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Union of Myanmar
Pyi-daung-zu Myan-mar Naing-ngan-taw
Flag Coat of arms
AnthemKaba Ma Kyei
Location of  Burma  (green)

in ASEAN  (white)  —  [Legend]

Capital Naypyidaw
19°45′N 96°6′E / 19.75°N 96.1°E / 19.75; 96.1
Largest city Yangon (Rangoon)
Official language(s) Burmese
Recognised regional languages Jingpho, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Mon, Rakhine, Shan
Official scripts Burmese script
Demonym Burmese/Myanmarese
Government Military junta (de facto Military Dictatorship)
 -  Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council Sr. Gen. Than Shwe
 -  Vice Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council Vice-Sr. Gen. Maung Aye
 -  Prime Minister Gen. Thein Sein
 -  Secretary-1 of the State Peace and Development Council Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo
 -  Bagan 1044 
 -  Independence 4 January 1948 (from United Kingdom) 
 -  Current constitution May 2008 
 -  Total 676,578 km2 (40th)
261,227 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 3.06
 -  2009 estimate 50,020,000[1] (24th)
 -  1983 census 33,234,000 
 -  Density 73.9/km2 (119th)
191.5/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $67.963 billion[2] 
 -  Per capita $1,156[2] 
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $26.205 billion[2] 
 -  Per capita $445[2] 
HDI (2007) 0.586[3] (medium) (138th)
Currency kyat (K) (mmK)
Time zone MST (UTC+6:30)
Drives on the right[4]
Internet TLD .mm
Calling code 95
1 Some governments recognise Rangoon as the national capital.[5]
2 Estimates for this country take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected.
Burma, officially the Union of Myanmar, is the largest country by geographical area in Indochina (mainland Southeast Asia). The country is bordered by China on the north-east, Laos on the east, Thailand on the south-east, Bangladesh on the west, India on the north-west and the Bay of Bengal to the south-west with the Andaman Sea defining its southern periphery. One-third of Burma's total perimeter, 1,930 kilometres (1,199 mi), forms an uninterrupted coastline.
The country's culture, heavily influenced by neighbours, is based on Theravada Buddhism intertwined with local elements. Burma's diverse population has played a major role in defining its politics, history and demographics in modern times, and the country continues to struggle to mend its ethnic tensions. The military has dominated government since General Ne Win led a coup in 1962 that toppled the civilian government of U Nu. Burma remains under the tight control of the military-led State Peace and Development Council.



The name "Burma" is derived from the Burmese word "Bamar" (ဗမာ), which in turn is the colloquial form of Myanmar (မြန်မာ) (or Mranma in old Burmese), both of which historically referred to the majority Burmans (or the Bamar). Depending on the register used the pronunciation would be "Bama" or "Myanmah". The name "Burma" has been in use in English since the time of British colonial rule.
In 1989, the military government officially changed the English translations of many colonial-era names, including the name of the country to "Myanmar". This prompted one scholar to coin the term "Myanmarification" to refer to the top-down programme of political and cultural reform in the context of which the renaming was done. The renaming remains a contested issue.[6]
While some of the name changes are closer to their actual Burmese pronunciations, many opposition groups and countries continue to oppose their use in English because they recognise neither the legitimacy of the ruling military government nor its authority to rename the country or towns in English.[7] Various non-Burman ethnic groups choose to not recognise the name because the term Myanmar has historically been used as a label for the majority ethnic group rather than for the country.[8][9][10]
Various world entities have chosen to accept or reject the name change. The United Nations, of which Burma (under the name Myanmar) is a member, endorsed the name change five days after its announcement by the junta.[11] However, governments of many countries including Australia, Canada, France,[12], the United Kingdom and the United States[13] still refer to the country as "Burma", with varying levels of recognition of the validity of the name change itself. .Others, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the governments of Germany, India, Japan,[14] Russia[15] and the People's Republic of China recognise "Myanmar" as the official name.^ India Calling Card USA Calling Card UK Calling Card Philippines Calling Card Africa Calling Card Pakistan Calling Card Japan Calling Card Nigeria Calling Card Indonesia Calling Card China Calling Card .
  • Myanmar (Burma) Phone Cards | Myanmar (Burma) Calling Cards - Cheap Myanmar (Burma) Phone Card to Myanmar (Burma) 17 September 2009 1:36 UTC [Source type: News]

^ Myanmar (Burma) Neighboring Countries: Laos 2.5¢ » Thailand 0.3¢ » Bangladesh 2.0¢ » India 1.0¢ » Bhutan 9.1¢ » China 0.3¢ Using this phone card to call Myanmar (Burma) will save you money!
  • Myanmar (Burma) Phone Cards | Myanmar (Burma) Calling Cards - Cheap Myanmar (Burma) Phone Card to Myanmar (Burma) 17 September 2009 1:36 UTC [Source type: News]

Media usage is also mixed. In spite of the usage by the US government, some American news outlets including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The International Herald Tribune and CNN, and international news agencies the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse have adopted the name "Myanmar". The name "Burma" is still widely used by other news outlets, including Voice of America, The Washington Post, the BBC, ITN and most British newspapers, The Times of India and Time. Other sources often use combined terms such as "Burma, also known as Myanmar." Some media outlets that use "Myanmar" refer to "Burma" as the nation's "colonial name."[16][17][18]
Confusion among English speakers on how to pronounce "Myanmar" gives rise to pronunciations such as /ˈmjɑːnmɑr/, /maɪənˈmɑr/, /ˈmiːənmɑr/ and /miːˈænmɑr/. The BBC recommends /mjænˈmɑ or /mjænˈmɑr.[19][20][21]


Burma, which has a total area of 678,500 square kilometres (262,000 sq mi), is the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia, and the 40th-largest in the world.
It is bordered to the northwest by Chittagong Division of Bangladesh and Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh of India to the northwest. It shares its longest borders with Tibet to the north and Yunnan of China to the northeast for a total of 2,185 kilometres (1,358 mi). It is bounded by Laos and Thailand to the southeast. Burma has 1,930 kilometres (1,200 mi) of contiguous coastline along the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea to the southwest and the south, which forms one quarter of its total perimeter.[22]
The Irrawaddy Delta, which is approximately 50,400 km2 (19,500 sq mi) in area, is largely used for rice cultivation.[23]
In the north, the Hengduan Shan mountains form the border with China. Hkakabo Razi, located in Kachin State, at an elevation of 5,881 metres (19,295 ft), is the highest point in Burma.[24] Three mountain ranges, namely the Rakhine Yoma, the Bago Yoma, and the Shan Plateau exist within Burma, all of which run north-to-south from the Himalayas.[25] The mountain chains divide Burma's three river systems, which are the Ayeyarwady, Salween (Thanlwin), and the Sittaung rivers.[23] The Ayeyarwady River, Burma's longest river, nearly 2,170 kilometres (1,350 mi) long, flows into the Gulf of Martaban. Fertile plains exist in the valleys between the mountain chains.[25] The majority of Burma's population lives in the Ayeyarwady valley, which is situated between the Rakhine Yoma and the Shan Plateau.
Limestone landscape of Mon State.
Much of the country lies between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator. It lies in the monsoon region of Asia, with its coastal regions receiving over 5,000 mm (200 in) of rain annually. Annual rainfall in the delta region is approximately 2,500 mm (100 in), while average annual rainfall in the Dry Zone, which is located in central Burma, is less than 1,000 mm (40 in). Northern regions of the country are the coolest, with average temperatures of 21 °C (70 °F). Coastal and delta regions have mean temperatures of 32 °C (90 °F).[23]
The country's slow economic growth has contributed to the preservation of much of its environment and ecosystems. Forests, including dense tropical growth and valuable teak in lower Burma, cover over 49% of the country. Other trees indigenous to the region include acacia, bamboo, ironwood, mangrove, michelia champaca coconut and betel palm and rubber has been introduced. In the highlands of the north, oak, pine and various rhododendrons cover much of the land.[26] The lands along the coast support all varieties of tropical fruits. In the Dry Zone, vegetation is sparse and stunted.
Typical jungle animals, particularly tigers and leopards, occur sparsely in Burma. In upper Burma, there are rhinoceros, wild buffalo, wild boars, deer, antelope, and elephants, which are also tamed or bred in captivity for use as work animals, particularly in the lumber industry. Smaller mammals are also numerous, ranging from gibbons and monkeys to flying foxes and tapirs. The abundance of birds is notable with over 800 species, including parrots, peafowl, pheasants, crows, herons, and paddybirds. Among reptile species there are crocodiles, geckos, cobras, Burmese pythons, and turtles. Hundreds of species of freshwater fish are wide-ranging, plentiful and are very important food sources.[27]


After the First Burmese War, the Ava kingdom ceded the provinces of Manipur, Tenassarim, and Arakan to the British.[28] Rangoon and southern Burma were incorporated into British India in 1853. All of Burma came directly or indirectly under British India in 1886 after the Third Burmese War and the fall of Mandalay.[28] Burma was administered as a province of British India until 1937 when it became a separate, self-governing colony. The country became independent from the United Kingdom on 4 January 1948, as the "Union of Burma".
It became the "Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma" on 4 January 1974, before reverting to the "Union of Burma" on 23 September 1988. On 18 June 1989, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) adopted the name "Union of Myanmar" for English transliteration. This controversial name change in English, while accepted in the UN and in many countries, is not recognised by opposition groups and by nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States.[29]

Early history

Archaeological evidence suggests that civilisation in the region which now forms Burma is quite old. The oldest archaeological find was of cave paintings and a Holocene assemblage in a hunter-gatherer cave site in Padah Lin in Shan State.[30][31]
The Mon people are thought to be the earliest group to migrate into the lower Ayeyarwady valley, and by the mid-900s BC were dominant in southern Burma.[32]
The Tibeto-Burman speaking Pyu arrived later in the 1st century BC, and established several city states – of which Sri Ksetra was the most powerful – in central Ayeyarwady valley. The Mon and Pyu kingdoms were an active overland trade route between India and China. The Pyu kingdoms entered a period of rapid decline in early 9th century AD when the powerful kingdom of Nanzhao (in present-day Yunnan) invaded the Ayeyarwady valley several times.

Bagan (1044–1287)

Tibeto-Burman speaking Burmans, or the Bamar, began migrating to the Ayeyarwady valley from present-day Yunnan's Nanzhao kingdom starting in 7th century AD. Filling the power gap left by the Pyu, the Burmans established a small kingdom centred in Bagan in 849. But it was not until the reign of King Anawrahta (1044–1077) that Bagan's influence expanded throughout much of present-day Burma.
After Anawrahta's capture of the Mon capital of Thaton in 1057, the Burmans adopted Theravada Buddhism from the Mons. The Burmese script was created, based on the Mon script, during the reign of King Kyanzittha (1084–1112). Prosperous from trade, Bagan kings built many magnificent temples and pagodas throughout the country – many of which can still be seen today.
Bagan's power slowly waned in 13th century. Kublai Khan's Mongol forces invaded northern Burma starting in 1277, and sacked Bagan city itself in 1287. Bagan's over two century reign of Ayeyarwady valley and its periphery was over.
Pagodas and temples continue to exist in present-day Bagan, the capital of the Bagan Kingdom.

Small kingdoms (1287–1531)

The Mongols could not stay for long in the searing Ayeyarwady valley. But the Tai-Shan people from Yunnan who came down with the Mongols fanned out to the Ayeyarwady valley, Shan states, Laos, Siam and Assam, and became powerful players in Southeast Asia.
The Bagan empire was irreparably broken up into several small kingdoms:
This period was characterised by constant warfare between Ava and Bago, and to a lesser extent, Ava and the Shans. Ava briefly controlled Rakhine (1379–1430) and came close to defeating Bago a few times, but could never quite reassemble the lost empire. Nevertheless, Burmese culture entered a golden age. Hanthawady Bago prospered. Bago's Queen Shin Saw Bu (1453–1472) raised the gilded Shwedagon Pagoda to its present height.
By the late-15th century, constant warfare had left Ava greatly weakened. Its peripheral areas became either independent or autonomous. In 1486, King Minkyinyo (1486–1531) of Taungoo broke away from Ava and established a small independent kingdom. In 1527, Mohnyin (Shan: Mong Yang) Shans finally captured Ava, upsetting the delicate power balance that had existed for nearly two centuries. The Shans would rule Upper Burma until 1555.

Taungoo (1531–1752)

Reinforced by fleeing Burmans from Ava, the minor Burman kingdom of Taungoo under its young, ambitious king Tabinshwehti (1531–1551) defeated the more powerful Mon kingdom at Bago, reunifying all of Lower Burma by 1540. Tabinshwehti's successor King Bayinnaung (1551–1581) would go on to conquer Manipur (1556), Shan states (1557), Chiang Mai (1557), Ayutthaya (1564, 1569) and Lan Xang (1574), bringing most of western South East Asia under his rule. Bayinnaung died in 1581, preparing to invade Rakhine, a maritime power controlling the entire coastline west of Rakhine Yoma, up to Chittagong province in Bengal.
Bayinnaung's massive empire unravelled soon after his death in 1581. Ayutthaya Siamese had driven out the Burmese by 1593 and went on to take Tanintharyi. In 1599, Rakhine forces aided by the Portuguese mercenaries sacked the kingdom's capital Bago. Chief Portuguese mercenary Filipe de Brito e Nicote (Burmese: Nga Zinga) promptly rebelled against his Rakhine masters and established Portuguese rule in Thanlyin (Syriam), then the most important seaport in Burma. The country was in chaos.
The Burmese under King Anaukpetlun (1605–1628) regrouped and defeated the Portuguese in 1611. Anaukpetlun reestablished a smaller reconstituted kingdom based in Ava covering Upper Burma, Lower Burma and Shan states (but without Rakhine or Taninthayi). After the reign of King Thalun (1629–1648), who rebuilt the war-torn country, the kingdom experienced a slow and steady decline for the next 100 years. The Mons successfully rebelled starting in 1740 with French help and Siamese encouragement, broke away Lower Burma by 1747, and finally put an end to the House of Taungoo in 1752 when they took Ava.

Konbaung (1752–1885)

A British 1825 lithograph of Shwedagon Pagoda reveals early British occupation in Burma during the First Anglo-Burmese War.
King Alaungpaya (1752–1760), established the Konbaung Dynasty in Shwebo in 1752.[33] He founded Yangon in 1755. By his death in 1760, Alaungpaya had reunified the country. In 1767, King Hsinbyushin (1763–1777) sacked Ayutthya. The Qing Dynasty of China invaded four times from 1765 to 1769 without success. The Chinese invasions allowed the new Siamese kingdom based in Bangkok to repel the Burmese out of Siam by the late 1770s.
King Bodawpaya (1782–1819) failed repeatedly to reconquer Siam in 1780s and 1790s. Bodawpaya did manage to capture the western kingdom of Rakhine, which had been largely independent since the fall of Bagan, in 1784. Bodawpaya also formally annexed Manipur, a rebellion-prone protectorate, in 1813.
King Bagyidaw's (1819–1837) general Maha Bandula put down a rebellion in Manipur in 1819 and captured then independent kingdom of Assam in 1819 (again in 1821). The new conquests brought the Burmese adjacent to the British India. The British defeated the Burmese in the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824–1826). Burma had to cede Assam, Manipur, Rakhine (Arakan) and Tanintharyi (Tenessarim).
In 1852, the British attacked a much weakened Burma during a Burmese palace power struggle. After the Second Anglo-Burmese War, which lasted 3 months, the British had captured the remaining coastal provinces: Ayeyarwady, Yangon and Bago, naming the territories as Lower Burma.
King Mindon (1853–1878) founded Mandalay in 1859 and made it his capital. He skilfully navigated the growing threats posed by the competing interests of Britain and France. In the process, Mindon had to renounce Kayah (Karenni) states in 1875. His successor, King Thibaw (1878–1885), was largely ineffectual. In 1885, the British, alarmed by the French conquest of neighbouring Laos, occupied Upper Burma. The Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885) lasted a mere one month insofar as capturing the capital Mandalay was concerned. The Burmese royal family was exiled to Ratnagiri, India. British forces spent at least another four years pacifying the country – not only in the Burmese heartland but also in the Shan, Chin and Kachin hill areas. By some accounts, minor insurrections did not end until 1896.

Colonial era (1886–1948)

The British began conquering Burma in 1824. For a period of sixty-two years, Burma was under British control. By 1886, Britain had incorporated it into the British Raj. Burma was administered as a province of British India until 1937 when it became a separate, self-governing colony. To stimulate trade and facilitate changes, the British brought in Indians and Chinese, who quickly displaced the Burmese in urban areas. To this day Rangoon and Mandalay have large ethnic Indian populations. Railways and schools were built, as well as a large number of prisons, including the infamous Insein Prison, then as now used for political prisoners. Burmese resentment was strong and was vented in violent riots that paralysed Yangon on occasion all the way until the 1930s.[34]
Much of the discontent was caused by a perceived disrespect for Burmese culture and traditions, for example, what the British termed the Shoe Question: the colonisers' refusal to remove their shoes upon entering Buddhist temples or other holy places. In October 1919, Eindawya Pagoda in Mandalay was the scene of violence when tempers flared after scandalised Buddhist monks attempted to physically expel a group of shoe-wearing British visitors. The leader of the monks was later sentenced to life imprisonment for attempted murder. Such incidents inspired the Burmese resistance to use Buddhism as a rallying point for their cause. Buddhist monks became the vanguards of the independence movement, and many died while protesting. One monk-turned-martyr was U Wisara, who died in prison after a 166-day hunger strike to protest a rule that forbade him from wearing his Buddhist robes while imprisoned.[35]
Eric Blair (George Orwell), served in the Indian Imperial Police in Burma for five years; his experience yielded the novel Burmese Days (1934) and the essays "A Hanging" (1931) and "Shooting an Elephant" (1936). An earlier writer with the same convoluted career path was Saki. During the colonial period, intermarriage between European male settlers and Burmese women, as well as between Anglo-Indians (who arrived with the British) and Burmese caused the birth of the Anglo-Burmese community. This influential community was to dominate the country during colonial rule and through the mid 1960's.
The Colonial Flag (1937–1948)
On 1 April 1937, Burma became a separately administered territory, independent of the Indian administration. The vote for keeping Burma in India, or as a separate colony "khwe-yay-twe-yay" divided the populace, and laid the ground work for the insurgencies to come after independence. In the 1940s, the Thirty Comrades, commanded by Aung San, founded the Burma Independence Army. The Thirty Comrades received training in Japan.[36]
During World War II, Burma became a major front-line in the Southeast Asian Theatre. The British administration collapsed ahead of the advancing Japanese troops, jails and asylums were opened and Rangoon was deserted except for the many Anglo-Burmese and Indians who remained at their posts. A stream of some 300,000 refugees fled across the jungles into India; known as 'The Trek', all but 30,000 of those 300,000 arrived in India. Initially the Japanese-led Burma Campaign succeeded and the British were expelled from most of Burma, but the British counter-attacked using primarily troops of the British Indian Army. By July 1945, the British had retaken the country.
Although many Burmese fought initially for the Japanese, some Burmese, mostly from the ethnic minorities, also served in the British Burma Army. In 1943, the Chin Levies and Kachin Levies were formed in the border districts of Burma still under British administration. The Burma Rifles fought as part of the Chindits under General Orde Wingate from 1943 to 1945. Later in the war, the Americans created American-Kachin Rangers who also fought against the Japanese. Many others fought with the British Special Operations Executive. The Burma Independence Army under the command of Aung San and the Arakan National Army fought with the Japanese from 1942 – 1944, but switched allegiance to the Allied side in 1945.
In 1947, Aung San became Deputy Chairman of the Executive Council of Burma, a transitional government. But in July 1947, political rivals assassinated Aung San and several cabinet members.[36]

Democratic republic (1948–1962)

On 4 January 1948, the nation became an independent republic, named the Union of Burma, with Sao Shwe Thaik as its first President and U Nu as its first Prime Minister. Unlike most other former British colonies and overseas territories, it did not become a member of the Commonwealth. A bicameral parliament was formed, consisting of a Chamber of Deputies and a Chamber of Nationalities,[37] and multi-party elections were held in 1951–1952, 1956 and 1960.
The geographical area Burma encompasses today can be traced to the Panglong Agreement, which combined Burma Proper, which consisted of Lower Burma and Upper Burma, and the Frontier Areas, which had been administered separately by the British.[9]
In 1961, U Thant, then the Union of Burma's Permanent Representative to the United Nations and former Secretary to the Prime Minister, was elected Secretary-General of the United Nations; he was the first non-Westerner to head any international organisation and would serve as UN Secretary-General for ten years.[38] Among the Burmese to work at the UN when he was Secretary-General was a young Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize.

Rule by military junta (1962 – present)

Democratic rule ended in 1962 when General Ne Win led a military coup d'état. He ruled for nearly 26 years and pursued policies under the rubric of the Burmese Way to Socialism. Between 1962 and 1974, Burma was ruled by a revolutionary council headed by the general, and almost all aspects of society (business, media, production) were nationalised or brought under government control (including the Boy Scouts).[28] In an effort to consolidate power, Ne Win and many other top generals resigned from the military and took civilian posts and, from 1974, instituted elections in a one party system.
Between 1974 and 1988, Burma was effectively ruled by Ne Win through the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP),[39] which from 1964 until 1988 was the sole political party. During this period, Burma became one of the world's most impoverished countries. The Burmese Way to Socialism[40][41] combined Soviet-style nationalisation and central planning with the governmental implementation of superstitious beliefs.[41] Criticism was scathing, such as an article published in a February 1974 issue of Newsweek magazine describing the Burmese Way to Socialism as 'an amalgam of Buddhist and Marxist illogic'.[42]
Almost from the beginning, there were sporadic protests against the military rule, many of which were organised by students, and these were almost always violently suppressed by the government. On 7 July 1962, the government broke up demonstrations at Rangoon University, killing 15 students.[28] In 1974, the military violently suppressed anti-government protests at the funeral of U Thant. Student protests in 1975, 1976 and 1977 were quickly suppressed by overwhelming force.[39]
Ne Win's rise to power in 1962 and his relentless persecution of "resident aliens" (immigrant groups not recognised as citizens of the Union of Burma) led to an exodus of some 300,000 Burmese Indians.[43] They migrated to escape racial discrimination and wholesale nationalisation of private enterprise a few years later in 1964.[44]
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled Burma and many refugees inundated neighbouring Bangladesh including 200,000 in 1978 as a result of the King Dragon operation in Arakan.[45]
In 1988, unrest over economic mismanagement and political oppression by the government led to widespread pro-democracy demonstrations throughout the country known as the 8888 Uprising. Security forces killed thousands of demonstrators, and General Saw Maung staged a coup d'état and formed the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). In 1989, SLORC declared martial law after widespread protests. The military government finalised plans for People's Assembly elections on 31 May 1989.[46] SLORC changed the country's official English name from the "Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma" to the "Union of Myanmar" in 1989.
In May 1990, the government held free elections for the first time in almost 30 years. The National League for Democracy (NLD), the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, won 392 out of a total 489 seats, but the election results were annulled by SLORC, which refused to step down.[47] Led by Than Shwe since 1992, the military regime has made cease-fire agreements with most ethnic guerilla groups. In 1992, SLORC unveiled plans to create a new constitution through the National Convention, which began 9 January 1993. In 1997, the State Law and Order Restoration Council was renamed the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).
On 23 June 1997, Burma was admitted into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The National Convention continues to convene and adjourn. Many major political parties, particularly the NLD, have been absent or excluded, and little progress has been made.[citation needed] On 27 March 2006, the military junta, which had moved the national capital from Yangon to a site near Pyinmana in November 2005, officially named the new capital Naypyidaw, meaning "city of the kings".[48] The CIA World Factbook, however, still considers the capital to be Rangoon.[49]
In November 2006, the International Labour Organization (ILO) announced it will be seeking – at the International Criminal Court[50] – "to prosecute members of the ruling Myanmar junta for crimes against humanity" over the continuous forced labour of its citizens by the military. According to the ILO, an estimated 800,000 people are subject to forced labour in Myanmar.[51]
The 2007 Burmese anti-government protests were a series of anti-government protests that started in Burma on 15 August 2007. The immediate cause of the protests was mainly the unannounced decision of the ruling junta, the State Peace and Development Council, to remove fuel subsidies which caused the price of diesel and petrol to suddenly rise as much as double, and the price of compressed natural gas for buses to increase fivefold in less than a week.[52] The protest demonstrations were at first dealt with quickly and harshly by the junta, with dozens of protesters arrested and detained. Starting 18 September, the protests were led by thousands of Buddhist monks, and those protests were allowed to proceed until a renewed government crackdown on 26 September.[53] During the crack-down, there were rumours of disagreement within the Burmese armed forces, but none were confirmed. Some news reports referred to the protests as the Saffron Revolution.[54][55]
Protesters in Yangon with a banner that reads non-violence: national movement in Burmese, in the background is Shwedagon Pagoda
During the 2007 anti-government protests a significant role was played by Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the opposition to the Burmese military government. Aung San Suu Kyi had been under strict house arrest since 1989. In September 2007, hundreds of monks paid respects to her at the gate of her home, which was the first time in four years that people were able to see her in public. She was then given a second public appearance on 29 September, when she was allowed to leave house arrest briefly and meet with a UN envoy trying to persuade the junta to ease its crackdown against a pro-democracy uprising, to which the Myanmar government reluctantly agreed.
On 7 February 2008, SPDC announced that a referendum for the Constitution would be held and Elections by 2010. The Burmese constitutional referendum, 2008 was held on 10 May and promised a "discipline-flourishing democracy" for the country in the future.
World governments remain divided on how to deal with the military junta. Calls for further sanctions by Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States and France are opposed by neighbouring countries; in particular, China has stated its belief that "sanctions or pressure will not help to solve the issue".[56] There is some disagreement over whether sanctions are the most effective approach to dealing with the junta, such as from a Cato Institute study and from prominent Burmese such as Thant Myint-U (a former senior UN official and Cambridge historian), who have opined that sanctions may have caused more harm than good to the Burmese people.[57][58]
In 1950, the Karen became the largest of 20 minority groups participating in an insurgency against the government of Burma. The conflict continues as of 2009.[59] In 2004, the BBC, citing aid agencies, estimates that up to 200,000 Karen have been driven from their homes during decades of war, with 120,000 more refugees from Burma, mostly Karen, living in refugee camps on the Thai side of the border. Many accuse the military government of Burma of ethnic cleansing.[60] As a result of the ongoing war in minority group areas, more than two million people have fled Burma to Thailand.[61]
On 3 May 2008, Cyclone Nargis devastated the country when winds of up to 215 km/h (135 mph)[62] touched land in the densely populated, rice-farming delta of the Irrawaddy Division.[63] It was the worst natural disaster in Burmese history. Reports estimated that more than 200,000 people were dead or missing, and damage totaled to 10 billion dollars (USD). The World Food Programme reported, "Some villages have been almost totally eradicated and vast rice-growing areas are wiped out."[64] The United Nations projects that as many as 1 million were left homeless; and the World Health Organization "has received reports of malaria outbreaks in the worst-affected area."[65] Yet in the critical days following this disaster, Burma's isolationist regime hindered recovery efforts by delaying the entry of United Nations planes delivering medicine, food, and other supplies. The government's action was described by the United Nations as "unprecedented."[66]
On 4 May 2009, an American, John Yettaw, allegedly swam across the lake uninvited to the house of Aung San Suu Kyi and remained there for two nights, resulting in the arrest of Yettaw and Suu Kyi, who are currently being held in Insein prison near Yangon.[67] As a result, Suu Kyi is being charged with violating the terms of her house arrest, and faces a sentence of up to five years.[68] Suu Kyi's current house arrest was due to end on 27 May 2009.[69] On 11 August 2009, Suu Kyi was sentenced to an additional 18 months of house arrest following conviction on charges of violating the terms of her previous incarceration.[70] British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated, "This is a purely political sentence designed to prevent her from taking part in the regime’s planned elections next year."
In early August 2009, a conflict known as the Kokang incident broke out in Shan State in northern Burma. For several weeks, junta troops fought against ethnic minorities including the Han Chinese,[71] Va, and Kachin.[72][73] On from August 8–12, the first days of the conflict, as many as 10,000 Burmese civilians fled to Yunnan province in neighbouring China.[72][73][74]

List of historical capitals

Government and politics

Burma is governed by a military junta with the current head of state being Senior General Than Shwe, who holds the posts of "Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council" and "Commander in Chief of the Defence Services" as well as the Minister of Defence. General Khin Nyunt was prime minister until 19 October 2004, when he was replaced by General Soe Win, after the purge of Military Intelligence sections within the Myanmar armed forces. The current Prime Minister is General Thein Sein, who took over upon the death of General Soe Win on 2 October 2007. 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.[75]
Elected delegates in the 1990 People's Assembly election formed the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), a government-in-exile since December 1990, with the mission of restoring democracy.[76] Dr. Sein Win, a first cousin of Aung San Suu Kyi, has held the position of prime minister of the NCGUB since its inception. The NCGUB has been outlawed by the military government.
Major political parties in the country are the National League for Democracy and the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, although their activities are heavily regulated and suppressed by the military government. Many other parties, often representing ethnic minorities, exist.[citation needed] The military government allows little room for political organisations and has outlawed many political parties and underground student organisations. The military supported the National Unity Party in the 1990 elections and, more recently, an organisation named the Union Solidarity and Development Association.[77]
Government propaganda poster states: "Tatmadaw and the people, cooperate and crush all those harming the union."
In 1988, the army violently repressed protests against economic mismanagement and political oppression. On 8 August 1988, the military opened fire on demonstrators in what is known as 8888 Uprising and imposed martial law. However, the 1988 protests paved way for the 1990 People's Assembly elections. The election results were subsequently annulled by Senior General Saw Maung's government. The National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won over 60% of the vote and over 80% of parliamentary seats in the 1990 election, the first held in 30 years. The military-backed National Unity Party won less than 2% of the seats.
Aung San Suu Kyi has earned international recognition as an activist for the return of democratic rule, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. The ruling regime has repeatedly placed her under house arrest. Despite a direct appeal by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to Senior General Than Shwe and pressure by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the military junta extended Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest another year on 27 May 2006 under the 1975 State Protection Act, which grants the government the right to detain any persons on the grounds of protecting peace and stability in the country.[78][79]
The junta faces increasing pressure from the United States and the United Kingdom. Burma's situation was referred to the UN Security Council for the first time in December 2005 for an informal consultation. In September 2006, ten of the United Nations Security Council's 15 members voted to place Myanmar on the council's formal agenda.[80] On Independence Day, 4 January 2007, the government released 40 political prisoners, under a general amnesty, in which 2,831 prisoners were released.[81] On 8 January 2007, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the national government to free all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi.[82] Three days later, on 11 January, five additional prisoners were released from prison.[81]
ASEAN has also stated its frustration with the Union of Myanmar's government. It has formed the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus to address the lack of democratisation in the country.[83] Dramatic change in the country's political situation remains unlikely, due to support from major regional powers such as India, Russia, and, in particular, China.[84][85]
In the annual ASEAN Summit in January 2007, held in Cebu, Philippines, member countries failed to find common ground on the issue of Burma's lack of political reform.[86] During the summit, ASEAN foreign ministers asked Burma to make greater progress on its roadmap toward democracy and national reconciliation.[87] Some member countries contend that Burma's human rights issues are the country's own domestic affairs, while others contend that its poor human rights record is an international issue.[87]
Burma's army-drafted constitution was overwhelmingly approved (by 92.4% of the 22 million voters with alleged voter turnout of 99%) on 10 May in the first phase of a two-stage referendum amid Cyclone Nargis. It was the first national vote since the 1990 election. Multi-party elections in 2010 would end 5 decades of military rule, as the new charter gives the military an automatic 25% of seats in parliament. NLD spokesman Nyan Win, inter alia, criticised the referendum: "This referendum was full of cheating and fraud across the country; In some villages, authorities and polling station officials ticked the ballots themselves and did not let the voters do anything."[88] The constitution would bar Aung San Suu Kyi, from public office. 5 million citizens will vote 24 May in Yangon and the Irrawaddy delta, worst hit by Cyclone Nargis.[89] Burma has a high level of corruption, and ranks 178th out of 180 countries worldwide in the Corruption Perceptions Index.[90]


Human rights in Burma are a long-standing concern for the international community and human rights organisations. There is general consensus that the military regime in Burma is one of the world's most repressive and abusive regimes.
Several human rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have reported on human rights abuses by the military government.[91][92] They have claimed that there is no independent judiciary in Burma. The military government restricts Internet access through software-based censorship that limits the material citizens can access on-line.[93][94] Forced labour, human trafficking, and child labour are common.[95] The military is also notorious for rampant use of sexual violence as an instrument of control, including systematic rapes and taking of sex slaves as porters for the military. A strong women's pro-democracy movement has formed in exile, largely along the Thai border and in Chiang Mai. There is a growing international movement to defend women's human rights issues.[96]
The Freedom in the World 2004 report by Freedom House notes that "The junta rules by decree, controls the judiciary, suppresses all basic rights, and commits human rights abuses with impunity. Military officers hold all cabinet positions, and active or retired officers hold all top posts in all ministries. Official corruption is reportedly rampant both at the higher and local levels."[97]
Brad Adams, director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, in a 2004 address described the human rights situation in the country as appalling: "Burma is the textbook example of a police state. Government informants and spies are omnipresent. Average Burmese people are afraid to speak to foreigners except in most superficial of manners for fear of being hauled in later for questioning or worse. There is no freedom of speech, assembly or association."[98]
Evidence has been gathered suggesting that the Burmese regime has marked certain ethnic minorities such as the Karen for extermination or 'Burmisation'.[99] This, however, has received little attention from the international community since it has been more subtle and indirect than the mass killings in places like Rwanda.[100]
In April 2007, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified financial and other restrictions that the military government places on international humanitarian assistance. The GAO report, entitled "Assistance Programs Constrained in Burma", outlined the specific efforts of the government to hinder the humanitarian work of international organisations, including restrictions on the free movement of international staff within the country. The report notes that the regime has tightened its control over assistance work since former Prime Minister Khin Nyunt was purged in October 2004. The military junta passed guidelines in February 2006, which formalised these restrictive policies. According to the report, the guidelines require that programs run by humanitarian groups "enhance and safeguard the national interest" and that international organisations coordinate with state agents and select their Burmese staff from government-prepared lists of individuals. United Nations officials have declared these restrictions unacceptable.
Burma's government spends the least percentage of its GDP on health care of any country in the world, and international donor organisations give less to Burma, per capita, than any other country except India.[101] According to the report named "Preventable Fate", published by Doctors without Borders, 25,000 Burmese AIDS patients died in 2007, deaths that could largely have been prevented by Anti Retroviral Therapy drugs and proper treatment.[101]

Divisions and states

The 14 states and divisions of Burma.
The country is divided into seven states (pyine) and seven divisions (yin).[102] Divisions (တိုငး္) are predominantly Bamar. States (Pyinè.svg), in essence, are divisions which are home to particular ethnic minorities. The administrative divisions are further subdivided into districts, which are further subdivided into townships, wards, and villages.
Below are the number of districts, townships, cities/towns, wards, village Groups and villages in each divisions and states of Burma as of 31 December 2001:[103]
No. State/Division Districts Townships Cities/Towns Wards Village groups Villages
1 Kachin State 3 18 20 116 606 2630
2 Kayah State 2 7 7 29 79 624
3 Kayin State 3 7 10 46 376 2092
4 Chin State 2 9 9 29 475 1355
5 Sagaing Division 8 37 37 171 1769 6095
6 Taninthayi Division 3 10 10 63 265 1255
7 Bago Division 4 28 33 246 1424 6498
8 Magway Division 5 25 26 160 1543 4774
9 Mandalay Division 7 31 29 259 1611 5472
10 Mon State 2 10 11 69 381 1199
11 Rakhine State 4 17 17 120 1041 3871
12 Yangon Division 4 45 20 685 634 2119
13 Shan State 11 54 54 336 1626 15513
14 Ayeyawady Division 6 26 29 219 1912 11651
Total 63 324 312 2548 13742 65148

Foreign relations and military

The country's foreign relations, particularly with Western nations, have been strained. The United States has placed a ban on new investments by U.S. firms, an import ban, and an arms embargo on the Union of Myanmar, as well as frozen military assets in the United States because of the military regime's ongoing human rights abuses, the ongoing detention of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi, and refusal to honour the election results of the 1990 People's Assembly election.[104] Similarly, the European Union has placed sanctions on Burma, including an arms embargo, cessation of trade preferences, and suspension of all aid with the exception of humanitarian aid.[105] U.S. and European government sanctions against the military government, coupled with boycotts and other direct pressure on corporations by supporters of the democracy movement, have resulted in the withdrawal from the country of most U.S. and many European companies. However, several Western companies remain due to loopholes in the sanctions[citation needed].
Despite Western isolation, Asian corporations have generally remained willing to continue investing in the country and to initiate new investments, particularly in natural resource extraction. The country has close relations with neighbouring India and China with several Indian and Chinese companies operating in the country. There remains active debate as to the extent to which the American-led sanctions have had adverse effects on the civilian population or on the military rulers.[106][107] Burma has also received extensive military aid from India and China in the past.[108] According to some estimates, Burma has received more than US$200 million in military aid from India.[109] Under India's Look East policy, fields of cooperation between India and Burma include remote sensing,[110] oil and gas exploration,[111] information technology,[112] hydro power[113] and construction of ports and buildings.[114] In 2008, India suspended military aid to Burma over the issue of human rights abuses by the ruling junta, although it has preserved extensive commercial ties which provide the regime with much needed revenue.[115]
The country's armed forces are known as the Tatmadaw, which numbers 488,000. The Tatmadaw comprises the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force. The country ranked twelfth in the world for its number of active troops in service.[22] The military is very influential in the country, with top cabinet and ministry posts held by military officers. Official figures for military spending are not available. Estimates vary widely because of uncertain exchange rates, but military spending is very high.[116] The country imports most of its weapons from Russia, Ukraine, China and India.
The country is building a research nuclear reactor near May Myo (Pyin Oo Lwin) with help from Russia. It is one of the signatories of the nuclear non-proliferation pact since 1992 and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) since 1957. The military junta had informed the IAEA in September 2000 of its intention to construct the reactor. The research reactor outbuilding frame was built by ELE steel industries limited of Yangon and water from Anisakhan/BE water fall will be used for the reactor cavity cooling system.
ASEAN will not defend the country in any international forum following the military regime's refusal to restore democracy. In April 2007, the Malaysian Foreign Ministry parliamentary secretary Ahmad Shabery Cheek said Malaysia and other ASEAN members had decided not to defend Burma if the country's issue was raised for discussion at any international conference. "Now Myanmar has to defend itself if it is bombarded in any international forum," he said when winding up a debate at committee stage for the Foreign Ministry. He was replying to queries from opposition leader Lim Kit Siang on the next course of action to be taken by Malaysia and ASEAN with the military junta. Lim had said Malaysia must play a proactive role in pursuing regional initiatives to bring about a change in Burma and support efforts to bring the situation in Burma to the UN Security Council's attention.[117] In November 2008, Burma's political situation with neighbouring Bangladesh became tense as they began searching for natural gas in a disputed block of the Bay of Bengal.[118]
Until 2005, the United Nations General Assembly annually adopted a detailed resolution about the situation in Burma by consensus.[119][119][120][121][122] But in 2006 a divided United Nations General Assembly voted through a resolution that strongly called upon the government of Burma to end its systematic violations of human rights.[123] In January 2007, Russia and China vetoed a draft resolution before the United Nations Security Council[124] calling on the government of Myanmar to respect human rights and begin a democratic transition. South Africa also voted against the resolution.[125]
The country is a corner of the Golden Triangle (Southeast Asia) of opium production. In 1996 the United States Embassy in Rangoon released a "Country Commercial Guide", which states "Exports of opiates alone appear to be worth about as much as all legal exports." It goes on to say that investments in infrastructure and hotels are coming from major opiate-growing and opiate-exporting organisations and from those with close ties to these organisations.[126] A four-year investigation concluded that Burma's national company Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) was "the main channel for laundering the revenues of heroin produced and exported under the control of the Burmese army." The main player in the country's drug market is the United Wa State Army, ethnic fighters who control areas along the country's eastern border with Thailand, part of the infamous Golden Triangle. The Wa army, an ally of Burma's ruling military junta, was once the militant arm of the Beijing-backed Burmese Communist Party. Burma has been a significant cog in the transnational drug trade since World War II.[127][128] The number of hectares used to grow the crops increased 29% in 2007. A United Nations report cites corruption, poverty and a lack of government control as causes for the jump.[129]


The Sakura Tower in Yangon is virtually vacant due to a lack of major foreign investment.
The country is one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia, suffering from decades of stagnation, mismanagement and isolation. Burma's GDP grows at an average rate of 2.9% annually – the lowest rate of economic growth in the Greater Mekong Subregion.[22]
Under British administration, Burma was the wealthiest country in South-East Asia. It had been the world's largest exporter of rice. During British administration, Burma supplied oil through the Burmah Oil Company. Burma also had a wealth of natural and labour resources. It produced 75% of the world's teak and had a highly literate population.[7] The country was believed to be on the fast track to development.[7]
After a parliamentary government was formed in 1948, Prime Minister U Nu disastrously attempted to make Burma a welfare state and adopted central planning. Rice exports fell by two thirds and mineral exports by over 96%. Plans were partly financed by printing money, which led to inflation.[130] The 1962 coup d'état was followed by an economic scheme called the Burmese Way to Socialism, a plan to nationalise all industries, with the exception of agriculture. The catastrophic program turned Burma into one of the world's most impoverished countries.[40][41] Burma's admittance to Least Developed Country status by the UN in 1987 highlighted its economic bankruptcy.[131]
After 1988, the regime retreated from totalitarian rule. It permitted modest expansion of the private sector, allowed some foreign investment, and received needed foreign exchange.[132] The economy is still rated as the least free in Asia (tied with North Korea).[133] All fundamental market institutions are suppressed.[133][134] Private enterprises are often co-owned or indirectly owned by state. The corruption watchdog organisation Transparency International in its 2007 Corruption Perceptions Index released on 26 September 2007 ranked Burma the most corrupt country in the world, tied with Somalia.[135]
The national currency is Kyat. Burma has a dual exchange rate system similar to Cuba.[136] The market rate was around two hundred times below the government-set rate in 2006.[134] Inflation averaged 30.1% between 2005 and 2007.[133] Inflation is a serious problem for the economy. In April 2007, the National League for Democracy organised a two-day workshop on the economy. The workshop concluded that skyrocketing inflation was impeding economic growth. "Basic commodity prices have increased from 30 to 60 percent since the military regime promoted a salary increase for government workers in April 2006," said Soe Win, the moderator of the workshop. "Inflation is also correlated with corruption." Myint Thein, an NLD spokesperson, added: "Inflation is the critical source of the current economic crisis."[137]
In recent years, both China and India have attempted to strengthen ties with the government for economic benefit. Many nations, including the United States and Canada, and the European Union, have imposed investment and trade sanctions on Burma. The United States has banned all imports from Burma.[134] Foreign investment comes primarily from People's Republic of China, Singapore, South Korea, India, and Thailand.[138]
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 by weight. Through collaboration with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), 52 modern rice varieties were released in the country between 1966 and 1997, helping increase national rice production to 14 million tons in 1987 and to 19 million tons in 1996. By 1988, modern varieties were planted on half of the country's ricelands, including 98 percent of the irrigated areas.[139]
The lack of an educated workforce skilled in modern technology contributes to the growing problems of the economy.[140]
Today, the country lacks adequate infrastructure. Goods travel primarily across the Thai border, where most illegal drugs are exported and along the Ayeyarwady River. Railways are old and rudimentary, with few repairs since their construction in the late nineteenth century.[141] Highways are normally unpaved, except in the major cities.[141] Energy shortages are common throughout the country including in Yangon. Burma 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.[142] Other industries include agricultural goods, textiles, wood products, construction materials, gems, metals, oil and natural gas.
The Union of 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 the country, whose red stones are prized for their purity and hue. Thailand buys the majority of the country's gems. Burma's "Valley of Rubies", the mountainous Mogok area, 200 km (125 miles) north of Mandalay, is noted for its rare pigeon's blood rubies and blue sapphires.[143] Many U.S. and European jewellery companies, including Bulgari, Tiffany, and Cartier, refuse to import these stones based on reports of deplorable working conditions in the mines. Human Rights Watch has encouraged a complete ban on the purchase of Burmese gems based on these reports and because nearly all profits go to the ruling junta, as the majority of mining activity in the country is government-run.[144]
Since 1992, the government has encouraged tourism in the country. However, fewer than 750,000 tourists enter the country annually.[145] Aung San Suu Kyi has requested that international tourists not visit Burma. The junta's forced labour programmes were focused around tourist destinations which have been heavily criticised for their human rights records. Burma’s Minister of Hotels and Tourism Maj-Gen Saw Lwin has stated that the government receives a significant percentage of the income of private sector tourism services.[146] Much of the country is completely off-limits to tourists, and the military very tightly controls interactions between foreigners and the people of Burma. They are not to discuss politics 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 foreigners and ordinary Burmese people.[147]
The M9 gas field in Burma is expected to go online in 2012.[148]

Units of measure

Burma is one of three countries that still predominately uses a non-metric system of measure. Aside from a few imperial units, the common units of measure are unique to Burma.


A block of flats in down-town Yangon, facing Bogyoke Market. Much of Yangon's urban population resides in densely populated flats.
Burma has a population of about 56 million.[149] Current population figures are rough estimates because the last partial census, conducted by the Ministry of Home and Religious Affairs under the control of the military junta, was taken in 1983.[150] No trustworthy nationwide census has been taken in Burma since 1931. There are over 600,000 registered migrant workers from Burma in Thailand, and millions more work illegally. Burmese migrant workers account for 80% of Thailand's migrant workers.[151] Burma has a population density of 75 inhabitants per square kilometre (194/sq mi), one of the lowest in Southeast Asia. Refugee camps exist along Indian, Bangladeshi and Thai borders while several thousand are in Malaysia. Conservative estimates state that there are over 295,800 refugees from Burma, with the majority being Rohingya, Kayin, and Karenni.[152]
A girl from the Padaung minority, one of the many ethnic groups that make up Burma's population.
Burma is home to four major linguistic families: Sino-Tibetan, Kradai, Austro-Asiatic, and Indo-European.[153] Sino-Tibetan languages are most widely spoken. They include Burmese, Karen, Kachin, Chin, and Chinese. The primary Kradai language is Shan. Mon, Palaung, and Wa are the major Austroasiatic languages spoken in Burma. The two major Indo-European languages are Pali, the liturgical language of Theravada Buddhism, and English.[154]
According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, Burma's official literacy rate as of 2000 was 89.9%.[155] Historically, Burma has had high literacy rates. To qualify for least developed country status by the UN in order to receive debt relief, Burma lowered its official literacy rate from 78.6% to 18.7% in 1987.[156]
Burma is ethnically diverse. The government recognises 135 distinct ethnic groups. While it is extremely difficult to verify this statement, there are at least 108 different ethnolinguistic groups in Burma, consisting mainly of distinct Tibeto-Burman peoples, but with sizeable populations of Daic, Hmong-Mien, and Austroasiatic (Mon-Khmer) peoples.[157] The Bamar form an estimated 68% of the population.[158] 10% of the population are Shan.[158] The Kayin make up 7% of the population.[158] The Rakhine people constitute 4% of the population. Overseas Chinese form approximately 3% of the population.[158][159]
Mon, who form 2% of the population, are ethno-linguistically related to the Khmer.[158] Overseas Indians comprise 2%.[158] The remainder are Kachin, Chin, Anglo-Indians and other ethnic minorities. Included in this group are the Anglo-Burmese. Once forming a large and influential community, the Anglo-Burmese left the country in steady streams from 1958 onwards, principally to Australia and the U.K.. Today, it is estimated that only 52,000 Anglo-Burmese remain in the country. There are currently 110,000 Myanmarian refugees in Thai border camps.[160]
89% of the country's population are Buddhist, according to a report on abc World News Tonight in May 2008.


An ear-piercing ceremony at the Mahamuni Pagoda in Mandalay is one of the many coming-of-age ceremonies in Burmese culture.
A diverse range of indigenous cultures exist in Burma, the majority culture is primarily Buddhist and Bamar. Bamar culture has been influenced by the cultures of neighbouring countries. This is manifested in its language, cuisine, music, dance and theatre. The arts, particularly literature, have historically been influenced by the local form of Theravada Buddhism. Considered the national epic of Burma, the Yama Zatdaw, an adaptation of Ramayana, has been influenced greatly by Thai, Mon, and Indian versions of the play.[161] Buddhism is practised along with nat worship which involves elaborate rituals to propitiate one from a pantheon of 37 nats.[162][163]
Mohinga, rice noodles in fish soup, is widely considered to be Burma's national dish.
In a traditional village, the monastery is the centre of cultural life. Monks are venerated and supported by the lay people. A novitiation ceremony called shinbyu is the most important coming of age events for a boy when he enters the monastery for a short period of time.[164] All boys of Buddhist family need to be a novice (beginner for Buddhism) before the age of twenty and to be a monk after the age of twenty. It is compulsory for all boys of Buddhism. The duration can be as little as one week. Girls have ear-piercing ceremonies (Nathwin.gif) at the same time.[164] Burmese culture is most evident in villages where local festivals are held throughout the year, the most important being the pagoda festival.[165][166] Many villages have a guardian nat, and superstition and taboos are commonplace.
British colonial rule also introduced Western elements of culture to Burma. Burma's educational system is modelled after that of the United Kingdom. Colonial architectural influences are most evident in major cities such as Yangon.[167] Many ethnic minorities, particularly the Karen in the southeast, and the Kachin and Chin (people) who populate the north and north-east, practice Christianity.[168] According to CIA World Factbook, the Burman population is 68%, and the Ethnic groups comprise of 32%. However, the exiled leaders and organisations claims that Ethnic population is 40% which is implicitly contrasted with CIA report (official U.S report).
Members of the Buddhist monkhood are venerated throughout Burma, which is one of the most predominantly Theravada Buddhist countries in the world.


Burmese, the mother tongue of the Bamar and official language of Burma, is related to Tibetan and to the Chinese languages.[154] It is written in a script consisting of circular and semi-circular letters, which were adapted from the Mon script, which in turn was developed from a southern Indian script in the 700s. The earliest known inscriptions in the Burmese script date from the 1000s. It is also used to write Pali, the sacred language of Theravada Buddhism, as well as several ethnic minority languages, including Shan, several Karen dialects, and Kayah (Karenni), with the addition of specialised characters and diacritics for each language.[169] The Burmese language incorporates widespread usage of honorifics and is age-oriented.[165] Burmese society has traditionally stressed the importance of education. In villages, secular schooling often takes place in monasteries. Secondary and tertiary education take place at government schools.


Many religions are practised in Burma. Religious edifices and orders have been in existence for many years. Festivals can be held on a grand scale. The Christian and Muslim populations do, however, face religious persecution and it is hard, if not impossible, for non-Buddhists to join the army or get government jobs, the main route to success in the country.[170] Such persecution and targeting of civilians is particularly notable in Eastern Burma, where over 3000 villages have been destroyed in the past ten years.[171][172][173] More than 200,000 Rohingya Muslims have settled in Bangladesh, to escape persecution, over the past 20 years.[174]
89% of the population embraces Buddhism (mostly Theravada). Other religions are practiced largely without obstruction, with the notable exception of some ethnic minorities such as the Muslim Rohingya people, who have continued to have their citizenship status denied and therefore do not have access to education, and Christians in Chin State.[175] Four percent of the population practices Christianity; 4 percent, Islam; 1 percent, traditional animistic beliefs; and 2 percent follow other religions, including Mahayana Buddhism, Hinduism, Chinese religions and the Bahá'í religion.[176][177][178] However, according to a U.S. State Department’s 2006 international religious freedom report, official statistics underestimate the non-Buddhist population which could be as high as 30%. Muslim leaders estimated that approximately 20 percent of the population was Muslim. A tiny Jewish community in Rangoon had a synagogue but no resident rabbi to conduct services.[179]


The educational system of Burma is operated by the government Ministry of Education. Universities and professional institutes from upper Burma and lower Burma are run by two separate entities, the Department of Higher Education of Upper Burma and the Department of Higher Education of Lower Burma. Headquarters are based in Yangon and Mandalay respectively. The education system is based on the United Kingdom's system, due to nearly a century of British and Christian presences in Burma. Nearly all schools are government-operated, but there has been a recent increase in privately funded English language schools. Schooling is compulsory until the end of elementary school, probably about 9 years old, while the compulsory schooling age is 15 or 16 at international level.
There are 101 universities, 12 institutes, 9 degree colleges and 24 colleges in Burma, a total of 146 higher education institutions.[180]
There are 10 Technical Training Schools, 23 nursing training schools, 1 sport academy and 20 midwifery schools.
There are 2047 Basic Education High Schools, 2605 Basic Education Middle Schools, 29944 Basic Education Primary Schools and 5952 Post Primary Schools. 1692 multimedia classrooms exist within this system.
There are three international schools which are acknowledged by WASC and College Board – The International School Yangon (ISY), Yangon International School (YIS) and Yangon International Educare Center (YIEC) in Yangon.


Due to Burma's political climate, there are not many media companies in relation to the country's population, although a certain number exists. Some are privately owned, but all programming must meet with the approval of the censorship board.

Depiction in popular media

The situation in Burma has figured in several motion pictures, such as Beyond Rangoon, starring Patricia Arquette and Rambo IV, starring Sylvester Stallone. Burma is also featured in the hit show Seinfeld. In 2009, a documentary about Burmese videojournalists called Burma VJ was released.[181] This film has been nominated for a 2010 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.[182]

See also


  1. ^ Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division (2009) (PDF). World Population Prospects, Table A.1. 2008 revision. United Nations. Retrieved 12 March 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Burma (Myanmar)". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 1 October 2009. 
  3. ^ "Human Development Report 2009. Human development index trends: Table G" (PDF). The United Nations. Retrieved 5 October 2009. 
  4. ^ Road infrastructure is still for driving on the left.
  5. ^
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External links

General information

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Asia : Southeast Asia : Myanmar
Quick Facts
Capital Naypyidaw
Government Military dictatorship
Currency kyat (MMK)
Area total: 678,500 km2
land: 657,740 km2
water: 20,760 km2
Population 42,909,464 (July 2006 estimate)
Language Burmese (official), English, Shan dialects, Kayin, Mon, Chinese dialects (Hokkien, Cantonese), Hindi, Tamil
Religion Buddhist 89%, Christian 4% (Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic 1%), Muslim 4%, animist 1%, other 2% (mostly Hindu)
Electricity 220V/50Hz (American and/or Central Europe plug)
Calling Code +95
Internet TLD .mm
Time Zone UTC+6:30
Myanmar[1] (ြန်မာပြည်), or Burma, officially the Union of Myanmar (ပြည်ထောင်စုမြန်မာနိုင်ငံတော်‌) is a country in Southeast Asia. It lies on the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea coast with Bangladesh and India to the west, China to the north, and Laos and Thailand to the east.



Like most of Southeast Asia's countries, Myanmar's people and history is a glorious mishmash of settlers and invaders from all fronts. 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 Burma 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, Burma was a major battleground as the Allies fought the Japanese for dominance over Asia. The Burma Road was built to get supplies to China. The Thailand-Burma railroad (the so-called "Death Railway") from Kanchanaburi in Thailand over the River Kwai to Burma was built by the Japanese using forced labour — Allied prisoners-of-war, indentured Thai labourers, and Burmese people. They had to work in appalling conditions and a great number of them died (estimated at 80,000) during construction of the railway. Large parts of Western Burma, particularly the hilly areas bordering India and the city of Mandalay were severely damaged during the war. Independence from the Commonwealth 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, which she has endured for 14 of the last 20 years.
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 price controls after decades of failure under the "Burmese Way to Socialism," but had to reinstate subsidized prices on staples in the face of food riots, upon which the democracy movement grafted its agenda. The government called out troops and the rioters were defiant until the monks intervened: standing between both sides, they told everyone to go home and they did. The riots caused overseas development assistance to cease and the government subsequently nullified the results of the 1990 legislative elections.
In response to the government's attack in May 2003 on Aung San Suu Kyi and her convoy, the USA imposed new economic sanctions against Myanmar, including bans on imports of products from Myanmar and on provision of financial services by US citizens.
The summer of 2007 was marked by demonstrations against the military government which were again brutally suppressed. The demonstrations started in August, apparently in an uncoordinated manner, as a protest against a stiff hike in the price of gasoline, but morphed into a more serious challenge to the government after three monks were beaten at a protest march in the town of Pakokku. The monks demanded an apology but none was forthcoming and soon processions of monks with begging bowls held upside down filled many cities (including Sittwe, Mandalay, and Yangon). Yangon, particularly the area around Sule Pagoda in the downtown area, became the center of these protests. While the monks marched, and many ordinary citizens came out in support of the monks, the world watched as pictures, videos, and blogs flooded the Internet. However, the government soon suppressed the protests by firing on crowds, arresting monks and closing monasteries, and temporarily shut down Internet communications with the rest of the world. This led the USA, Australia, Canada and the European Union to impose additional sanctions, some targeting the families and finances of the military leaders. Dialogue between the UN and the military government has stalled.
Despite international condemnation, Aung San Suu Kyi is presently imprisoned in Rangoon's Insein prison and being tried on charges of breaching the terms of her most recent 6-year period of house arrest (she was arrested in late May 2009, just days before expiry of her house arrest).


Generally, Myanmar is considered to have 3 seasons. The hot season is usually from March-April, and temperatures would then cool off during the rainly season from May-October. The peak tourism season is the cool season from November-February. Temperatures can climb as high as 36°C in Yangon in the hot season while in the cool season, noontime temperatures are usually a more bearable 32°C, with night temperatures falling to around 19°C. Mandalay is slightly cooler in the cool season, with temperatures falling as low as 13°C, while temperatures in the hot season can go as high as 37°C. Generally, Lower Myanmar, the area around Yangon, receives more rainfall than the drier Upper Myanmar (around Mandalay).
In the highlands such as Inle Lake and Pyin U Lwin, winter temperatures can fall below 10°C at night, while daytime temperatures tend to be very pleasant. Even in the summer, temperatures rarely climb above 32°C. Near the Indian border in Kachin State, there are mountains which are permanently snow capped throughout the year.
  • The River of Lost Footsteps by Thant Myint-U. Easily the most accessible history of Myanmar available. Read it before you go and you will marvel at how the once great and rich cities (like Martaban, Syriam, and Mrauk-U) have been transformed into the dingy and smoky villages of today. (ISBN 0374163421)
Map of Myanmar with regions colour coded
Map of Myanmar with regions colour coded
Irrawaddy (Yangon Division, Ayeyarwady Division, Bago Division)
the lowlands of the Irrawaddy Delta and the largest city and former capital
Central Myanmar (Mandalay Division, Magwe Division)
Mandalay, historical and archaeological sites and cool hill towns
Western Myanmar (Chin State, Rakhine State)
remote mountainous regions and some lovely beaches on the Bay of Bengal
Northeastern Myanmar (Kachin State, Kayah State, Shan State, Sagaing Division)
a huge, fractious region including the infamous Golden Triangle, the southern reaches of the Himalayas and a bewildering number of ethnic groups
Southeastern Myanmar (Kayin State, Mon State, Tanintharyi Division)
the southern coastal stretch bordering Thailand with a vast number of offshore islands
  • Bago (formerly Pegu) - historic city near Yangon full of wonderful Buddhist sights
  • Kawthaung - beach town in the far south which is as much like Thailand as Myanmar gets
  • Mandalay - former capital of the Konbaung Dynasty built around the Mandalay Royal Palace
  • Mawlamyine (Moulmein) - capital of Mon State and the third largest city
  • Pyin U Lwin (Maymo) - cool town which was a wonderful old British colonial hill station
  • Taunggyi - capital of Shan State in the heart of the Golden Triangle
  • Twante - a delta town that is famous for pottery
  • Yangon (formerly Rangoon) - the commercial capital, known for its pagodas and colonial architecture
  • Bagan - an archaeological zone with thousands of pagodas near the banks of the Ayeyarwady River
  • Inle Lake - a large shallow lake good for beautiful boat trips, visiting floating villages inhabited by the Intha people, hiking, and also a source of excellent silk
  • Kengtung - between Mong La (on the border with China) and Tachileik (on the border with Thailand) in the Golden Triangle, known for the Ann (black teeth people) and Akha tribes and trekking
  • Kyaiktiyo - a gold-gilded rock sitting atop a cliff and a major pilgrimage site
  • Mount Popa - an extinct volcano regarded as the Mount Olympus of Myanmar, a green oasis high above the hot plains and an easy day trip from Bagan
  • Mrauk U - former capital of the Rakhine kingdom
  • Pyay - a town on the Ayeyarwady River midway between Yangon and Bagan, known for its archaeological site Sri Kittara, the ancient Pyu capital from 2 to 9 AD
To go or not to go?
Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar's opposition National League for Democracy, as well as most Western governments, have called for tourists not to visit the country, as this helps prop up the military junta and some infrastructure has been constructed using forced and child labour. On the other hand, other pro-democracy advocates such as Ma Thanegi, and the vast majority of people in Myanmar, encourage tourism as a way of getting funds into local hands - despite the fact that the government will also derive some financial benefit. In addition, many feel that the presence of foreign tourists deters the government from the worst of its excesses.
In the end, the choice is yours. If you want to visit and avoid supporting the junta, then: avoid five star hotels, eat at local restaurants, and generally attempt to ensure that your money is going to locals, rather than large, partially government-owned enterprises. Remember that foreign corporations only can operate in-country as joint partners with the junta.

Visa / Visa Free Entry

Visa Free Entry

Visa-free entry is possible at some border crossings - however you must then exit Myanmar via the same border crossing, usually (but not always) on the same day that you enter, and fees apply (normally US$10).

Visa In Advance

For all entries, other than those where vise-free entry is possible, a visas must be obtained in advance by all visitors. While ASEAN and PRC nationals may have had visa-free access in the past, the Myanmar Embassy in Singapore declares that "all nationalities" must obtain visas before travel (9 April 2008). Some additional restrictions, requirements or conditions may be applied to applications - reports have included a need for a detailed itinerary, a detailed job history, etc. be prepared for some unusual questions (either on the forms, or from the Consulate staff) when applying for your visa.
Actually, the easiest way to get the visa is to apply through a travel agency. The form is simple and requires an ID photo or two. In Bangkok, it takes one or two business days.
A standard application for a tourist visa requires: a completed visa form (available from the Embassy), a completed arrival form (again, from the Embassy), a photocopy of the photo page from your passport, two passport sized photos, the applicable fee (810 Thai Baht - US$24 as at September 2009).
Tourist visas are issued for a single entry, valid for two months from the date of issue. The visa is good for a stay of up to four weeks (from date of entry), although you can overstay if you are willing to pay a $3 a day fee when you leave. Successful applicants will also be issued an "Arrival Form", which will be stapled into your passport and must be presented on arrival in Myanmar, along with your passport containing the visa sticker. Ensure that the visa sticker, and arrival form have both been signed by the immigration officer before leaving the Embassy. Note that you will still have to fill in the usual customs and immigration forms on your flight into the country.

By plane

Due to economic santions from most western countries, international flights into Myanmar are limited. The usual way to get into Myanmar would be to fly into Yangon from either Bangkok or Singapore, both which have good connections from around the world and have several flights into Yangon daily. The only other international point of entry to Myanmar is Mandalay, which is served by a flight to Kunming.
  • Thai AirAsia [2] has one daily flight from Bangkok to Yangon (from 2150 baht) and one daily return flight (from 1450 baht).
  • Bangkok Airways [3] has one daily flight from Bangkok to Yangon and one daily return flight, costing from 3500 baht.
  • Thai Airways International [4] flies Bangkok to Yangon and back 2-3 times daily from 3500 baht one-way (tickets best bought from a Bangkok travel agency).
  • Air Mandalay [5] flies direct both ways between Chiang Mai (in northern Thailand) and Yangon, and Chiang Mai to Mandalay (but no direct flights in the opposite direction) for about US$80. The Chiang Mai - Mandalay flight currently does not seem to be scheduled.
  • Air Bagan [6] flies the Yangon-Bangkok route.
  • Silk Air [9] links Yangon with Singapore daily.
  • China Southern Airlines [10] links Yangon with Guangzhou twice a week.
  • China Eastern Airlines [11] links Mandalay with Kunming three times a week.

By land

Hopping across the Thai border into Myanmar's border towns is easy, but crossing into or out of Myanmar proper by land varies between difficult and impossible.
  • Tachileik / Mae Sai - foreigners can access this crossing from either side, and enter and/or exit either country here. As of March 2007, travel beyond Kengtung to the rest of Myanmar is not possible, even with a valid tourist visa. Travelers wishing to exit Myanmar at Tachileik can only do so with a permit from the MTT office in Yangon.
  • Myawaddy / Mae Sot - foreigners can only access this crossing from the Thai side; neither onward travel into Myanmar (ie beyond the border town) nor overnight stays are possible. No visa needed; instead there's an entry stamp fee - US$10 if paid with US$ notes, more (500 baht) if paid with Thai currency. As of August 2009, only Thai baht is accepted.
  • Three Pagodas Pass (Payathonzu / Sangkhlaburi) - foreigners can only access this crossing from the Thai side; onward travel into Myanmar (ie beyond the border town) is not possible; entry/exit stamps are NOT issued here, and foreigners passports are held at the Myanmar checkpoint, where a fee is levied - US$10 if paid with US$ notes, more (500 baht) if paid with Thai currency. However, as of November 25, 2008, this crossing is temporarily closed.
  • Kawthoung / Ranong - foreigners can access this crossing from either side, and enter and/or exit either country here. If entering without a visa, maximum stay is 3 days / 2 nights, travel beyond Kawthoung is not permitted, and there's an entry stamp fee - US$10 if paid with US$ notes, more (500 baht) if paid with Thai currency. As of March 2007, the only way to continue onward from here appears to be by plane to Mergui or Yangon, although there have previously been ferries on these routes as well.
China - foreigners can enter Myanmar at Lashio via Ruili (in Yunnan), although a permit (as well as a visa) and a guide are needed. You will most likely need to join an organized tour, costing 1450 RMB as of January 2009. As of April 2009, it is impossible for foriegners to across over from Ruili, even for the day, without first getting a visa in Kunming, ie a tour group. Crossing in the opposite direction is more difficult to arrange and details are uncertain; however, it's possible to fly from Mandalay to Kunming, and there's even a Chinese consulate that issues visas in Mandalay.
India - a land border crossing exists between India and Myanmar at Moreh/Tamu. While there have been confirmed reports of some travellers crossing into Myanmar from India, with their own transport as well as with permits arranged in advance, the general consensus is that obtaining all the necessary permits is very hard. At the least, a foreign (a person who is neither a citizen of India nor a citizen of Myanmar) will need to get a Indian permit to visit the state of Manipur, and an MTT permit to enter or leave Myanmar at Tamu. Travellers may also need a permit to travel from Tamu to Kalewa, although there are unconfirmed reports that this is no longer required.
Bangladesh / Laos - it is not currently feasible to independently cross the borders between Myanmar and Bangladesh or Laos.

Get around

Myanmar's infrastructure is in poor shape. As a result of the political situation, Myanmar is subject to trade sanctions from much of the western world, and this can cause problems for unwary travellers. Travel to certain regions is prohibited; for others, special permits must be obtained, and a guide/interpreter/minder may be mandatory - although whether these "guides" accompany you to look after you, or to keep you from going to places the government doesn't want you to see, is moot.

Restricted areas

Much of Myanmar is closed to foreign travelers, and many land routes to far-flung areas are also closed (for example, to Mrauk U, Kalewa, Putao, Kengtung). Thus, while travelers can travel freely in the Bamar majority Burmese heartland, travel tends to be restricted or circumscribed in other places. In theory, any tourist can apply for a permit to visit any restricted area or to travel on any restricted land route. In practice, it is unlikely that any such permit will be issued in a reasonable amount of time, or at all. Permit requests can be made locally in some cases (for example, requests for the land route to Kalewa can be made in Shwebo) but, in most cases, the request has to be made in Yangon. Requests to visit restricted areas must be made at the MTT (Myanmar Travel and Tours) office in Yangon (Number 77-91, Sule Pagoda Road, Yangon, [12]). Applications for local permits can often be made at a local MTT office or at a police station. As of writing this, local permits are available only for the following places/routes:
  • Shwebo - Kalewa. A permit is necessary if going by road. It is uncertain whether one is required if going by boat.
  • Kengtung - Tachilek. This used to be straightforward but the availability is now uncertain.
  • Myitkyina - Indawgyi Lake. Easily available in Myitkyina but must travel with a guide. Your hotel or a local tour company can arrange this for you.
  • Mrauk U Chin/ Zomi village tours. Easily available in Mrauk U but must visit with a guide. Your hotel or a local tour company can arrange this for you.
All other permits must be obtained in Yangon.
Nevertheless, Myanmar is not North Korea, so unless specifically instructed otherwise, leaving your hotel for a walk on the streets is fine and should not cause you any problems.

By plane

The poor state of Myanmar's roads and railways make flying by far the most comfortable option of travelling long distances.
State-run Myanma Airways[13] (UB) - not to be confused with Myanmar Airways International (8M) "MAI" - is known for its poor safety record. Even locals prefer to avoid it whenever possible.
There are also three privately owned airlines serving the main domestic routes in Myanmar. They are Air Bagan[14] (W9), Air Mandalay[15] (6T) and Yangon Airways[16] (YH). While more expensive, they are a safer option and would get you to all the main tourist destinations from Yangon or Mandalay.

By rail

Myanmar has an extensive but ancient rail network. Trains are slow, often delayed, and charge exorbitant prices from foreign travelers making buses a cheaper and faster alternative. Still, a journey on a train is a great way to see the country and meet people. The rail journey from Mandalay, up switchbacks and hairpin bends to Pwin U Lwin, and then across the mountains and the famous bridge at Gokteik, is one of the great railway journeys of the world. Trains in lower Mandalay (Yangon - Pathein and Yangon Mawlymaing) are little communities of their own with hawkers selling everything imaginable. Sleepers are available on many overnight express trains, although, in the high season, you may want to reserve a few days in advance (the Yangon-Mandalay trains now run in the daytime only, apparently because the government does not want trains passing Pyinmana at night). Food service is available on the express up and the express down between Yangon and Mandalay as well as on the Yangon - Mawlymaing run.
Except for the new bridge and rail line that connects Mawlymaing to points on the western side of the Salween River, the rail network is exactly the way it was in British times. The most used line is the 325km line from Yangon to Mandalay with several trains a day (this is also the only double line in Myanmar), and the only one that is competitive in time with buses (note that the fastest trains take 15 hours for the 385km run, an effective rate of 25km/hour!). A second line connects Yangon with Pyay (9 hours for the 175km journey!) with a branch heading off into the delta region town of Pathein. These tracks, the earliest constructed are in poor shape. With the construction of the bridge across the Salween, it is now possible to go by train from Yangon to Mawlymaing (8 hours for the 200km journey) and on to Ye (Ye is closed to foreign travelers). From Mandalay, trains continue on to Myitkyina in Kachin State (350km in 24hours) and to Lashio. There are also rail connections between Yangon-Bagan and Mandalay-Bagan, but bus or ferry are better alternatives (The 175km from Mandalay to Bagan takes 10hrs).
The following table summarizes travel time and prices between most visitable places in Myanmar (note: prices are approximate, check with more up to date and reliable sources!):
Train travel times and fares between important destinations
From To Time Ordinary Upper Sleeper
Yangon Mandalay 16 hrs US$15 US$30 US$40-50
Yangon Kyaiktiyo 6 hrs US$-- US$9 None
Mandalay Pyin U Lwin 4 hrs US$2 US$4 None
Pyin U Lwin Hsipaw 7 hrs US$2 US$6 None

By boat

There is also a large river ferry network. Both are to a large extent run by the government, although there are now some private ferry services. The trip from Mandalay to Bagan takes the better part of a day, from Bagan to Yangon is several days.

By bus

Buses of all types ply the roads of Myanmar. Luxury (relatively speaking) buses do the Mandalay-Yangon run while lesser vehicles can get travelers to other places. Fares are reasonable and in Kyat and, for the budget traveler, there is no other option because of the high price of train tickets for foreign nationals. Many long distance buses assign seats so it is best to book seats at least a day in advance. Because the roads are bad, avoid the rear of the bus and try to sit as far up front as you can get. Long distance buses also have an extra jump seat that blocks the aisle and, because it is not well secured to the chassis, can be uncomfortable (which also means that there is no such thing as a side seat where taller travelers can thrust their legs). A window near the front of the bus is always the best option.
A scam about bus tickets seems to be popular in Yangon currently. While many travelers make a stopover in Bago, they are told at their guesthouse or at the bus station it's not possible to buy tickets up there in the direction to Mandalay. In a country where everything might be possible when it comes to transport, some people tend to believe is. Actually, this is not the case and tracking back to Yangon for a bus ticket up north is not necessary at all. Bago has a bus terminal with several bus offices. Buying your ticket at Bago might be slightly cheaper (of course depending upon your bargaining skills) and gives you more freedom for the rest of your journey.
The following table summarizes travel times and approximate fares between important tourist destinations in Myanmar (Note: most bus fares have gone up with the recent gas price hike, the fares listed here are rough estimates):
Bus Travel times and fares between important destinations
From To Time Fare
Yangon Mandalay 11 hrs K10400
Yangon Kyaiktiyo 6 hrs K6000
Mandalay Pyin U Lwin 2 hrs K1500
Mandalay Hsipaw 5.5 hrs K4500

By pickup

Old Toyota pickup trucks run everywhere in Myanmar, inexpensively ferrying men, women, children, and monks from one place to another. The rear of the truck is converted into a canvas covered sitting area with three benches, one on each side and one running along the center of the truck (some smaller trucks have only two rows), and the running board is lowered and fixed into place providing room for six or more people to stand on (holding on to the truck frame). Pickups are ubiquitous in Myanmar and every town has a central point somewhere from where they depart to places both near and far. Travelers who go off the beaten track will find them indispensable because often the only alternative is an expensive taxi or private car.
The basics of pickups are fairly straightforward, wait till it is reasonably full before heading out. On well traveled routes (Mandalay - Pyin U Lwin, for example), they fill up quickly and the journey is quick. On less well-traveled routes (Bhamo-Katha, for example), passengers arrive (early, usually around 6AM), mark their place, and then hang around drinking tea and chatting until the truck fills up. When the pickup does get moving, it may linger or go out of its way in the hope of picking up more passengers. The inside of a pickup can be hot and uncomfortable - passengers, packed in like sardines, face away from the windows (which are tiny) and into the truck - and standing on the running board can be tiring and tough on the arms! On the other hand, the window side seat next to the driver is very comfortable and well worth the little extra that you have to pay, so it is best to go early and reserve that seat.

By car

You can hire a private car and driver at reasonable rates to tour independently. The licensed guides at Schwedagon Paya in Yangon can arrange to have a driver with a car meet you at your hotel. Another way is to arrange for a car through a travel agency, though it can be quite expensive. You can "test" the driver and the car by driving around the city for 10 or 15 minutes. If you are satisfied, a departure date and time and per diem rates (inclusive of petrol) can be negotiated. Some guides are willing to travel with you to serve as interpreters.
Road travel to tourist destinations is generally safe, although some roads may be rough. Highways are often 2-lane, and cars often pass one another recklessly. Allow two days to drive from Yangon to Bagan in fair weather. Pyay provides a good midway stopover point. Allow a day to drive from Bagan to Inle Lake.
In cities, it is also considered illegal to cross an amber light without stopping. Despite having crossed 3/4 of the way, you will be required to stop in the middle of the road and make your way back in reverse!
Accidents and fatalities are common. Night-time road travel is not recommended, and medical facilities are extraordinarily limited in rural areas. At government hospitals, bribes may be required for expedient services. Make sure needles are new or carry your own. HIV is a major problem in Myanmar.

By bike

In Yangon, riding motorcycles and bicycles is illegal. Mandalay's streets, on the other hand, are filled with both.

On foot

Cars and pedestrians may not follow the established rules, and crossing the road can be difficult.


The official language of Myanmar is Burmese (known by the government as Myanmar). A majority of Burmese pronunciation is derived from the ancient language of Pali (at the time of the Buddha), but the language is a Sino-Tibetan language related to Chinese and hence tonal (word pitch matters) and analytic (most words are one syllable long). It is written using the Burmese script, based on the ancient Pali script. Bilingual signs (English and Burmese) are available in most tourist spots. Numbers often are also written in Burmese script.
There are also many other ethnic groups in Myanmar such as the Mon, Shan, Pa-O and many others who continue to speak their own languages. There is also a sizeable ethnic Chinese community, most visible in the city of Mandalay, and many of whom speak Mandarin. Some areas are also home to various ethnic Indian communities who continue to speak various Indian languages. However, with the exception of the elderly, it is rare to find any locals who do not speak Burmese.
Myanmar is a former British colony, and as a result - and because English is still being taught in kindergartens and primary schools - many Burmese understand at least some rudimentary English. In fact, you may find more English spoken in Myanmar than in Thailand.
Unfunny money
In a misguided attempt to fight rampant black marketeering, the Myanmar government has an unfortunate habit of declaring notes to be worthless: this happened for the first time on May 15, 1964, when the 50 and 100 kyat notes were demonetized. On November 3, 1985, the 20, 50 and 100 kyat notes were demonetized again and replaced with new kyat notes in the unusual denominations of 25, 35 and 75, possibly chosen because of dictator Ne Win's predilection for numerology; the 75-kyat note was introduced on his 75th birthday.
Only two years later, on September 5, 1987, the government once again demonetized the 25, 35 and 75 kyat notes with no prior warning, rendering some 75% of the country's currency worthless. A new series of 15, 45 and 90-kyat notes was issued, incorporating Ne Win's favorite number 9. The resulting economic disturbances led to serious riots and eventually the 1989 coup by General Saw Maung, The post-coup notes come in more normal denominations from 1 to 1000 kyat, and this time the old ones remain legal tender... so far.
Myanmar's currency is the kyat (abbreviated K), pronounced "chut/chat". Pya are coins, and are rarely seen. Foreign travelers are required to pay in US$ for hotels, tourist attractions, rail and air tickets, ferry travel, and sometimes for bus tickets as well, and are technically required to pay in kyat for most other transactions (trishaws, pickups, tips, food, etc.). According to the law, it is illegal for a Myanmar citizen to accept (or hold) dollars without a license but this law is mostly ignored and dollars are generally accepted. Never insist though because it may be dangerous for the receiver. FECs are still legal tender but are rarely seen.
Kyat officially cannot be exchanged abroad, though money changers in places with large overseas Burmese populations such as Singapore will often exchange anyway. Bring US$ cash, and dispose of remaining kyat before leaving.

Foreign currencies

Visitors must bring enough cash with them to cover their entire visit, as there's no easy way to get more without leaving the country. However in an emergency, some hotels in Yangon will do a cash advance on a credit card through Singapore. People have reported that hotels charge a commission ranging from 7% up to 30% and may need to sight your passport to process the transaction.
The currency of choice in Myanmar is the US$ nationwide, though you can readily also exchange euros in Yangon and Mandalay but perhaps not beyond. Other solid options are the Chinese Yuan (CNY) and Thai baht (THB). Your best rates would be in Yangon and Mandalay.
Be sure to bring a mix of US$ denominations when visiting Myanmar because money changers will not give change and 20/10/5/1-dollar notes are deliciously useful for some entry fees and transportation.

Official and Blackmarket Rates

Never exchange money in a bank or at the airport as the rates are excruciatingly uncompetitive: the official rate "floats" around a farcical 6 (yes, six) kyats to the US dollar [17] while the going street rate fluctuates considerably around 1000 kyat (1050 Kyat to the US$ in September 2009 in Yangon, slightly less in Mandalay), and dissident newspaper The Irrawaddy [18] is a good source for recent exchange rates. Exchanging money on the black market is only theoretically illegal: ask in any farmers' market, jewelry shop or travel agents.

Check Your Banknotes

This cannot be stressed enough. A good number of travellers find themselves in possession of a small fortune in worthless bills (at least, worthless when dealing with Myanmar moneychangers) due to their condition being less than perfect.
Ensure that your banknotes:
  • Do not have any marks, stamps, anti-counterfeit pen, ink, or any other mark on them at all. Pencil can be removed with a good eraser, but any permanent marks will greatly decrease a bills value and ability to be exchanged.
  • Are fresh, crisp and as close to brand new as possible. Moneychangers have been known to reject notes just for being creased and/or lightly worn.
  • Are undamaged. No tears, missing bits, holes, repairs, or anything of that sort.
  • Are, preferably, the new US Dollar designs, with the larger portrait, and the multiple-color prints. Although, old-style US$1 are still commonly traded.
  • If carrying US$100 bills, notes with serial numbers starting "CB" may not be accepted. This is because they are associated with a counterfeit "superbill" which was in circulation some time ago.

When Exchanging Money/Making Purchases With US Dollars

There are a number of tricks and scams running around Myanmar trapping tourists who are carrying US Dollars. Sometimes, guesthouses or traders will try and pass you damaged or nonexchangeable bills in change. Always inspect all notes when making a purchase and request that the vendor swap any bills you think you will have trouble using down the track (this is perfectly acceptable behavior for vendors and customers, so don't be shy).
Some moneychangers will also attempt sleight of hand tricks to either swap your good banknotes for damaged, or lower denomination bills. Other reports suggest that the kyats may be counted and then somehow, some disappear from the table during the transaction. For example, after going through an elaborate counting process for piles of ten 1000 kyat notes, some money changers will pull some notes out as they count the piles of ten.
When changing money, be sure that, after any money is counted, it is not touched by anyone until the deal is sealed. Also do not allow your US Dollars to be removed from your sight until all is agreed - in fact it is not even necessary to pull our your US Dollars until your are paying for the kyats you received. It sounds extreme, but ending up in a country where you cannot access whatever savings you have, and having a good portion of your budget rendered useless (until you get to more relaxed changers in Bangkok) can really put a dampener on your plans.
Is it safe?
So, you're traveling around carrying 100s, if not 1000s, of dollars stuffed into your pockets in a country where most people subsist on a few dollars a day. Everyone around you knows that if they could get their hands on the money in your pockets, they'll be set for life. What, you may ask, are the odds that someone will try to relieve you of your money? The answer: almost nil. There have been almost no instances of a tourist being mugged and only the rare pilferage. Myanmar is an extremely safe country for travelers. Some say it is because of the nature of the people. Others say it is because the punishment for robbing from a foreigner is draconian. Actually, it's the Buddhism: you do not take what is not given you, which is stricter than "Thou shalt not steal" because it rewords as "Thou shalt not help thyself, even in the home of dear friend." Whatever the cause, your money will be safe!

Foreign Exchange Certificates (FECs)

Visitors to Myanmar were previously required to change US$200 into FECs upon arrival, but this was abolished in August 2003. FECs are still valid tender, but should be avoided at all costs as they are no longer worth their face value (although a one FEC note has good souvenir potential).

Credit cards & ATMs

Due to EU and US sanctions, credit cards are rarely accepted in Myanmar. There are places where cash can be obtained with a credit card, however the rates are extremely uncompetitive (with premiums certainly no lower than around 7%, and with quotes of 30% and more frequently reported). An exceptionally small minority of up-market hotels accept credit card payments (and will surcharge accordingly).
Some ATMs can be found in large cities, but these are purely for locals and cannot be used for withdrawing money.

Travellers cheques

Travellers cheques are not accepted in Myanmar. The only exception might be some especially shady money changer - but be prepared to pay an astronomical commission (30% is not uncommon).


It's quite possible to be comfortable on less than US$20/day. Foreigners will likely be charged fees, including video camera, digital camera, entrance, parking, and zone fees.
  • Lacquerware A popular purchase in Myanmar is lacquerware, which is made into bowls, cups, vases, tables and various items, and is available almost anywhere. The traditional centre of Lacquerware production though is Bagan in central Myanmar. Beware of fraudulent lacquerware, though, which is poorly made, but looks authentic. (As a general rule, the stiffer the lacquer, the poorer the quality and the more you can bend and twist it, the finer the quality.)
  • Precious stones Myanmar is a significant miner of jade, rubies, and sapphire (the granting of a license to the French over the ruby mines in Mogok was one of the causes leading to the Third Burmese War) and these can be obtained at a fraction of what it would cost in the West. Be warned, however, that there are a lot of fakes for sale amongst the genuine stuff and, unless you know your gems, buy from an official government store or risk being cheated. Bogoyoke Aung San Market in Yangon has many licensed shops and is generally a safe place for the purchase of these stones.
  • Tapestries, known as kalaga, or shwe chi doe. There is a long tradition of weaving tapestries in Burma. These are decorated with gold and silver thread and sequins and usually depict tales from the Buddhist scriptures (the jatakas) or other non-secular objects from Burmese Buddhism (mythical animals, the hintha and the kalong are also popular subjects). The tapestry tradition is dying out but many are made for tourists and are available in Mandalay and Yangon. Burmese tapestries don't last so be warned if someone tries to sell you an antique shwe chi doe!
  • Antiques Myanmar is probably the last unspoiled market for antiques and, with a good eye, it is easy to pick up bargains there. Old Raj coins are the most popular (and have little value except as souvenirs) but everything ranging from Ming porcelain to Portuguese furniture (in Moulmein) can be found. Unfortunately, the Burmese antique sellers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and, increasingly, the bargains were probably made the day before in the shop-owners backyard! It is against the law to export religious antiques (manuscripts, Buddhas, etc.).
  • Textiles Textiles in Myanmar are stunning. Each region and each ethnic group has its own style. Chin fabrics are particularly stunning. They are handwoven in intricate geometric patterns, often in deep reds and mossy greens and white. They can be quite pricy, perhaps US$20 for the cloth to make a longyi (sarong).
There is also a wide variety of beautiful silverware and jewellery as well as textiles, including gorgeous silks and handcrafts such as wooden carvings, silk paintings and stonework.
Some items may require customs permits.


Burmese food is a blend of Chinese, Indian and Mon influences. Rice is at the core of most Burmese food, and good vegetarian food is widely available. Burmese food is often extremely pungent. Food is inexpensive at most restaurants (around 500-1500 kyat), but there are many upscale restaurants in Yangon and Mandalay for upmarket food.
What to eat
Because the Burmese cuisine is a medley of many regional influences, it has many characteristics. Seafood is more common along the coastline, while preserved meats are more common in inland areas. Many Indian, Chinese, and Shan dishes are served throughout the country. Some dishes to try are:
  • Mohinga (pronounced mo-HIN-ga) is a dish of rice vermicelli with fish gravy(orange in colour) and is usually accompanied by corriander and with chilli powder (the Burmese eat chilli). Its taste can range from sweet to spicy, and is usually eaten during breakfast. It is considered by many to be the national dish of Myanmar, and is widely available throughout the country, albeit in slightly different styles in different regions.
  • Onnokauswe (pronounced oun-NO-kao-sui) is a dish of thicker noodles in a thick soup of coconut milk. Often added is chicken, and it has a strong taste and odour.
  • Laphet thote (pronounced la-peh THOU) is a salad of fermented tea leaves and a variety of nuts. It is commonly mixed with sliced lettuce, and is eaten with rice. The dish originally comes from Shan State.
  • Mee swan (pronounced mee-SUAN) is a Chinese dish of noodles in a broth, served with herbs and little meat.
  • Palata (prounced pa-la-ta) is an Indian bread (parata), which is fried and served with sugar for breakfast, or with curried meats for lunch and dinner.
  • Shan food The Shan are an ethnic group who inhabit Shan State around Inle lake, near the Thai border. Their food is marvelous and spicy. It can be found in Yangon if you search.
  • Curry Myanma people have a very different definition of curry than other countries. It is very spicy compared to Indian and Thai options, and although you may find it served at room temperature in cheaper restaurants, in a typical Burmese home all curry dishes are served hot. The Burmese curry does not contain coconut milk, unlike its south-east asian counterparts, and has a large quantity of onion. Myanmar is the highest per-capita consumer of onions in the world.
Where to eat
  • Black Canyon Coffee Found in Mandalay (Next to Sedona Hotel) and in Yangon (next to International Hotel) offers Air-conditioned dining and wonderful Starbucks-style coffee for all those yearning for a quality caffeine shot in this country.
  • Mac Burger Due to US sanctions American corporations aren't allowed to do business in Myanmar. However, this Yangon McDonalds knock-off is the closest you'll get. Mind the roaches.


Tap water in Myanmar is not safe to drink, likewise ice may be contaminated. Bottled water is readily available at many tourist sites.
Similar to ChineseTea Yenwejan is usually provided free at restaurant tables. While not flavourful, it is boiled water, and so safe to drink (do not drink plain water - even in restaurants - unless it is bottled water). Dried tea leaves similar to Laphet thote's tea leaves (except these are wet) are added to the boiled water to give Yenwejan Be sure to order it with Laphet thote (Customary/Good combination).
Alcohol is frowned upon by conservative Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims, but consumed widely, mostly among men. Myanmar Beer (lager) is most popular in the country. Other variants, including Mandalay Beer exist. However, many of such companies are government-owned and/or have links to the drug trade. Toddy juice (ta-YEI) is popular in central Myanmar, and is made from fermented palm sugar. An alcoholic drink popular in the Shan State is Shwe le maw, and is reportedly very strong. It is also possible to buy full strength Beer Chang imported from Thailand; exports to most countries are not nearly as strong.
Beware of alcoholic drinks served in the far northern states. The locals refer to it as alcohol which does not burn when lit, and it is widely suspected to be an opiate concoction rather than a fermented beverage.
There are a lot of nightclubs, including those attached to the five star hotels (eg Grand Plaza), and also local entertainment centres (eg JJs, Asia plaza).


While not as inexpensive as neighboring Thailand, Myanmar has surprisingly good hotel accommodation at reasonable prices. Rooms with attached bath are available for under US$10 everywhere except in Yangon and with shared bath for anywhere from US$3 to US$6 in most places. Almost every hotel licensed for foreigners has running hot water (though, in remote areas, availability may be restricted to certain hours of the day). Hotels, with a few exceptions, are usually clean though, at the budget end, sheets and blankets may be threadbare and the rooms may be poorly ventilated. A few low-end hotels, particularly in Yangon and other large cities, specialize in cubicle rooms - small single rooms with no windows - which, while cheap and clean, are not for the claustrophobic. Rates are quoted as single/double but the rooms are usually the same whether one person or two stay in the room, making good hotels a real bargain if traveling as a couple. Except at the top-end, breakfast is always included in the price of the room.
Myanmar has a problem providing enough electricity to its people and power supply is severely restricted everywhere. In many places, electricity may be available only for a few hours each evening or, in some cases, only every alternate evening. If you don't want to spend your nights without a fan or AC, ask if the hotel has a generator (most mid-priced hotels do). On generator nights, the AC in your room may not work (the price is usually lower as well).
At the top-end, Myanmar has some excellent hotels including one or two great ones (The Strand in Yangon and Kandawgyi Palace Hotel in Yangon). The Myanmar government runs many hotels, including some beautiful colonial era ones (though not the two listed in the previous sentence). Many large five-star hotels in Yangon and Mandalay are run by friends of the government or by people with connections to the drug trade. Socially conscious travelers may want to avoid these two types of hotels.


Work in Myanmar for foreigners is hard to come by. NGOs and other aid groups operate in the capital and remote rural areas but may require specific skill sets to hire you. Another option is European and Asian companies, mostly operating on a small scale. Teaching English is feasible in private schools but skip the education ministry, which only hires citizens with teaching certification.

Stay safe


The government punishes crime, particularly against tourists, severely; it has a hard enough time convincing tourists to go there due to its international reputation. In addition, many locals, being devout Buddhists, are wary of retribution in their next life should they commit any crimes against others. As a result, as far as crime and personal safety go, Myanmar is extremely safe for tourists, and it is generally safe to walk on the streets alone at night. In fact, you are less likely to be a victim of crime in Myanmar than in Thailand or Malaysia. However, as with anywhere else, little crime does not mean no crime and it is still no excuse to ditch your common sense.
Since 2005, Yangon and Mandalay have seen a barely perceptible rise in the very low level of street robberies. Several years ago, there were isolated bombings: 26 April 2005 in Mandalay; 7 May, 21 October and 5 December 2005 in Yangon; 2 January 2006 in Bago.


Despite traditional taboos against it, begging has become a major problem in the main tourist areas such as Bago and Bagan. Children and "mothers" carrying babies are often the ones who beg as they are more effective at soliciting pity. Note that most beggars are part of larger begging syndicates or just after easy money, as tourists are usually seen to be rich. In addition, the poor can always obtain food for free from the nearest monastery if they can't afford to pay for it, so begging is not necessary for their survival. If you really must give, note that most Burmese earn only US$20 a month doing manual labour; giving US$1 to a beggar is very generous.


Myanmar is one of the world's most corrupt countries. Officials and other civil servants may discreetly ask you for a bribe, or invent issues (missing forms, closed offices, etc) in order to get you to suggest one. Pretending not to understand or asking to speak to a superior may work. However, visitors of Caucasian descent are rarely targeted, while those of Asian descent (including South Asians and East Asians) may be forced to give bribes, but the brunt of the problem hits normal Burmese.
Again, Westerners are very rarely asked for bribes. Then too, most bribes are in the order of a US dollar or less and requested by folks earning as little as US$30/month.

Civil conflict

Various insurgent groups continue to operate in the Shan, Mon, Chin (Zomi), and Karen States of Myanmar, along the Thai and Chinese borders. Travel to these regions is generally requires a government permit. The government also restricts travel to Kayah State and Rakhine State due to insurgent activity. However travel is entirely unrestricted to the districts of Yangon, Bago, Ayeyarwady, Sagaing, Taninthayi, Mandalay and Magwe.


The price of computers and a home internet connection is prohibitive so most people surf at Internet cafés. Web-based email websites such as Yahoo! or Hotmail can be accessed in savvy cafés. The blocking is because Myanmar Telecom sells email addresses and free web-based email address suppliers cut into their bottomline. The government records screenshots every five minutes from PCs in Internet cafés to monitor Internet usage. If you don't want your privacy violated in this way, save your surfing for Thailand or wherever you head next.


Myanmar has been under strong military rule for the past 40 years, with a reputation for repressing dissent, as in the case of the frequent house arrests of democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi, and currently has more than 1,500 political prisoners [sentences of 65 years and hard labor in remote camps were given to leaders of the Saffron Revolution]. When in Myanmar, abstain from political activities and don't insult the government.
Discuss politics, if you must, with people who have had time to get a feel for you. The danger however, is primarily posed to those you speak with, and thus you should take care with their safety. Let them lead the conversation. Also, realize that many phone lines are tapped. And if you absolutely must wave a democracy banner in front of a cop shop, you'll simply find yourself on the next outbound flight.
Avoid doing things that might make the military or police feel uncomfortable, such as taking pictures of police and police buildings or vehicles.

Stay healthy

Ice and tap water are a gamble. Always buy bottled water and check that the cap is sealed on, not simply screwed on. When in doubt, shop at City Mart, a reputable local food retailing chain. Diseases such as dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis and malaria are endemic. Drug-resistant strains of malaria and tuberculosis are common in many areas. Hepatitis vaccinations are highly recommended but unvaccinated travellers have survived after suffering no more than the odd case of diarrhea. At the dinner table, Burmese use a knife and fork, or their fingers when this is more convenient. You might feel better rinsing all of them before meals.
As in any other developing country: "if you can't fry, roast, peel or boil it - then forget it".


Myanmar's healthcare system is in a poor state. If you should fall sick in Myanmar, you can visit the doctor in major cities for minor ailments such as coughs and colds. However, for more serious medical care, hospital conditions tend to be unsanitary and there is often a shortage of medical supplies due to economic sanctions. Most of the government officials and rich locals head to Singapore for more serious medical treatment and hospitalisation and you will be better off doing so too. Just ensure your insurance is in order as arranging to be airlifted in an emergency can be rather costly.
Mrauk U, the old capital of Rakhine in Myanmar
Mrauk U, the old capital of Rakhine in Myanmar
The people cover their arms and legs; they are also courteous and considerate and low-key dress is highly appreciated, particularly in temples and monasteries (of which there are thousands). Miniskirts, shorts and sleeveless shirts are not allowed in consecrated areas, where you also have to remove your shoes, so prefer loafers and flip-flops that can slip on & off at the entrance--Myanmar has some of the most stunning temples in Asia and you will be tempted to visit more than you think.
Both men and women wear a longyi, a sort of sarong sold everywhere. They are wrapped in different ways for men and women, so find out how to tie yours. If you turn up at a temple in inappropriate dress, you can always rent a longyi for a pittance.
Also avoid t-shirts with images of Buddhas or Buddhist imagery, which is considered highly disrespectful. Folks are forgiving about it, but one should not look like a bigger fool than is necessary.
Give generously at temples and monasteries but women are not allowed into some sacred areas--actually the restriction should cover only women in menstruation, but since it would be rude to ask and unthinkable to verify, they keep all ladies out. You will often see monks begging for alms in the streets in the morning (they are not allowed to eat after 12pm). Note that monks are not allowed to come into contact with the opposite sex. In addition, you should only donate food to the monks, as they are not allowed to accept money under any circumstances - those that accept money are almost always fakes.
You can also purchase little squares of gold leaf to apply to consecrated statues.
When praying or paying respects, it is important to ensure that the *soles* of your feet do not point towards the Buddha or anyone else. However, statues are arranged so that won't happen unless you get acrobatic about it. Do not point to images of Buddha. Tuck your feet underneath you when kneeling at shrines and temples.
Tourists of Caucasian descent are commonly referred to as bo, which translates "leader", as a sign of respect. Address elders with U (pronounced "oo", as in soon) or "Uncle" for men, and Daw or "Auntie" for women.



International phone calls can be arranged at the Central Telephone & Telegraph Office at the corner of Ponsodan and Mahabandoola Streets in Yangon. International Direct Dial calls are also available at most hotels and at many public call offices (often a phone in a shop), but they are expensive, e.g. a call to the US costs $6 to $7/min.


International mail out of Myanmar is reportedly quite efficient. As elsewhere, there is always a risk if you send valuables as ordinary parcels.
The hotel in Yangon said that postcards mailed in the country had less than 1% chance of being delivered abroad.


Internet is now widely and cheaply available in Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan, but more limited elsewhere. However access is very slow and many sites are inaccessible. Rates are around 1000 kyat/hour in Yangon and 2000-5000 kyat/hour elsewhere.
A list of proxys to circumvent blocks can be found at [19].
Webmail: most free webmail providers are blocked, however many Internet cafés circumvent this - jot down the workaround in case it's still unknown in the next café you visit. If one Internet café can't connect you, the next one probably will the next day. As of January 2010, Hotmail and Yahoo are blocked, while Gmail is available.
As of May 2006, the following workarounds worked:
  • Yahoo - use - the WAP (mobile phone) gateway, which gets you the basic interface.
Myanmar has two ISPs, MPT and Bagan. Proxy sites are blocked by MPT, but may work with the Bagan ISP.
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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also myanmar



Wikipedia has an article on:

Proper noun

  1. A country in Southeast Asia. Official name: Union of Myanmar. Also known as Burma (which was formerly the official name).
  2. The Sino-Tibetan official language of the country of Myanmar, also known as Burmese.
  3. The script in which the Myanmar language is written. Also known as Burmese.


See also

External links


Proper noun

  1. Myanmar


Finnish Wikipedia has an article on:
Wikipedia fi

Proper noun

  1. Myanmar



Derived terms


German Wikipedia has an article on:
Wikipedia de

Proper noun

Myanmar n.
  1. Myanmar


Derived terms

  • Myanmare
  • Myanmarin
  • myanmarisch


Italian Wikipedia has an article on:
Wikipedia it

Proper noun

Myanmar m.
  1. Myanmar



Proper noun

  1. Myanmar (official, but rarely used)


See also


Proper noun

  1. Myanmar


Simple English

Union of Myanmar

Pyi-daung-zu Myan-ma Naing-ngan-daw File:Myanmar long

Official flag
National information
National motto: None
National anthem: Gaba Ma Kyae
About the people
Official languages: Burmese
Population: (# of people)
  - Total: 54,000,000 (ranked 29)
  - Density: 62 per km²
Geography / Places
[[Image:|250px|none|country map]] Here is the country on a map.
Capital city: Naypyidaw
Largest city: Yangon
  - Total: 678,500 (ranked 39)
  - Water:n/a km² (3.06%)
Politics / Government
Established: January 4, 1948 as the Union of Burma
Leaders: Chairman, SPDC: Senior-General Than Shwe
Prime Minister: Lieutenant-General Thein Sein
Economy / Money
(Name of money)
Kyat (MMK)
International information
Time zone: +06:30
Telephone dialing code: 95
Internet domain: .mm

[[File:|200px|thumb|Map of Myanmar.]]

The Union of Myanmar, (originally known as the Union of Burma), is the largest country in South East Asia that is not an island, partly considered as South Asian. It is bordered by China on the north, Laos on the east, Thailand on the southeast, Bangladesh on the west, and the India on the northwest, with the Andaman Sea to the south, and the Bay of Bengal to the southwest. There are over 2,000 kilometers (1,243 mi) of coast line. The country was ruled by a military junta led by General Ne Win from 1962 to 1988, and its political system today stays under the tight control of its military government. Since 1992, Myanmar has been ruled by Senior General Than Shwe.


Origin and history of the name

In 1989, the military junta officially changed the English version of its name from Burma to Myanmar. It also made a new name in English for places in the country, such as its former capital city, from Rangoon to Yangon. The official name of the country in the Burmese language, Myanma did not change, however. The renaming was controversial, seen by some as linguistically bad. Accepting the name change in the English-speaking world has been slow, with many people still using the name Burma to refer to the country. Major news organizations like the BBC still call it Burma. Some question the military junta's authority to "officially" change the name in English in the first place. Aung San Suu Kyi, however, calls the country Myanmar now.


Myanmar had a strong kingdom in ancient times, but the nation was taken over by the British in the 1800s. Myanmar became independent in 1948 as the Union of Burma, and had a democratic government at first. However, in 1962, a coup d'état brought the military into power, where it has been ever since. The founder of modern Myanmar, Aung San was assassinated months before independence. His daughter Aung San Suu Kyi is currently under house arrest for leading the democracy movement.

In 1991, the military junta agreed to democratic elections, which were won by the National League for Democracy, and should have made Aung San Suu Kyi the Prime Minister. However, the dictatorship ignored the results of the elections and continued ruling. In November 2005, the military government stated that the national capital would be moved from Yangon to a location near Pyinmana, which was renamed Naypyidaw in March 2006.


Today, there are 14 sections. 7 are called states and the other 7 are called divisions.

The divisions are split into townships. The townships are divided into villages and wards.


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Citable sentences

Up to date as of December 19, 2010

Here are sentences from other pages on Burma, which are similar to those in the above article.

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