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Burma Country Information

Travel Advice with Country Information from the CIA.

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Burma Map

Introduction

Background

Various ethnic Burman and ethnic minority city-states or kingdoms occupied the present borders through the 19th century, and several minority ethnic groups continue to maintain independent armies and control territory within the country today, in opposition to the central government. Over a period of 62 years (1824-1886), Britain conquered Burma and incorporated all the groups within the country into its Indian Empire. Burma was administered as a province of India until 1937 when it became a separate, self-governing colony; in 1948, following major battles on its territory during World War II, Burma attained independence from the British Commonwealth. Gen. NE WIN dominated the government from 1962 to 1988, first as military ruler, then as self-appointed president, and later as political kingpin. In response to widespread civil unrest, NE WIN resigned in 1988, but within months the military crushed student-led protests and took power. Since independence, successive Burmese governments have fought on-and-off conflicts with armed ethnic groups seeking autonomy in the country’s mountainous border regions.

Multiparty legislative elections in 1990 resulted in the main opposition party - the National League for Democracy (NLD) - winning a landslide victory. Instead of handing over power, the junta placed NLD leader (and 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient) AUNG SAN SUU KYI under house arrest from 1989 to 1995, 2000 to 2002, and from May 2003 to November 2010. In late September 2007, the ruling junta brutally suppressed protests over increased fuel prices led by prodemocracy activists and Buddhist monks, killing an unknown number of people and arresting thousands for participating in the demonstrations - popularly referred to as the Saffron Revolution. In early May 2008, Cyclone Nargis struck Burma, which left over 138,000 dead and tens of thousands injured and homeless. Despite this tragedy, the junta proceeded with its May constitutional referendum, the first vote in Burma since 1990. The 2008 constitution reserves 25% of its seats to the military. Legislative elections held in November 2010, which the NLD boycotted and many in the international community considered flawed, saw the successor ruling junta's mass organization, the Union Solidarity and Development Party garner over 75% of the contested seats.

The national legislature convened in January 2011 and selected former Prime Minister THEIN SEIN as president. Although the vast majority of national-level appointees named by THEIN SEIN were former or current military officers, the government initiated a series of political and economic reforms leading to a substantial opening of the long-isolated country. These reforms included releasing hundreds of political prisoners, signing a nationwide cease-fire with several of the country's ethnic armed groups, pursuing legal reform, and gradually reducing restrictions on freedom of the press, association, and civil society. At least due in part to these reforms, AUNG SAN SUU KYI was elected to the national legislature in April 2012 and became chair of the Committee for Rule of Law and Tranquility. Burma served as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for 2014. In a flawed but largely credible national legislative election in November 2015 featuring more than 90 political parties, the NLD again won a landslide victory. Using its overwhelming majority in both houses of parliament, the NLD elected HTIN KYAW, AUNG SAN SUU KYI’s confidant and long-time NLD supporter, as president. The new legislature created the position of State Counsellor, according AUNG SAN SUU KYI a formal role in the government and making her the de facto head of state. Burma's first credibly elected civilian government after more than five decades of military dictatorship was sworn into office on 30 March 2016. In March 2018, upon HTIN KYAW’s resignation, parliament selected WIN MYINT, another long-time ally of AUNG SAN SUU KYI’s, as president.

Attacks in October 2016 and August 2017 on security forces in northern Rakhine State by members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a Rohingya militant group, resulted in military crackdowns on the Rohingya population that reportedly caused thousands of deaths and human rights abuses. Following the August 2017 violence, over 740,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh as refugees. In November 2017, the US Department of State determined that the August 2017 violence constituted ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas. The UN has called for Burma to allow access to a Fact Finding Mission to investigate reports of human rights violations and abuses and to work with Bangladesh to facilitate repatriation of Rohingya refugees, and in September 2018 the International Criminal Court (ICC) determined it had jurisdiction to investigate reported human rights abuses against Rohingyas. Burma has rejected charges of ethnic cleansing and genocide, and has chosen not to work with the UN Fact Finding Mission or the ICC. In March 2018, President HTIN KYAW announced his voluntary retirement; NLD parliamentarian WIN MYINT was named by the parliament as his successor. In February 2019, the NLD announced it would establish a parliamentary committee to examine options for constitutional reform ahead of the November 2020 national elections.

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: 676,578 sq km

land:653,508 sq km

water:23,070 sq km

country comparison to the world: 42

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than Texas

Land boundaries

total: 6,522 km

border countries (5):Bangladesh 271 km, China 2129 km, India 1468 km, Laos 238 km, Thailand 2416 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

highest point: Gamlang Razi 5,870 m

lowest point:Andaman Sea/Bay of Bengal 0 m

mean elevation:702 m

Natural resources

petroleum, timber, tin, antimony, zinc, copper, tungsten, lead, coal, marble, limestone, precious stones, natural gas, hydropower, arable land

Land use

agricultural land: 19.2% (2018 est.)

arable land: 16.5% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 2.2% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 0.5% (2018 est.)

forest:48.2% (2018 est.)

other:32.6% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

22,950 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources

1,167,800,000,000 cubic meters (2017 est.)

Population distribution

population concentrated along coastal areas and in general proximity to the shores of the Irrawaddy River; the extreme north is relatively underpopulated

Natural hazards

destructive earthquakes and cyclones; flooding and landslides common during rainy season (June to September); periodic droughts

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 2006, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified:none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

strategic location near major Indian Ocean shipping lanes; the north-south flowing Irrawaddy River is the country's largest and most important commercial waterway

People and Society

Population

57,069,099 (July 2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 25

Nationality

noun: Burmese (singular and plural)

adjective:Burmese

Ethnic groups

Burman (Bamar) 68%, Shan 9%, Karen 7%, Rakhine 4%, Chinese 3%, Indian 2%, Mon 2%, other 5%

note: government recognizes 135 indigenous ethnic groups

Languages

Burmese (official)

note: minority ethnic groups use their own languages

Religions

Buddhist 87.9%, Christian 6.2%, Muslim 4.3%, Animist 0.8%, Hindu 0.5%, other 0.2%, none 0.1% (2014 est.)

note: religion estimate is based on the 2014 national census, including an estimate for the non-enumerated population of Rakhine State, which is assumed to mainly affiliate with the Islamic faith; as of December 2019, Muslims probably make up less than 3% of Burma's total population due to the large outmigration of the Rohingya population since 2017

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Union of Burma

conventional short form:Burma

local long form:Pyidaungzu Thammada Myanma Naingngandaw (translated as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar)

local short form:Myanma Naingngandaw

former:Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma, Union of Myanmar

etymology:both "Burma" and "Myanmar" derive from the name of the majority Burman (Bamar) ethnic group

note: since 1989 the military authorities in Burma and the current parliamentary government have promoted the name Myanmar as a conventional name for their state; the US Government has not officially adopted the name

Government type

parliamentary republic

Capital

name: Rangoon (Yangon); note - Nay Pyi Taw is the administrative capital

geographic coordinates:16 48 N, 96 09 E

time difference:UTC+6.5 (11.5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: Rangoon (Yangon) is a compound of "yan" signifying "enemies" and "koun" meaning "to run out of" and so denoting "End of Strife"; Nay Pyi Taw translates as: "Great City of the Sun" or "Abode of Kings"

Administrative divisions

7 regions (taing-myar, singular - taing), 7 states (pyi ne-myar, singular - pyi ne), 1 union territory

regions: Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy), Bago, Magway, Mandalay, Sagaing, Tanintharyi, Yangon (Rangoon)

states: Chin, Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Mon, Rakhine, Shan

union territory: Nay Pyi Taw

Independence

4 January 1948 (from the UK)

National holiday

Independence Day, 4 January (1948); Union Day, 12 February (1947)

Constitution

history: previous 1947, 1974 (suspended until 2008); latest drafted 9 April 2008, approved by referendum 29 May 2008

amendments:proposals require at least 20% approval by the Assembly of the Union membership; passage of amendments to sections of the constitution on basic principles, government structure, branches of government, state emergencies, and amendment procedures requires 75% approval by the Assembly and approval in a referendum by absolute majority of registered voters; passage of amendments to other sections requires only 75% Assembly approval; amended 2015

Legal system

mixed legal system of English common law (as introduced in codifications designed for colonial India) and customary law

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only:both parents must be citizens of Burma

dual citizenship recognized:no

residency requirement for naturalization:none

note: an applicant for naturalization must be the child or spouse of a citizen

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador AUNG LYNN (since 16 September 2016)

chancery:2300 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone:[1] (202) 332-3344

FAX:[1] (202) 332-4351

consulate(s) general:Los Angeles, New York

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Thomas J. VAJDA (since 19 January 2021)

telephone:[95] (1) 536-509, 535-756, 538-038

embassy:110 University Avenue, Kamayut Township, Rangoon

mailing address:Box B, APO AP 96546

FAX:[95] (1) 511-069

Flag description

design consists of three equal horizontal stripes of yellow (top), green, and red; centered on the green band is a large white five-pointed star that partially overlaps onto the adjacent colored stripes; the design revives the triband colors used by Burma from 1943-45, during the Japanese occupation

National symbol(s)

chinthe (mythical lion); national colors: yellow, green, red, white

National anthem

name: "Kaba Ma Kyei" (Till the End of the World, Myanmar)

lyrics/music:SAYA TIN

note: adopted 1948; Burma is among a handful of non-European nations that have anthems rooted in indigenous traditions; the beginning portion of the anthem is a traditional Burmese anthem before transitioning into a Western-style orchestrated work

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 544,283

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:less than 1 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 91

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 63,877,526

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:113.84 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 25

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: use to claim to be one of the last underdeveloped telecom markets in Asia; the mobile market has recently experienced rapid growth, in 2014 foreign competition was allowed to compete in the market and now they have moved from 1 operator to 3; low compared to other nations in the region, but expanding nationally; moving past fixed broadband to mobile device access for Internet services; rollout of 4G to eventually 5G networks (2020)

domestic:fixed-line is 1 per 100, while mobile-cellular is 114 per 100 and shows great potential for the future (2019)

international:country code - 95; landing points for the SeaMeWe-3, SeaMeWe-5, AAE-1 and Singapore-Myanmar optical telecommunications submarine cable that provides links to Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, Australia and Europe; satellite earth stations - 2, Intelsat (Indian Ocean) and ShinSat (2019)

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

Broadcast media

government controls all domestic broadcast media; 2 state-controlled TV stations with 1 of the stations controlled by the armed forces; 2 pay-TV stations are joint state-private ventures; access to satellite TV is limited; 1 state-controlled domestic radio station and 9 FM stations that are joint state-private ventures; transmissions of several international broadcasters are available in parts of Burma; the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Asia (RFA), BBC Burmese service, the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), and Radio Australia use shortwave to broadcast in Burma; VOA, RFA, and DVB produce daily TV news programs that are transmitted by satellite to audiences in Burma; in March 2017, the government granted licenses to 5 private broadcasters, allowing them digital free-to-air TV channels to be operated in partnership with government-owned Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV) and will rely upon MRTV’s transmission infrastructure (2019)

Internet country code

.mm

Internet users

total: 17,064,985

percent of population:30.68% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 39

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 129,050

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:less than 1 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 118

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 8 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers:42

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers:3,407,788 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers:4.74 million mt-km (2018)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

XY

Airports

total: 64 (2013)

country comparison to the world: 76

Airports - with paved runways

total: 36 (2017)

over 3,047 m:12 (2017)

2,438 to 3,047 m:11 (2017)

1,524 to 2,437 m:12 (2017)

under 914 m:1 (2017)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 28 (2013)

over 3,047 m:1 (2013)

1,524 to 2,437 m:4 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m:10 (2013)

under 914 m:13 (2013)

Heliports

11 (2013)

Pipelines

3739 km gas, 1321 km oil (2017)

Railways

total: 5,031 km (2008)

narrow gauge:5,031 km 1.000-m gauge (2008)

country comparison to the world: 40

Roadways

total: 157,000 km (2013)

paved:34,700 km (2013)

unpaved:122,300 km (2013)

country comparison to the world: 33

Waterways

12,800 km (2011)

country comparison to the world: 10

Merchant marine

total: 93

by type:bulk carrier 2, general cargo 37, oil tanker 5, other 49 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 95

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Mawlamyine (Moulmein), Sittwe

river port(s):Rangoon (Yangon) (Rangoon River)

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Burmese Defense Service (Tatmadaw): Army (Tatmadaw Kyi), Navy (Tatmadaw Yay), Air Force (Tatmadaw Lay); People’s Militia; Border Guard Forces; Ministry of Home Affairs: People's Police Force (2021)

note: the Burmese military controls the People's Militia, Border Guard Forces, and the Ministry of Home Affairs

Military expenditures

2.7% of GDP (2019 est.)

2.9% of GDP (2018 est.)

3.2% of GDP (2017 est.)

3.7% of GDP (2016 est.)

4.1% of GDP (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 31

Military and security service personnel strengths

estimates of the Burmese Defense Service (Tatmadaw) vary widely; approximately 400,000 total active troops (est. 360,000 Army; 20,000 Navy; 20,000 Air Force) (2021)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the Burmese military inventory is comprised mostly of older Chinese and Russian/Soviet-era equipment with a smaller mix of more modern acquisitions; since 2010, China and Russia are the leading suppliers of military hardware; Burma has a limited defense industry, including a growing shipbuilding capability (2020)

Military service age and obligation

18-35 years of age (men) and 18-27 years of age (women) for voluntary military service; no conscription (a 2010 law reintroducing conscription has not yet entered into force); 2-year service obligation; male (ages 18-45) and female (ages 18-35) professionals (including doctors, engineers, mechanics) serve up to 3 years; service terms may be stretched to 5 years in an officially declared emergency (2019)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

over half of Burma's population consists of diverse ethnic groups who have substantial numbers of kin in neighboring countries; Bangladesh struggles to accommodate 912,000 Rohingya, Burmese Muslim minority from Rakhine State, living as refugees in Cox's Bazar; Burmese border authorities are constructing a 200 km (124 mi) wire fence designed to deter illegal cross-border transit and tensions from the military build-up along border with Bangladesh in 2010; Bangladesh referred its maritime boundary claims with Burma and India to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea; Burmese forces attempting to dig in to the largely autonomous Shan State to rout local militias tied to the drug trade, prompts local residents to periodically flee into neighboring Yunnan Province in China; fencing along the India-Burma international border at Manipur's Moreh town is in progress to check illegal drug trafficking and movement of militants; over 100,000 mostly Karen refugees and asylum seekers fleeing civil strife, political upheaval, and economic stagnation in Burma were living in remote camps in Thailand near the border as of May 2017

Illicit drugs

world's second largest producer of illicit opium with an estimated poppy cultivation totaling 41,000 hectares in 2017, a decrease of 25% from the last survey in 2015; Shan state is the source of 91% of Burma's poppy cultivation; 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; Burma is one of the world’s largest producers of amphetamine-type stimulants, which are trafficked throughout the region, as far afield as Australia and New Zealand

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