After independence in 1948, a five-year compulsory primary school was
introduced. The primary school is followed by a four-year middle school
completed with a two-year superstructure. With approximately 4% of a cohort complete
higher education. After the military took power in 1962, the public education
system completely disintegrated. The monasteries tried to remedy the situation,
but were often not professionally qualified. Only just over 1% of the state
budget was set aside for education. Half of the children did not complete
primary school, in 1990 24% reached 5th grade. Only children of high-ranking
military personnel received proper schooling. Since 2011, resources have been
allocated to strengthen education, but recovery has long prospects.
In addition to universities in Rangoon, Mandalay and Moulmein, there are
higher education institutions for e.g. engineering and agriculture as well as IT
and communications elsewhere. Between 1988 and 2011, teaching was marked by
political unrest and consequent prolonged institutional closures.
ETYMOLOGY: The official name Myanmar was introduced in 1989 by the nationalist military
regime, after this year had defeated the country's democratic movement. The name
change was to demonstrate the regime's definitive break with the colonial past.
OFFICIAL NAME: Pyidaungzu Myanma Naingngandaw
CAPITAL CITY: (Pyinmana) Naypyidaw
POPULATION: 60,000,000 (Source: COUNTRYaah)
AREA: 676,560 km²
OFFICIAL LANGUAGE (S): Burmese and other Tibeto-Burmese languages, Karen languages, Mon-Khmer
RELIGION: Buddhists 89%, Muslims 4%, Baptists 3%, Catholics 1%, Indigenous religions
1%, others 2%
CURRENCY CODE: MMK
ENGLISH NAME: Republic of the Union of Myanmar
POPULATION COMPOSITION: Burmese 68%, Shan 9%, Karen 7%, Arakan 4%, Mon 2%, others 10%
GDP PER residents: $ 1400 (PPP) (2012)
LIFE EXPECTANCY: men 63 years, women 68 years (2012)
INDEX OF LIVING CONDITIONS, HDI: 0.498
INDEX OF LIVING CONDITIONS, POSITION: 149
INTERNET DOMAIN NAME: .mm
Burma, officially Myanmar, Republic of Southeast Asia. The country
was a British colony from 1885 to 1948, until 1937 as part of British India, and
since independence in 1948 has been marked by political unrest, authoritarian
regimes and international isolation. The country was 1962-2011 military
dictatorship. In 1997, the country became a member of the region's economic
cooperation organization, ASEAN. In 2005, the capital was moved at short notice
from Rangoon, officially Yangon, to near Pyinmana. Following a
manipulated parliamentary election in 2010, Burma in 2011 was given a nominal
civilian government, which initiated a process of democratization and in 2016
joined a civilian government.
Burma - religion
Up to 90% of Burma's population are Theravada Buddhists. Theravada
Buddhism was already widespread in the lower part of Myanmar as the culture of
the Monfolk flourished from about 400-t. The Pyu people, who dominated the
northern areas 200-832, however, professed Mahayana Buddhism as well as Tantric
Buddhism and Hinduism.
The Burmese ruler Anuruddha or Anawratha (regent 1044-77) spread Theravada
Buddhism in present-day Burma. The worship of primitive forms of religion,
guardian spirits (night), are today part of popular Buddhism as
central elements. Buddhism is an integral part of the everyday life of the
The monks of the many village monasteries are highly regarded, and they often
act as teachers and healers. In recent centuries, the monk class, sangha,
has been politically active. It has faced strong opposition to unwanted rulers,
such as the British colonial rule and the military dictatorship in recent times.
While Burma's school system fell apart during the military rule 1962-2011,
the monasteries also accounted for a large part of the school education of
especially boys - in addition to Buddhist teachings also common subjects such as
history, geography, English, mathematics etc.
The activism of the monks was expressed in 2012 in the incitement of rabid
monks to the dramatic ethnic and religious persecution of initially Muslim
Rohingya in the state of Rakhine, since then also Muslims in other parts of the
country; the persecutions have cost many lives and sent more than 100,000 on the
run, but no monks and very few others have been held accountable.
Burma's religious minorities consist mainly of Christians (5.6%), Muslims
(3.6%), Hindus (1%) and animists (2.6%).
Burma - Constitution
The Constitution was suspended after a military coup in 1988, and a military
council, the "State Council for the Restoration of Law and Order" (SLORC), was
established, as well as a government consisting almost exclusively of military
In 1990, a Constituent Assembly of 485 members was elected to prepare a new
constitution according to SLORC's guidelines. In 1995, a new Constituent
Assembly of 706 members was convened, in which the opposition, the National
League for Democracy (NLD), received 107 seats. The NLD emigrated after a short
In 1997, SLORC changed its name to the State Council for Peace and
Development, SPDC, which in 2003 prepared a seven-point Roadmap to
Discipline-flourishing Democracy. Item four was the referendum on a new
constitution, which took place on 10 May 2008 and was adopted by 94 per cent. of
the votes. Thus, after 20 years, Burma got a constitution again. Officially, 98
percent voted. of the population. The vote, according to all observers, was
The constitution secures the military 25 per cent. of the seats in the upper
and lower houses of parliament, whereby the military, together with elected
representatives in the party of the former generals, can at any time muster
decisive majorities outside the opposition. The paragraph met with much
criticism along with it that only Burmese who are not or have not been married
to a foreigner can be elected president, which excluded opposition leader Aung
San Suu Kyi, who is a widow of a Briton. Ahead of the parliamentary elections in
2015, it is a matter of changing e.g. the paragraph.
Burma - social conditions
Burma's military government controlled for 50 years from 1962 key industries,
banking and trade. At the same time, the generals ran a well-functioning
business, education system and healthcare system completely down. The
surveillance of the community was total through the military intelligence, for
example, permission was to be given to have overnight guests, and photos of the
registered occupants of a house were to be hung in a visible place. Media,
communication and the arts were subject to censorship and the judicial system
functioned arbitrarily. Society was plagued by fear and rumors, and those in
power used astrology, divination, and magic to predict, counteract, or influence
Forced labor and forced relocation of villages were widespread. Child
mortality is high and malnutrition the norm. The country has at least 1/2 million. HIV-infected,
tuberculosis and malaria are widespread. At least 200,000 internally displaced
people from conflicts in the Rakhine and Kachin states live in refugee camps; in
Burma as well as China, Thailand and Bangladesh. Despite the misery, there was
progress: in 1990, 200 out of every 1000 children died before the age of
five. In 2010 it was 71. In 2005-10, the average GDP per capita increased by 45
per cent. But in 2010, Burma was in the top 3 in all international inventories
of child labor, child soldiers, corruption, human rights violations, and the
absence of civil rights and democracy.
With the transition to civilian rule in 2011, a marked course of reform and
democratization was initiated to restore the previous 50 years of degradation
with modernization of the labor market, education, the health system, etc.,
supported by massive international technical and economic assistance.
Under military rule, enormous fortunes were amassed in a few hands, and the
friends and relatives of the leading generals sat on the banking, airlines,
hotels, precious stones, precious wood, precious metals, and other lucrative
industries, while the rest of the country fell into disrepair. This, too, was to
remedy reforms under civilian rule.
Burma - Military
Burma's armed forces, Tatmadaw, was founded by the country's freedom hero,
General Aung San, and sees himself as the guarantor of the entire Union. They
have approximately 500,000 men under arms.
The army is 350,000, the fleet approximately 19,000 men and women and the Air Force
23,000. The guards are equipped with a mix of newer Soviet or Chinese and old
Western equipment. The Army's 100 regular and 337 territorial infantry
battalions and 10 armored battalions are divided into 10 infantry divisions and
12 military regions. The forces are lightly equipped, primarily for maintaining
internal security. The fleet has 75 combat and patrol units, many of which are
intended for patrolling rivers, as well as 11 landing craft and a navy of 800
men. The Air Force has 125 fighter jets and helicopters. The security forces are
at 107,250, of which 72,000 in the gendarmerie, the "People's Police". In 2011,
23.6% of the state budget was just over two billion. dollars, set aside for
A 2010 law on conscription was not enacted, so lawful recruitment to Tatmadaw
rests on volunteering. Burma signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
in 1991, but continued to forcibly recruit tens of thousands of child soldiers.
In 2012, the new, "civilian" government signed an international Joint Action
Plan for the Prevention of Child Recruitment; taking into account the other
democratization and reform of the country, it must be expected that the system
of child soldiers is being phased out.
Burma's Constitution of 2008 automatically allocates Tatmadaw 25% of the
seats in Parliament's Upper House (56) and Lower House (110). Thus, Tatmadaw and
the new military regime's new party, the USDP, are guaranteed a majority -
provided MPs vote as expected. However, this has not necessarily been the case.
Burma - mass media
Burma got its first newspaper in the 1830's and had a vibrant and varied press
for over 100 years, also during and after the independence struggle during World
War II. In the 1950's, there were over 30 dailies and even more magazines, many
with sharp community commentary in writing and drawing.
The situation changed during the military junta, which allowed only a few
newspapers in Burma between 1962 and 2010. The military regime's official
mouthpiece, New Light of Myanmar (published 1963-88 as Det Arbejdende Folks
Dagblad) is published on resp. Burmese and English, in print and since 2004 also
in an online version. In addition, the state news agency, MNA. Up to and
especially after the transition to civilian rule in 2011, more newspapers and
also online media were added.
With the Internet emerged a number of online exile media such as Irrawaddy
and Mizzima, which became important sources of information about events in
Burma. They continue to operate from abroad.
Two television stations have been broadcasting in color since 1980; primarily
in laudatory terms about the military and the temples. Then came a privately
owned pay-TV station in Rangoon, MM, and an "international" channel that was to
inform the outside world. In 2013, there are 7 state-owned channels. Since 2012,
it has been allowed to watch foreign TV. Burma's Democratic Voice, DVB, began
broadcasting satellite TV to Burma from Norway in 2005.
The radio has been broadcasting since 1937, but came under state control in
1962. In addition to Burmese, it is broadcast on arakan, shan, karen, kachin,
kayah, chin, mon and english. The BBC, Voice of America and the exiled radio
Burma's Democratic Voice, DVB, which has been broadcasting from Oslo with the
support of the Norwegian state since 1992, broadcast in Burmese - illegally
until 2012. In 2013, DVB set up an editorial office in Burma to move the entire
operation home. The prevalence of radio and television is modest because the
majority of the population does not have access to electricity.
There are a dozen religious, economic, cultural and other journals, many of
which are privately owned. Until 2012, all stories in the written media had to
be approved before printing. It was relaxed in 2012, so that the control only
takes effect after publication. A similar new law for electronic media was to be
considered in 2013.
Under military rule, Burma was ranked 163 out of 167 in the World Press
Freedom Reporters' Index of Freedom of the Press - among the five countries in
the world with the least freedom of the press. In 2012, Burma was ranked No. 151
out of 179, better, but still in the worst third.
Modern electronic means of communication only slowly made their entry into
Burma, where until 2012 one could be punished with up to 14 years in prison for
owning a fax without military approval. The Internet was slow and only for the
elite until 2011. In 2012, an estimated 1% of the population had access to the
Internet, where censorship was significantly eased. Well-to-do and well-educated
young people are accustomed to social media, which, with the increased freedom
of speech, was also used for dramatic hate campaigns against Rohingya in the
state of Rakhine.
Burma - visual arts and architecture
The art of Burma has had its strongest influences from India and has
had Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism as well as Hinduism as sources of
inspiration. Remains of architecture and sculpture have been handed down from
the Mon and Pyu people, who dominated in the 200-800's. Under the Burmese rulers
of the Pagan period (1044-1287), art in Burma had its heyday.
The royal wooden palaces in Bagan have been lost, but numerous brick shrines
such as stupas and temples, such as the 12th-century Ananda Temple, have been
preserved, most of them in ruins. The temples contain Buddha statues of stone or
bronze, and they are often adorned with reliefs or frescoes depicting scenes
from the Buddha's life or episodes from his past existences.
The most famous Buddhist shrine is the pompous Shwe Dagon stupa in Rangoon,
which got its current form around 1500-t. In addition to the frescoes in the
temples, the pictorial art is expressed in the illuminated manuscripts written
on palm leaves covered with lacquer and provided with gilded figures and
A number of Burmese artists founded during the 1900's. familiarity with
Western techniques. In 1953, state art schools in Mandalay and Rangoon opened
with teaching in oil painting and watercolor.
Artistically, time stood almost still in the years under the military
dictatorship, 1962-2011. in the 1990's, however, artists gradually began to move
with new, more colorful versions of old-fashioned motifs from religion and
ethnic minorities. Since 2011, expressions have flared up, and Burma's art scene
has become experimental, expressive, diverse, colorful, and one of the old
leading generals, Khint Nyunt, has even opened an art gallery.
Burma - literature
Until the 1700's. Burmese literature was fundamentally religious and didactic
and written exclusively in verse. Prose was used in laws, grammars, manuals on
the traditional sciences, and historical chronicles. The monk Rat-htatha-ra
(1468-1530) is one of Burma's most admired and treasured writers, especially for
his religious poems (pyo), including the masterpiece Kogan Pyo (1523).
In the 1800's. the drama, inspired by the Thai lakhon naj, and the
puppet theater became very popular, and a number of traveling theater groups
emerged; the most famous was led by Po Sein (1880-1952). The monk Pon Nya
(1812-67) wrote a large number of epistles as well as plays in which he
satirizes court life.
Missionaries established printing houses in Rangoon as early as 1816, laying
the foundations for modern prose and fiction. Until the 1930's, many foreign
novels, mostly fairy tales, were translated or adapted into Burmese.
Lat (1866-1921) is considered the first important Burmese novelist with the
love novel The Ruler of the Golden Land (1914). Thakin Kodaw Hmaing (U
Lun, 1876-1964) is perhaps the greatest literary personality in modern Burma. He
was strongly nationalist, writing a number of plays on historical themes as well
as from 1911 influential political commentaries in the form of poems.
Dagon Hkin Hkin Lei (1904-83), Burma's first great female novelist, wrote in
the 1930's and 1940's about the conditions of peasants, defending traditional
values, as well as about historical themes that appeal to nationalist
sentiments. Many writers in the post-war period dealt with the experiences of
the Japanese occupation, e.g. Maung Htin in the novel Bonden (1947).
In 1947, The Burma Translation Society, later known as Sarpay Beikman ('House
of Literature'), was established, which awards literary prizes, supports the
translation of foreign literature, and publishes The Burmese Encyclopedia
After Ne Wins took power in 1962, The Press Scrutiny Board closely monitored
literature and the media. Writers and journalists were censored and at times
imprisoned, making the short story a preferred genre, and prison descriptions a
literary genre in itself. The military government's preferred form of expression
was social realism.
Ma Ma Lay (1917-82), a prominent female writer and critical journalist,
received in 1955 a literary prize for the novel Not Because of Hate. She
was imprisoned 1963-66.
Thein Pe Myint (1914-78), one of Burma's most widely read and influential
writers, has in very well-written novels, short stories and memoirs critically
described the country's development to the present day, which has cost him
Thaw da Swe (b. 1919) writes in his many popular short stories simply,
unsentimentally and humorously about ordinary people's experiences, in the
short story collection Mange liv (1961).
Most of Burma's literature is Burmese; the literature of minorities is
usually written in their own language and is rarely translated into the main
Since democratization in 2011, literature has also exploded into new forms
and expressions that have not yet been mapped. In 2013, the country's first free
literature festival, the Irrawaddy Literary Festival, took place in Rangoon with
the participation of prominent international names as well as nearly 100 Burmese
writers - and former political prisoners - such as Ma Thida and Zarganar. There
were debates and discussions about literature, censorship, literary history and