level of development of information and communication technologies of a country. With 139 countries reported, Myanmar ranked 133rd in the 2016 NRI overall rankings.


Kandawgyi Palace
Kandawgyi Palace

The architecture of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), in Southeast Asia, includes architectural styles that reflect the influence of neighboring and western nations and modernization. Notable buildings in the country include pagodas, Buddhist stupas and temples, British colonial buildings, and modern renovations and structures. Myanmar’s traditional architecture is mainly used for worship, pilgrimage, storage of Buddhist relics, political activism, and tourism.

Much of Myanmar’s architecture is linked to ancient Indian culture and dates back to the country’s earliest known inhabitants. During the Pyu period, cylindrical stupas with four arches were built, often with an hti (umbrella) on top.

The Mon and Pyu were the first two influential groups to migrate to Myanmar and the first adherents.

Indochinese of Theravada Buddhism. Beikthano, one of the earliest pyu centers, contains urban foundations including a monastery and stupas-like structures. These Pyu stupas, the first Indian foundations in Myanmar, were built between 200 BC and 100 AD and were sometimes used for burials. The first stupas, temples and pagodas are topped with htis and finials or needles that symbolize the transcendence of Theravada Buddhism.

By the ninth century, the Bamar people had established a kingdom centered on Bagan. In the eleventh century, King Anawrahta unified the Irrawaddy Valley region and founded the Pagan Empire. Bagan, with more than 10,000 stupas and red brick pagodas from Myanmar, had become a center of Buddhist architecture by the mid-twelfth century. During this period, Pyu-style stupas were transformed into monuments reminiscent of alms bowls or gourd-shaped domes, unfired brick, conical and ascending roofs, Buddha niches, polylobed arches, and ornamental portals influenced by India’s Pala Empire and its monuments. Stucco was widely used in Bagan, especially by the Mon people. Stucco elements of Bagan structures include garlands, flames or sunbeams, peacock tail feathers, and mythical creatures.

In the late 1880s, Burma was part of the British Empire, ushering in a period of colonial architecture. Yangon, now known as Yangon, became a multi-ethnic capital. As large colonial buildings were built throughout the city, social unrest in Burma spawned nationalist demonstrations and anti-colonial protests.

Yangon’s central business district, along the Yangon River, contains many colonial-era buildings. An example is the Ministers’ Building, built in 1902 as a Secretariat building to house the British administration. Other buildings in the center include the Bogyoke Market (former Scott Market) and the Strand Hotel, built in 1896 by Aviet and Tigran Sarkie. Among the most prominent buildings are the Yangon City Hall, built between 1926 and 1936; Customs; the Supreme Court building (built in 1914 and converted into the seat of the Supreme Court in 1962); the 1920 River Transport Authority building, and the former Myanmar River Transport Authority building.

Sport in Myanmar

The chinlone is the traditional sport of Burma, a combination between ball sport and dance, although without opponent.

Football is the most popular sport in Myanmar.

Football was introduced to Myanmar by British colonialists in the 1880s, when explorer James George Scott staged a match between the British and Burmese in the township of Lanmadaw. This sport quickly became very popular throughout the country. So much so that, in the 1920s, the Burmese began to spread the sport throughout East Asia. U Kyaw Din, a Burmese born in 1900, wrote one of the first books on the sport and promoted it so successfully in Japan that, in 2007, he was posthumously inducted into the Japanese Football Hall of Fame.

Reportedly, in September 1926 the first women’s football match was organized to raise funds for a charity.

The Myanmar Football Federation (MFF) is the governing body of football in Myanmar. It was founded in 1947 under the name of the Burmese Football Federation and since then governs men’s football and since 1995 women’s.

The MFF joined FIFA in 1952 and the AFC in 1954.

The top women’s football league in the country is the Myanmar Women’s League. The top flight of men’s football is the Myanmar National League. The second division is called MNL-2

There is currently no women’s cup tournament in Myanmar. The Men’s Cup is named after General Aung San.

Lethwei, or Burmese boxing, is a full-contact combat sport originating in Myanmar in which standing strikes, including headbutting, are hit. Lethwei is considered one of the most brutal martial arts in the world, as it is practiced without gloves and only with duct tape and gauze, while fighters can strike with fists, elbows, knees and feet, and the use of headbutts is also allowed.

Blows to the head, banned in most combat sports, are important weapons in a Lethwei fighter’s arsenal, which has given the Lethwei the name “Art of the Nine Limbs”, which combined with its nature of gloveless combat has made the Lethwei reputed to be one of the bloodiest and most violent martial arts. The vast majority of Lethwei wrestlers come from the Karen ethnic group.

References (sources)