Burma, now Myanmar, is a sovereign State of Southeast Asia. It is the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia. It has a total area of 678,500 sq km. It is bordered by China, Thailand, India, Laos and Bangladesh. One-third of the perimeter of the country is the coastline along the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. Its population of over 60 million makes it the world’s 24th most populous country.
The country was colonized by Britain during 1885-1948 following three Anglo-Burmese Wars (1824-1885). On 4 January 1948, the nation became an independent republic named the Union of Burma. However, 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 Nationalists. Multi-party elections were held in 1951-1952, 1956, and 1960.
On March 2 in 1962, the military-led by General Ne Win took control of Burma through a coup. Between 1962 and 1974 Burma was ruled by a revolutionary council headed by the General. Almost all the spheres of the nation, such as business, media, production, etc. were nationalised or brought under government control under the Burmese Way of Socialism. A new Constitution of the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma was adopted in 1974. Until 1988 the country was ruled as a one-party government, the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP). During this period Burma became one of the world’s most impoverished countries. In 1988 economic instability and political oppression by the government led to widespread protest and demonstrations throughout the country.
The military government finalised plans for People’s Assembly Election on 31 May 1989. The State Law and Order Restoration Council changed the country’s official name from the “Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma’ to the ‘Union of Mayanmar’ in 1989. In May 1990, the government held a free election for the first time in almost 30 years and the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party of Aung San Sun Kyi, won 392 out of a total 489 seats. Aung San Su Kyi was Burma’s most prominent Human rights activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. However, the military junta refused to transfer power and continued to rule the country.
In the election of 2010, the military-backed party declared that it had been favoured by 80% of votes. It was disputed by the opposition groups that the military regime was engaged in rampant fraud to achieve such a result. At last, the military junta was dissolved on 30 March 2011. The impact of the post-election reforms could be observed in numerous areas, such as the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Sun Kyi from house arrest, establishment of the National Human Rights Commission, granting of general amnesties for more than 200 political prisoners, etc. In the by-election on 1 April 2012, the NLD won 43 out of 45 seats in which the first time international representatives were allowed to monitor the voting process. Naypyidaw is now the capital city of Myanmar.
However, the country is still one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia, suffering from earlier decades of political and economic mismanagement and isolation. The national currency is Kyat with a dual exchange rate system similar to Cuba. In 2010-11, Bangladesh exported products worth $9.65 million to Myanmar against its import of $ 179 million. In recent years, both China and India have strengthened ties with Mynamar for the economic transaction. Many nations, including Canada and the European Union, have imposed investment and trade sanction to Mynamar, The United States had banned all imports and exports from and to Mynamar but granted sanctions in 2012. Foreign investments come partially from China, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and India.
The major agricultural product is rice which covers about 60% of the country’s total cultivated land area. Myanmar is also the world’s second-largest producer of opium and is a major source of illegal drugs. It produces precious stones such as rubies, sapphires, pearls and jade. Other industries include textiles, wood products, oil, and gas.
It is a multi-religious country of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. The mother tongue and official language are Burmese and lingua franca is English.
The general state of health care in Myanmar is poor. The government spends only 0.5 to 3% of the country’s GDP on health care. HIV/AIDS is a disease of concern and it is most prevalent among sex-workers and intravenous drug users.
Schooling is compulsory up to 9 years of age and nearly all schools are government-operated.