Country profile: Myanmar

Official name: Kingdom of Thailand (Ratcha Anachak Thai or Prathet Thai)
Capital: Bangkok
Government type: Constitutional monarchy
Population: 77-.8 million (National census, 2010)
Area: 779,452 sq km
Languages: Turkish (official), Kurdish, Zaza, Arabic, Armenian, Greek
Major religion: Islam
Life expectancy: 66.5 years male, 71.7 years female (UN)
Monetary unit: Turkish lira
Literacy: Total population: 87%; Male: 95%; Female: 80%
GDP per capita: $9,100


Then known as Burma, the country gained independence from Britain in 1948. General Ne Win became the first military ruler in 1962 and later a self-appointed president until 1988. A student uprising in September 1988 ended Ne Win’s reign, and established a new military rule.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) secured a landslide victory in the multi-party parliamentary elections in 1990 but the ruling generals refused to hand over power.

In August 2007, a massive hike in fuel prices set off massive demonstrations which saw tens of thousands taking to the streets, led by Buddhist monks. The military subsequently launched a deadly crackdown to end the protests.

As of July 2010, about 38 new political parties were approved for registration under new election laws. Previously there were 10 legally-registered parties, five of which chose to de-register including the NLD which cited flaws in the new laws.


Rich in resources mainly petroleum, natural gas, precious stones, minerals and metals, Myanmar suffers from pervasive government controls, corruption, inefficient economic policies, exploitation and rural poverty.

The country also suffers from serious economic and social imbalances, including rising inflation, fiscal deficits, unreliable official data and overvalued exchange rates.

The country’s annual GDP according to 2009 estimates is $27.55bn. The annual growth rate based on 2010 estimates is 5.3 per cent, with a GDP per capita of $469.

The agriculture sector – about 43 per cent – is the main contributor to the national economy, producing rice, beans, sesame, groundnuts, sugarcane and fishing.

Exports totalled an estimated $6.85bn in 2009 compared to $6.64bn the previous year. It’s major trading partners are Thailand, India, China and Japan.

It is also the world’s second-largest producer of illicit opium, with Shan state being the source of 94 per cent of the country’s poppy cultivation.


Myanmar shares land borders with Bangladesh, China, India, Laos and Thailand. It is slightly smaller than Texas, and has close to 2,000 kilometres of coastline.

It is prone to natural hazards including devastating cyclones, earthquakes, flooding and landslides, as well as droughts.

Natural resources include petroleum, timber, tin, antimony, zinc, copper, tungsten, lead, coal, marble, limestone, precious stones, gas and hydropower.

Has signed but not ratified any of the selected international agreements on environmental protection.


Myanmar has about 53.4 million people, predominantly Buddhists. No official census has been taken since 1983. It’s population growth for 2010 is projected at slightly more than one per cent.

Major ethnic groups include Burman, Shan, Karen, Rakhine, Chinese, Mon and Indian, most of whom live in the country’s eastern highlands.

The military government also faces ethnic insurgencies from tribal communities in the highlands.

More than one million stateless Rohingya and internally-displaced people are estimated to be living in refugee camps in Thailand and Bangladesh.

Over two million mostly ethnic minorities have fled the country for economic and political reasons, ending up in neighbouring countries including China, Indonesia and Malaysia. About 90 per cent of refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia are from Myanmar.

Key dates

1937 – Separated from India, made semi-autonomous British colony.

1948 – Independence from British rule.

1962 – Military rule initiated following a coup by General Ne Win.

1988 – Student rebellion crushed by bloody military crackdown.

1989 – Burma renamed Myanmar. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi placed under house arrest.

1990 – National League for Democracy landslide victory in multi-party elections but results ignored by military junta. Thousands arrested in crackdown on opposition.

1991 – Aung San Suu Kyi wins Nobel Peace Prize.

1997 – Joins the Association of Southeast Asians (Asean).

2000 –  Aung San Suu Kyi begins secret talks with ruling military.

2003 – Idea for new draft constitution mooted as part of “road map” to democracy.

2006 – Naypidaw declared as new administrative capital.

2007 – Mass demonstrations sparked by major fuel price hike, dubbed the “saffron revolution”, led by Buddhist monks.

2008 – Cyclone Nargis claims more than 130,000 lives across the Irrawaddy delta, leaves millions more homeless. Draft constitution published, military government claims referendum favours draft.

2009 – Aung San Suu Kyi charged with violating terms of house arrest, convicted and sentenced to 18 months in home confinement.

2010 – New election laws passed barring Aung San Suu Kyi from running for office. Her party the NLD chooses to de-register, citing flaws laws. Election date fixed for November 7.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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