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Burma (Myanmar) facts and history in brief


The ruling military government changed Burma's name to the Union of Myanmar in 1989 and the capital and largest city Rangoon to Yangon, the changes recognised by the UN, but not by all governments.
It is in South East Asia, bordered by China, on Laos, Thailand, the Andaman Sea, the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh and India.
Some larger mountains and the Irrawaddy river are the main features of Burma.
The main resources are its soils and forests, and the biggest earner are it's teak forest.
A great variety of wild animals found in its forest and jungles, such as the tiger and leopard, elephant, rhinoceros, wild buffalo, wild boar, and several species of deer and antelope.

The population is around 45 million mainly Buddhist of Mongol or Chinese origin, speaking a monosyllabic and polytonal dialect, similar to those of Tibet and China and is the official language and based on the Sanskrit alphabet.

It is ruled by the military since 1988.

The history of Burma began in the 9th century when the Myamma or Bamar people migrated from the China-Tibet border region into the valley of the Irrawaddy.
The Burmese soon converted to Buddhism and created the state which in 1057 became the First Burmese Empire.
The two names by which this people were known gave rise to the names Myanmar (in Burmese) and Burma (in English).

After the devastating invasion by the Mongol army of Kublai Khan in 1287, Burma broke up into several states.
Ever since, the Burmese inhabitants of the Irrawaddy valley have sought to regain control of the neighbouring hill peoples such as the Shan and the Karen, but these peoples have usually maintained de facto independence.

The Portuguese reached Burma in the late 15th century, and established trading posts, but their attempts to extend their control were repelled.
This external threat galvanised the Burmese to establish a stronger state, and in 1613 King Aukhpetlan decisively defeated Portuguese attempts to take over Burma.

By the 18th century conflicts had begun to occur along the Burmese border with British India, and the British proved a far greater threat than the other European powers.
The First Burmese War (1824-26 ended with Burma ceding territory to the British, and the Second Burmese War (1852) resulted in the annexation of Lower Burma (in the south) and its conversion to a province of British India.

King Mindon of Upper (northern) Burma (ruled 1853-78) tried to modernise the Burmese state and economy to resist British encroachments better, and he fortified the northern capital, Mandalay.
But in 1886 his son Thibaw was unable to prevent the Third Burmese War, which resulted in the annexation of the whole country and the abolition of the Burmese monarchy.

Burma benefited economically from British rule, but Burmese nationalism remained powerful.
In 1935 the British separated Burma from India and promised that self-government would be introduced.
But in early 1942 the Japanese invaded the country and rapidly drove the British out.

Burmese nationalists, led by Aung San, at first welcomed the defeat of the British, but soon realised that the Japanese had no intention of allowing Burmese independence.
Aung San then established contact with the British and transferred the support of his 10,000 strong army to the Allied side, in exchange for a promise of immediate independence after the war.

In 1947, following a conference in London, Burma became independent.
Attempts by the non-Burmese minorities to secede from the Burmese state were prevented, but the Burmese government had no more control over the hill territories than the British had done.

National elections in April 1947 returned Aung San with an overwhelming majority.
But while the new constitution was being drawn up Aung San was assassinated by a political rival.
He was succeeded by his close associate U Nu.
Under his government Burma enjoyed a period of peace and democratic government, but in 1958 he was succeeded by General Ne Win.
When elections in 1962 gave U Nu a majority, Ne Win staged a coup and brought Burmese democracy to an end.

Under Ne Win Burma became an isolated military dictatorship, in which the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSSP) imposed a bizarre version of socialism which soon reduced a prosperous country to poverty.
The regime conducted endless futile wars against the Karens and Shans, against the Burmese Communists, and later against drug bosses such as Khun Sa.
In 1974 Ne Win declared the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma, with a facade of popular government to conceal the reality of military rule.
Demonstration against the regime broke out in 1988, and hundreds, possibly thousands, of people were killed.
The military then removed Ne Win from power and promised free elections.
Aung San Suu Kyi, Aung San's daughter, returned from exile and established the National League for Democracy (NLD).
After further disturbances the promised elections were held in 1990, the military apparently believing that they could rig the results in favour of the National Unity Party, the old BSSP renamed.
NLD won a landslide victory.
After a period of indecision the military in effect staged a second coup.
Aung San Suu Kyi was put under house arrest, the NLD banned, and a body called the State Law and Order Restoration Council took power headed by General Than Shwe.
The military regime has ruled Burma ever since.
In 1991 Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and under international pressure the regime released her from house arrest in 1995.
Plans were announced for a national convention to draft a new constitution, but this body has never produced any results.
The regime has survived due to strong economic and military support from China, covert support from Thailand and other ASEAN states, and the proceeds of smuggling drugs and valuable timber resources.
Since 1996 the regime has been subject to international sanctions by bodies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
But the regime has clung to power, and in 2002 it launched a new crackdown, with Aung San Suu Kyi being returned to house arrest.
In 1989 the Burmese regime announced that the name of the country was henceforth to be Myanmar, and the United Nations now uses that name.
This was not in fact a change of name, since Myanmar has always been the name of the country in the Burmese language.
The English name of the country is Burma, and this is the name that Aung San Suu Kyi, the elected leader of the country, uses.
Governments such as the United States and Australia, which disapprove of the military regime, also continue to call it Burma.

Bordered by the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, between Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand, in South-eastern Asia.

Area: 678,500 kmē

Climate: tropical monsoon; cloudy, rainy, hot, humid summers (southwest monsoon, June to September); less cloudy, scant rainfall, mild temperatures, lower humidity during winter (northeast monsoon, December to April).

The central lowlands ringed by steep, rugged highlands.

Natural resources: petroleum, timber, tin, antimony, zinc, copper, tungsten, lead, coal, some marble, limestone, precious stones, natural gas, hydropower.

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

Burma has a mixed economy with private activity dominant in agriculture, light industry, and transport, and with substantial state-controlled activity, mainly in energy, heavy industry, and the rice trade.
Government policy in the last 11 years, 1989-99, has aimed at revitalising the economy after three decades of tight central planning.
Thus, private activity has markedly increased; foreign investment has been encouraged, so far with moderate success.
State enterprises remain highly inefficient and privatisation efforts have stalled.
Published estimates of Burma's foreign trade are greatly understated because of the volume of black-market trade.
A major ongoing problem is the failure to achieve monetary and fiscal stability.
Burma remains a poor Asian country and living standards for the majority have not improved over the past decade.
The short-term outlook is for continued sluggish growth because of poor government planning, internal unrest, minimal foreign investment, and the large trade deficit.

Main industrial activities are, agricultural processing; textiles and footwear; wood and wood products; copper, tin, tungsten, iron; construction materials; pharmaceuticals; fertiliser.

The major export commodities are pulses and beans, prawns, fish, rice; teak, opiates.

External debt: $5.9 billion (1998/99 fiscal year est.)

Currency: 1 kyat (K) = 100 pyas

Population: 42,510,537

Ethnic groups: Burman 68%, Shan 9%, Karen 7%, Rakhine 4%, Chinese 3%, Mon 2%, Indian 2%, other 5%
Religions: Buddhist 89%, Christian 4% (Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic 1%), Muslim 4%, animist 1%, other 2%

Languages: Burmese, minority ethnic groups have their own languages.

Capital, largest city and seaport is Rangoon, now called Yangon.

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myanmar"

This information was updated & correct in December 2003    E. & O.E.

All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
(see Copyrights for details).

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