page last updated on October 28, 2009
Flag of Burma
Location of Burma
Map of Burma
Introduction ::Burma
Britain conquered Burma over a period of 62 years (1824-1886) and incorporated it into its Indian Empire. Burma was administered as a province of India until 1937 when it became a separate, self-governing colony; independence from the Commonwealth was attained in 1948. Gen. NE WIN dominated the government from 1962 to 1988, first as military ruler, then as self-appointed president, and later as political kingpin. In September 1988, the military deposed NE WIN and established a new ruling junta. Despite multiparty legislative elections in 1990 that resulted in the main opposition party - the National League for Democracy (NLD) - winning a landslide victory, the junta refused to hand over power. NLD leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient AUNG SAN SUU KYI, who was under house arrest from 1989 to 1995 and 2000 to 2002, was imprisoned in May 2003 and subsequently transferred to house arrest. After the ruling junta in August 2007 unexpectedly increased fuel prices, tens of thousands of Burmese marched in protest, led by prodemocracy activists and Buddhist monks. In late September 2007, the government brutally suppressed the protests, killing at least 13 people and arresting thousands for participating in the demonstrations. Since then, the regime has continued to raid homes and monasteries and arrest persons suspected of participating in the pro-democracy protests. The junta appointed Labor Minister AUNG KYI in October 2007 as liaison to AUNG SAN SUU KYI, who remains under house arrest and virtually incommunicado with her party and supporters. Burma in early May 2008 was struck by Cyclone Nargis which official estimates claimed left over 80,000 dead and 50,000 injured. Despite this tragedy, the junta proceeded with its May constitutional referendum, the first vote in Burma since 1990, setting the stage for the 2010 parliamentary elections.
Geography ::Burma
Southeastern Asia, bordering the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, between Bangladesh and Thailand
22 00 N, 98 00 E
total: 676,578 sq km
country comparison to the world: 40
land: 653,508 sq km
water: 23,070 sq km
slightly smaller than Texas
total: 5,876 km
border countries: Bangladesh 193 km, China 2,185 km, India 1,463 km, Laos 235 km, Thailand 1,800 km
1,930 km
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
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)
central lowlands ringed by steep, rugged highlands
lowest point: Andaman Sea 0 m
highest point: Hkakabo Razi 5,881 m
petroleum, timber, tin, antimony, zinc, copper, tungsten, lead, coal, marble, limestone, precious stones, natural gas, hydropower
arable land: 14.92%
permanent crops: 1.31%
other: 83.77% (2005)
18,700 sq km (2003)
1,045.6 cu km (1999)
total: 33.23 cu km/yr (1%/1%/98%)
per capita: 658 cu m/yr (2000)
destructive earthquakes and cyclones; flooding and landslides common during rainy season (June to September); periodic droughts
deforestation; industrial pollution of air, soil, and water; inadequate sanitation and water treatment contribute to disease
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
strategic location near major Indian Ocean shipping lanes
People ::Burma
country comparison to the world: 26
note: 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, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2009 est.)
0-14 years: 25.3% (male 6,193,263/female 5,990,658)
15-64 years: 69.3% (male 16,510,648/female 16,828,462)
65 years and over: 5.4% (male 1,121,412/female 1,493,298) (2009 est.)
total: 28.2 years
male: 27.7 years
female: 28.8 years (2009 est.)
0.783% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 139
16.97 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 123
9.14 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 83
urban population: 33% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 2.9% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.75 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
total: 47.61 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 53
male: 53.78 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 41.07 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
total population: 63.39 years
country comparison to the world: 172
male: 61.17 years
female: 65.74 years (2009 est.)
1.89 children born/woman (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 145
0.7% (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 64
240,000 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 28
25,000 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 18
degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria
water contact disease: leptospirosis
animal contact disease: rabies
note: highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2009)
noun: Burmese (singular and plural)
adjective: Burmese
Burman 68%, Shan 9%, Karen 7%, Rakhine 4%, Chinese 3%, Indian 2%, Mon 2%, other 5%
Buddhist 89%, Christian 4% (Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic 1%), Muslim 4%, animist 1%, other 2%
Burmese, minority ethnic groups have their own languages
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 89.9%
male: 93.9%
female: 86.4% (2006 est.)
total: 8 years
male: 8 years
female: 8 years (2001)
1.2% of GDP (2001)
country comparison to the world: 178
Government ::Burma
conventional long form: Union of Burma
conventional short form: Burma
local long form: Pyidaungzu Myanma Naingngandaw (translated by the US Government as Union of Myanma and by the Burmese as Union of Myanmar)
local short form: Myanma Naingngandaw
former: Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma
note: since 1989 the military authorities in Burma have promoted the name Myanmar as a conventional name for their state; this decision was not approved by any sitting legislature in Burma, and the US Government did not adopt the name, which is a derivative of the Burmese short-form name Myanma Naingngandaw
military junta
name: Rangoon (Yangon)
geographic coordinates: 16 48 N, 96 09 E
time difference: UTC+6.5 (11.5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
note: Nay Pyi Taw is administrative capital
7 divisions (taing-myar, singular - taing) and 7 states* (pyi ne-myar, singular - pyi ne)
divisions: Ayeyarwady, Bago, Magway, Mandalay, Sagaing, Tanintharyi, Yangon
states: Chin, Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Mon, Rakhine, Shan
4 January 1948 (from the UK)
Independence Day, 4 January (1948); Union Day, 12 February (1947)
3 January 1974; suspended since 18 September 1988; a new constitution was approved on 10 May 2008; note - new constitution will take effect when a new parliament is convened following elections scheduled for 2010
based on English common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
chief of state: Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) Sr. Gen. THAN SHWE (since 23 April 1992)
head of government: Prime Minister, Lt. Gen THEIN SEIN (since 24 October 2007)
cabinet: Cabinet is overseen by SPDC; military junta assumed power 18 September 1988 under name State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC)
elections: none
a unicameral People's Assembly or Pyithu Hluttaw consisting of 485 seats with members elected by popular vote was elected in 1990 but was never seated; according to the terms of the constitution approved on 10 May 2008, a bicameral Pyidaungsu Hluttaw consisting of an upper house with a maximum of 224 seats and a lower house with a maximum of 440 seats will be selected in elections in 2010
elections: last held 27 May 1990, but Assembly never allowed by junta to convene (junta has announced plans to hold elections in 2010)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NLD 392 (opposition), SNLD 23 (opposition), NUP 10 (pro-government), other 60
remnants of the British-era legal system are in place, but there is no guarantee of a fair public trial; the judiciary is not independent of the executive
National League for Democracy or NLD [AUNG SHWE, AUNG SAN SUU KYI]; National Unity Party or NUP (pro-regime) [TUN YE]; Shan Nationalities League for Democracy or SNLD [HKUN HTUN OO]; and numerous other smaller parties
Ethnic Nationalities Council or ENC (based in Thailand); Federation of Trade Unions-Burma or FTUB (exile trade union and labor advocates); National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma or NCGUB (self-proclaimed government in exile) ["Prime Minister" Dr. SEIN WIN] consists of individuals, some legitimately elected to the People's Assembly in 1990 (the group fled to a border area and joined insurgents in December 1990 to form parallel government in exile); Kachin Independence Organization or KIO; Karen National Union or KNU; Karenni National People's Party or KNPP; National Council-Union of Burma or NCUB (exile coalition of opposition groups); United Wa State Army or UWSA; Union Solidarity and Development Association or USDA (pro-regime, a social and political mass-member organization) [HTAY OO, general secretary]; 88 Generation Students (pro-democracy movement) [TOE KYAW HLAING]
other: several Shan factions
chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires MYINT LWIN
chancery: 2300 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 332-3344
FAX: [1] (202) 332-4351
consulate(s) general: New York
chief of mission: Charge d'Affaires Larry M. DINGER - note: The United States does not maintain an ambassador in Burma
embassy: 110 University Avenue, Kamayut Township, Rangoon
mailing address: Box B, APO AP 96546
telephone: [95] (1) 536-509, 535-756, 538-038
FAX: [95] (1) 650-306
red with a blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner bearing 14, white, five-pointed stars encircling a cogwheel containing a stalk of rice; the 14 stars represent the seven administrative divisions and seven states
Economy ::Burma
Burma, a resource-rich country, suffers from pervasive government controls, inefficient economic policies, and rural poverty. Despite Burma's increasing oil and gas revenue, socio-economic conditions have deteriorated because of the regime's mismanagement of the economy. The economy suffers from serious macroeconomic imbalances - including rising inflation, fiscal deficits, multiple official exchange rates that overvalue the Burmese kyat, a distorted interest rate regime, unreliable statistics, and an inability to reconcile national accounts to determine a realistic GDP figure. Most overseas development assistance ceased after the junta began to suppress the democracy movement in 1988 and subsequently refused to honor the results of the 1990 legislative elections. In response to the government of Burma's attack in May 2003 on AUNG SAN SUU KYI and her convoy, the US imposed new economic sanctions in August 2003 including a ban on imports of Burmese products and a ban on provision of financial services by US persons. Further, a poor investment climate hampers the inflow of foreign investment. Foreign investors have shied away from nearly every sector except for natural gas and power generation. The business climate is widely perceived as opaque, corrupt, and highly inefficient. The most productive sectors will continue to be in extractive industries - especially oil and gas, mining, and timber - with the latter causing significant environmental degradation. Other areas, such as manufacturing and services, are struggling with inadequate infrastructure, unpredictable import/export policies, deteriorating health and education systems, and endemic corruption. A major banking crisis in 2003 shuttered 20 private banks and disrupted the economy. As of 2008, the largest private banks operated under tight restrictions, limiting the private sector's access to formal credit. The September 2007 crackdown on prodemocracy demonstrators, including thousands of monks, strained the economy as the tourism industry, which directly employs about 500,000 people, suffered dramatic declines in foreign visitor levels. In November 2007, the European Union announced new sanctions banning investment and trade in Burmese gems, timber, and precious stones, while the United States expanded its sanctions list to include more Burmese government and military officials and their family members, as well as prominent regime business cronies, their family members, and associated companies. Official statistics are inaccurate. In July 2008 the President signed into law the Tom LANTOS JADE (Junta's Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act of 2008, imposing new targeted sanctions on the regime. Published statistics on foreign trade are greatly understated because of the size of the black market and unofficial border trade - often estimated to be as large as the official economy. Though the Burmese government has good economic relations with its neighbors, better investment and business climates and an improved political situation are needed to promote serious foreign investment, exports, and tourism.
$55.13 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 87
$54.54 billion (2007 est.)
$52.74 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
$27.18 billion (2008 est.)
1.1% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 171
3.4% (2007 est.)
3.4% (2006 est.)
$1,200 (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 206
$1,200 (2007 est.)
$1,100 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
agriculture: 40.9%
industry: 19.8%
services: 39.2% (2008 est.)
30.04 million (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 19
agriculture: 70%
industry: 7%
services: 23% (2001)
9.5% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 121
5.2% (2007 est.)
32.7% (2007 est.)
lowest 10%: 2.8%
highest 10%: 32.4% (1998)
14.1% of GDP (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 139
revenues: $1 billion
expenditures: $1.805 billion (2008 est.)
26.8% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 217
35% (2007 est.)
NA% (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 25
12% (31 December 2007)
NA% (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 30
17% (31 December 2007)
$NA (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 5
$598 billion (31 December 2007)
note: this number reflects the vastly overvalued official exchange rate of 5.38 kyat per dollar; at the unofficial black market rate of 1305 kyat per dollar, the stock of kyats would equal only US$2.465 billion and Burma's velocity of money (the number of times money turns over in the course of a year) would be six, in line with the velocity of money for other countries in the region
$NA (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 15
$216.9 billion (31 December 2007)
$NA (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 15
$887.7 billion (31 December 2007)
rice, pulses, beans, sesame, groundnuts, sugarcane; hardwood; fish and fish products
agricultural processing; wood and wood products; copper, tin, tungsten, iron; cement, construction materials; pharmaceuticals; fertilizer; oil and natural gas; garments, jade and gems
7.8% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 25
6.286 billion kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 105
4.403 billion kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 112
0 kWh (2008 est.)
0 kWh (2008 est.)
22,120 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 74
41,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 100
2,200 bbl/day (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 113
18,250 bbl/day (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 114
50 million bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 77
12.4 billion cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 40
3.85 billion cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 67
8.55 billion cu m (2008)
country comparison to the world: 23
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 75
283.2 billion cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 40
$1.018 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 47
$1.285 billion (2007 est.)
$6.348 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 101
$6.17 billion (2007 est.)
note: official export figures are grossly underestimated due to the value of timber, gems, narcotics, rice, and other products smuggled to Thailand, China, and Bangladesh
natural gas, wood products, pulses, beans, fish, rice, clothing, jade and gems
Thailand 52.6%, India 12%, China 9.2%, Japan 4.4% (2008)
$3.427 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 134
$2.964 billion (2007 est.)
note: import figures are grossly underestimated due to the value of consumer goods, diesel fuel, and other products smuggled in from Thailand, China, Malaysia, and India
fabric, petroleum products, fertilizer, plastics, machinery, transport equipment; cement, construction materials, crude oil; food products, edible oil
China 32%, Thailand 21%, Singapore 20.5%, South Korea 5.3%, Malaysia 4.2%, Indonesia 4% (2008)
$3.412 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 92
$2.312 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
$7.74 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 90
$7.022 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
kyats (MMK) per US dollar - 1,205 (2008 est.), 1,296 (2007), 1,280 (2006), 5.761 (2005), 5.7459 (2004)
note: unofficial exchange rates ranged in 2004 from 815 kyat/US dollar to nearly 970 kyat/US dollar, and by yearend 2005, the unofficial exchange rate was 1,075 kyat/US dollar; data shown for 2003-05 are official exchange rates
Communications ::Burma
829,000 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 85
375,800 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 163
general assessment: meets minimum requirements for local and intercity service for business and government
domestic: system barely capable of providing basic service; cellular phone system is grossly underdeveloped with a subscribership base of less than 1 per 100 persons
international: country code - 95; landing point for the SEA-ME-WE-3 optical telecommunications submarine cable that provides links to Asia, the Middle East, and Europe; satellite earth stations - 2, Intelsat (Indian Ocean) and ShinSat (2008)
AM 1, FM 2, shortwave 3 (2007)
4 (2008)
128 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 196
108,900 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 150
Transportation ::Burma
77 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 72
total: 37
over 3,047 m: 11
2,438 to 3,047 m: 9
1,524 to 2,437 m: 14
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 2 (2009)
total: 40
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 12
under 914 m: 23 (2009)
5 (2009)
gas 2,228 km; oil 558 km (2008)
total: 3,955 km
country comparison to the world: 44
narrow gauge: 3,955 km 1.000-m gauge (2008)
total: 27,000 km
country comparison to the world: 101
paved: 3,200 km
unpaved: 23,800 km (2006)
12,800 km (2008)
country comparison to the world: 10
total: 24
country comparison to the world: 92
by type: bulk carrier 1, cargo 17, passenger 2, passenger/cargo 3, specialized tanker 1
foreign-owned: 3 (Cyprus 1, Germany 1, Japan 1)
registered in other countries: 1 (Panama 1) (2008)
Moulmein, Rangoon, Sittwe
Military ::Burma
Myanmar Armed Forces (Tatmadaw): Army, Navy, Air Force (Tatmadaw Lay) (2008)
18 years of age for voluntary military service for both sexes; forced conscription of children, although officially prohibited, reportedly continues (2007)
males age 16-49: 13,402,788
females age 16-49: 13,437,042 (2008 est.)
males age 16-49: 9,146,312
females age 16-49: 9,520,852 (2009 est.)
male: 426,110
female: 417,674 (2009 est.)
2.1% of GDP (2005 est.)
country comparison to the world: 77
Transnational Issues ::Burma
over half of Burma's population consists of diverse ethnic groups who have substantial numbers of kin in neighboring countries; Thailand must deal with Karen and other ethnic refugees, asylum seekers, and rebels, as well as illegal cross-border activities from Burma; Thailand is studying the feasibility of jointly constructing the Hatgyi Dam on the Salween River near the border with Burma; citing environmental, cultural, and social concerns, China is reconsidering construction of 13 dams on the Salween River but energy-starved Burma with backing from Thailand remains intent on building five hydro-electric dams downstream, despite identical regional and international protests; India seeks cooperation from Burma to keep Indian Nagaland separatists, such as the United Liberation Front of Assam, from hiding in remote Burmese Uplands; after 21 years, Bangladesh resumes talks with Burma on delimiting a maritime boundary in January 2008
IDPs: 503,000 (government offensives against ethnic insurgent groups near the eastern borders; most IDPs are ethnic Karen, Karenni, Shan, Tavoyan, and Mon) (2007)
current situation: Burma is a source country for women, children, and men trafficked for the purpose of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation; Burmese women and children are trafficked to East and Southeast Asia for commercial sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, and forced labor; Burmese children are subjected to conditions of forced labor in Thailand as hawkers, beggars, and for work in shops, agriculture, fish processing, and small-scale industries; women are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation to Malaysia and China; some trafficking victims transit Burma from Bangladesh to Malaysia and from China to Thailand; internal trafficking occurs primarily from villages to urban centers and economic hubs for labor in industrial zones, agricultural estates, and commercial sexual exploitation; military and civilian officials continue to use a significant amount of forced labor; ethnic insurgent groups also used compulsory labor of adults and unlawful recruitment of children; the military junta's gross economic mismanagement, human rights abuses, and its policy of using forced labor are the top causal factors for Burma's significant trafficking problem
tier rating: Tier 3 - Burma does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; military and civilian officials remain directly involved in significant acts of forced labor and unlawful conscription of child soldiers (2008)
remains world's second largest producer of illicit opium with an estimated production in 2008 of 340 metric tons, an increase of 26%, and poppy cultivation in 2008 totaled 22,500 hectares, a 4% increase from 2007; production in the United Wa State Army's areas of greatest control remains low; Shan state is the source of 94% of Burma's poppy cultivation; lack of government will to take on major narcotrafficking groups and lack of serious commitment against money laundering continues to hinder the overall antidrug effort; major source of methamphetamine and heroin for regional consumption (2008)