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Burma (Myanmar)

BURMA (MYANMAR)

Union of Burma

Pyidaungzu Myanma Naingngandaw

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

LOCATION AND SIZE.

Situated between Indian and Thailand, Burma is a southeast Asian nation. From the borders of India and China in the north, the country extends into the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal in the south. The country also shares borders with Laos and Bangladesh. Slightly smaller than the state of Texas, Burma has an area of 678,500 square kilometers (261,969 square miles). Its land borders are 5,876 kilometers (3,651 miles) long and its coastline, home to many excellent natural harbors, is 1,930 kilometers (1,199 miles) long. Burma's capital, Rangoon (also known as Yangon), is in the south. Mandalay, Moulmein, Pegu, Bassein, Taunggyi, Sittwe, and Myanwa are the other most important cities in the country.

POPULATION.

The population of Burma, according to July 2000 estimates, was 41,734,853. A high mortality rate caused by AIDS is factored into this estimate; it is estimated that at least 1 million people are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This high mortality rate from AIDS has slowed population growth to a projected rate of growth of 0.64 percent. The country registered a birth rate of 20.61 per 1000 population and a death rate of 12.35 per 1000; consequently, the population of Burma in 2015 is expected to be 45,925,967.

In the past, the government of Burma sought to restrict emigration (people leaving the country) and immigration (people settling there from outside the country). Burmese authorities negotiated with India to reduce the number of people of Indian origin in the country. As a result, Burma repatriated about 100,000 people to India between 1963 and 1965. Thousands of Burmese also fled to neighboring countries to escape military repression and armed conflicts in the ethnic minority areas.

Ethnic diversity is an interesting feature of the Burmese population. Burmans, an ethnic group related to the Tibetans, constitute the majority at 68 percent of the population. Shan (9 percent), Karen (7 percent), Rakhine (4 percent), Chinese (3 percent), Mon (2 percent), Indian (2 percent), and other ethnic groups account for the rest of the population mix. Buddhism is the major religion, with 89 percent of the population; there are minorities of Christians and Muslims. A majority of the people, 65 percent, are between the ages of 15 and 64. Only 5 percent of the population is older than 65, while 30 percent of the population is under 14 years of age. This is in sharp contrast to Japan, west European countries, and the United States where the number of older people in the population is much higher. The density of population is about 65.2 per square kilometer (169 per square mile). With agriculture as the most important occupation, a majority of the people live in the rural areas and only an estimated 27.3 percent (1999) reside in cities.

OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY

Despite many attempts to industrialize and modernize, Burma remains an essentially agricultural economy. Attempts in the 1990s to encourage foreign investments, revitalize the economy, and promote the tourism industry as a source of income and employment have been only moderately successful. Agriculture remains the most dominant sector of the economy, generating 59 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 1997 and employing more than 65 percent of the workforce in 1999.

Only 10,680 square kilometers (4,123 square miles) of the country's arable land was irrigated in 1993. Agriculture, for the most part, depends on the monsoon rains. Periodic droughts are a major problem. Similarly, natural disasters such as cyclones, earthquakes, floods, and landslides, especially during the long monsoon season, can have an adverse impact on agricultural production.

Until it became independent in 1948, Burma was a British colony. The colonial authorities promoted agriculture by encouraging the settlement of people in the delta regions. Roads, bridges, and ports were built to facilitate the movement of agricultural products. This development led to an internal migration from the dry northern regions to south of the country. The delta produced large quantities of rice. The British were not interested in encouraging industries in Burma. Foreign domination of the economy was complete.

During the 1950s, the capital of Rangoon was one of the commercial centers of Southeast Asia. At the time, the World Bank estimated that Burma would become one of the most prosperous countries of the region. But independence, democracy, and a free market economy failed to produce political stability or economic prosperity. In 1962, a military takeover of the government led to socialism and central economic planning. Foreign businesspeopleespecially those from India, China, and Pakistanwere expelled and foreign investment in Burma stopped. The new rulers adopted a "Burmese road to socialism"a policy of state socialism and isolationism (a policy of keeping foreign influence and involvement to a minimum so that a country can develop on its own). Economic conditions did not improve under the harsh rule of the generals; rather, they worsened. In 1987, the United Nations declared the country a "Least Developed Nation."

Many people in Burma remained antagonistic toward the military rule and the state-controlled economy. This opposition finally led to mass protests and violence in March 1988, which the government sought to suppress. The army chief of staff took control of the government, abandoned the 3-decade-old period of state socialism, and freed the market from most of the state controls.

Burma now has a mixed economy with a private, state, and a joint private-state sector. Agriculture, light industries, and other businesses are in the private sector . Heavy industries that require huge capital investment are in the state sector. The economic reforms of the last decade sought to promote joint ventures between private Burmese and foreign firms. Therefore, foreign investments were once again encouraged with modest success. The state sector continues to be inefficient, and attempts to privatize at least a portion of it remain on the books. External debt amounts to 10 percent of the GDP, and imports exceed exports by 2 to 1, causing a serious trade imbalance.

Burma is a top producer of illicit drugs and contributes 80 percent of all Southeast Asian production of opium. Most of the heroin available in the United States originates from Burma. The trafficking in drugs is illegal; thus, an accurate assessment of its contribution to the economy is impossible to gauge. A parallel black market , perhaps bigger than the state's economy, continues to pose problems for the authorities.

During the 1998-99 fiscal year , Burma received an estimated US$99 million in economic aid. In 1995, the figure was about US$157 million. Economic sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Community, and other nations have contributed to this decline. These sanctions are in response to continued political repression and human rights violations by the military regime. In 1990, the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) had won a clear victory in the elections, but the generals refused to transfer power to the duly-elected representatives of the people. Moreover, the leaders of the NLD were harassed, detained, tortured, and even murdered by the regime.

Politically and economically, Burma remains a pariah (outcast) nation. Except for its membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the country is not befriended by most nations. In May 2000, U.S. president Bill Clinton imposed new sanctions on the military junta (a group of military personnel who overthrow a government) making it difficult for the Burmese authorities to get foreign loans, economic assistance, and foreign investments. Many American companies such as Apple Computer, Oshkosh B'Gosh, Eddie Bauer, Reebok, Levi Strauss, Pepsi Cola, and Liz Claiborne have withdrawn from the country. Therefore, the attempts of the military junta to revitalize the economy have been only partly successful.

Despite the introduction of banking and trade regulations in the late 1990s, Burma failed to achieve fiscal or monetary stability. Inflation continues to be high. Although poor and undeveloped, Burma is rich in natural resources. Nevertheless, the decline of the agricultural sector, regional economic crises, international sanctions, and shortages of electricity have all contributed to a slowdown in the economy since 1997.

POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION

Burma fought for independence from Great Britain in the late 1940s under the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League led by Aung San, U Nu, and Ne Win. The independence movement was a pro-Burman, anti-British, and anti-foreign movement that emphasized Burmese values, symbols, and experiences. This movement had very strong socialist leanings in response to Chinese and Indian domination of the Burmese economy during the British rule. In 1948, the country became independent under the leadership of U Nu because his political opponents had already killed Aung San, the father of Burmese nationalism. In 1962 the army, under the leadership of Ne Win, overthrew the democratic government and set up the Burmese Socialist Party, nationalized schools, banks, and factories, and followed a policy of socialist central planning and international isolationism. Later on, the party of the generals changed its name to the Burma Socialist Program Party. In 1974, all political parties were abolished.

In September of 1988, amid massive demonstrations against the government, a new regime seized power in a military coup. Calling themselves the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), the new regime also changed the name of the country from Burma to Myanmar, something that opposition groups still object to. Following the anti-government protests, riots, and bloodshed in 1988, the opposition parties coalesced into the National League for Democracy (NLD) under the leadership Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of the martyred national hero, Aung San.

Responding to nationwide protests, the SLORC allowed national elections in May of 1990. The NLD dominated the elections, winning 80 percent of the seats in the National Assembly, but the ruling SLORC refused to concede power and imprisoned NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Since that time the SLORC has exercised complete control over all branches of government. The National Assembly elected in 1990 has in fact never convened, the judicial system is bankrupt, and all executive positions are held by military representatives of the SLORC.

In 1997 the ruling SLORC was reorganized as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) amid a shakeup that saw several high officials dismissed for corruption. Five top generals, including Secretary Khin Nyunt, consolidated their power but showed no signs of ceding control of the government to the opposition, most of which was banned from any official forms of organization. Like the SLORC, the SPDC is primarily concerned with cracking down on opposition and not on improving the economic fortunes of the country.

The government's mounting deficit financing, resulting mostly from declining tax revenue and escalating military expenditures, has had a negative impact on the economy. The regime's policies led to the growth in the money supply and accelerated inflation. Mounting foreign debt and depleting foreign exchange reserves also affected the health of the economy. Military expenditures increased while the funding for health and education declined. The government's oppressive attitude towards the opposition has caused international censure, prompting foreign firms to pull out or cut back on their activities. Because of foreign economic sanctions, Burma is unable to get assistance from other countries or loans from international funding sources.

The country's tax base shrank in the last years of the 20th century, due to the government's inability to collect taxes because of a corrupt bureaucracy and a black market perhaps as large as the legitimate market. The sources of government revenue include general sales and value-added taxes , income from state enterprises, taxes on international trade, fees, and grants from donor nations and international agencies. The government also collects customs at its border posts, but most of the border trade is unrecorded.

The judicial system that Burma inherited from its British colonial masters was abolished in 1974. The new constitution calls for a council of People's Justices. In addition, there are lower courts at the state, town, village and ward level. The courts settle both civil and criminal cases. The armed forcescontrolling most aspects of the country's politics and governmentalso exert influence over Burma's judicial system.

INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS

In most developing countries of the world including Burma, inadequate infrastructure roads, bridges, canals, railways, ports and communication facilities impedes economic growth. Burma's long coastline is home to many excellent natural harbors such as Bassein, Bhamo, Mandalay, Rangoon, and Tavoy. The government has taken steps to develop new ports and maintain the existing ones, although all the ports are not used to their maximum capacity. A salient geographic feature of Burma is its many rivers, especially the Irrawaddy. The country's waterways remain the most important traditional mode of transportation to many remote areas of the country. Of more than 12,800 kilometers (7,954 miles) of waterways, 3200 kilometers (1,988 miles) are navigable by large commercial vessels.

Since the economic liberalization in 1989, the government started many public works programs. Early in the 1990s the government used forced rural labor to work on these projects. However, due to international criticism, the government began to engage the armed forces on these construction projects starting in mid-1990s. These projects did not bring about major improvement in the infrastructure needs of the country. The result has been that economic expansion was made difficult because in the absence of adequate transportation facilities, distribution of goods and services has been extremely difficult and costly.

In 1996, Burma had a total of 28,200 kilometers (17,523 miles) of roads, of which only 3,440 kilometers (2,138 miles) were paved. Although the government attempted to improve many major roadways during the final years of the 20th century, most remain in poor repair and are not passable during the monsoon season. A major effort in this regard was to reconstruct the Old Burma Road from Mandalay to the borders of China. As of late 2000, the work on the project was still incomplete.

Rail services remain poor despite attempts in the 1990s to renovate the existing lines, add new ones, and upgrade railway services on the main routes. Burma has a total of 3,991 kilometers (2,480 miles) of railways, over 320 locomotives, and more than 4,000 rail cars. The recent efforts include upgrading Rangoon-Mandalay rail line and beginning a new 162-kilometer Ye-Dawai Rail track project. In the 1995-96 fiscal year the railways carried 53,400,000 passengers and 3,280,000 tons of freight.

Burma has 80 airports and 1 heliport. Only 10 airports have paved runways. Both the private sector and the state sector are active in air transportation. The Department of Civil Aviation is responsible for the airports and the state-run airline. Air Mandalay, Myanma Airways, and Myanma Airways International are the chief airlines of the country. Burma's chief airports at Rangoon, Mandalay, and Bago were upgraded in the late

Communications
Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Burma 10 95 7 N/A 0 0.1 N/A 0.00 1
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
China N/A 333 272 40.0 19 1.6 8.9 0.50 8,900
Thailand 63 232 236 10.1 32 2.5 21.6 4.49 800
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium (http://www.isc.org) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

1990s. During the 1995-96 fiscal year state-run airlines carried a total of 719,000 domestic passengers and 138,000 international passengers.

Light transportation such as buses and cars are a private sector activity in Burma. As of March 31, 1996, Burma had 151,934 passenger cars, 42,828 trucks, 15,639 buses, 88,521 motorcycles, and another 6,611 registered vehicles.

Also during 1996, state-owned maritime vessels carried 24,491,000 passengers and 3,158,000 tons of freight. These numbers show an increase over the same period of the previous fiscal year.

Industrial production and expansion are limited due to inadequate production and intermittent supply of electric power. Electricity production of 4.38 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 1998 was far below demand. Around 38 percent of the electricity is generated by hydroelectric projects while the remaining 62 percent comes from fossil fuels. Chronic shortages and frequent disruptions of supply exist. Therefore, state and private enterprises operate far below their capacity. Moreover, very often they have to depend on their own diesel-run power generators to meet their electrical needs.

As of 1995, there were 158,000 main telephone lines. In 1997, there were 500 exchanges with a capacity to reach 320 of the 324 townships in the nation. The number of mobile cellular phones was only 2,007 in 1995. Although the telephone system is capable of providing basic services, it is inefficient and outdated. Attempts in the 1990s to upgrade the system yielded only minimal results. Cellular and wireless phones function more efficiently than the traditional lines. The switching system is incapable of meeting current demands, and people have to wait for a long time for a telephone connection to their homes and factories. International service powered by a satellite earth station is relatively good.

The 2 television stations in Burma service 260,000 (1997) television sets. TV Burma is able to transmit 82 percent of its broadcasts to 267 of the 324 townships in the country with the help of 120 TV relay stations. These are in addition to Burma's 2 AM, 3 FM, and 3 shortwave radio stations. In 1997 the country had a total of 4.2 million radio sets. Radio and television stations are state-owned and operated. In 1996, there were 5 newspapers with an estimated circulation of 449,000, a significant decline from 1994 circulation figures.

There are about 50,000 computers in all of Burma. Public access to the Internet is prohibited for fear that it could encourage and widen political dissent and protest. Unauthorized ownership of modems is punishable by up to 15 years in jail. E-mail is restricted to foreigners and businesspeople with close ties to the administration. Private e-mail providers are prohibited, and only the Ministry of Post and Telegraph is allowed to provide e-mail service.

Improvements in the infrastructure were partly funded by deficit spending. In the absence of adequate funds, the government is unable to fully develop the country's transportation and communication systems and facilities. This situation had a negative impact on modernization and economic growth of the country for many decades.

ECONOMIC SECTORS

Agriculture, industries, energy and tourism are the main sectors of the Burma economy. Agriculture, however, is the dominant sector and accounts for almost 60 percent of the GDP. The heavy industries are owned and operated by the state. Agriculture is mostly a private activity, although rice exports are a state monopoly . Recent government initiatives to improve agricultural production failed because drought and flooding diminished in rice production. The cultivation of pulses and beans, however, has increased significantly.

Industrial manufacturing is still undeveloped. Government attempts to privatize some industries have stalled, even though government-owned concerns continue to lose large sums of money. Foreign investments, although encouraged, have failed to generate enough international interest due to sanctions and boycotts protesting the military regime's human rights violations. All told, industry contributed just 11 percent of GDP in 1997.

The energy sector grew considerably during the late 1990s. The exploration and discovery of petroleum and natural gas deposits continued during this period. The construction of the Yadna gas pipeline to Thailand was a major development and is expected to be a major source of revenue. The lack of sufficient electrical power contributes to the country's poor economic growth.

Following the military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in 1988, there was a sharp decline in the number of foreign tourists visiting the country. Early in the 1990s the government placed great emphasis on tourism development. The government's attempt to turn tourism into a "cash cow" has not materialized, although the number of people visiting Burma has certainly increased in the last several years.

Realizing the difficulties on the road to rapid industrialization, the government of Burma, while not giving up on industrialization, is hoping to make the agricultural sector the centerpiece of its plans for economic revitalization of the country. This sector, however, has seen declining financial returns. Burma is caught in a vicious circle of inflation, deficit financing, unemployment, and poverty. In an age of increasing international interdependence, Burma cannot expect to develop without the cooperation of the international community.

AGRICULTURE

Agriculture, which includes crop production, hunting, fishing, and forestry, is the mainstay of the Burma economy. This sector is responsible for much of the income and employment in the country. About 60 percent of the GDP comes from agriculture, and as much as 65 percent of the labor force is employed in this sector alone. Burma produces enough food to feed its entire population. In the absence of purchasing power, however, many people go hungry. Further, about a third of the rural households do not have any land or livestock. Only half of the arable 45 million acres is under cultivation.

Rice is the most important agricultural commodity of Burma. Rice production increased from 5,200,000 metric tons in 1950 to 16,760,000 metric tons in 1993. The crop is cultivated along the river valleys, coastal areas, and in the Irrawaddy River delta. A wide variety of crops are cultivated in the northern dry zone. Rubber and other commercially useful products are cultivated in the Irrawaddy and Tenasserim regions. Agricultural products form the bulk of the export trade and include rice, teak, prawns, beans and pulses, and opiates.

Burma's agriculture is heavily dependent on the monsoon rains. While some areas suffer from too much rain, other regions receive too little. Government efforts in the 1990s increased the amount of irrigated land to 2.2 million acres. Many agricultural products like tobacco, sugar, groundnut, sunflower, maize, jute and wheat, however, have not reached their pre-1985 production levels. This reduction is offset by higher production in rice, pulses and beans. Rice production increased due to supportive government policies as well as favorable market forces. According to Asian Development Bank estimates, however, real annual growth in agriculture declined from 5.0 percent in 1996-97 to 3.7 percent in 1997-98 and to 2.8 in the 1998-99 fiscal years. Further, per-acre yield of the crops has not increased because of inadequate application of fertilizers and pesticides. One factor that helped to improve production was the removal of government controls over the agricultural sector.

Deforestation has been a major concern in Burma. The slash-and-burn method of agriculture is destroying the forests of the country, causing soil erosion and depletion of fertility. Periodic droughts, floods, landslides, and cyclones sometimes have devastating effect on agriculture. For example, flooding in Pegu and Irrawaddy during the 1997-98 growing season did considerable damage to rice production. Consequently, Burma exported only 28.4 thousand metric tons of rice in the 1997-98 season as opposed to 93.1 thousand metric tons in the previous year.

The heavy reliance on monsoons is a major handicap for Burmese agriculture. The authorities have recently renovated dams and reservoirs, built new ones, pumped water from rivers and streams and taken other measures to improve irrigation. More remains to be done in this regard. Another impediment to agricultural improvement is the inability of farmers to secure adequate loans to enhance cultivation. Private lenders charge exorbitant rates, and there are not enough banking institutions to serve people in the rural areas. As a result, farmers are not able to buy fertilizers and pesticides for their crops. Financial services need to be improved to make funds available to the cultivators.

The economic liberalization policies of the military junta have transformed the agricultural sector. Under the new economic system, the government distributed land among the landless, improved irrigation facilities, and increased the floor price of paddy that the government procures from the farmers. Some private activity in the export sector has been allowed since economic liberalization began in 1989. Consequently, the share of the agricultural sector in the GDP has gone up.

LIVESTOCK

. Burmese farmers raise a variety of animals including cattle, water buffalo, goats, sheep, chickens, and pigs. Oxen and water buffalo serve as draught animals in agriculture and for rural transportation. The GDP share of the livestock has increased slightly during the past decade. Most of the cattle are raised in the dry zone in the north.

FORESTRY

. Burma is rich in forests and woodland. While its neighbors, India, China and Thailand, have already depleted their forests, Burma is still regarded as the "last frontier of biodiversity in Asia." (Biodiversity refers to ecosystems that are rich, varied, and largely unpolluted or tampered with by human development.) Most of the timbers, especially teakwood, consumed in these Asian countries come from Burma, although most of these exports are illegal. In their search for precious foreign exchange, the military junta is engaged in indiscriminate destruction of forests. Deforestation increases erosion and landslides and threatens the lives of many already endangered species in the rain forests.

Burma is the leading supplier of teak in the international market. In addition to hardwoods, Burma also produces large quantities of bamboo in the delta regions and in the areas of heavy rainfall. Elephants and water buffalo play a key role in hauling teak and other hardwoods.

FISHING

. Burma is blessed with some of the world's most bountiful fishing grounds that extend from the Bay of Bengal to the Gulf of Martaban. Fish, often dried and salted, is part of Burmese cooking and is the most important source of protein in the diet. The government took many steps to encourage deep-sea fishing although the people prefer fresh-water fish. There has been a steady increase in the catch since the 1980s. Since 1989, Thai companies have been given permission to fish in the Burma waters. They use a modernized trawler fleet to harvest fish. The government also encourages fresh-water fish farms with a view to increasing fish production. Moreover, the Tenasserim area is home to some of world's finest pearls. As a result, the export value of fish and fish products alone has gone up from 159.4 million kyats in 1995-1996 to 227.8 million in 1996-97.

INDUSTRY

Primarily an agricultural country, Burma has always lagged behind in industrial production. The colonial authorities discouraged industrialization and encouraged only the production of raw materials, although there were some industrial developments towards the end of the colonial period.

World War II caused serious damage to the country's infant industries. It took a long time for production to catch up to pre-war levels, and in 1952, the government established the Industrial Development Corporation to stimulate industrial production. The country's effort to industrialize without foreign assistance was successful to a certain extent in areas such as petroleum and natural gas production. In the 1960s, under military rule, many industries were nationalized. Since the 1970s, there has been a steady growth in industrial production. In 1988, the government liberalized the economy, abandoned state socialism, and encouraged foreign investment.

Much of the industrial sector, especially heavy industries, is controlled by the government, although the share of private enterprise in this area is steadily growing. Industry accounts for only about 11 percent of the GDP and employs only 10 percent of the total labor force. Most of the industries center around agricultural processing, textiles, footwear, wood and wood products, copper, tin, tungsten, iron, construction materials, petroleum and natural gas, pharmaceuticals, and fertilizers. Cars and television sets are also assembled in the country. In 1999, the annual rate of growth of industries was estimated at 4 percent. The heavy losses of the public sector factories and industries are in part responsible for slow industrial growth.

Pegu is the seat of most industrial activity. In addition, the government has opened 17 special industrial zones all over the country, 5 of which are in the Rangoon area. Foreign investment is encouraged in 2 of the zones. While these zones are not fully developed, several factories and plants manufacturing clothing, consumer goods , and iron and steel materials are already operating there.

MINING

. Although their GDP contribution is not very significant, mineral products are important in earning foreign exchange. Burma has large amounts of mineral deposits. They include tin, zinc, copper, tungsten, lead, silver, gold, iron and antimony. Coal, natural gas, and crude oil are also extracted. Jade, rubies, sapphires, and gold are also found in Burma. Should the country ever open to foreign investment there may be significant opportunities for development in this sector.

OIL AND NATURAL GAS

. Burma's petroleum industry dates back to pre-independence days. During 1963-1964, the government took complete control of petroleum exploration, extraction, and purification. Petroleum is found in the Irrawaddy basin, the delta region, and at offshore sites. Burma is self-sufficient in oil.

The discovery of natural gas reserves in the Gulf of Martaban added to Burma's energy reserve. In 1986 the country produced 32,600 million cubic feet of natural gas. Burma also has large deposits of natural gas in the Andaman off-shore fields. In its efforts to facilitate the growth of its energy sector, the government built the Yadana natural gas pipeline, connecting natural gas stores off the Andaman Islands and Thailand, with the help of Unocal and Total, 2 international petroleum companies. According to government estimates, the energy sector grew approximately 88 percent in 1998. Government projections showed a 77 percent growth for the year 1999.

SERVICES

With just 30 percent of GDP and 25 percent of the workforce, the services sector is not a dominant part of the economy as it often is in developed countries.

TOURISM.

Like the cash-strapped countries of Jamaica and Cuba, Burma is also actively promoting itself as an island paradise to increase tourism. Both the government and private enterprises are heavily engaged in the tourism industry. In order to attract tourists, the country has improved roads, built international standard hotels, and other facilities. In 1988, roughly 40,000 foreigners visited the country, although following the suppression of the democracy movement that same year, tourism decreased. Between 1993 and 1996, tourism once again revived. The government proclaimed 1996 as "Visit Burma Year" and hoped to attract 500,000 tourists. However, only 180,000 people showed up. In the 1997-98 fiscal year 191,000 tourists visited the country. Both the government and the private sector, having invested heavily in new tourist facilities, were disappointed.

Nevertheless, Burmathe land of Buddhist pagodashas great tourism potential. Rangoon, Mandalay, Pagan, Pegu, and Tawnggys, with their palaces and shrines and pagodas, are the centers of tourism. However, the tense political situation, human rights violations, and boycotts by the international community have deterred many people from visiting. Tourism, so far, makes up only a small percentage of the GDP.

FINANCE.

During the post-independence days, most financial institutions were private. In 1964, the military junta nationalized all of the country's 24 banks. In their place, the government created 4 state banks. In 1990, the financial sector was revamped under the provisions of the Central Bank of Myanmar Law. Since then the financial institutions are the Central Bank of Myanmar, the Myanmar Agricultural and Rural Development Bank, the Myanma Economic Bank, the Myanma Foreign Trade Bank, the Myanma Industrial and Commercial Bank, the Myanma Small Loans Enterprise, and Myanmar Insurance. The 1990 law also allowed for both private and foreign banks. As a result, by February 1996, 16 private banks were formed, most of them in Rangoon. During the same period, more than 20 foreign banks opened branches or offices in Myanmar.

The banking sector is still underdeveloped. The people have yet to maintain regular banking habits. The inflation rate is so high that the real rate of interest does not encourage deposits. But without deposits, banks cannot provide credit. In contrast, during the 1970s, when the interest rate was raised, people deposited more money in the banks.

The Burma Securities Exchange was founded in 1996 as a joint venture between Japan's Daiwa Institute of Research and Myanma Economic Bank. The financial sector contributes only a small percentage of the GDP.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Historically, most of Burma's export-import trade was with Asian countries. In 1999, more than 80 percent of the country's export-import trade was with Asian nations, including about half with ASEAN countries. Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, and China are its major trading partners. Singapore is the single most important partner both in terms of imports and exports, providing 31 percent of imports and taking 10 percent of exports. There has been a decline in trade with Europe and the United States since the 1988 military crackdown on the democracy movement. Burma's export-import trade with the United States constitutes about 5 percent of the total foreign trade.

The country's exports are mostly agricultural products. They include pulses and beans, teak, prawns, rubber, rice and other agricultural products. There is a large black market that smuggles live animals, gems, minerals, teak, and rice into the neighboring countries. Burma

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Burma
Exports Imports
1975 .173 .197
1980 .472 .353
1985 .303 .283
1990 .325 .270
1995 .846 1.335
1998 1.067 2.666
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

also conducts brisk trade in narcotics. During the 1997-98 fiscal year, imports included raw materials, transport equipment, construction materials, and food items. While priority was given to the importation of materials needed for the Yadana natural gas pipeline, the government took measures to control importation of non-essential goods.

In 1998 the country exported $1.2 billion in goods and services while importing $2.5 billion, reflecting a steady increase of imports over exports during the 1993-98 period. In fact, the trade imbalance has been a chronic problem for the country for well over 2 decades. During the 1965-75 period, rice exports fell, and Burma cut back on imports. During the 1976-80 period, although exports increased, there was a corresponding increase in imports. By the mid-1980s, exports declined, but imports continued to soar. The adverse balance of payment situation continues to plague Burma.

This imbalance has a negative impact on the economy as a whole, forcing Burma to spend its precious foreign exchange reserves. To compensate for this situation, the government has printed currency to buy foreign exchange, thereby accelerating the inflationary tendencies of the economy. This inflation has wiped out many of the gains the country made as a result of economic liberalization in the 1990s. Making matters worse, the government had to buy foreign exchange from foreign sources at commercial rates. Consequently, Burma was unable to service its debt payment, prompting the World Bank to sever ties with the country. The net effect for Burma's people is that their purchasing power and standard of living declined.

The regime, while continuing to increase military spending, was forced to cut back on education, health, and other essential services. Growing international concern about human rights abuses and the regime's inability to tackle narcotics trafficking have led many countries, including the United States, and international financial institutions, to refuse aid or loans to the country. The government's use of forced labor has also led to boycotts of Burmese goods.

MONEY

Adverse balance of payments, decreasing tax revenues, high defense spending, and deficit financing all have led to the printing of more currency and price inflation. The official exchange rate of the kyat to dollar, however, remains unchanged. There are 4 different rates for currency exchange: the official exchange rate, the customs rate, the official market rate, and the black market rate. Officially, US$1 equals 6.73 kyats, whereas in the black market the dollar may fetch 375 or more kyats.

Exchange rates: Burma
kyats per US$1
Jan 2001 6.5972
2000 6.5167
1999 6.2858
1998 6.3432
1997 6.2418
1996 5.9176
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

The Asian currency crisis of 1997 added to Burma's currency woes. The sharp decline in the Thai bhat had a negative impact on the kyat. During the 1997-98 fiscal year, according to U.S. embassy estimates, the kyat lost 54 percent of its value. Between April and December 1997, the kyat declined from 167/dollar to 257/dollar. In 1997 and 1998, when the kyat fell, the government intervened to prop up the value of the kyat and took strong measures to keep foreign exchange from leaving the country. It put a monthly cap of $50,000 on remittances , cut the number of banks allowed to handle foreign exchange transactions, and placed stiff controls on trade.

The Asian economic crisis prompted foreign investors to either withhold investments or stay out of the Burmese market. Crises in the neighboring countries, Burma's principal trading partners, cost the country its export markets. The resultant ballooning of the trade deficit prompted the country to expand its money supply and draw down on foreign exchange reserves. According to the U.S. State Department Commercial Guide for 1999, the country was "virtually bankrupt."

POVERTY AND WEALTH

Like most countries of the world, Burma has extremes of wealth and poverty. Once prosperous, Burma was, in 2001, one of the poorest countries of the world.

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
Burma 1,120 1,190 1,200 1,200 1,500
United States 28,600 30,200 31,500 33,900 36,200
China 2,800 3,460 3,600 3,800 3,600
Thailand 7,700 7,700 8,800 6,100 6,400 6,700
Data are estimates.
SOURCE: Handbook of the Nations, 17th,18th,19th and 20th editions for 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 data; CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online] for 2000 data.

Most people live in the 40,000-odd villages of the country, while the majority of the urban population resides in the capital city of Rangoon. Among the population engaged in agriculture, 37 percent of the people do not have any land or livestock. Poverty and misery have increased in the past 3 decades. In 1997 the CIA World Factbook estimated that 23 percent of the Burmese population had incomes that placed them below the poverty line.

The economic crisis of 1997 added to the problem. Inflation as of 1999 was at an all-time high of 50 percent on domestic goods and 104 percent on imported items. The government's policies have not helped to diminish inflation, which has eroded the purchasing power of Burma's citizens. The gap between rich and poor and rural and urban areas has increased. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), per capita income registered only a minimal increase in the 1990s. Many poor people are forced to send their children to work. Many women reportedly are sent to work in Thailand. The number of street children has also increased, and malnutrition among children is widespread. Sanitary conditions are far from satisfactory. Malaria, diarrhea, dysentery, tuberculosis, and more recently HIV/AIDS (due to drugs and prostitution) are the major health hazards of the country.

In the countryside, a bullock cart (a 2-wheeled cart drawn by 2 castrated bulls) is the most popular means of transportation. Most farmers own a pair of oxen or water buffalo, a hoe, and a bullock cart for agricultural purposes. The rural houses (actually huts without running water or toilets) are made of bamboo. One portion is used for cooking and the other for sleeping. In the major towns and cities, there are houses made of brick and concrete. They are usually small and overcrowded.

The government's socio-economic policies have not helped the people. Large outlays of money have been spent on the military, while only meager funds have gone to education and health issues. The numbers of children who do not attend school or who have dropped out reportedly increased in the 1990s. According to World Bank estimates, only 46.9 percent of the secondary school-age children were enrolled in schools during 1995. Education beyond the primary age is not compulsory. Burmese authorities boast a literacy rate of 83 percent, though independent observers have suggested that the rate may be as low as 30 percent. Most universities have been closed since December 1996.

Health care in the rural areas was marginal until the 1960s. The government has opened more rural health centers and directed more doctors to the rural areas. As a result, the doctor-patient ratio has decreased considerably, from 1 per 15,560 to 1 per 3,578 in 1986. Health care is provided free of charge.

WORKING CONDITIONS

The Burmese labor force is estimated to be 19.7 million strong and consists of people between the ages of 15 and 59. About 65 percent of the labor force is employed in the agriculture sector. Of the remaining 35 percent, 10 percent is employed in the industrial sector while the remaining 25 percent is employed in a variety of service sectors. The official government unemployment rate for the fiscal year 1997-98 was reported as 7.1 percent.

One serious concern about the Burma labor situation is the reported use of forced labor on public works projects. In November 2000, the International Labor Organization (ILO) concluded that Burmese authorities had not discontinued the practice and advised member nations to review their relations with Burma. In response, Burmese authorities said that they would stop cooperating with the ILO. The government has maintained that the ILO action represented an effort by its member states to exert improper influence on Burma's internal affairs.

According to U.S. sources in Rangoon, the government lessened its dependence on forced labor. Instead, it was using military personnel on some of these projects. Military authorities, however, continue to force civilians to work for them. Many women and children, for instance, have to work as porters for the army.

There are reports of the continued prevalence of child labor in the country. Legally, children must be 13 or above before they can be employed. This and the compulsory education law, however, are not fully enforced. Consequently, a large number of children never enroll in school and many do not complete the primary school course. Therefore, children are frequently employed in many areas, especially in the arts and crafts industries.

Since the military takeover in 1962, the authorities have consistently denied the people their freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association. Also in 1964, the government abolished all trade union organizations. Substituting for independent unions are government-sponsored Regional Workers Councils. In 1985, there were 1.8 million members. Coordinating the work of the regional councils is the central workers organization in Rangoon, formed in 1968. The Central Arbitration Board is given the responsibility to settle major labor disputes but is inactive. Minor labor concerns are addressed by the township level agencies. One labor organization, the Federation of Trade Unions-Burma (FTUB), is an anti-government group that was formed in 1991 by Burmese living in exile.

Working conditions were set forth in a 1964 law called The Law on Fundamental Workers' Rights and the Factories Act of 1951. An abundance of labor and the failure of the government to protect the workers have led to substandard working conditions. The public sector employees follow a 5-day, 35-hour workweek. Employees in the private sector and state enterprises have a 6-day, 44-hour workweek. The law provides for overtime pay. However, these laws cover only a small percentage of the workers. Moreover, the workers are not allowed to organize in unions and bargain collectively. In the public sector industries, the government sets the wages and benefits. The joint sector companies are discouraged from paying their employees more than their counterparts in the public sector.

As of March 2000, all institutions of higher education, with the exception of a military academy and a medical school affiliated with the army, were closed. The middle class is frustrated that their children are not able to get an education. Many Burmese of all classes have fled the country for fear of oppression. Thousands of Burmese refugees remain in camps in Thailand and Bangladesh.

COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

1044. Pagan empire is founded on the banks of Irrawaddy.

1824. First Anglo-Burmese war leads to Burmese defeat and loss of territory.

1886. Burma is defeated in the Second Anglo-Burmese war, and Britain annexes the remainder of the country's territory.

1941-45. Japanese forces invade Burma and occupy much of the country during World War II.

1948. Burma becomes an independent, democratic country with a free market economy.

1962. The military under General Ne Win overthrows democracy, establishing the "Burmese way to socialism" and nationalizing banks and other private industries.

1974. The government establishes a new constitution and announces the formation of the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma.

1988. Amid widespread protests and riots, a military junta headed by Generals Ne Win and Saw Maung replaces the civilian president with a new government called the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). The SLORC renames the nation the Union of Myanmar, dropping the name "Burma," and liberalizes the economy.

1990. Elections are held, and the opposition National League for Democracy wins a clear majority. The SLORC refuses to cede power and opposition leaders are jailed.

1997. The Asian economic crisis damages Burma's economy.

2000. The International Labor Organization concludes that Burma is in violation of rules regarding forced labor and advises member nations to review their relations with Burma.

FUTURE TRENDS

Burma is a resource-rich, naturally beautiful, and culturally significant country. Its potential for growth and prosperity is tremendous. Yet Burma can never reach its potential until the military regime negotiates with the opposition and transfers power to the elected representatives of the people. The regime, however, has been trying to eradicate the opposition. Most international observers agree that the government must end human rights violations, release political prisoners, establish sound monetary policies , increase the tax base and revenue, enhance the infrastructure, and further liberalize the public sector if the country has any hopes of taking its place in international commerce. Despite announcing plans for such improvements, however, the ruling SPDC seems most concerned with retaining its grip on power through violence and intimidation of internal opposition and disengagement with the international community. In the absence of a change in this program, economic stagnation, poverty, disease, and illiteracy will remain Burma's most notable features.

DEPENDENCIES

Burma (Myanmar) has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

"Amnesty International Report 2000-Country Reports, Myanmar." Amnesty International. <http://www.web.amnesty.org/web/ar2000web.nsf/ebbd3384655495f2802568f500615e2f/3a9085ff93e50f80802568f200552950!OpenDocument>. Accessed December 2000.

Cady, John Frank. Southeast Asia: Its Historical Development. New York: McGraw Hill, 1964.

Cady, John Frank. The United States and Burma. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976.

Soe, Maung Maung. "Economic Reforms and Agricultural Development in Myanmar." ASEAN Economic Bulletin. Vol. 15, No. 1, April 1998.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html>. Accessed July 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Country Commercial Guides FY 1999: Burma. <http://www.state.gov/www/about_state/business/com_guides/1999/eastasia/burma99.html>. Accessed December 2000.

George Thadathil

CAPITAL:

Rangoon (Yangon).

MONETARY UNIT:

Kyat (Kt). One kyat is equal to 100 pyas. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 pyas and 1 kyat, and notes of 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 40, 90, 100, 200, 500, and 1,000 kyat.

CHIEF EXPORTS:

Pulses and beans, prawns, fish, rice, teak, and opiates.

CHIEF IMPORTS:

Machinery, transport equipment, construction materials, and food products.

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:

US$59.4 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).

BALANCE OF TRADE:

Exports: US$1.2 billion (1998). Imports: US$2.5 billion (1998).

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Burma

Burma

Country statistics

area:

676,577 sq km (261,228 sq mi) 50,913,600

capital (population):

Rangoon (Yangon, 4,101,000)

government:

Military regime

ethnic groups:

Burman 68%, Shan 9%, Karen 7%, Rakhine 4%, Mon 2%

languages:

Burmese (official)

religions:

Theravada Buddhist 89%, Christian 5%, Muslim 4%

currency:

Kyat = 100 pyas

Republic in se Asia. Burma is officially the Union of Myanmar. The most densely populated part of the country is the valley of the River Irrawaddy. Mandalay, Burma's second-largest city, lies on the banks of the river. The capital, Rangoon, lies on the shores of the Andaman Sea. Burma's land borders are formed by a chain of Himalayan mountains, which rise in the n to 5881m (19,294ft). In the e, lies the Shan Plateau, home to the Shan tribe. Burma is federated into tribal areas. Sittwe is the main port of the Arakan region, on the Bay of Bengal. In the se, lies the Tenassserim region, which includes the port of Moulmein.

Climate and Vegetation

Burma has a tropical monsoon climate. The humid rainy season lasts from late May to mid-October. Rainfall is generally less inland. Mandalay is relatively dry, with an annual rainfall of 50–100cm (20–50in). The Irrawaddy delta is one of the world's largest rice-growing areas. About 50% of Burma is covered by forest.

History and Politics

Conflict between the Burmans and Mons dominated Burma's early history. In 1044 the Burman King Anawratha unified the Irrawaddy delta region. In 1287 Kublai Khan conquered the Burman capital, Pagan. Burma was divided: the Shan controlled n Burma, while the resurgent Mons held the s. In the 16th century, the Burmans subjugated the Shan. In 1758 Alaungapaya reunified Burma, defeating the Mons kingdom and establishing the Konbaung dynasty.

Wars with British India marked much of the 19th century. The first war (1824) resulted in the British gaining the coastal regions of Tenasserim and Arakan. The second war (1852) saw the British gain control of the Irrawaddy delta. British India annexed Burma in the third war (1885). In 1937 Burma gained limited self-government. Helped by the Burmese Independent Army, led by Aung San, Japan conquered the country in 1942. The installation of a puppet regime led Aung San to form a resistance movement. In 1947 Aung San was murdered. Burma achieved independence in 1948. The socialist AFPFL government, led by U Nu, faced secessionist revolts by communists and Karen tribesmen. In 1958 U Nu invited General Ne Win to re-establish order. Civilian rule returned in 1960, but in 1962 Ne Win mounted a successful coup. His military dictatorship faced mass insurgency. In 1974 Ne Win became president. Mass demonstrations forced Ne Win to resign in 1988, but the military retained power under the guise of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), led by General Saw Muang. In 1989 the country's name changed to Myanmar. The National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won elections in 1990, but SLORC annulled the result and placed Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest. In 1997 SLORC became the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). In 1998, NLD calls for the reconvening of Parliament led to mass detention of political opponents by the SPDC. In 2002 the SPDC released Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest. She was arrested again in 2003.

Economy

Burma is one of the world's poorest nations (2000 GDP per capita, US$1500). Agriculture is the main activity, employing 64% of the workforce, mainly at subsistence level. Teak and rice constitute about 66% of exports. It has many mineral resources, mostly unexploited. Burma is famous for its precious stones, especially rubies.

Political map

Physical map

Websites

http://www.myanmar-tourism.com

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Burma

Burma was ruled by the Alaungpaya dynasty from 1752 to 1885. Initially, the dynasty was expansionary, conquering (although failing to hold) Thailand and pressing west towards Arakan and Assam. However, it was severely checked and ultimately defeated by a counter-expansionary drive coming from the British in India. The British conquest of Burma was piecemeal, beginning in 1826 and not reaching completion until 1885. It partly came about as a reaction to deep Burmese hostility and the failures of ‘informal empire’. But it also reflected growing economic ambitions. In colonial Burma, valuable resources of oil, tin, and rubber were more fully exploited and commercial rice cultivation was developed. Originally ruled as a province of British India, the country was given its own administration in 1937. Between 1942 and 1945, Burma was overrun by the Japanese—many of the British, famously, ‘walking out’ to India. After the war, hopes continued in the Colonial Office for a restoration of British dominance. However, an Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League had arisen under the leadership of Aung San to organize large-scale popular resistance to the Japanese. Now it was turned against the British. On 4 January 1948, the Independent Republic of Burma came into existence.

David Anthony Washbrook

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Burma

Burma

Culture Name

Burmese

Orientation

Identification. The name of the country of Burma (or Myanmar, as it is now officially known) is associated with the dominant ethnic group, the Burmese. Because of the current regime's lack of legitimacy and poor human rights record, it is common practice outside the country not to use the name Myanmar. The country fell under British colonial rule during the nineteenth century. When it became independent as the Union of Burma in 1948, the country almost immediately entered a state of civil war as ethnic minorities fought against the Burmese-dominated central government. Insurgencies by some ethnic groups continue. In 1962, the military leader Ne Win seized power. His regime sought to isolate the nation and institute nationalist policies under the label "the Burmese Road to Socialism." In 1972, the name of the country was changed to the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma. After civil unrest in 1988, the military government changed the name to the Union of Myanmar.

Efforts to create a broadly shared sense of national identity have been only partly successful because of the regime's lack of legitimacy and tendency to rely on coercion and threats to secure the allegiance of non-Burmese groups. The low level of education and poor communications infrastructure also limit the spread of a national culture.

Location and Geography. The state has an area of 261,789 square miles (678,034 square kilometers). It is bordered by Bangladesh to the west, India and China to the north, and Laos and Thailand to the east. The southern portion faces the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. The middle portion centers on the Irrawaddy River, with a large delta area at its mouth and the area above the delta featuring floodplains. Most of the population and agricultural lands are found along the Irrawaddy, which is navigable for about one-thousand miles. The western, northern, and eastern regions have mountains and high valleys and plateaus. The western region has the Arakan, Chin, and Naga hills. The most important geographic feature to the east is the Shan Plateau. The Burmese live primarily in the central lowlands, while the other ethnic groups live mainly in the highlands. Under British rule, the political capital was moved from Mandalay in the center to Rangoon on the eastern edge of the Irrawaddy delta in 1885. That city was built in 1755 and named Dagon. Rangoon remained the capital after independence (its name was changed later to Yangon) and continues to be politically and economically the most important city. Both Rangoon and Mandalay lie within the area occupied primarily by Burmese peoples, although both cities have a significant Indian population as a legacy of British rule.

Demography. The official population figure in 1995 was 44.74 million, but it may range from 41.7 million to 47 million. Linguists have identified 110 distinct ethnolinguistic groups, and the government recognizes 135 ethnic groups (referred to as races). The Burmese account for about 68 percent of the population. Other major ethnic groups include the Shan (about four million), Karen (about three million), Arakanese or Rakhine (about two million), Chinese (over one million), Chin (over one million), Wa (about one million), Mon (about one million), Indians and Bengalis (about one million), Jingpho (about less than one million), and Palaung (less than one million). With the exception of the Chinese, Indian, and Belgalis, each minority group occupies a relatively distinct area.

Linguistic Affiliation. Burmese is a Tibeto-Burman language whose alphabet is derived from south Indian scripts. The largest ethnic group that speaks Burmese is the Myanma; there is a smaller Burmese-speaking ethnic group known as Baramagyi (or Barua). A few regional dialects of Burmese are associated with subgroups. Closely related Southern Burmish languages include Arakanese, Intha, and Taungyo (or Tavoyan). Burmese is the national language. It is spoken as a second language by most educated members of other ethnic groups, but some of those groups have little contact with the national language. Many educated urban residents speak English as a second language, but English is not widely spoken among the population as a whole. The teaching of English in schools was banned from 1966 to 1980. Shan is as an important second language for many ethnic groups in Shan State, while Jingpho is spoken as a second language by many smaller ethnic groups in Kachin State.

Symbolism. Since 1962, the government has used an array of slogans urging discipline and support for the regime and the military. The promotion of nationalist sentiments through the media, public events, and the display of related images is especially marked on holidays. Among architectural sites with national symbolism, two of the most important are the archaeological site of the old capital of Pagan and Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The earliest civilizations associated with what is now Burma were the Mon (also called Taliang) in the south and the Pyu in central Burma which flourished during the first half of the first millennium. The Mon were strongly influenced by Indian culture through trade and the Buddhist religion. The Pyu went into decline in the 800s. Around that time, the ancestors of the Burmese, known as Mranma, settled to the south of Mandalay. With the former Pyu city of Pagan (known as Arimadanapura) as his capital, the Burmese ruler Anaw-rahta (ruled 10441077) founded the first Burmese kingdom. His conquest of Thaton resulted in the spread of Theravada Buddhism and the adoption of many aspects of Indian-inspired Mon art and architecture. The lowland area along the Irrawaddy River under the control of Pagan often is referred to as "Burma Proper," since it is the heartland of the region that has been most securely under Burmese rule. In the late 1200s, Pagan declined and the Burmese lost control over much of the territory. Over the next few centuries, the Burmese slowly regained control over portions of lowland Burma from their new capital of Pegu. However, the Mon remained independent until 1539 and the Arakanese until 1784, while most of the upland territory occupied by the Shan was outside their control or only loosely under Burmese domination. The capital was moved to Ava during the reign of King Tha-lun (16291648).

During the reign of Ling Alaung-hpaya (17521760), a new dynasty was founded known as the Kon-baung, and the Burmese began a new period of military expansion. The Mon were conquered again, Burmese migration into Mon territory was instituted, and many Mon were resettled in the western Irrawaddy delta. Burmese migrants were sent to the east to serve as a barrier against the Shan. Efforts at expansion beyond the lowland area met with little success.

In the early nineteenth century, incursions into border areas to the west brought Burmese rulers into conflict with the British in India, leading to the first Anglo-Burmese War in 1824. At the end of the war in 1826, the Burmese were forced to give up claims to territories in eastern India and a portion of southern Burma that included territories associated largely with non-Burmese ethnic groups. Continued poor relations resulted in the loss of the province of Pegu. This territory became known as Lower Burma. Although foreign relations improved under the reign of King Min-don (18531878), unstable conditions following his death and Prince Thibaw's overtures to the French led the British to invade Upper Burma again in 1885. In the face of local resistance that lasted until 1890, the British established colonial rule over not only the lowland territory but the Shan states as well. Over the next few decades, the British tried to bring the other highland areas under their control, but some territories remained free throughout the colonial period.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the British implemented reforms aimed at granting eventual self-rule. The proindependence forces were not unified, and there was infighting between factions. In addition to sporadic anti-British violence, nationalist sentiments took on a Burmese ethnic tone that resulted in violent outbursts against local Indians and Chinese. Burma was occupied by the Japanese during World War II. The British returned toward the end of the war, but the colony quickly moved toward independence. An independent Union of Burma was declared in 1948 under Prime Minister U Nu. It was a fragile new nation beset by political infighting and civil war involving ethnic minorities and communists backed by China.

National Identity. Before colonial rule, Burma consisted essentially of the central lowland areas and a few conquered peoples, with highland peoples only nominally under Burmese control. The British brought most of the highlands peoples loosely under their control but allowed highland minorities to retain a good deal of their own identity. This situation changed after independence as the Burmese-dominated central government attempted to assert control over the highland peoples. Despite continued resistance to the central government, those in the lowland areas and the larger settlements in the highlands have come to share more of a common national culture. The spread of Burmese language usage is an important factor in this regard.

Ethnic Relations. The majority of the people speak Tibeto-Burman languages. Tibeto-Burman speakers in Burma can be divided into six distinct groups. The Burmish constitute the largest of these groups by population. Nungish speakers live in upland areas in Kachin State. The main Baric-speaking group is the Jingpho in Kachin State. The Kuki-Naga-speaking peoples include a large number of ethnic groups in the mountains along the border with India and Bangladesh. The Luish group includes the Kado, who live near the border with the Indian state of Manipur. The Karen groups live in the hills along the border with Thailand and the southern lowlands. The Lolo-speaking groups tend to be the most recent immigrants to Burma; they live in the highlands of Shan and Kachin states.

There are also large numbers of speakers of Austro-Tai languages. The largest Daic-speaking group is the Shan, who constitute the majority in Shan State. Smaller, related groups include the Tai Khun, Lue, Tai Nua, and Khamti. Other Austro-Tai speakers include the Austronesian-speaking Moken and small groups of Hmong and Mien in Shan State.

Under the British, ethnic minorities generally were able to retain some autonomy. Negotiations for independence after World War II brought suspicions among the political leaders of several ethnic minorities that their status would be undermined. Immediately after independence in 1948, serious divisions emerged between Burmese and non-Burmese political leaders, who favored a less unified state. Between 1948 and 1962, armed conflicts broke out between some of these minority groups and the central government. Although some groups signed peace accords with the central government in the late 1980s and early 1990s, others are still engaged in armed conflict. The Wa have signed a peace agreement but have retained a great deal of autonomy and control of much of the drug trade in northern Burma.

Military operations in ethnic minority areas and government policies of forced resettlement and forced labor have dislocated many ethnic groups, and have caused large numbers of refugees to flee to neighboring countries. At present there are around three hundred thousand refugees in Thailand, Bangladesh, and India, mostly from ethnic minorities.

Before independence, Indians were a dominant presence in urban-centered commercial activities. With the outbreak of World War II, a large number of Indians left for India before the Japanese occupation. Through the 1950s, Indians continued to leave in the face of ethnic antagonism and antibusiness policies. The Indians remaining in Burma have been treated with suspicion but have avoided overt opposition to the regime.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

About 80 percent of the population lives in rural areas. Rangoon has a population of 4 million, and Mandalay has almost 1 million residents. The ethnic composition of Rangoon and Mandalay is over-whelmingly Burmese, although these cities are also where most of the Indian population lives.

Architecture reflects the country's Buddhist and colonial heritage. Buddhist temples are the most important architectural features throughout the country. The Buddhist temple serves as a religious school, a community center, a guest house, a place where the government and other agencies post information, a site for sports activities, a center for welfare services for those who are poor and ill, a morgue, and a center for music and dance. It also carries out economic services such as providing loans and renting lands and homes. Temples are also important in urban areas. While most temples in central Burma are Burmese in style, the temples of Shan State tend to have a distinctive look that is referred to as the Shan style. Temples tend to be surrounded by small shops that sell sacred and secular items.

The traditional house is made largely of bamboo. Flattened pieces of bamboo made into large plaited sections are used to make the walls. The floors are made of bamboo planks or wood. The frame of the house is made of wood, with hard and durable wood being used for the house posts. Roof coverings are made of a variety of materials, including thatch made from broad-leafed grass or palm fronds. Roofs may be covered with tiles, wooden shingles, or zinc sheets. The front of the house usually has a veranda that is raised a few feet off the ground. This is the public area where guests are entertained. The center of the house is the living area for the family. Behind it is a covered cooking area where rice is stored. Especially in urban areas, these houses are being replaced by more generic ones made from cement.

Some ethnic minorities have distinctive styles of houses. Many Palaung traditionally lived in multiple-family houses. Today, these structures are very rare, and most Palaung live in single-family houses.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Rice is the staple food except among those in highland areas where rice is difficult to grow. In those areas, rice, millet, sorghum, and corn are the staples. Rice is accompanied by a raw salad of leaves, fruit, or vegetables; a soup; and curries of fish, meat, prawns, or eggs. In addition to turmeric and chili, curries are seasoned with fermented fish or shrimp paste. A variety of cultivated vegetables and wild greens are eaten as well as bamboo shoots. Meals often are accompanied by lentils, pickled relishes, and balachaung (made from fried dry prawns). There are a variety of rice-noodle dishes. After a meal, it is common to eat fresh fruit.

Burmese traditionally eat a morning meal and an evening meal that is taken before dark. The meals are served in a large platter or on a low table, with members of the household sitting on mats. Food is eaten with the fingers, although sometimes utensils are used. It is common to drink water and eat fruit after the main meal. Throughout the day people eat betel and smoke tobacco. Burmese not only drink tea made from dried tea leaves but also eat pickled tea as a snack. Other snacks include chappatis, fried insects, and Chinese pastries.

Tea shops are found in every city, town, and large village. These establishments are important locales for social gathering. Street stalls sell a variety of foods in the cities and towns. Relatively few restaurants serve Burmese food. The majority serve Indian or Chinese food, and English food is served in many hotels and guest houses.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Feasting and sharing food are an important feature of traditional agricultural and religious rites. Often special foods are prepared for those occasions. Htamane, which is served during the rice harvest festival February, is made of glutinous rice mixed with sesame seeds, peanuts, shredded ginger, and coconut. Alcoholic beverages are drunk during some secular festivities but are not drunk during most religious festivals. In urbanized areas, commercial beer and other forms of alcohol are consumed, while in more remote rural areas, locally made alcohol is more common. Alcoholic drinks are made from fermented palm juice and a distilled rice-based solution. Fermented grain-based alcoholic drinks are more commonly consumed among highland groups.

Basic Economy. The economy is dominated by agriculture, which accounts for over 59 percent of the gross domestic product and employs about two-thirds of the labor force. Rice is the main product. Production declined after independence but increased during the late 1970s and early 1980s because of the introduction of high-yielding varieties, fertilizer, and irrigation. Since that time, production has barely kept pace with population growth, and Burma, once the world's leading exporter of rice, is barely able to meet subsistence needs of its own population. It continues to export some rice to earn foreign exchange. The production of narcotics from poppies and other sources is widespread in the northern highlands, and Burma is the world's leading supplier of opiates.

Land Tenure and Property. In areas under Burmese rule, land traditionally was held on the basis of service to the court and could be leased or sold and passed on to one's heirs; it also could be taken away by the court. In more remote areas, land ownership tended to be related to continual cultivation and occupancy. Under the British, private ownership became widespread in the central areas and a system of land taxation was introduced in which failure to pay property taxes could result in the loss of land. Before World War II, in the southern delta area absentee ownership of productive land was widespread. In the central area, agricultural land tended to be in the hands of small-scale owner-producers. Shortly after independence, the government passed a land nationalization act that was intended to turn land owned by wealthy landlords over to those who worked the land. However, that act was not implemented. A second act passed in 1954 met with only partial success.

The revolutionary government that seized power in 1962 nationalized the larger commercial and manufacturing establishments, including those of Indian traders. This created a large black market economy as people attempted to circumvent government control of commerce. The revolutionary government attempted to remove the landlord class and turned all land over to peasant producers while retaining ultimate ownership for itself. In practice, agricultural tenancy was not eliminated, and producers had the added burden of state intervention. After 1988, the government allowed a greater role for the private sector and foreign investment. While these reforms have allowed greater private ownership, considerable insecurity remains among those who own property.

Commercial Activities. Since 1992, the military regimes have emphasized self-sufficiency and tried to limit imports. The largest companies and financial institutions are state-owned, with the private sector limited mainly to small-scale trading. In recent years, however, more imported goods, especially from China, have appeared in local markets and there has been growth in the private sector. The main cities and many smaller towns have one or more central markets that sell a wide variety of domestic and imported goods, including clothing and cloth, tobacco, food, baskets, jewelry, toiletries, and electronic goods. There are also specialized markets, such as the iron bazaar in Rangoon's Chinatown.

Major Industries. Industrial production focuses on goods for local consumption, although a handful of factories produce for exportation. Local industries include textiles and footwear, wood processing, mining, the production of construction materials, pharmaceuticals, and fertilizer manufacturing. Although the country has substantial gem, oil, and natural gas reserves, extraction and processing capabilities are limited. There is a small tourist industry. There has been a dramatic growth in the number of hotels built since the introduction of economic reforms. Travel restrictions and poor infrastructure have concentrated the tourist industry in a few areas.

Trade. Legal exports include timber, rice, beans and pulses, fish, garments, precious stones, and rice. Legal imports include construction materials, plant equipment, and consumer goods. The difference in the value of imports and exports is covered in large part by revenue from narcotics and other illegal exports. Under British colonial rule, Burma was the world's leading exporter of rice, and rice remains the major legal export. Logging was also important in the colonial economy, but excessive harvesting and poor forestry management have resulted in a sharp drop in the availability of teak. China, Thailand, and India are their main markets for timber, but most wood is exported illegally. Burma is famous for rubies and jade, but since 1962, a lack of capital and expertise has hindered that industry. As with timber, most ruby and jade exports go through illegal channels.

Burma is the world's largest supplier of illegal opiates (opium and heroin), and the export of amphetamines has increased. Money from the illegal narcotics trade plays a crucial role in the national economy and in keeping the regime solvent. Much of the production of illegal narcotics, however, is in the hands of ethnic rebels in Shan State. Recent peace accords between the government and some rebel groups have given the regime access to income from narcotics.

Thailand and India are Burma's primary sources of legal and illegal imported goods. Small amounts are also imported from other neighboring countries such as India, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Division of Labor. There is little specialization in the agricultural sector. Small-scale commercial trading is done by both men and women, with men being primarily responsible for the transportation of goods. Ethnic Indians and Chinese are an important segment in commercial trading, but many Burmese and others are involved in commercial activities. Few tasks or professions are the monopoly of a single ethnic group. There are various forms of traditional craft specialization. This includes making lacquer ware, stone working, fine wood carving, and working with metal. Modern technical professions such as medicine and engineering are related to one's level of education and specialized training. Those in the higher levels of commerce and administration generally come from the families of prominent members of the regime, and connections with the regime are important factors in amassing wealth and power.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Not only is poverty widespread, there is marked inequality. Essentially, the society is divided into a tiny elite, a fairly small middle class, and a large number of very poor people. While there are traditional elites within most of the ethnic groups and new elites in some groups whose wealth comes from smuggling, the national elite is overwhelmingly Burmese. In recent years income from the narcotics trade has been an important source of wealth for members of the elite. Although some segments of the middle class have prospered from the economic reforms of the late 1980s, most have not done well and remain poor.

Political Life

Government. The military has ruled the country since 1962. In the face of growing opposition to the government and its socialist policies, Ne Win and President San Yu resigned in July 1988, and widespread civil unrest followed. General Saw Muang formed a new military regime known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) and abolished much of the socialist system. Elections were held for the 485-member People's Assembly in 1990. The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) won 396 seats, while the military-backed party won only 10. The People's Assembly was never convened, and many of its leaders were arrested or forced into exile. The military began drafting a new constitution in 1992, but this task has not been completed. The regime changed its name to the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1997. The council includes a chairman and twenty other members. The government formed by the council consists of a prime minister, two deputy prime ministers, and thirty-seven ministers.

Leadership and Political Officials. Political leadership revolves around political intrigues and struggles for power within the military. From 1962 until 1988, General Ne Win was the dominant political figure, with other officers and their associates jockeying for positions underneath him. General Than Swe's hold on power since 1988 has been far less absolute. The officers holding positions in SLORC/SPDC tend to be roughly the same age and have roughly similar backgrounds and values.

The National League for Democracy is led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of the assassinated independence leader Aung San. She is currently under house arrest in Rangoon. The majority of the small inner circle around Aung San Suu Kyi are former military officers and associates or followers of Aung San. Both the regime and its leading opponents therefore form a small political elite.

There is an ethnic dimension to political office holding and leadership. The 1948 and 1962 governments were predominantly Burmese in composition and pursued pro-Burmese policies. Those policies sparked ethnic insurgencies led by ethnic elites, and the situation deteriorated when the regime passed a law in 1983 that created three tiers of citizenship rights based largely on ethnicity. At the bottom was a category of "other races" that included naturalized immigrants, mainly from India and China, whose ancestors arrived during the colonial period. Those assigned to this tier cannot run for political office or hold senior government posts. The 1988 regime signed peace accords with most of the insurgent groups, but national leadership has remained in the hands of the Burmese.

Social Problems and Control. The authoritarian military regime has been harsh in its treatment of ethnic minorities and rules by decree, without a constitution or legislature. The regime systematically violates human rights and suppresses all forms of opposition. The judiciary is not independent of the military regime, which appoints justices to the supreme court. These justices then appoint lower court judges with the approval of the regime. Prison conditions are harsh and life-threatening. The regime reinforces its rule with a pervasive security apparatus led by a military intelligence organization known as the Directorate of Defense Services Intelligence (DDSI). The regime engages in surveillance of government employees and private citizens, harassment of political activists, intimidation, arrest, detention, and physical abuse. The movements and communications of citizens are monitored, homes are searched without warrants, and people are forcibly relocated without compensation. There is no provision for judicial determination of the legality of detention. Before being charged, detainees rarely have access to legal counsel or their families. Political detainees have no opportunity to obtain bail, and some are held incommunicado for long periods. After being charged, detainees rarely have counsel. In ethnic minority areas, human rights abuses are widespread, including extrajudicial killings and rape. The regime justifies its actions as being necessary to maintain order and national unity.

Although the regime officially recognizes the NLD, political rights are limited. There is virtually no right of assembly or association. Intimidation of NLD supporters forced the party to close its offices throughout the country. Opponents of the regime have disappeared and been arrested. Detainees often face torture, beatings, and other forms of abuse. There is little academic or religious freedom. Under the 1974 constitution, the regime required religious organizations to register with it. Religious meetings are monitored, and religious publications are subject to censorship and control. Buddhist monastic orders are under the authority of the state-sponsored State Clergy Coordination Committee. The regime has attempted to promote Buddhism and suppress other religions in ethnic minority areas. Workers' rights are restricted, unions are banned, and forced labor for public works and to produce food and other goods and perform other services for the military is common. Military personnel routinely confiscate livestock, fuel, food supplies, alcoholic drinks, and money from civilians.

Military Activity. Since 1962, the military (the Tatmadaw ) has been the dominant political and economic force, with a large proportion of the population serving in the armed forces since the 1960s. In 1985, there were an estimated 186,000 men and women in the military; another 73,000 were in the People's Police Force and 35,000 served in the People's Militia. Reflecting the country's poverty and international isolation, the military is poorly armed and trained. Direct spending on the military declined from about 33 percent in the early 1970s to about 21 percent in 1987, representing less than 4 percent of the gross domestic product. This decline in personnel and expenditure was reversed in 1988. By 1997, the military had grown to over 350,000 and military spending had increased greatly. At present, military spending by the government is greater than nonmilitary spending. Military officers and their families play an important role in economic affairs outside the formal activities of the military. This is true both in the formal economy through government economic entities and in the black market, especially narcotics smuggling. The military's formal role includes intimidation of the population and waging war against ethnic insurgents.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Both men and women do agricultural work, but individual tasks are often gender-specific. Men prepare the land for planting and sow seeds, and women transplant rice seedlings. Harvesting is done by both men and women. Men thresh the rice. Most domestic work is done by women. During ceremonies, however, men are involved in food preparation. A variety of traditional handicrafts are made within the household or by specialists. Items of metal, wood, or stone generally are made by men, and weaving usually is done by women. Pottery, basketry, plaiting, making lacquerware, and making umbrellas can be done by men or women. Small-scale market selling and itinerant trading are conducted by both sexes. Transportation of goods or people by animal, carts, boat, or motor vehicle is done mainly by men. Religious specialists and traditional curers generally are male, but sometimes they are female. Spirit mediums can be male or female. Traditional theatrical and musical performances involve both genders. Women work mainly in teaching and nursing.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Traditional society was known for the relatively high status of women. If a couple divorces, for example, common goods are divided equally and the wife retains her dowry as well as the proceeds from her commercial activities. However, military rule has undermined the status of women, especially at the higher levels of government and commerce. Women, however, play a significant role in the political opposition to the regime. The higher levels of business are in the hands of men, but many medium-size and small businesses are run by women.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Individuals usually find their own marriage partners. Arrangements for the marriage may be made by the parents of sometimes an intermediary is employed. If the parents oppose the union, often the children elope and later the parents condone the marriage. When a man asks a woman's parents for their consent, it is common practice for him to bring a gift for the woman. Wedding ceremonies are relatively simple except among wealthy families. After speeches by the parents, members of the families and guests share pickled tea. Polygyny is rare. Far more common is the practice of wealthy and powerful men having an informal second wife. Divorce is relatively common and usually involves the couple ceasing to live together and dividing their property.

Domestic Unit. A newly married couple may live with the parents of one partner (often the parents of the wife) but soon establish their own household. The nuclear family is the primary domestic unit, but it may include extended family members such as unmarried siblings, widowed parents, or more distant unmarried or widowed relatives. The husband is nominally the head of the household, but the wife has considerable authority. Women are responsible for most domestic chores.

Inheritance. Property generally is divided equally among the children after the parents die.

Kin Groups. Descent is reckoned bilaterally. Traditionally, there were no family names.

Socialization

Infant Care. Young children receive a great deal of attention. Newborns are placed in very carefully made cradles. A mother keeps her baby with her when she leaves the house. Burmese women carry babies on the hip, while most hill-dwelling peoples hold them in a sling on the back. Young children are pampered, given considerable freedom of movement, and allowed to handle virtually anything that catches their attention. Weaning usually takes place when a child is two to three years old. Relative or friends may nurse an infant. Adults take a great deal of interest in children, including those who are not their own.

Child Rearing and Education. Young children undergo several rites of passage. When a child is a few years old, a ceremony is held to give the child a name. Children in rural areas grow up surrounded by the implements that they will use when they grow up and watch adults performing domestic, agricultural, and artisanal tasks. In the past, all boys eight to ten years of age would begin attending school in a nearby Buddhist monastery, where they would learn about Buddhism and be taught to read and write. Those schools gradually gave way to public schools, but many young men continue to receive some education in monasteries. Under that system, few women were educated; their education took place mainly at home as they learned how to perform domestic tasks.

Modern education began under King Mindon (18531878), who built a school for an Anglican missionary. Under the British, secular education spread and the country achieved a relatively high level of education. Since 1962, the educational infrastructure has deteriorated. Today two-thirds to three-quarters of children drop out of elementary school before the fifth grade. The curriculum is scrutinized by the military regime, and it often is forbidden to teach in languages other than Burmese.

Higher Education. There are forty-five universities and colleges and 154 technical and vocational schools. There has been a steady erosion of higher education since 1962. After the civil unrest in 1988, during which many students were involved in antigovernment activities, there were widespread closures of universities and colleges. Since that time there has been a repeated cycle of opening and closing the universities and colleges that has made serious study virtually impossible. The universities and colleges were closed in 1996, and only a few were reopened in 2000.

Etiquette

It is considered improper to lose one's temper or show much emotion in public, but the Burmese are a very friendly and outgoing people. The Burmese and other Buddhists follow the Buddhist custom of not touching a person on the head, since spiritually this is considered the highest part of the body. Patting a child on the head not only is improper but is thought to be dangerous to the child's well-being. A person should not point the feet at anyone. Footwear is removed upon entering temple complexes for religious reasons, and it is polite to remove footwear when entering a house.

Religion

Religious Beliefs. Almost 90 percent of the people are Buddhists, and the proportion is higher among the Burmese majority. Burmese follow the Theravada form of Buddhism, which is also known as Hinayana Buddhism and the doctrine of the elders or the small vehicle. In Theravada Buddhism, it is up to each individual to seek salvation and achieve nirvana. Buddhism is believed to have been introduced to Burma by missionaries sent by the Indian emperor Ashoka in the third century b.c.e.

Buddhism is followed by many of the non-Burmese ethnic groups. While all these groups follow Theravada Buddhism, there are some differences between the in beliefs and practices and those of the Burmese. Buddhist beliefs and practices include animistic elements that reflect belief systems predating the introduction of Buddhism. Among the Burmese, this includes the worship of nats, which maybe associated with houses, in individuals, and natural features. An estimated 3 percent of the population, mainly in more isolated areas, who adhere solely to animistic religious beliefs.

Another 4 percent of the population is Christian (3 percent Baptist and 1 percent Catholic), 4 percent is Muslim, 4 percent is Hindu, and 1 percent is animist. Christian missionaries began working in the country in the nineteenth century. They had relatively little success among Buddhists but made numerous converts among some of the minority groups.

Religious Practitioners. Between ages of ten and sixteen, most young Burmese men and some young women become Buddhist novices and go to live in a monastery. While most young men remain at the monastery for only a short time before returning to the secular life, some become fully ordained monks. A person who wants to become a monk is expected to be free of debt and certain diseases, have the permission of his parents or spouse, agree to follow the disciplinary rules of the monkhood, and not become involved in secular life. While monks are expected to lead a life of aestheticism, they perform important functions in the community, especially as counselors. A variety of religious practitioners are associated with the animistic beliefs of most Buddhists, including spirit dancers who become possessed by spirits and may engage in healing and fortune-telling. There are also astrologers, other types of healers, tattoists with occult knowledge, and magicians.

Rituals and Holy Places. Thingyan, the water festival, marks the advent of the new year in mid-April. Buddha images are washed, and monks are offered alms. It is also marked by dousing people with water and festive behavior such as dancing, singing, and theatrical performances. Kason in May celebrates Buddha's birth, enlightenment, and entrance into nirvana. The day includes the ceremonial watering of banyan trees to commemorate the banyan tree under which Buddha sat when he attained enlightenment. A ceremony is held in July to mark the start of the three-month lenten period and commemorate Buddha's first sermon. It is at this time that young males become novices. Lent is a period of spiritual retreat for monks, who remain in their monasteries. During this time people may not marry. Lent ends in October. Over a three-day period, candles, oil lamps, paper lanterns, and electric bulbs are lit to show how angels lit Buddha's return from heaven. Many marriages are held at this time. A celebration is held in November to produce new garments for monks and Buddha images. People come to complete the production of the cloth within a single day.

Death and the Afterlife. Buddhists believe that those who die are reborn in a form that is in keeping with the merit they accumulated while alive. The cycle of death and rebirth is believed to continue as long as ignorance and craving remain. The cycle can be broken only through personal wisdom and the elimination of desire. Funerals involve either burial or cremation. The ceremony includes a procession of monks and mourners who accompany the coffin to the cemetery or crematorium, with the monks chanting and performing rites. Funerals for monks tend to be elaborate, while those who have died a violent death generally are quickly buried with very little ceremony, since their spirits are believed to linger as malevolent ghosts.

Medicine and Health Care

The use of traditional forms of medicine remains important, especially among the ethnic minorities. Few young people, however, receive training in these forms of medicine by an aging group of traditional healers and many traditional practices and the knowledge of traditional remedies are being lost. Serious health problems are reaching crisis proportions, and nontraditional health care by the public and private sectors has deteriorated.

Malaria, AIDS, and malnutrition and related diseases are a serious problem. Intravenous drug use formerly was a problem mainly in the northeast among ethnic minorities, but since 1988, drug used has spread to the lowlands and the urban areas inhabited by the Burmese majority. There are only 703 hospitals and 12,464 doctors. These facilities are in very poor condition, and funding for medical care and training is inadequate.

Secular Celebrations

The major state holidays are Independence Day (4 January), Union Day (12 February), Peasants' Day (2 March), Resistance or Armed Forces Day (27 March), May Day or Workers' Day (1 May), Martyr's Day (19 July), and National Day (late November or early December). These are occasions for the regime to promote nationalist sentiments, and some are accompanied by festive events. Far more important for most Burmese are the older celebrations associated with agriculture and the Buddhist religion.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Until the 1880s, the nobility was an important source of support for artists. After the fall of the monarchy, support came from newly rich merchants and British colonial officers. From the 1920s to the 1940s, there was relatively little support from the government or the public. State schools for the fine arts were opened in Rangoon and Mandalay in 1953, and there was a revival of interest in traditional art forms. The military regime of 1962 encouraged art forms supportive of its nationalist and socialist agenda. Since 1988, there has been little government support.

Literature. The focus of writing within Burmese society was, and to a large extent still is, focused on writing for theater performances (pwe ) and producing texts relating to Buddhism. In addition, since the nineteenth century there is a fair amount of popular fiction. There is also some British fiction from the colonial period that is set in Burma. Among the early British works of fiction concerned with the Burmese are two novels by H. Fielding: The Soul of a People (1898) and Thibaw's Queen (1899). By far the best known British novel set in Burma is George Orwell's Burmese Days (1934), a critical examination of British colonial rule.

Graphic Arts. The graphic arts include temple sculpture in wood, stucco, stone, and wood; temple mural painting, usually in tempera; other forms of wood carving; ivory carving; work in bronze, iron, and other metals; jewelry; ceramics; glassware; lacquerware; textiles and costume; items made of palm and bamboo; and painting on paper or canvas.

Lacquerware entails the covering of an object made of bamboo or wood with a liquid made from tree sap. These objects include containers as well as tables, screens, and carved animal figures. The process preserves, strengthens, and waterproofs objects and has been developed into a decorative art form. Its origins are ancient. Pagan is the largest and most important center for lacquerware. The Government Lacquerware School was established by local artists in Pagan in 1924. The Shan also have a distinctive lacquerware tradition.

Weaving is a highly developed traditional art form. Among the Burmese, it reached its highest form in the production of lun-taya acheik cloth. The technique was brought from Manipur in the eighteenth century, but the complex motifs are distinctly Burmese. This style of cloth is still woven near Mandalay for sale to elite Burmese. There are distinctive textile traditions among the ethnic minorities.

Traditional painting on paper made from tree bark or bamboo pulp is known as parabaik painting. The earliest known example dates back to the eighteenth century. Pigments were made of tempera, with gold and silver inks used for the costumes of nobles and deities. The paintings also formed folded pages in books. Initially these paintings depicted religious scenes, court scenes, or astrological charts, medicines, tattoo designs, and sexual techniques, and the painters were itinerant artists employed by the court. In the nineteenth century, the court in Mandalay employed full-time artists, and a system of apprenticeship was put in place. Among the new styles of painting that emerged after the fall of the monarchy were paintings of happy families sold to the newly rich. Traditional painting declined in the 1920s as local patrons and artists became more interested in European styles. A revival of interest in Burmese themes took place after the 1962 military takeover. The new regime held an annual painting exhibition to promote select painters. The exhibitions ended in 1988, but the military regime allowed the fine arts school to remain open. Most painters today are dependent on sales through a handful of private galleries that cater largely to resident expatriates. The themes of newer paintings continue to be Burmese, especially religious paintings and landscapes.

Performance Arts. Popular performances often combine music, dance, and drama in a pwe ("show"). These shows take place at fairs, religious festivals, weddings, funerals, and sporting events. They generally are held at night and can go on all night long. A pwe typically includes performances based on legends and Buddhist epics; comedy skits; singing, dancing, and music; and sometimes a puppet show. Traditional music and dance have been influenced by Thailand. Traditional instruments played in an ensemble include a circle of drums, a thirteen-stringed boat-shaped harp, a circle of gongs, a xylophonelike instrument, an oboelike instrument, a bamboo flute, a bass drum, small cymbals, and bamboo clappers. Today these traditional instruments are combined with Western ones, including a guitar. The Kon-baung court employed performers specializing in recitation, singing, dancing, and acting. Highly stylized dramatic performances were accompanied by music. There is also a tradition of popular public performances such as the nebhatkhin (a pageant depicting the birth of Buddha) and the more secular myai-waing (an earth-circling performance) conducted by traveling actors and musicians. After 1885, entertainers performed for a new public, and more lively forms of entertainment were developed, including all-female dance troupes. Western-style stage plays were introduced at that same time. There was interest in newer forms of performance in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Such performances ended with the outbreak of World War II. After of independence, there was a revival of interest in traditional dance, drama, and music. The 1950s saw a revival of traditional art forms and the emergence of a new form of modern melodrama called pya-zat. These were modern plays that rarely dealt with traditional subjects. While secular performance arts now dominate popular entertainment, the military regime has continued to support more traditional performances and the fine arts schools still teach traditional forms of dance and drama, although the audiences consist largely of tourists, resident expatriates, and members of the ruling elite.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Training in the physical and social sciences at national institutions such as Yangon University and Yangon Technical University is very limited. Since 1962, the social sciences have been almost nonexistent. Some social science research continues to take place, but most of it focuses on the relatively distant past. Institutions involved in such work include the Myanmar Historical Commission, Cultural Institute, Department of Archaeology, and Religious Affairs Department.

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. Burmese Dance and Theatre, 1995.

Smith, Martin. Burma: Insurgency and the Politics of Ethnicity, 1991.

Spiro, Melford. Burmese Supernaturalism, 2nd ed., 1974.

. Kinship and Marriage in Burma, 1977.

. Buddhism and Society: A Great Tradition and Its Burmese Vicissitudes, 1982.

. Anthropological Other or Burmese Brother? Studies in Cultural Analysis, 1992.

Strachan, Paul, ed. Essays on the History and Buddhism of Burma, 1988.

. Imperial Pagan: Art and Architecture of Burma, 1990.

Taylor, Robert H. The State in Burma, 1987.

Michael C. Howard

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BURMA

BURMA. A country of South-East Asia. Languages: Burmese (official), and indigenous, such as Shan and Karen. Burma was annexed to India during three wars with the British between 1824 and 1886. It gained internal self-government in 1937, and became independent in 1948. Burma did not join the Commonwealth, and discontinued the use of English as a language of administration and education. See ASEAN.

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Burma

Burma: see Myanmar.

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Burma

Burmadormer, former, korma, Norma, performer, pro-forma, stormer, transformer, trauma, warmer •sixth-former • barnstormer •aroma, carcinoma, chroma, coma, comber, diploma, glaucoma, Homer, lymphoma, melanoma, misnomer, Oklahoma, Omagh, roamer, Roma, romer, sarcoma, soma •beachcomber •bloomer, boomer, consumer, Duma, humour (US humor), Nkrumah, perfumer, puma, roomer, rumour (US rumor), satsuma, stumer, Sumer, tumour (US tumor) •zeugma • fulmar •bummer, comer, drummer, hummer, midsummer, mummer, plumber, rummer, strummer, summa, summer •latecomer • newcomer • agama •welcomer •astronomer, monomer •ashrama • isomer • gossamer •customer •affirmer, Burma, derma, Irma, murmur, squirmer, terra firma, wormer

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Burma

BURMA

BURMA (Myanamar) , republic in southeast Asia. Jews from Calcutta, Cochin, and Persia may have settled in various towns of Burma in the first half of the 19th century. Specifically Baghdadis from Calcutta with business interests – often based on opium – further east would stop at Rangoon on the way to Singapore, Jakarta, Manila and Shanghai. The first Jew known definitely to have settled in Burma was Solomon Gabirol, probably a *Bene Israel, who served as commissar in King Alaungpaya's army. A Jewish merchant, Goldenberg, from Romania, engaged in the teakwood trade and accumulated

great wealth. Solomon Reineman of Galicia arrived in Rangoon, the capital of Burma, in 1851 as a supplier for the British army and opened stores in various places. His Masot Shelomo ("Solomon's Travels," 1884) contains a long chapter on Burma, and is the first Hebrew account of the country and its towns. In 1857 the synagogue Maẓmi'aḥ Yeshu'ah was established in Rangoon, first taking the form of a wooden structure and later in 1893–6 rebuilt in stone. A second synagogue, Beth El, was built in 1932. The Jewish community, scattered in several places in the country, particularly Mandalay (where there are still a few Jews), Bassein, Aykab, and Toungyi, included members of the *Bene Israel group from Bombay, Arabic-speaking Jews from Calcutta, and Jews from Cochin and other parts of the Oriental Diaspora. The number of Jews in Rangoon and other places peaked at 1200. With World War ii and the Japanese invasion of Burma, community life was disrupted and many Jews fled to Calcutta or Ereẓ Israel. After the war, about 500 Burmese Jews returned, but later they left the country. In 2005 just a handful of Jews remained in Rangoon although the Maẓmi'aḥ Yeshu'ah was still maintained through the efforts of Jack Samuels, the community leader.

"Lost Jews"

From the beginning of the 19th century, first Christian missionaries and later some Jews found reason to believe that the populous Karen tribe of Burma was descended from Jewish stock. Above all it was the cult of the High God Yuwah or Ywa, reminiscent of the Hebrew yhwh, which excited Christians and later Jews and inspired them with the certainty that here must be some long-lost relic of the ancient religion of the Hebrews. Until recent times, when the cause of the Karen was taken up by Amishav, Christian and particularly Baptist missionaries were the most fervent supporters of the idea. Nonetheless some Jews too were convinced of similarities. In a Bombay Jewish journal, The Jewish Tribune, of April 1934, there appeared the first of a series of articles written by a member of the Bene Israel by the name of J.E. Joshua. Joshua, who was based in Rangoon, called his article "The Lost Jews of Burma." "They live in forests and villages and hills," he wrote. "They hunt animals, grow paddy and keep elephants…. In fact, the Chinese Jews, who originally migrated from Persia to China, are to-day within the confines of the land of golden pagodas, spirits and white elephants but known as Karens."

[Walter Joseph Fischel /

Tudor V. Parfitt (2nd ed.)]

Burma-Israel Relations

Burma became independent in January 1948 and therefore did not participate in the deliberations of the un on the partition of Palestine. The specific Jewish aspect of the problem was completely alien to her and, like many Asian countries, she regarded the Jewish settlement in Palestine as a manifestation of "Western Colonialism." Thus, in the spring of 1949, when Israel applied for membership in the un, Burma cast a negative vote. However, following a seeming stabilization of the situation in the Middle East, in December 1949 Burma accorded full recognition to Israel. The first contacts between the two countries were created in the framework of the international labor movement. In 1952 a Burmese socialist mission visited Israel and additional contacts were developed when an Israel delegation, headed by the then foreign minister, Moshe *Sharett, took part in the first Asian Socialist Congress in Rangoon in 1953. Shortly after, full diplomatic relations were established and Israel's first minister to Burma, David Hacohen, opened a legation in Rangoon. The Burmese opened theirs in Israel in 1955. Until 1963 the relations between the two countries developed swiftly. Prime Minister U Nu paid the first state visit to Israel in 1955, shortly after the Bandung Conference, at which Burma unsuccessfully fought for Israel's admittance to the caucus of Asian-African countries. A special agreement concluded in 1956 served as a framework for the constantly growing cooperation. Israel sent a large number of professional and agricultural experts to further Burmese projects. A model agricultural settlement was set up by Israeli experts in the northern dry zone (the "Namsang" project); a joint shipping line was built (the Burma Five Star Line); irrigation schemes were set in motion; nurses were trained; the Burma Pharmaceutical Industry (bpi) was provided with Israel technological assistance; a joint construction and contracting firm was established; and expert counselors co-managed important Burmese projects. This cooperation also extended to the Burmese army, the nucleus of whose parachute corps was Israeli-trained. Under a commercial contract, Israel imported substantial quantities of rice from Burma. A constant exchange of visits was made by leaders of both countries: the chiefs of staff paid almost annual visits; Israel's president Ben-Zvi went to Burma in 1958, Prime Minister Ben-Gurion in 1961, Golda Meir, then foreign minister, in 1962. General Ne Win, who succeeded U Nu, also visited Israel. Both countries' missions were raised to ambassadorial level in 1957. This wide-ranging cooperation came to a rather abrupt end in 1963, when Burma, under General Ne Win, embarked on a new policy of nationalization, self-reliance, and reemphasis on strict neutrality and noninvolvement with non-Burmese parties. Israel-Burma joint ventures wound down, though some Burmese students and professionals still came to Israel to study and a number of Israel experts went to Burma. Mutual trade also continued. In 1988, after the Burmese (Myanmar) armed forces (or Tatmadaw) formed the State Law and Order Restoration Council (slorc) and took over control of the country, there were rumors of a secret military partnership between Israel and Burma. Low-level contacts in others spheres continued into the 21st century.

[Michael Pragai /

Tudor Parfitt (2nd ed.)]

bibliography:

J. Saphir, Even Sappir, 2 (1874), 114; S. Reineman, Masot Shelomo, ed. by W. Schorr (1885), 192–204; D.S. Sassoon, History of the Jews in Baghdad (1949); D. Hacohen, Yoman Burmah (1963); M. Sharett, Masot be-Asyah (1957). add. bibliography: T. Parfitt, The Lost Tribes of Israel: The History of a Myth (2002); Jane's Intelligence Review (March 1, 2000).

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Burma

Burma

PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-BURMESE RELATIONS
TRAVEL

Compiled from the December 2007 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:

Union of Burma

Editor's Note: The Burmese Government was dissolved on September 18, 1988 in a military coup and the nation was renamed Myanmar. The US does not presently recognize the current government of Myanmar and therefore continues to refer to the nation as Burma.

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 678,500 sq. km. (slightly smaller than Texas).

Cities: Administrative capital—Nay Pyi Taw, near the township of Pyinmana (pop. 200,000); Other cities—Rangoon (pop. 5.5 million), Mandalay (pop. 1.2 million).

Terrain: Central lowlands ringed by steep, rugged highlands.

Climate: Tropical monsoon; cloudy, rainy, hot, humid summers (south-west monsoon, June to September); less cloudy, scant rainfall, mild temperatures, lower humidity during winter (December to April).

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Burmese.

Population: 57.6 million (IMF estimate 2007); no official census has been taken since 1983.

Annual population growth rate: (UNDP 2005 estimate) 0.8%.

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 languages.

Education: Literacy—adult, 89.9%; male, 93.9%; female, 86.4% (UNDP 2005 estimate).

Health: Infant mortality rate—75 deaths/1,000 live births (UNDP 2005 estimate). Life expectancy—60.8 yrs.: male, 57.6 yrs.; female 64.2 (UNDP 2005 estimate).

Government

Type: Military junta.

Constitution: January 3, 1974 (suspended since September 18, 1988, when the current junta took power). A national convention started on January 9, 1993 to draft a new constitution, but collapsed in 1996 without an agreement. The junta reconvened the convention in May 2004 without the participation of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and other pro-democracy ethnic groups. The national convention convened intermittently and in September 2007, the regime concluded the process of “drafting” principles for the new constitution without allowing delegates to the convention to debate or openly discuss them. In October 2007, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) appointed 54 persons to sit on the constitution drafting committee, but included no members from the NLD or the pro-democracy opposition. The constitutional drafting committee began its task on December 3, 2007.

Government branches: Executive—Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) Senior General Than Shwe is the head of state. Prime Minister Lt.Gen. Thein Sein is the head of government. Legislative—The suspended constitution provides for a unicameral People's Assembly (Pyithu Hluttaw) with 485 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve 4-year terms. The last elections were in 1990, but the military prevented the Assembly from ever convening. Judicial—The legal system is based on a British-era system, but with the constitution suspended, the military regime now rules by decree and there is no guarantee of a fair public trial; the judiciary is not independent.

Political parties: National League for Democracy (NLD) is the primary opposition party; National Unity Party (NUP) is the primary pro-regime party; the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) is a proregime socio-political organization; there are also many smaller ethnic parties

Political subdivisions: The country is divided into seven primarily Burman ethnic divisions (tain) of Aye-yarwady (Irrawaddy), Bago (Pegu), Magway, Mandalay, Yangon (Rangoon), Sagaing, and Tanintharyi (Tenassarim) and seven ethnic states (pyi nay) Chin State, Kachin State, Kayin (Karen) State, Kayah (Karenni) State, Mon State, Rakhine (Arakan) State, and Shan State.

Suffrage: Universal suffrage at 18 years of age (but there have been no elections since 1990).

Economy

GDP: $13.7 billion (IMF estimate 2007).

Annual growth rate: 5.5% (IMF estimate 2007); the regime claimed the 2005-2006 rate was 13.2%. GDP per capita: $239 (IMF estimate 2007)

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

Agriculture: Products—rice, pulses, beans, sesame, peanuts, sugarcane, hardwood, fish, and fish products.

Industries: Types—agricultural processing, knit and woven apparel, wood and wood products, copper, tin, tungsten, iron, construction materials, pharmaceuticals, and fertilizer.

Recorded trade: Exports (IMF 2006)—$3.6 billion. Types (2005-2006 official statistics)—natural gas 30.2%, teak and forest products 13/ 3%, beans and pulses 9.1%, garments 7.7%, and marine products 5.5%. Major markets (IMF 2005-2006)— Thailand 38%, India 14%, China 10%, Hong Kong 7%, Japan 4%. Imports (IMF 2006)—$2 billion. Types (2005-2006 official statistics)— machinery and transport equipment 15.5%, refined mineral oil 13.6%, base metals and manufactures 10.1%, fabrics 8.0%, and electrical machinery 5.6%. Major suppliers (IMF 2005-2006)—Singapore 28%, China 24%, Thailand 11%, Malaysia 7%.

PEOPLE

A majority of Burma's people are ethnic Burmans. Shans, Karens, Rohingya, Arakanese, Kachins, Chins, Mons, and many other smaller indigenous ethnic groups form about 30% of the population. Indians and Chinese are the largest non-indigenous groups. Although Burmese is the most widely spoken languag (approx. 32 million speakers), other ethnic groups have retained their own identities and languages. Some of the most prominent are Shan; various Karen, Karenni and Chin languages; Arakanese; Jingpaw; Mon; Palaung; Parauk; Wa; and Yangbye. English is spoken in many areas frequented by tourists. The Indian and Chinese residents speak various languages and dialects of their homelands: Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Bengali, Mandarin, Fujian, and Cantonese.

An estimated 89% of the population practices Buddhism. Other religions, Christian 4% (Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic 1%), Muslim 4%, and animist 1%, are less prevalent, although Christian and Muslim groups claim the regime significantly underestimates their number of adherents.

According to the UN Development Programme's 2006 Human Development Report, public health expenditure equaled only 0.3% of Burma's GDP. High infant mortality rates and short life expectancies further highlight poor health and living conditions. The HIV/AIDS epidemic poses a serious threat to the Burmese population, as do tuberculosis and malaria. In 2006, the UNDP's Human Development Index, which measures achievements in terms of life expectancy, educational attainment, and adjusted real income, ranked Burma 130 out of 177 countries.

There are numerous documented human rights violations, and internal displacement of ethnic minorities is prevalent. Over a million Burmese, many of them ethnic minorities, have fled for economic and political reasons to Bangladesh, India, China, Malaysia, and Thailand to seek work and asylum. More than 150,000 Burmese live in nine refugee camps in Thailand and roughly 30,000 live in two camps in Bangladesh. Roughly 30,000 Burmese (mostly Chin and Rohingya) have fled to Malaysia.

HISTORY

Burma was unified by Burman dynasties three times during the past millennium. The first such unification came with the rise of the Bagan (Pagan) Dynasty in 1044 AD, which is considered the “Golden Age” in Burmese history. During this period, Theravada Buddhism first made its appearance in Burma, and the Bagan kings built a massive city with thousands of pagodas and monasteries along the Irrawaddy River. The Bagan Dynasty lasted until 1287 when Mongol invaders destroyed the city. Ethnic Shan rulers, who established a political center at Ava (near Mandalay), filled the ensuing political vacuum for a short time.

In the 15th century, the Taungoo Dynasty succeeded again in unifying under Burman rule a large, multiethnic kingdom. This dynasty, which lasted from 1486 until 1752, left little cultural legacy, but expanded the kingdom through conquest of the Shans. Internal power struggles, and the cost of protracted warfare, led to the eventual decline of the Taungoo Dynasty.

The final Burman royal dynasty, the Konbaung, was established in 1752 under the rule of King Alaungpaya. Like the Taungoo Kings, the Konbaung rulers focused on warfare and conquest. Wars were fought with the ethnic Mons and Arakanese, and with the Siamese. The Burmese sacked the Siamese capital of Ayuthaya in 1767. This period also saw four invasions by the Chinese and three devastating wars with the British.

The British began their conquest of Burma in 1824, expanding their holdings after each of the three wars. At the end of the third war in 1885, the British gained complete control of Burma, annexing it to India. Under British control, which lasted until 1948, Burma underwent enormous change. The British established strong administrative institutions and reorganized the economy from subsistence farming to a large-scale export economy. By 1939, Burma had

become the world's leading exporter of rice. Burmese nationalists, led by General Aung San and 29 other “Comrades,” joined the Japanese forces in driving out the British at the outbreak of World War II. However, the Burmese Army switched sides in mid-1945 and aided U.S. and British forces in their drive to Rangoon. After the war, the Burmese, with General Aung San at the helm, demanded complete political and economic independence from Britain. The British Government acceded to thes demands. A constitution was completed in 1947 and independence granted in January 1948. General Aung San was assassinated with most of his cabinet before the constitution went into effect.

During the constitutional period from 1948 to 1962, Burma suffered widespread conflict and internal struggle. Constitutional disputes and persistent division among political and ethnic groups contributed to the democratic government's weak hold on power. In 1958, Prime Minister U Nu invited the military to rule temporarily to restore political order. The military stepped down after 18 months; however, in 1962 General Ne Win led a military coup, abolishing the constitution and establishing a xenophobic military government with socialist economic policies. These policies had devastating effects on the country's economy and business climate.

In March 1988, student-led disturbances broke out in Rangoon in response to the worsening economic situation and evolved into a call for regime change. Despite repeated violent crackdowns by the military and police, the demonstrations increased in size as many in the general public joined the students. During mass demonstrations on August 8, 1988, military forces killed more than 1,000 demonstrators. At a rally following this massacre Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of General Aung San, made her first political speech and assumed the role of opposition leader.

In September 1988, the military deposed Ne Win's Burmese Socialist Program Party (BSPP), suspended the constitution, and established a new ruling junta called the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). In an effort to “restore order,” the SLORC sent the army into the streets to suppress the ongoing public demonstrations. An estimated additional 3,000 were killed, and more than 10,000 students fled into the hills and border areas.

The SLORC ruled by martial law until national parliamentary elections were held in May 1990. The results were an overwhelming victory for Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which won 392 of the 485 seats, even though she was under house arrest. However, the SLORC refused to honor the results and call the Parliament into session, and instead imprisoned many political activists.

The ruling junta changed its name to the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1997, but did not change its policy of autocratic control and repression of the democratic opposition. It continued to subject Aung San Suu Kyi to varying forms of detention and other restrictions on her movement, which it periodically lifted only to reinstate later. In 2000, the SPDC began talks with the political opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi. These talks were followed by the release of political prisoners and some increase in political freedoms for the NLD. In May 2002, Aung San Suu Kyi was allowed to leave her home, and subsequently traveled widely throughout the country. On May 30, 2003, Aung San Suu Kyi and a convoy of her supporters were attacked by a group of government-affiliated thugs. Many members of the convoy were killed or injured, and others disappeared. Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of her party were detained, and the military government forcibly closed the offices of the NLD. Today, only the NLD headquarters in Rangoon is open, all the party's other offices remain closed, and Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD Vice Chairman U Tin Oo remain under house arrest.

In October 2004, hard-line members of the senior leadership consolidated their power by ousting Prime Minister Khin Nyunt and removing him and his allies from control of the government and military intelligence apparatus. In late November 2004, the junta announced it would release approximately 9,000 prisoners it claimed had been improperly jailed by Khin Nyunt's National Intelligence Bureau. Approximately 86 of those released had been imprisoned for their political beliefs. Those released since November 2004 include Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi, both key figures in the 1988 demonstrations. On July 6, 2005, authorities released 323 additional political prisoners and on January 3, 2007, the authorities released over 2,800 prisoners, of whom over 40 were political prisoners. Despite these releases, the regime's policy of imprisoning its critics has not changed. Over 1,100 political activists are held in prisons around the country.

The military regime has a contentious relationship with Burma's ethnic groups, many of which have fought for greater autonomy or secession for their regions since the country's independence. In 1948, only Rangoon itself was under the control of national government authorities. Subsequent military campaigns brought more and more of the nation under central government control. Since 1989, the regime has signed a series of cease-fire agreements with insurgent groups, leaving only a handful still in active opposition.

In November 2005, the ruling regime unexpectedly relocated the capital city from Rangoon to Nay Pyi Taw, further isolating the government from the public. Nay Pyi Taw is a sparsely populated district located approximately midway between Rangoon and Mandalay. Most government workers and ministries moved to Nay Pyi Taw over the following six months, but construction and development of the new administrative capital remains incomplete. Foreign diplomatic missions are still located in Rangoon.

Following a sharp increase in fuel prices on August 15, 2007, pro-democracy groups began a series of peaceful marches and demonstrations to protest the deteriorating economic situation in Burma. The regime immediately responded by arbitrarily detaining over 150 pro-democracy activists between August 15 and September 11. On August 28, as popular dissatisfaction spread, Buddhist monks began leading peaceful marches. On September 5, security forces violently broke up demonstrations by monks resulting in injuries and triggering calls for a nationwide response and a government apology. Beginning on September 18, monks resumed their peaceful protests in several cities throughout the country. These marches grew quickly to include ordinary citizens, culminating in a gathering of approximately 10,000 protestors in Rangoon on September 24. On September 25, the regime tried to stop the protests by imposing a curfew and banning public gatherings. On September 26 and 27, the regime renewed its violent crackdown, shooting, beating and arbitrarily detaining thousands of monks, pro-democracy activists, and onlookers. The regime routinely underestimates the number of deaths during the crackdown, confirming the deaths of only 10 protestors. Some NGOs estimated the number of casualties to be much higher, and in his December 7, 2007 report to the UN General Assembly, Special Rappor-teur Paulo Sergio Pinheiro stated that there were over 30 fatalities in Rangoon associated with the September 2007 protests. In retribution for leading protest marches, monks were beaten and arrested, many monks were disrobed, and several monasteries were raided, ransacked, and closed. In addition to the more than 1,100 political prisoners whose arrests predate the September 2007 crackdown, it is likely the hundreds more continue to be detained due to their participation in the recent protests. Additional people continued to be arrested through the end of 2007.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

The Union of Burma (or Myanmar as it is called by the ruling junta) consists of 14 states and divisions. Administrative control is exercised from the central government through a system of subordinate executive bodies and regional military commanders.

Power is centered on the ruling junta—the State Peace and Development Council, or SPDC—which maintains strict authoritarian rule over the people of Burma. The Prime Minister is appointed directly by the SPDC. Control is maintained through intimidation, the strict censuring of information, repression of individual rights, and suppression of ethnic minority groups.

The SPDC continues its harsh rule and systematic human rights abuses today, and insists that any future political transition be negotiated on its terms. It proclaimed a seven-step roadmap to democracy beginning with a National Convention process, purportedly to develop a new constitution and pave the way for national elections. However the regime restricts public input and debate and handpicks the delegates, effectively excluding pro-democracy supporters. Although the SPDC changed the name of the country to “Myanmar,” the democratically elected but never convened Parliament of 1990 does not recognize the name change, and the democratic opposition continues to use the name “Burma.” Due to consistent support for the democratically elected leaders, the U.S. Government likewise uses “Burma.”

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/1/2008

Chmn., State Peace & Development Council: THAN SHWE, Sr. Gen.

Vice Chmn., State Peace & Development Council: MAUNG AYE, Vice Sr. Gen.

Prime Min.: THEIN SEIN, Lt. Gen.

Sec. One, State Peace & Development Council: TIN AUNG MYINT OO, Lt. Gen.

Sec. Two, State Peace & Development Council: YE MINT, Lt. Gen.

Min. for Agriculture & Irrigation: HTAY OO, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Commerce: TIN NAING THEIN, Brig. Gen.

Min. of Communications, Post, & Telegraph: THEIN ZAW, Brig. Gen.

Min. of Construction: SAW TUN, Maj.Gen.

Min. for Cooperatives: ZAW MIN, Col.

Min. of Culture: KHIN AUNG MYINT, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Defense: THAN SHWE, Sr. Gen.

Min. of Education: CHAN NYEIN

Min. of Electric Power 1: TIN HTUT, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Electric Power 2: KHIN MYAUNG MYINT, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Energy: LUN THI, Brig. Gen.

Min. of Finance & Revenue: HLA TUN, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Foreign Affairs: NYAN WIN, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Forestry: THEIN AUNG, Brig.Gen.

Min. of Health: KYAW MYINT, Dr.

Min. of Home Affairs: MAUNG OO, Maj.Gen.

Min. of Hotels & Tourism: SOE NAING, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Immigration & Population: MAUNG MAUNG SWE, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Industry 1: AUNG THAUNG

Min. of Industry 2: SAW LWIN, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Information: KYAW HSAN, Brig. Gen.

Min. of Labor: AUNG KYI, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Livestock Breeding & Fisheries: MAUNG MAUNG THEIN, Brig. Gen.

Min. of Military Affairs: THIHA THURA TIN AUNG MYINT OO, Lt. Gen.

Min. of Mines: OHN MYINT, Brig. Gen.

Min. of National Planning & Economic Development: SOE THA

Min. of Progress of Border Areas, National Races, & Development Affairs: THEIN NYUNT, Col.

Min. of Rail Transport: AUNG MIN, Maj.Gen.

Min. of Religious Affairs: THURA MYINT MAUNG, Brig. Gen.

Min. of Science & Industry: THAUNG

Min. of Social Welfare, Relief, & Resettlement: MAUNG MAUNG SWE, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Sports: THURA AYE MYINT, Brig. Gen.

Min. for Transport: THEIN SWE, Maj. Gen.

Min. in the Office of the Prime Min.: PYI SONE, Brig. Gen.

Min. in the Office of the Prime Min.: THAN SHWE

Governor, Central Bank of Burma: THAN NYEIN

Charge d’ Affaires to the US: MYINT LWIN

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: KYAW TINT SHWE

Burma maintains an embassy to the United States at 2300 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel.: (202) 332-3344; fax: (202) 332-4351.

ECONOMY

Burma is a resource-rich country with a strong agricultural base. It also has vast timber, natural gas, and fishery reserves and is a leading source of gems and jade. Tourist potential remains undeveloped because of weak infrastructure and Burma's international image, which has been damaged by the junta's human rights abuses and oppression of the democratic opposition. Due to Burma's poor human rights record, the U.S. imposed a range of trade sanctions, including bans on the importation of Burmese products into the U.S. and the export of financial services from the U.S. to Burma. In response to the September 2007 crackdown, President Bush announced on September 25, 2007 that the United States would tighten existing economic sanctions on the regime leaders and their supporters. On October 19, 2007, President Bush expanded sanctions to include individuals responsible for human rights abuses and public corruption, as well as individuals and entities who provided material or financial support to designated individuals or the Burmese military government. Australia, Canada, and the EU also have imposed additional economic sanctions on the Burmese regime in response to the crackdown.

The regime’ mismanagement of the economy has created a downward economic spiral. The state remains heavily involved in most parts of the economy, infrastructure has deteriorated, and no rule of law exists. The majority of Burmese citizens subsist on an average annual income of less than $200 per capita. Inflation, caused primarily by public sector deficit spending and the eroding value of the local currency (the kyat), have reduced living standards. The Asian Development Bank estimated in December 2006 that inflation in Burma could reach 30% in 2006-2007, in contrast with official estimates of 10%.

The military's commercial arms play a major role in the economy. The limited moves to a market economy have been accompanied by a significant rise in crony capitalism. A handful of companies loyal to the regime has benefited from policies that promote monopoly and privilege. State-controlled activity predominates in energy, heavy industry, and the rice trade. Agriculture, light industry, trade, and transport dominate the private sector.

Burma remains a primarily agricultural economy with 50% of GDP derived from agriculture, livestock and fisheries, and forestry. Manufacturing/industry constitutes only 15% of recorded economic activity, and state industries continue to play a large role in that sector. Trade and services constitute 35% of GDP.

Foreign investment has declined precipitously since 1999 due to the increasingly unfriendly business environment and political pressure from Western consumers and shareholders. The government conserves foreign exchange by limiting imports and promoting exports. Published estimates of Burma's foreign trade (particularly on the import side) are greatly understated because of the large volume of off-book, black-market, illicit, and unrecorded border trade.

In the near term, growth will continue to be constrained by government mismanagement and minimal investment. A number of other countries, including member states of the European Union, Canada, and Australia have joined the United States in applying some form of sanctions against the regime.

Government economic statistics are unavailable and unreliable. According to official figures, GDP growth has been over 10% annually since FY 1999-2000. However, the rate is likely much smaller; the IMF estimates that the growth rate in 2007 was 5.5%. Burma's limited economic growth results largely from its natural gas exports, which account for over half of Burma's export receipts and foreign direct investment. Natural gas exports will increase significantly once production begins from the offshore Shwe and Shwephy Fields, estimated to hold 5.7-10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. In 2005-2006, the oil and gas sector accounted for $69 million in foreign direct investment. Corporations based in China, India, South Korea, Thailand, and Malaysia have interests in the exploration and development of several offshore blocks.

Burma remains the world's second-largest producer of illicit opium—although it amounts to only 12% of the world's total. Annual production of opium is now estimated to be less than 15% of mid-1990 peak levels. Burma is also a primary source of amphetamine-type stimulants in Asia. Although the Burmese Government has expanded its counternarcotics measures in recent years, production and trafficking of narcotics and failure to adequately prosecute those involved remains a major problem in Burma.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

During the Cold War, Burmese foreign policy was based on principles of neutrality, often tending toward xenophobia. Since 1988, however, Burma has expanded its regional ties. It now is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), and several other regional organizations and initiatives. Burma's lack of progress on human rights and democracy has frayed some ties, and in July 2005, Burma passed up its scheduled 2006 ASEAN chairmanship.

Although Burmese-Thai relations are generally cooperative, they have been tainted by a long history of border conflicts and sporadic hostilities over narcotics trafficking and insurgents operating along the Burmese-Thai border. Nonetheless, official and unofficial economic ties remain strong. In addition to the sizeable population of Burmese refugees it hosts, the Thai Government issues temporary work permits to another one million Burmese who live outside the refugee camps in Thailand. Despite their often-contentious history, Burma and China have grown much closer in recent years. China quickly is becoming Burma's most important partner, offering debt relief, economic development grants, and soft loans used for the construction of infrastructure and light industry. China also is purportedly Burma's major supplier of arms and munitions. Burma's commercial and military ties with India are also growing steadily as well.

The UN has made several efforts to address international concerns over human rights in Burma. The UN Secretary General's Special Envoy to Burma, Tan Sri Razali Ismail, resigned his position in December 2005 due to the regime's lack of cooperation. He was replaced by former UN Undersecretary General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari who has made two trips to Burma since the September 2007 crackdown. In January 2007, the United States and the U.K. sponsored a UN Security Council resolution calling on Burma to cooperate with the UN Secretary General's good offices mission, open dialogue with the political opposition, stop its military offensive in Karen State, and to allow humanitarian organizations greater access to needy populations. The resolution received nine votes in favor, three abstentions, and three “no” votes, including vetoes from Russia and China. The UN Security Council issued a Presidential Statement on October 11, 2007 deploring the September 2007 crack-down and emphasizing the importance of the release of political prisoners and an international dialogue on a transition to democracy, which reflected the international community's common concern over the situation in Burma and desire for meaningful reform. In November 2007, UN Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur Paulo Sergio Pinheiro was allowed to visit the country for the first time since 2003. His report detailing the Burmese authorities’ September crackdown on demonstrations by monks and democracy activists and the severe reprisals that continue was released on December 11, 2007. Burma is involved in the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) Program of Economic Cooperation in the Greater Mekong Sub-region. As such, it participates in regional meetings and workshops supported by the ADB. Burma joined ASEAN in 1997, and has participated in that regional forum, even hosting a number of seminars, conferences, and ministerial meetings. As one of ASEAN's least developed members, Burma also has an extra five years (until 2008) to comply with most of ASEAN Free Trade Agreement's liberalization requirements. Burma also is a member of the World Trade Organization. Most Western foreign aid diminished in the wake of the regime's suppression of the democracy movement in 1988. The UN Development Pro-gramme's 2007 Human Development Report indicates that official development assistance totaled $144.7 million in 2006, roughly $2 per capita (compared with $47 per person in Laos and $35 per person in Cambodia). Burma receives grants of technical assistance (mostly from Asia), limited humanitarian aid and debt relief from Japan and China, and concessional loans from China and India. Burma became a member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in 1952, the International Financial Corporation (IFC) in 1956, the International Development Association (IDA) in 1962, and the ADB in 1973. Since July 1987, the World Bank has not made any loans to Burma. Since 1998 Burma has been in non-accrual status with the Bank. The IMF performs its mandated annual Article IV consultations, but there are no IMF assistance programs. The ADB has not extended loans to Burma since 1986. Bilateral technical assistance ended in 1988. Burma has not serviced its ADB loans since January 1998. Burma's total foreign debt now stands at over $7 billion.

U.S.-BURMESE RELATIONS

The political relationship between the United States and Burma worsened after the 1988 military coup and violent suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations. Subsequent repression, including the brutal crackdown on peaceful protestors in September 2007, further strained the relationship.

The United States has imposed broad sanctions against Burma under several different legislative and policy vehicles. The Burma Freedom and Democracy Act (BFDA), passed by Congress and signed by the President in 2003, includes a ban on all imports from Burma, a ban on the export of financial services to Burma, a freeze on the assets of certain Burmese financial institutions, and extended visa restrictions on Burmese officials. Congress has renewed the BFDA annually, most recently in July 2007. Since September 27, 2007, the U.S. Department of Treasury designated 25 senior Burmese government officials as subject to an asset block under Executive Order 13310. On October 19, 2007, President Bush announced a new Executive Order (E.O. 13348) which expands the authority to block assets to individuals who are responsible for human rights abuses and public corruption, as well as those who provide material and financial support to the regime.

In addition, since May 1997, the U.S. Government has prohibited new investment by U.S. persons or entities. A number of U.S. companies exited the Burma market even prior to the imposition of sanctions due to a worsening business climate and mounting criticism from human rights groups, consumers, and shareholders. The United States has also imposed countermeasures on Burma due to its inadequate measures to eliminate money laundering.

Due to its particularly severe violations of religious freedom, the United States has designated Burma a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act. Burma is also designated a Tier 3 Country in the Trafficking in Persons Report for its use of forced labor, and is subject to additional sanctions as a result.

The United States downgraded its level of representation in Burma from Ambassador to Chargé d’Affaires after the government's crackdown on the democratic opposition in 1988 and its failure to honor the results of the 1990 parliamentary election.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Last Updated: 2/19/2008

RANGOON (E) Rangoon, 110 University Avenue (GPO 521), APO/FPO Box B, APO, AP 96546, (95) (1) 536509, Fax 95-1-650-306, INMAR-SAT Tel 383131573 or 383131574, Workweek: M-F 0800-1630, Website: http://burma.usembassy.gov.

DCM OMS:Tina Jo Ellingson
AMB OMS:Supin Horton
ECO:Samantha Carl-Yoder
FM:Tom Allan
MGT:Robert Bare
POL ECO:Sean O’Neill
AMB:Shari Villarosa
CON:S. Lee McManis
DCM:Karl Stoltz
PAO:Vacant
GSO:Franklin White
RSO:Thomas McDonough
AFSA:Ryan Key
APHIS:U Khin Maung
CLO:Gloria Payoyo
DAO:Col. Dan Tartar
EEO:Vacant
FMO:D. Craig Shaw
ICASS:Chair Karl Stoltz
IMO:E. Alex Copher
ISO:E. Alex Copher
ISSO:E. Alex Copher
POL:Leslie Hayden
State ICASS:Karl Stoltz

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

January 14, 2008

Country Description: Burma (Myanmar) is an underdeveloped agrarian country ruled by an authoritarian military regime. The country's government suppresses all expression of opposition to its rule.

After a long period of isolation, Burma has started to encourage tourism. Foreigners can expect to pay several times more than locals do for accommodations, domestic airfares, and entry to tourist sites. Tourist facilities in Rangoon, Bagan, Ngapali Beach, Inle Lake, and Mandalay are superior to tourist facilities in other parts of the country, where they are limited. Please note that visitors should travel with sufficient cash to cover their expenses for the duration of their visit. Travelers’ checks and credit cards are not accepted anywhere, and ATM machines are nonexistent in Burma.

Entry and Exit Requirements: The government of Burma strictly controls travel to, from, and within Burma. Since October 1, 2006, Burmese authorities have often prohibited entry or exit at most land border crossings, unless the traveler is part of a package tour group that has received prior permission from the Burmese authorities. A passport and visa are required for entry into Burma. Travelers are required to show their passports with a valid visa at all airports, train stations, and hotels. Security checkpoints are common outside of tourist areas.

Burmese authorities rarely issues visas to persons with occupations they deem “sensitive,” including journalists. Many journalists and writers traveling to Burma on tourist visas have been denied entry. Journalists and tourists mistaken for journalists have been harassed. Some journalists have had film and notes confiscated upon leaving the country.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/ exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Information about entry requiremments as well as other information may be obtained from the Burmese Embassy (Embassy of the Union of Myanmar) at http://www.embassy.org/embassies/mm.html 2300 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone 202-332-4350 or the Permanent Burma Mission (Mission of Myanmar) to the U.N. 10 East 77th St., New York, NY 10021, (212-535-1311) 212-744-1271, fax 212-744-1290.

Safety and Security: U.S. citizens traveling in Burma should exercise caution and check with the U.S. Embassy for an update on the current security situation. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry their U.S. passports or photocopies of passport data and visa pages at all times so that if questioned by Burmese officials, they have proof of U.S. citizenship readily available.

In September 2007, the Burmese Government brutally cracked down on peaceful demonstrators. During these protests, authorities shot and, in some instances, killed demonstrators, used gunfire and tear gas against them, restricted their movements, and arrested many. On September 27, 2007, a Japanese journalist was shot and killed in the Sule Pagoda downtown area during a demonstration. The Burmese Government has a standing law that bans all gatherings of more than five people.

On May 7, 2005, three large bombs simultaneously exploded in Rangoon at two crowded shopping areas frequented by foreigners and at an international trade center, killing at least twenty people and wounding several hundred. On April 26, 2005, an explosive device detonated at a busy market in Mandalay, killing at least three people. Although other smaller-scale bombings have occurred in Burma in recent years, including in early 2007, these two events had specific targets and used more sophisticated techniques than those used in the other bombings. However, there is no indication that these attacks targeted American citizens or U.S. interests. The perpetrators of these bombings have not been identified.

In light of these incidents and the possibility of recurring political unrest, Americans in Burma should exercise caution in public places and be alert to their surroundings. Furthermore, Americans in Burma should avoid crowded public places, such as large public gatherings, demonstrations, and any area cordoned off by security forces. The Embassy also advises U.S. citizens not to photograph or videotape the military or police, because doing so could be interpreted as provocative.

Burma experienced major political unrest in 1988 when the military regime jailed as well as killed thousands of Burmese democracy activists. In 1990, the military government refused to recognize the results of an election that the opposition won overwhelmingly. Major demonstrations by opposition activists occurred in 1996 and 1998. In May 2003, individuals affiliated with the Burmese regime attacked a convoy carrying opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Sagaing Division; dozens were killed or injured.

Ethnic rebellions still smolder in regions along Burma's borders with Thailand, China, India, and Bangladesh, and anti-personnel land-mines along border areas pose an additional danger. Occasional fighting between government forces and various rebel groups has occurred in Chin State and Sagaing Division near India and along the Thai-Burma border area in Burma's Shan, Mon, Kayah (Karenni), and Karen states. From time to time, the governments of Burma and Thailand have closed the border between the two nations on short notice. The September 19, 2006, coup in Thailand led to intermittent closures at some border crossings on the Thai-Burma border.

In January 2005, regional governments announced a major regional law enforcement initiative aimed at dismantling the operations of Southeast Asia's largest narcotics trafficking organization, the United Wa State Army. At that time, the Burmese government stated that it could not guarantee the safety of foreign officials or personnel from non-governmental organizations traveling or working in Wa Special Region 2 (northeastern Shan State).

U.S. citizens have been detained, arrested, tried, and deported for, among other activities, distributing pro-democracy literature and visiting the homes and offices of Burmese pro-democracy leaders. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may also result in problems with authorities. Burmese authorities have warned U.S. Embassy officials that those who engage in similar activities in the future will be jailed rather than deported.

Should an emergency arise involving the detention of a U.S. citizen, especially outside of Rangoon, it may be difficult for U.S. Embassy personnel to assist quickly, because travel inside Burma can be slow and difficult. The Burmese authorities do not routinely notify the U.S. Embassy of the arrest of American citizens, and the Burmese government has obstructed regular access by consular officers to American citizen detainees.

Security personnel may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance. Hotel rooms, telephones, and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affair's Internet site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00a.m.-8:00p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except for U.S. federal holidays).

Crime: Crime rates in Burma, especially toward foreigners, are lower than those of many other countries in the region. Nevertheless, due in part to the poor economic situation in Burma, the crime rate has been increasing. Violent crime against foreigners is rare.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Medical facilities in Burma are inadequate for even routine medical care. There are few trained medical personnel. Most foreign drugs on sale have been smuggled into the country, and many are counterfeit or adulterated and thus unsafe to use. Travelers should bring adequate supplies of their medications for the duration of their stay in Burma. HIV/AIDS is widespread among high-risk populations, such as prostitutes and illegal drug users. Malaria, tuberculosis, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases are endemic in most parts of the country.

In early 2006 and throughout 2007, brief avian influenza outbreaks resulted in the death of domestic poultry and some wild birds. There were no reported human infections. Travelers to Burma and other South Asian countries affected by avian influenza are cautioned to avoid poultry farms, contact with animals in live food markets, and any other surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from poultry or other animals.

Current information about avian influenza A (H5N1) and pandemic influenza can be found via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) web site at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/ at or at Avian-Flu.gov.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel. Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Burma. For further information, please consult the CDC's Travel Notice on TB at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad and other health information, consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Burma is provided for general reference only, and may not be accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Rangoon's main roads are generally in poor condition. Traffic in the capital is increasing rapidly, but heavy congestion is still uncommon. Some roads are in serious disrepair. Slow-moving vehicles, bicycles, animals, and heavy pedestrian traffic create numerous hazards for drivers on Rangoon's streets. Drivers must remain extremely alert to avoid hitting pedestrians, who do not fully appreciate the risks they take in walking and darting into traffic.

Most roads outside of Rangoon consist of one to two lanes and are potholed, often unpaved, and unlit at night. Many of the truck drivers traversing from China to Rangoon are believed to drive under the influence of methamphetamines and other stimulants. Drunken and/or drugged drivers are also common on the roads during the four-day Buddhist water festival in mid-April. Driving at night is particularly dangerous. Few, if any, streets are adequately lit. Most Burmese drivers do not turn on their headlights until the sky is completely dark; many do not use headlights at all. Many bicyclists use no lights or reflectors.

Vehicular traffic moves on the right side, as in the United States; however, a majority of vehicles have the steering wheel positioned on the right. The “right of way” concept is generally respected, but military convoys and motorcades always have precedence. Most vehicle accidents are settled between the parties on site, with the party at fault paying the damages. In the event of an accident with a pedestrian, the driver is always considered to be at fault and subject to fines or arrest, regardless of the circumstances. Accidents that require an investigation are concluded quickly and rarely result in criminal prosecution. There is no roadside assistance, and ambulances are not available. Vehicles generally do not have seat belts. Child car seats are also not available.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Burma, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Burma's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov.

The U.S. Embassy in Rangoon has advised its employees to avoid travel on state-owned Myanmar Airways whenever possible due to serious concerns regarding the airline's ability to maintain its airplanes.

Foreigner Travel within Burma: Burmese authorities require that hotels and guesthouses furnish information about the identities and activities of their foreign guests. Burmese who interact with foreigners may be compelled to report on those interactions to the Burmese authorities. Travelers must assume their actions are being closely monitored, particularly in hotel lobbies and rooms, when meeting Burmese citizens, and when using the telephone.

Travelers are not generally required to obtain advance permission to travel to the main tourist areas of Mandalay and the surrounding area, Bagan, Inle Lake, Ngapali, and other beach resorts. However, some tourists traveling to places where permission is not expressly required have reported delays due to questioning by local security personnel. Additionally, the military regime restricts access to some areas of the country on an ad hoc basis, and in 2005 stated it could not guarantee the safety of foreigners traveling in eastern Shan State, specifically in Wa territory, also known as Special Region 2. Individuals planning to travel in Burma should check with Burmese tourism authorities to see whether travel to specific destinations is permitted. Even if the Burmese authorities allow travel to specific destinations in Burma, it may not be safe to travel in those areas.

Customs Regulations: Customs regulations in Burma are restrictive and strictly enforced. Customs authorities closely search travelers’ luggage upon arrival and departure from Burma. It is illegal to enter or exit Burma with items such as firearms, religious materials, antiquities, medications, business equipment, currency, gems, and ivory. On several occasions in the past two decades, foreigners have been detained, searched, and imprisoned for attempting to take restricted items out of the country.

Customs officials also strictly limit what is brought into the country, including bans on pornography and political material or literature critical of the regime or supportive of the opposition. Travelers have also reported problems bringing in high-tech electronic devices and equipment, ranging from toys to computers. The military regime has never provided a complete listing of prohibited import items. For information on restricted items for import into Burma and specific customs’ requirements, it is best to consult the nearest Burmese Embassy (Embassy of the Union of Myanmar) or in Washington DC located at 2300 S Street NW, Washington DC 20008, tel.: 202-332-4350. You may also contact Burma's Mission in New York located at 10 E. 77th Street, New York, NY 10021, tel. 202-535-1310, or 212-535-1311, fax 212-744-1290 In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.

Computers, Internet, and E-Mail: The military regime carefully controls and monitors all internet use in Burma and restricts internet access through software-based censorship that limits the materials individuals can access on line. The government has allowed several cyber cafes to open, but access to the Internet is very expensive, and access to most “free” international e-mail services such as Hotmail and Yahoo is prohibited. Currently, gmail (Google mail) accounts can be accessed in Burma, and many locals and resident expatriates use it.

It is illegal to own an unregistered modem in Burma. Tourists may bring one laptop computer per person into Burma and must declare it upon arrival. Limited e-mail service is available at some large hotels. All e-mails are read by military intelligence. It is very expensive to send photographs via e-mail. One foreign visitor was presented a bill for $2,000.00 after transmitting one photograph via a major hotel's e-mail system. During September and October 2007, the military government disconnected all Internet access across the country for extended periods of time.

Consular Notification and Access: U.S. consular officers do not always receive timely notification of the detention, arrest, or deportation of U.S. citizens. In addition, Burmese authorities have on occasion refused to give Embassy consular officers access to arrested or detained U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens who are arrested or detained should request immediate contact with the U.S. Embassy. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that if questioned by local officials, they have proof of identity and U.S. citizenship readily available.

Currency: Executive Order 13310, signed by President Bush on July 28, 2003 imposed a ban on the exportation of financial services to Burma. Travelers’ checks, credit cards, and ATM cards can rarely, if ever, be used. Although moneychangers sometimes approach travelers with an offer to change dollars into Burmese kyat at the market rate, it is illegal to exchange currency except at authorized locations such as the airport, banks and government stores. It is also illegal for Burmese to have possession of foreign currency without a permit. Foreigners are required to use U.S. dollars, other hard currency, or Foreign Exchange Certificates (FEC) for the payment of plane tickets, train tickets and most hotels. Burmese kyats are accepted for nearly all other transactions.

Photography: Photographing military installations or people in uniform is prohibited by Burmese authorities and could lead to arrest or the confiscation of cameras and film. It is advisable to avoid photographing anything that could be perceived by the Burmese authorities as being of military or security interest—such as bridges, airfields, government buildings or government vehicles.

Telephone Services: Telephone services are poor in Rangoon and other major cities and non-existent in many areas. Calling the United States from Burma is difficult and extremely expensive.

U.S. Treasury Sanctions: As of August 27, 2003, U.S. Treasury sanctions ban the import of almost all goods from Burma into the United States. This ban includes Burmeseorigin products such as gifts, souvenirs, and items for personal use, even if carried in personal luggage. These sanctions are part of a much larger U.S. sanctions regime for Burma, which includes a ban on new U.S. investment among other measures. For specific information, contact the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) home page at http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/, via OFAC's Info-by-Fax service at 202-622-0077 or by phone toll-free at 1-800-540-6322

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Burmese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession of or use of, or trafficking in, illegal drugs in Burma are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Some foreigners have been denied even minimal rights in criminal proceedings in Burma, especially when suspected of engaging in political activity of any type. This includes, but is not limited to, denial of access to an attorney, denial of access to court records, and denial of family and consular visits. The criminal justice system is controlled by the military junta, which orders maximum sentences for most offenses. Torture has been reported in Burmese jails, and in 2000, a foreigner was tortured until he surrendered his personal possessions to his jailers. Engaging in sexual conduct with children, using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Registration and Embassy Locations: Americans living or traveling in Burma are encouraged to register with the Embassy through the State Department's travel registration web site and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Burma. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at 110 University Ave., Kam-ayut Township, Rangoon. The Consular Section telephone number is (95-1) 650-006; email [email protected] Travelers may visit the U.S. Embassy web site at http://burma.usembassy.gov. The after-hours emergency number is 09-512-4330. The Consular Section is open from 8:00 am to 4:30 p.m., with non-emergency American Citizen Services from 2:00 to 3:30 pm, Monday through Friday except on U.S. and Burmese holidays.

International Adoption

October 2006

The U.S. Embassy in Rangoon has been informed by Burmese authorities that Burmese law does not allow for the adoption of Burmese children by non-Burmese nationals. Only Burmese citizens are allowed to adopt Burmese children.

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Burma

BURMA

Compiled from the August 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Union of Burma


Editor's Note: The Burmese Government was dissolved on September 18, 1988 in a military coup and the nation was renamed Myanmar. The US does not presently recognize the current government of Myanmar and therefore continues to refer to the nation as Burma.



PROFILE

Geography

Area:

678,500 sq km. (about the size of Texas).

Cities:

Capital—Rangoon (pop. 5.5 million), Mandalay (pop. 700,000).

Terrain:

Central lowlands ringed by steep, rugged highlands.

Climate:

Tropical monsoon; cloudy, rainy, hot, humid summers (south-west monsoon, June to September); less cloudy, scant rainfall, mild temperatures, lower humidity during winter (northeast monsoon, December to April).

People

Nationality:

Noun and adjective—Burmese.

Population (official 2003 est.):

52.17 million (UNFPA estimate), but no official census has been taken since 1983.

Annual growth rate (2003 est.):

0.47%.

Ethnic groups:

Burman 68%, Shan 9%, Karen 7%, Arakanese 4%, Chinese 3%, Mon 2%, Indian 2%, other 5%.

Religion:

Buddhist 89%, Christian 4% (Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic 1%), Muslim 4%, animist 1%, other 2%.

Language:

Burmese, minority ethnic groups have their own languages.

Education (1999 est.):

Literacy—male 92.60%; female 91.02% (2003 official Government of Burma statistics); estimates of functional literacy are closer to 30%.

Health (2001 est.):

Infant mortality rate—77 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy—54.22 yrs.: male; 57.9 yrs. female.

Government

Type:

Military junta.

Constitution:

January 3, 1974 (suspended since September 18, 1988 when latest junta took power). A national convention started on January 9, 1993 to draft a new constitution, but collapsed in 1996 without an agreement. The junta reconvened the convention in May 2004 without the participation of the National League for Democracy and other pro-democracy ethnic groups. The convention recessed in July 2004, and a second session was held from February 17 to March 31, 2005.

Branches:

Executive—Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) Senior General Than Shwe is the head of state. Prime Minister Gen. Soe Win is the head of government. On October 19, 2004, former Prime Minister Khin Nyunt was ousted by the SPDC senior leadership and replaced by Soe Win. Legislative—unicameral People's Assembly (Pyithu Hluttaw) has 485 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve 4-year terms. The last elections were in 1990, but the Assembly was prevented from convening by the military. Judicial—Supreme Court. The legal system was based on the British-era system, but now the junta rules by Decree and there is no guarantee of a fair public trial; the judiciary is not independent.

Political parties:

National League for Democracy (NLD) is the primary opposition party; National Unity Party (NUP) is the primary pro-regime party; the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) is a pro-regime social organization; and other smaller parties.

Administrative subdivisions:

Seven primarily Burman divisions (tain) and seven ethnic states (pyi nay); Chin State, Kachin State, Karen State, Karenni State, Mon State, Arakan State, Shan State, Rangoon Division, Mandalay Division, Tenessarim Division, Irrawaddy Division, Pegu Division, Magway Division, and Sagaing Division.

Suffrage:

Universal suffrage at 18 years of age (but there have been no elections since 1990).

Economy

GDP (FY2003/04):

$13.6 billion (official figures).

Annual growth rate:

actual rate is unknown, although the official 2004 rate was 13.8%.

GDP per capita (2004 est.):

$225.

Natural resources:

Timber, tin, antimony, zinc, copper, tungsten, lead, coal, limestone, precious stones, natural gas, hydropower, and some petroleum.

Agriculture:

Products—rice, pulses, beans, sesame, groundnuts, sugar-cane, hardwood, fish and fish products.

Industries:

Types—agricultural processing, knit and woven apparel, wood and wood products, copper, tin, tungsten, iron, construction materials, pharmaceuticals, and fertilizer.

Recorded trade (IMF 2003):

Exports—$2.8 billion (natural gas – 25.3%, teak and forest products 14.8%, garments 14.4%, beans and pulses 11.7%, and marine products 6.8%). Major markets—Thailand 39%, India 17%, P.R.C. 10.6%, Singapore 6.4%, and Japan 5.7%. Imports—$2.3 billion (machinery and transport equipment 20.2%, refined mineral oil 12.3%, base metals and manufactures 9.4%, artificial and synthetic fabrics 8.8%, and plastic 4.6%). Major suppliers—Singapore 28.8%, P.R.C. 21.4%, Japan 12%, Thailand 8.5%, and Malaysia 7%.


PEOPLE

A majority of Burma's estimated 52 million people are ethnic Burmans. Shans, Karens, Arakanese, Kachins, Chins, Mons, and many other smaller indigenous ethnic groups form about 30% of the population. Indians and Chinese are the largest immigrant groups.

Although Burmese is the most widely spoken language, other ethnic groups have retained their own languages. English is spoken in the capital Rangoon and in areas frequented by tourists. The Indian and Chinese residents speak various languages and dialects of their homelands: Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Bengali, Mandarin, Fujianese, and Cantonese.

According to the 1974 Constitution, Buddhism is the official religion of Burma. An estimated 89% of the population practices it. Other religions, Christian 4%—Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic 1%—Muslim 4%, and animist 1%, are less prevalent.

Much of the population lives without basic sanitation or running water. In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked Burma among the lowest countries worldwide in health-care delivery to its citizens. High infant mortality rates and short life expectancies further highlight poor health and living conditions. The HIV/AIDS epidemic poses a serious threat to the Burmese population, as do tuberculosis and malaria. In 2004, the UNDP's Human Development Index, which measures achievements in terms of life expectancy, educational attainment and adjusted real income, ranked Burma 132 out of 177 countries.

There are numerous documented human rights violations, and internal displacement of ethnic minorities also is prevalent. Several million Burmese, many of them ethnic minorities, have fled for economic and political reasons to the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, India, China, and Thailand to seek work and asylum. More than 160,000 Burmese live in the nine refugee camps in Thailand and the two in Bangladesh while hundreds of thousands of other Burmese work and reside illegally in the countries in the region.


HISTORY

Burma was unified by Burman dynasties three times during the past millennium. The first such unification came with the foundation of the Pagan Dynasty in 1044 AD, which is considered the "Golden Age" in Burmese history. It is during this period that Theravada Buddhism first made its appearance in Burma, and the Pagan kings built a massive city with thousands of pagodas and monasteries along the Irrawaddy River. The Pagan Dynasty lasted until 1287 when a Mongol invasion destroyed the city. Ethnic Shan rulers, who established a political center at Ava, filled the ensuing political vacuum for a short time.

In the 15th century, the Toungoo Dynasty succeeded again in unifying under Burman rule a large, multi-ethnic kingdom. This dynasty, which lasted from 1486 until 1752, left little cultural legacy, but expanded the kingdom through conquest of the Shans. Internal power struggles, and the cost of protracted warfare, led to the eventual decline of the Toungoo Dynasty.

The final Burman royal dynasty, the Konbaung, was established in 1752 under the rule of King Alaungpaya. Like the Toungoo Kings, the Konbaung rulers focused on warfare and conquest. Wars were fought with the ethnic Mons and Arakanese, and with the Siamese. The Burmese sacked the Siamese capital of Ayuthaya in 1767. This period also saw four invasions by the Chinese and three devastating wars with the British.

The British began their conquest of Burma in 1824, expanding their holdings after each of the three wars. At the end of the third war in 1885 the British gained complete control of Burma, annexing it to India. Under British control, which lasted until 1948, Burma underwent enormous change. The British established strong administrative institutions and reorganized the economy from subsistence farming to a large-scale export economy. By 1939 Burma had become the world's leading exporter of rice.

Burmese nationalists, led by General Aung San and 29 other "Comrades," joined the Japanese forces in driving out the British at the outbreak of World War II. However, the Burmese Army switched sides in mid-1945 and aided U.S. and British forces in their drive to Rangoon. After the war, the Burmese, with General Aung San at the helm, demanded complete political and economic independence from Britain.

The British Government acceded to these demands. A constitution was completed in 1947 and independence granted in January 1948. General Aung San was assassinated with most of his cabinet before the constitution was put into effect. During the weak constitutional period from 1948 to 1962 Burma suffered widespread conflict and internal struggle.

Constitutional disputes and persistent division among political and social groups contributed to the democratic government's weak hold on power. In 1958, the military was invited in temporarily by Prime Minister U Nu to restore political order. The military stepped down after 18 months; however, in 1962 General Ne Win led a coup abolishing the constitution and establishing a xenophobic military government with socialist economic priorities. These policies had devastating effects on the country's economy and business climate.

In March 1988 student disturbances broke out in Rangoon in response to the worsening economic situation which evolved into a call for regime change. Despite repeated violent crackdowns by the military and police, the demonstrations increased in size as the general public joined the students. During mass demonstrations on August 8, 1988, military forces killed more than 1,000 demonstrators. It was at a rally following this massacre that Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of General Aung San, made her first political speech and assumed the role of leader of the opposition.

On September 18, 1988, the military deposed Ne Win's Burmese Socialist Program Party (BSPP), abolished the constitution, and established a new ruling junta called the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). In an effort to "restore order," the SLORC sent the army into the streets to suppress the ongoing public demonstrations. An estimated additional 3,000 were killed, and more than 10,000 students fled into the hills and border areas.

The SLORC ruled by martial law until national parliamentary elections were held on May 27, 1990. The results were an overwhelming victory for Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which won 392 of the 485 seats, even though she was under house arrest. However, the SLORC refused to call the Parliament into session and imprisoned many political activists.

The ruling junta changed its name to the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1997, but did not change its policy of autocratic control and repression of the democratic opposition. In 2000, the SPDC announced it would begin talks with the political opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been released once from house arrest in 1995, only to be detained once more. These talks were followed by the release of many political prisoners and some increase in political freedoms for Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD. On May 6, 2002, she was allowed to leave her home and subsequently traveled widely throughout the country. On May 30, 2003, Aung San Suu Kyi and a convoy of her supporters were attacked by a group of government affiliated thugs. Many members of the convoy were killed or injured and others remain unaccounted for. Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of her party were detained, and the military government forcibly closed the offices of the NLD. Although NLD headquarters is open, all the party's other offices remain closed and Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD Vice Chairman U Tin Oo remain under house arrest.

On October 19, 2004, hard-line members of the senior leadership consolidated their power by ousting Prime Minister Khin Nyunt and removing him and his allies from control of the military intelligence apparatus. In late November 2004, the junta announced it would release approximately 9,000 prisoners it claimed had been improperly jailed by Khin Nyunt's National Intelligence Bureau. Approximately 86 of those released appear to have been imprisoned for their political beliefs. On July 6, 2005, authorities released at least 323 political prisoners. Those released since November 2004 include Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi, both key figures in the 1988 demonstrations.

The central government has had a contentious relationship with ethnic groups calling for autonomy or secession for their regions since the country's independence. In 1948, only the capital city itself was firmly in control of the Rangoon authorities. Subsequent military campaigns brought more and more of the nation under central government control. Since 1989, the regime has signed a series of cease-fire agreements with insurgent groups, leaving only a handful still in active opposition.

On May 7, 2005, three large bombs simultaneously exploded in Rangoon, at two crowded shopping areas frequented by foreigners and at an international trade center, killing at least twenty people and wounding several hundred. On April 26, 2005, an explosive device detonated at a busy market in Mandalay, killing at least three people. Both events are a significant departure in terms of targeting and level of sophistication from other bombings that have occurred in recent years.


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

The Union of Burma (or Myanmar as it is called by the ruling junta) consists of 14 states and divisions. Administrative control is exercised from the central government at Rangoon through a system of subordinate executive bodies.

Power is centered on the ruling junta—the State Peace and Development Council, or SPDC—which maintains strict authoritarian rule over the people of Burma. The Prime Minister is appointed directly by the SPDC. Control is maintained through the strict censuring of information, repression of individual rights, and suppression of ethnic minority groups.

Today the SPDC continues its harsh rule and systematic human rights abuses. Any future political transition will have to be negotiated among the SPDC, the political opposition, and representatives of Burma's many ethnic minorities.

Although the SPDC changed the name of the country to "Myanmar," the democratically elected but not convened Parliament of 1990 does not recognize the name change, and the democratic opposition maintains use of the name "Burma." Due to consistent, unyielding support for the democratically elected leaders, the U.S. Government likewise uses "Burma."

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 8/15/2005

Chmn., State Peace and Development Council: THAN SHWE, Sr. Gen.
Vice Chmn., State Peace and Development Council: MAUNG AYE, Vice Sr. Gen.
Prime Minister: SOE WIN, Gen.
Secretary One, State Peace and Development Council: THEIN SEIN, Lt. Gen.
Secretary Two, State Peace and Development Council:
Min. for Agriculture & Irrigation: HTAY OO, Maj. Gen.
Min. of Commerce: TIN NAING THEIN, Brig. Gen.
Min. of Communications, Post, & Telegraph: THEIN ZAW, Brig. Gen.
Min. of Construction: SAW TUN, Maj. Gen.
Min. for Cooperatives: ZAW MIN, Col.
Min. of Culture: KYI AUNG, Maj. Gen.
Min. of Defense: THAN SHWE, Sr. Gen.
Min. of Education: THAN AUNG
Min. of Electric Power: TIN HTUT, Maj. Gen.
Min. of Energy: LUN THI, Brig. Gen.
Min. of Finance & Revenue: HLA TUN, Maj. Gen.
Min. of Foreign Affairs: NYAN WIN, Maj. Gen.
Min. of Forestry: THEIN AUNG, Brig. Gen.
Min. of Health: KYAW MYINT, Dr.
Min. of Home Affairs: MAUNG OO, Maj. Gen.
Min. of Hotels & Tourism: THEIN ZAW, Brig. Gen.
Min. of Immigration & Population: SEIN HTWA, Maj. Gen.
Min. of Industry 1: AUNG THAUNG
Min. of Industry 2: SAW LWIN, Maj. Gen.
Min. of Information: KYAW HSAN, Brig. Gen.
Min. of Labor: THAUNG
Min. of Livestock Breeding, & Fisheries: MAUNG MAUNG THEIN, Brig. Gen.
Min. of Military Affairs: THIHA THURA TIN AUNG MYINT OO, Lt. Gen.
Min. of Mines: OHN MYINT, Brig. Gen.
Min. of National Planning & Economic Development: SOE THA
Min. of Progress of Border Areas, National Races, & Development Affairs: THEIN NYUNT, Col.
Min. of Rail Transport: AUNG MIN, Maj. Gen.
Min. of Religious Affairs: THURA MYINT MAUNG, Brig. Gen.
Min. of Science & Industry: THAUNG
Min. of Social Welfare, Relief, & Resettlement: SEIN HTWA, Maj. Gen.
Min. of Sports: THURA AYE MYINT, Brig. Gen.
Min. for Transport: THEIN SWE, Maj. Gen.
Min. in the Office of the Prime Min.: PYI SONE, Brig. Gen.
Min. in the Office of the Prime Min.: THAN SHWE
Governor, Central Bank of Burma: KYAW KYAW MAUNG
Ambassador to the US: LINN MYAING
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: KYAW TINT SWE

Burma maintains an embassy to the United States at 2300 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel.: (202) 332-3344; fax: (202) 332-4351.


ECONOMY

Burma is a resource-rich country with a strong agricultural base. It also has vast timber and fishery reserves and is a leading source of gems and jade. Tourist potential is great but remains undeveloped because of weak infrastructure and Burma's international image, which has been damaged by the junta's human rights abuses and oppression of the democratic opposition. The economy has been affected by U.S. sanctions, including 2003 bans on the importation of Burmese products into the U.S. and the export of financial services from the U.S. to Burma.

Long-term economic mismanagement under military rule has prevented the economy from developing in line with its potential. Burma experienced 26 years of socialist rule under the dictator, General Ne Win, from 1962-1987. In 1988 the economy collapsed, and pro-democracy demonstrators took to the streets. The military government violently put an end to the civil unrest and pledged to move toward a market-based economy. Although some aspects of economic policy have changed, the state remains heavily involved and additional, much needed reforms have not been forthcoming.

The regime's mismanagement of the economy has created a downward economic spiral. The vast majority of Burmese citizens now subsist on an average income that equates to about $225 per capita. Inflation, caused primarily by public sector deficit spending, stagnant wages, and the eroding value of the local currency (the kyat) have undermined living standards. The limited moves to a market economy have been accompanied by a significant rise in crony capitalism. A handful of companies loyal to the regime has benefited from policies that promote monopoly and privilege.

Agriculture, light industry, and transport dominate the private sector of Burma's economy. State-controlled activity predominates in energy, heavy industry, and the rice trade. The military, through its commercial arms, also plays a major role in the economy.

Burma remains a primarily agricultural economy with 54% of GDP derived from agriculture, livestock and fisheries, and forestry. Manufacturing constitutes only 9% of recorded economic activity, and state industries continue to play a large role in that sector. Services constitute only 8% of GDP.

Foreign investment increased markedly in the early to mid-1990s, but has declined precipitously since 1999 due to the increasingly unfriendly business environment and mounting political pressure from Western consumers and shareholders. The government has tried hard to conserve foreign exchange by limiting imports and promoting exports. Published estimates of Burma's foreign trade (particularly on the import side) are greatly understated because of the volume of off-book, black-market, illicit, and unrecorded border trade.

In the near term, growth will continue to be constrained by poor government planning and minimal foreign investment. A number of other countries, including member states of the European Union, Canada, Australia, Japan, and Korea, have joined the United States in applying some form of sanctions against the regime.

Government economic statistics are unavailable or very unreliable. According to official figures, GDP growth has been over 10% annually since FY 1999-2000. However, the real numbers are likely much smaller. Burma's top export markets include Thailand, India, China, and Singapore. Burma's top export commodities include clothing, natural gas, wood and wood products, and fish and fish products.

Burma remains the world's second-largest producer of illicit opium, but reduced production in 2004. Burma also has been the primary source of amphetamine-type stimulants in Asia, producing hundreds of millions of tablets annually. The Burmese Government has committed itself in recent years to expanded counter narcotics measures.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

During the Cold War, Burmese foreign policy was grounded in principles of neutrality, often tending toward xenophobia. Since 1988, however, Burma has been less xenophobic, attempting to strengthen regional ties. It now is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), and several other regional organizations and initiatives. On July 26, 2005, Burma relinquished its scheduled 2006 assumption of the ASEAN chairmanship.

Burmese-Thai relations have been tainted by a long history of protracted border conflicts, sporadic hostilities over narcotics trafficking, Burmese insurgents operating along the Burmese-Thai border, and the large number of Burmese who cross the border to work illegally or claim refugee status. In fact, the Burmese Government closed the Burma-Thai border for several months during the summer of 2002. However, official and unofficial economic ties between the two nations are significant, and the current Thai and Burmese Governments seem eager to reach a new, more cooperative, level in their bilateral relations. Despite their often-contentious history, Burma and China have grown closer in recent years, though most Burmese remain suspicious of China's economic influence. China is quickly becoming Burma's most important partner, offering debt relief, economic development grants, and soft loans used for the construction of infrastructure and light industry. China also is purportedly Burma's major supplier of arms and munitions. Burma's ties with India are also growing.

In 2004, the junta continued to refuse requests by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's Envoy Razali Ismail and the UN Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Paulo Sergio Pinheiro to visit the country.

Burma is involved in the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) Program of Economic Cooperation in the Greater Mekong Subregion. As such, it participates in regional meetings and workshops supported by the ADB. Burma joined ASEAN in 1997, and has participated in that regional forum, even hosting a number of seminars, conferences, and ministerial meetings. Due to difficulties in reforming its economic and trading system, Burma has requested extensions on compliance with the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA). As one of ASEAN's least developed members, Burma also has an extra five years (until 2008) to comply with most of AFTA's liberalization requirements. Burma also is a member of the World Trade Organization.

Most Western foreign aid ceased in the wake of the suppression of the democracy movement in 1988. The World Bank reports that aid now represents only about $2 per capita (compared with $53 per person in Laos and $33 per person in Cambodia). According to the United Nations, official development assistance totaled only $76 million in 2000. Burma receives grants of technical assistance (mostly from Asia), limited humanitarian aid and debt relief from Japan and China, and concession loans from China and India.

Burma became a member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in 1952, the International Financial Corporation (IFC) in 1956, the International Development Association (IDA) in 1962, and the ADB in 1973. Since July 1987, the World Bank has not made any loans to Burma. Since 1998 Burma has been in non-accrual status with the Bank. The IMF performs its mandated annual Article IV consultations, but there are no IMF assistance programs. The ADB has not extended loans to Burma since 1986. Technical assistance ended in 1988. Burma has not paid its loan service payments to the ADB since January 1998. Burma's total foreign debt now stands at over $6 billion.


U.S.-BURMESE RELATIONS

The political relationship between the United States and Burma worsened after the 1988 military coup and violent suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations, and remains estranged.

The United States has imposed broad sanctions against Burma. Many of the sanctions in place are applied under several different legislative and policy vehicles. In 2003, the Congress adopted and the President signed into law the Burma Freedom and Democracy Act (BFDA), which includes a ban on imports from Burma, a ban on the export of financial services to Burma, a freeze on the assets of certain Burmese financial institutions and extended visa restrictions on Burmese officials. Congress renewed the BFDA in July 2004 and again in July 2005.

In addition, since May 1997, the U.S. Government has prohibited new investment by U.S. persons or entities. However, a number of U.S. companies exited the Burma market even prior to the imposition of sanctions due to a worsening business climate and mounting criticism from human rights groups, consumers, and some shareholders because of the Burmese Government's serious human rights abuses and lack of progress toward democracy. The United States has also imposed countermeasures on Burma due to its non-compliance with the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force on money laundering.

For its particularly severe violations of religious freedom, the United States has designated Burma a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act.

The United States downgraded its level of representation in Burma from Ambassador to Chargé d'Affaires after the government's crackdown on the democratic opposition in 1988.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

RANGOON (E) Address: Rangoon, 581 Merchant St. (GPO 521); APO/FPO: Box B, APO AP 96546; Phone: (95)(1) 379880; Fax: 95-1-256-018; INMARSAT Tel: 383131573 or 383131574; Workweek: M-T 0800 - 1700 F: 0800 - 1200

AMB:Shari Villarosa
AMB OMS:Eugenia Wray
DCM:Karl Stoltz
DCM OMS:Karen Heinrich
POL:Patrick Murphy
POL/ECO:Dean Tidwell
CON:Kerry Brougham
MGT:Thomas Favret
AFSA:Walter Parrs
CLO:Lila Tidwell
DAO:Dan Tartar
DEA:Joseph Shepherd
ECO:Theresa Manlowe
EEO:Thomas Pierce
FMO:Zulal Vincent
GSO:Quinn Plant
ICASS Chair:Deanna Merriman
IMO:Monte Marchant
IPO:Scott Trezsie
ISO:Monte Marchant
ISSO:Monte Marchant
PAO:Thomas Pierce
RSO:Alfred Vincent
State ICASS:Thomas Pierce
Last Updated: 1/2/2006

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

September 2, 2005

Country Description:

Burma (Myanmar) is an underdeveloped, agrarian country ruled by an authoritarian military junta. The country's military government suppresses all expression of opposition to its rule.

After a long period of isolation the country has begun to encourage tourism. Foreigners can expect to pay at least five times more than locals do for hotels, domestic airfare, and entry to tourist sites. Tourist facilities in Rangoon, Bagan, Ngapali Beach, Inle Lake, and Mandalay are adequate but are very limited in most of the rest of the country.

Please note that visitors should bring cash necessary to cover their expenses for the duration of their visit, since traveler's checks, credit cards, and ATM cards will not be honored in Burma. (See "Currency" and "U.S. Treasury Sanctions," below).

Entry Requirements:

The Government of Burma strictly controls travel to, from, and within Burma. A passport and visa are required. Travelers are required to show their passports with a valid visa at airports, train stations, and hotels. There are frequent security roadblocks on all roads, immigration checkpoints, and domestic air flights in Burma.

The military government rarely issues visas to journalists, and several journalists traveling to Burma on tourist visas have been denied entry. Journalists, and tourists mistaken for journalists, have been harassed. Some journalists have had film and notes confiscated upon leaving the country.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Information about entry requirements as well as other information may be obtained from the Embassy of the Union of Myanmar, 2300 S Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone 202-332-4350, website: http://www.mewashingtondc.com, or the Permanent Mission of Myanmar to the U.N. 10 East 77th St., New York, N.Y. 10021, (212-535-1311). Overseas inquiries may be made at the nearest embassy or consulate of Burma (Myanmar).

Safety and Security:

U.S. citizens traveling in Burma should exercise caution and check with the U.S. Embassy for an update on the current security situation. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry their U.S. passports or photocopies of passport data and photo pages at all times so that if questioned by Burmese officials, they have proof of U.S. citizenship readily available. Americans in Burma should avoid crowded public places, including shopping areas, malls and markets, demonstrations, large public gatherings, and any area cordoned off by security forces.

On May 7, 2005, three large bombs simultaneously exploded in Rangoon, at two crowded shopping areas frequented by foreigners and at an international trade center, killing at least twenty people and wounding several hundred. On April 26, 2005 an explosive device detonated at a busy market in Mandalay, killing at least three people. Both events are a significant departure in terms of targeting and level of sophistication from other bombings that have occurred in recent years. The perpetrators of these bombings have not been identified. In light of these incidents and the possibility of additional attacks in the capital of Rangoon and other locations, Americans in Burma should exercise caution in public places and be alert to their surroundings.

For the last decade, sporadic anti-government insurgent activity has occurred in various locations, such as attacks in border areas that targeted a natural gas pipeline, a power station, and a crowded bus, as well as bombings in Rangoon that targeted family members of senior military officials. Several small devices exploded in downtown Rangoon in 2003, killing one, and similar events occurred in Rangoon in early 2004 and in early 2005 causing injuries and slight damage, respectively.

Burma previously experienced major political unrest in 1988 when the military regime jailed as well as killed thousands of Burmese democracy activists. In 1990, the military government refused to recognize the results of an election that the opposition won overwhelmingly. Burma experienced major demonstrations in 1996 and 1998. In May 2003, individuals affiliated with the Burmese government attacked a convoy carrying opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Sagaing Division. Dozens were killed or injured.

Ethnic insurgencies still smolder in regions along the Thai-Burma border and anti-personnel landmines pose a danger. Occasional fighting between government forces and various insurgent groups has occurred in Chin and Rakhine states and along the Thai-Burma border area in Burma's southern Shan, Mon, and Karen states. From time to time, the Thai government has closed the border with Burma due to increases in insurgent activity. In January 2005, a major regional law enforcement initiative aimed at dismantling the operations of Southeast Asia's largest narcotics trafficking organization, the United Wa State Army, was announced. At that time, the Burmese government stated that it could not guarantee the safety of foreign officials or personnel from non-governmental organizations traveling or working in Wa Special Region 2 (eastern Shan State).

U.S. citizens have been detained, arrested, tried, and deported for, among other activities, distributing pro-democracy literature and visiting the homes and offices of Burmese pro-democracy leaders. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may also result in problems with authorities. Burmese authorities have warned U.S. Embassy officials that those who engage in similar activities in the future will be jailed rather than deported. Should an emergency arise involving the detention of a U.S. citizen, especially outside of Rangoon, it may be difficult for U.S. Embassy personnel to assist quickly, because travel inside Burma can be slow and difficult.

Security personnel may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance. Hotel rooms, telephones and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found.

Up to date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime:

Crime rates in Burma, especially toward foreigners, appear to be lower than those of many other countries in the region. Nevertheless, because of the difficult economic situation in Burma, the potential exists for an increase in street crime. Violent crime against foreigners is rare.

Information for Victims of Crime:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information:

Medical facilities in Burma are inadequate for even routine medical care. There are few trained medical personnel. Most foreign drugs on sale have been smuggled into the country, and are often counterfeit or adulterated and thus unsafe to use. HIV/AIDS is widespread among high-risk populations such as prostitutes and illegal drug users. Malaria, as well as tuberculosis, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases are endemic in most parts of the country.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at: http://www.cdc.gov/. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Burma is provided for general reference only, and may not be accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Rangoon's main roads are generally in fair condition. Traffic in the capital is increasing rapidly, but serious congestion is still uncommon. Some roads are in serious disrepair. Slow-moving vehicles, bicycles, animals, and heavy pedestrian traffic create numerous hazards for drivers on Rangoon's streets. Drivers must remain extremely alert to avoid hitting pedestrians, who do not fully appreciate the risks they take in walking and darting into traffic.

Most roads outside of Rangoon are one lane and a half, potholed, often unpaved, and unlit at night. Truck drivers traversing from China to Rangoon are known to drive under the influence of methamphetaminespiked betel nuts. Drunken and/or drugged drivers are common on the roads during the four-day Buddhist water festival in early spring.

Driving at night is dangerous. Few, if any, streets are adequately lit. Most Burmese drivers do not turn on their headlights until the sky is completely dark; many do not use headlights at all. Many people ride bicycles that have no lights or reflectors.

Vehicles are required to drive on the right side, as in the United States. However, over 80% of the vehicles have the steering wheel on the right. The speed limit in the area of schools is posted at 48 kph, or about 30 mph. No other speed limits are posted in Burma. The "right of way" concept is generally respected, but military convoys and motorcades always have precedence.

Most vehicle accidents are settled between the parties with the party at fault paying the damages. Accidents that require an investigation are concluded quickly and rarely result in criminal prosecution. There is no roadside assistance, and ambulances are not available. Vehicles generally don't have seat belts. Child car seats are also not available.

Aviation Safety Oversight:

As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Burma, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Burma 's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa

Due to serious safety concerns regarding state-owned Myanmar Airways, including two fatal air crashes in 1998, the U.S. Embassy has advised its employees to avoid travel on this carrier whenever possible.

Foreigner Travel Within Burma:

Burmese authorities require that hotels and guesthouses furnish information about the identities and activities of their foreign guests. Burmese who interact with foreigners may be compelled to report on those interactions to the Burmese government. Travelers must assume their actions are being closely monitored, particularly in hotel lobbies and rooms, when meeting Burmese citizens, and when using the telephone.

Travelers are not generally required to obtain advance permission to travel to the main tourist areas of Bagan, Inle Lake, Ngapali and other beach resorts, and the Mandalay area. However, some tourists traveling to places where permission is not expressly required have reported delays due to questioning by local security personnel. Additionally, the military government restricts access to some areas of the country on an ad hoc basis, and recently stated it could not guarantee the safety of foreigners traveling in eastern Shan State (also known as Wa territory or Special Region 2). Those planning to travel in Burma should check with Burmese tourism authorities to see if travel to specific destinations is permitted. Even if travel is allowed, it may not be safe.

Customs Regulations:

Customs regulations are restrictive and strictly enforced, including on items such as, firearms, religious materials, antiquities, medications, business equipment, currency restrictions, ivory, and others. Travelers have reported that customs authorities closely searched their luggage upon arrival and departure. It is illegal to take many items, including antiques, out of Burma. Foreigners have been detained, searched and imprisoned for attempting to take Burmese gems out of the country. Customs officials also strictly limit what is brought into the country, including pornography and political material critical of the regime or supportive of the opposition.

The military government restricts access to outside information. Newspapers are censored for articles unfavorable to the military government. Any publications that could be viewed as pro-democracy and/or antijunta will be confiscated. Travelers have also reported problems bringing in high tech electronic devices and equipment, from toys to computers. However, the military government has not provided a complete listing of prohibited imports. For information on restricted items, it is best to consult the nearest Embassy of the Union of Myanmar.

It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the Union of Myanmar in Washington or Burma's Mission in New York for specific information regarding customs requirements. In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.

Computers, Internet, and E-Mail:

The military government carefully controls and monitors all Internet use in Burma. The government has made available a censored version of the Internet and has allowed several cyber cafes to open. However, access to the Internet is very expensive, and the government prohibits access to most "free" international e-mail services. It is illegal to own an unregistered modem in Burma. Tourists may bring in one laptop computer per person and must declare it upon arrival. Limited e-mail service is available at some large hotels. All e-mails are read by military intelligence. It is very expensive to send photographs via e-mail. One foreign visitor was presented a bill for 2,000.00 U.S. dollars after transmitting one photograph via a major hotel's e-mail system.

Consular Access:

U.S. consular officers do not always receive timely notification of the detention, arrest, or deportation of U.S. citizens. In addition, the Burmese government has on occasion refused to give Embassy consular officers access to arrested/detained U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens who are arrested or detained should request immediate contact with the U.S. Embassy. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry their U.S. passports with them at all times so that if questioned by local officials they have proof of identity and U.S. citizenship readily available.

Currency:

Executive Order 13310, signed by President Bush on July 28, 2003 imposed a ban on the exportation of financial services to Burma. Traveler's checks, credit cards, and ATM cards are not honored in Burma.

Although moneychangers sometimes approach travelers to offer to change dollars into Burmese kyat at the market rate, it is illegal to exchange currency except at authorized locations such as the airport, banks and government stores.

Foreigners are required to use U.S. dollars, other hard currency, or Foreign Exchange Certificates (FEC) for the payment of plane tickets, train tickets and most hotels. Burmese kyat is accepted for nearly all transactions.

Photography:

Photographing people in uniform or any military installation is prohibited by Burmese authorities and could lead to arrest or the confiscation of cameras and film. It is also advisable to avoid photographing power plants and bridges.

Telephone Services:

Telephone services are poor in Rangoon and other major cities or non-existent in many areas. Calling the United States from Burma is difficult and expensive.

U.S. Treasury Sanctions:

As of August 27, 2003, U.S. Treasury sanctions ban the import of almost all goods from Burma into the United States. This ban includes Burmese-origin products, including such items as gifts, souvenirs, and items for personal use, even if carried in personal luggage. These latest sanctions are part of a much larger U.S. sanctions regime for Burma, which includes a ban on new U.S. investment, among other measures. For specific information, contact the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) home page on the Internet at http://www.treas.gov/ofac, or via OFAC's Info-by-Fax service at 202-622-0077.

Criminal Penalties:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Burmese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Burma are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Some foreigners have been denied even minimal rights in criminal proceedings in Burma, especially when suspected of engaging in political activity of any type. This includes, but is not limited to, denial of access to an attorney, to court records, and family and consular visits. The criminal justice system is controlled by the military junta, which orders maximum sentences for all offenses. Torture has been reported in Burmese jails, and in 2000, a foreigner was tortured so that he would surrender his personal possessions to his jailers. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues:

For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location:

U.S. citizens living in or visiting Burma are encouraged to visit the Embassy to register and obtain updated information on travel and security within the country. The Embassy is located at 581 Merchant Street, Rangoon. The Consular Section telephone number is (95-1) 250-240, fax (95-1) 250-642, email [email protected], website http://rangoon.usembassy.gov. The afterhours emergency number is (95-1) 370-965.

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Burma

Burma

Compiled from the September 2006 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Union of Burma

Editor’s Note: The Burmese Government was dissolved on September 18, 1988 in a military coup and the nation was renamed Myanmar. The US does not presently recognize the current government of Myanmar and therefore continues to refer to the nation as Burma.

PROFILE

PEOPLE

HISTORY

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

ECONOMY

FOREIGN RELATIONS

U.S.-BURMESE RELATIONS

TRAVEL

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 678,500 sq km. (slightly smaller than Texas).

Cities: Administrative Capital—Nay Pyi Taw, near the township of Pyinmana (pop. 200,000); Other Cities—Rangoon (pop. 5.5 million), Mandalay (pop. 700,000).

Terrain: Central lowlands ringed by steep, rugged highlands.

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).

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Burmese.

Population: 54.3 million (UNESCAP 2004 estimate); no official census has been taken since 1983.

Annual growth rate: (2004 UNESCAP est.) 2.0%.

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 languages.

Education: Literacy—male 93.70%; female 86.2% (2004 UNESCAP estimate); estimates of functional literacy are closer to 30%.

Health: Infant mortality rate—61.85 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 estimate). Life expectancy—61.8 yrs.: male; 61.8 yrs., female 66.0 (2002 UNESCAP est.).

Government

Type: Military junta.

Constitution: January 3, 1974 (suspended since September 18, 1988, when the current junta took power). A national convention started on January 9, 1993 to draft a new constitution, but collapsed in 1996 without an agreement. The junta reconvened the convention in May 2004 without the participation of the National League for Democracy and other pro-democracy ethnic groups. The convention recessed in July 2004, a second session was held from February 17 to March 31, 2005, a third session was held from December 5, 2005 to January 31, 2006, and another session is scheduled to convene in late 2006.

Government branches: Executive—Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) Senior General Than Shwe is the head of state. Prime Minister Gen. Soe Win is the head of government. On October 19, 2004, former Prime Minister Khin Nyunt was ousted by the SPDC senior leadership and replaced by Soe Win. Legislative—The suspended constitution provides for a unicameral People’s Assembly (Pyithu Hluttaw) with 485 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve 4-year terms. The last elections were in 1990, but the military prevented the Assembly from ever convening. Judicial—Supreme Court. The legal system is based on a British-era system, but with the constitution suspended, the military regime now rules by Decree and there is no guarantee of a fair public trial; the judiciary is not independent.

Political parties: National League for Democracy (NLD) is the primary opposition party; National Unity Party (NUP) is the primary proregime party; the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) is a pro-regime social organization; there are also many other smaller parties.

Political subdivisions: The country is divided into seven primarily Burman ethnic divisions (tain) of Ayeyarwaddy (Irawaddy), Bago (Pegu), Magway, Mandalay, Yangon (Rangoon), Sagaing and Tanintharyi (Tenassarim) and seven ethnic states (pyi nay) Chin State, Kachin State, Kayin (Karen) State, Kayah (Karenni) State, Mon State, Rakhine (Arakan) State, and Shan State. Suffrage: Universal suffrage at 18 years of age (but there have been no elections since 1990).

Economy

GDP: $8.8 billion (estimate at August 2006 market rate).

Annual growth rate: 2.9% (2005 estimate); the military claimed the official 2005 rate was 12.2%.

GDP per capita: (2005 est.) $174.

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

Agriculture: Products—rice, pulses, beans, sesame, groundnuts, sugarcane, hardwood, fish and fish products.

Industries: Types—agricultural processing, knit and woven apparel, wood and wood products, copper, tin, tungsten, iron, construction materials, pharmaceuticals, and fertilizer.

Trade: (IMF 2005) Exports—$3.6 billion (official statistics: natural gas–38.8%, teak and forest products 16%, agricultural products 14.1%, garments 8.2% and marine products 6.8%. Major markets (IMF 2005)—Thailand 45%, India 11.5%, P.R.C. 8%, Japan 5.1% and Malaysia 3%. Imports (IMF 2005)—$3.6 billion (official statistics: machinery and transport equipment, oil & diesel 13.8%, artificial and synthetic fabrics 12.1%, base metals and manufactures 7.2%, and plastic 4.6%). Major suppliers (IMF 2005)—P.R.C. 30%, Thailand 22%, Singapore 18.3%, Korea 6%.

PEOPLE

A majority of Burma’s estimated 54.3 million people are ethnic Burmans. Shans, Karens, Rohingya, Arakanese, Kachins, Chins, Mons, and many other smaller indigenous ethnic groups form about 30% of the population. Indians and Chinese are the largest non-indigenous groups.

Although Burmese is the most widely spoken language (approx. 32 million speakers), other ethnic groups have retained their own identities and languages. Some of the most prominent are Shan; various Karen, Karenni and Chin languages; Arakanese; Jingpho; Mon; Palaung; Parauk; Wa; and Yangbye. English is spoken in many areas frequented by tourists. The Indian and Chinese residents speak various languages and dialects of their homelands: Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Bengali, Mandarin, Fujianese, and Cantonese.

According to the 1974 Constitution, Buddhism is the official religion of Burma. An estimated 89% of the population practices it. Other religions, Christian 4%—Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic 1%—Muslim 4%, and ani-mist 1%, are less prevalent, although the regime may underestimate adherents of these other religions.

Much of the population lives without basic sanitation or running water. In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked Burma among the lowest countries worldwide in health-care delivery to its citizens. High infant mortality rates and short life expectancies further highlight poor health and living conditions. The HIV/AIDS epidemic poses a serious threat to the Burmese population, as do tuberculosis and malaria. In 2005, the UNDP’s Human Development Index, which measures achievements in terms of life expectancy, educational attainment and adjusted real income, ranked Burma 129 out of 177 countries.

There are numerous documented human rights violations, and internal displacement of ethnic minorities also is prevalent. Several million Burmese, many of them ethnic minorities, have fled for economic and political reasons to Bangladesh, India, China, Malaysia and Thailand to seek work and asylum. More than 170,000 Burmese live in the nine refugee camps in Thailand and the two in Bangladesh. Over one million Burmese work and reside legally and illegally in the countries in the region.

HISTORY

Burma was unified by Burman dynasties three times during the past millennium. The first such unification came with the rise of the Pagan (Bagan) Dynasty in 1044 AD, which is considered the “Golden Age” in Burmese history. It was during this period that Theravada Buddhism first made its appearance in Burma, and the Pagan kings built a massive city with thousands of pagodas and monasteries along the Irrawaddy River. The Pagan Dynasty lasted until 1287 when a Mongol invasion destroyed the city. Ethnic Shan rulers, who established a political center at Ava, filled the ensuing political vacuum for a short time.

In the 15th century, the Toungoo Dynasty succeeded again in unifying under Burman rule a large, multi-ethnic kingdom. This dynasty, which lasted from 1486 until 1752, left little cultural legacy, but expanded the kingdom through conquest of the Shans. Internal power struggles, and the cost of protracted warfare, led to the eventual decline of the Toungoo Dynasty.

The final Burman royal dynasty, the Konbaung, was established in 1752 under the rule of King Alaungpaya. Like the Toungoo Kings, the Konbaung rulers focused on warfare and conquest. Wars were fought with the ethnic Mons and Arakanese, and with the Siamese. The Burmese sacked the Siamese capital of Ayuthaya in 1767. This period also saw four invasions by the Chinese and three devastating wars with the British.

The British began their conquest of Burma in 1824, expanding their holdings after each of the three wars. At the end of the third war in 1885 the British gained complete control of Burma, annexing it to India. Under British control, which lasted until 1948, Burma underwent enormous change. The British established strong administrative institutions and reorganized the economy from subsistence farming to a large-scale export economy. By 1939 Burma had become the world’s leading exporter of rice. Burmese nationalists, led by General Aung San and 29 other “Comrades,” joined the Japanese forces in driving out the British at the outbreak of World War II. However, the Burmese Army switched sides in mid-1945 and aided U.S. and British forces in their drive to Rangoon. After the war, the Burmese, with General Aung San at the helm, demanded complete political and economic independence from Britain. The British Government acceded to these demands. A constitution was completed in 1947 and independence granted in January 1948. General Aung San was assassinated with most of his cabinet before the constitution was put into effect.

During the constitutional period from 1948 to 1962 Burma suffered widespread conflict and internal struggle. Constitutional disputes and persistent division among political and social groups contributed to the democratic government’s weak hold on power. In 1958, Prime Minister U Nu invited the military to rule temporarily to restore political order. The military stepped down after 18 months; however, in 1962 General Ne Win led a military coup, abolishing the constitution and establishing a xenophobic military government with socialist economic policies. These policies had devastating effects on the country’s economy and business climate. In March 1988 student disturbances broke out in Rangoon in response to the worsening economic situation and evolved into a call for regime change. Despite repeated violent crackdowns by the military and police, the demonstrations increased in size as many in the general public joined the students. During mass demonstrations on August 8, 1988, military forces killed more than 1,000 demonstrators. It was at a rally following this massacre that Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of General Aung San, made her first political speech and assumed the role of leader of the opposition.

On September 18, 1988, the military deposed Ne Win’s Burmese Socialist Program Party (BSPP), suspended the constitution, and established a new ruling junta called the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). In an effort to “restore order,” the SLORC sent the army into the streets to suppress the ongoing public demonstrations. An estimated additional 3,000 were killed, and more than 10,000 students fled into the hills and border areas. The SLORC ruled by martial law until national parliamentary elections were held on May 27, 1990. The results were an overwhelming victory for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which won 392 of the 485 seats, even though she was under house arrest. However, the SLORC refused to honor the results and call the Parliament into session, and instead imprisoned many political activists.

The ruling junta changed its name to the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1997, but did not change its policy of autocratic control and repression of the democratic opposition. In 2000, the SPDC began talks with the political opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been released once from house arrest in 1995. These talks were followed by the release of political prisoners and some increase in political freedoms for the NLD. On May 6, 2002, Aung San Suu Kyi was allowed to leave her home, and subsequently traveled widely throughout the country. On May 30, 2003, Aung San Suu Kyi and a convoy of her supporters were attacked by a group of government-affiliated thugs. Many members of the convoy were killed or injured, and others disappeared. Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of her party were detained, and the military government forcibly closed the offices of the NLD. Today, only the NLD headquarters in Rangoon is open, all the party’s other offices remain closed and Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD Vice Chairman U Tin Oo remain under house arrest, along with over one thousand other political prisoners.

On October 19, 2004, hard-line members of the senior leadership consolidated their power by ousting Prime Minister Khin Nyunt and removing him and his allies from control of the government and military intelligence apparatus. In late November 2004, the junta announced it would release approximately 9,000 prisoners it claimed had been improperly jailed by Khin Nyunt’s National Intelligence Bureau. Approximately 86 of those released had been imprisoned for their political beliefs. Those released since November 2004 include Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi, both key figures in the 1988 demonstrations. On July 6, 2005, authorities released 323 additional political prisoners. The military regime has a contentious relationship with Burma’s ethnic groups, many of which have fought for greater autonomy or secession for their regions since the country’s independence. In 1948, only the capital city itself was firmly under the control of national government authorities. Subsequent military campaigns brought more and more of the nation under central government control. Since 1989, the regime has signed a series of ceasefire agreements with insurgent groups, leaving only a handful still in active opposition.

In November 2005, the ruling regime unexpectedly relocated the capital city from Rangoon to Nay Pyi Taw, further isolating the government from the public. Nay Pyi Taw is a sparsely-populated district located approximately midway between Rangoon and Mandalay. Most government workers and ministries moved to Nay Pyi Taw over the following six months, but construction and development of the new administrative capital remains incomplete. Foreign diplomatic missions are still located in Rangoon.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

The Union of Burma (or Myanmar as it is called by the ruling junta) consists of 14 states and divisions. Administrative control is exercised from the central government through a system of subordinate executive bodies and regional military commanders.

Power is centered on the ruling junta—the State Peace and Development Council, or SPDC—which maintains strict authoritarian rule over the people of Burma. The Prime Minister is appointed directly by the SPDC. Control is maintained through intimidation, the strict censuring of information, repression of individual rights, and suppression of ethnic minority groups.

The SPDC continues its harsh rule and systematic human rights abuses today, and insists that any future political transition will be negotiated on its terms. It proclaimed a seven-step roadmap to democracy beginning with a National Convention process, purportedly to develop a new constitution and pave the way for national elections. However the regime restricts public input and debate and handpicks the delegates, effectively excluding pro-democracy supporters.

Although the SPDC changed the name of the country to “Myanmar,” the democratically elected but not convened, Parliament of 1990 does not recognize the name change, and the democratic opposition maintains use of the name “Burma.” Due to consistent, unyielding support for the democratically elected leaders, the U.S. Government likewise uses “Burma.”

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 10/31/2006

Chmn., State Peace & Development Council: THAN SHWE, Sr. Gen.

Vice Chmn., State Peace & Development Council: MAUNG AYE, Vice Sr. Gen.

Prime Minister: SOE WIN, Gen.

Secretary One, State Peace & Development Council: THEIN SEIN, Lt. Gen.

Secretary Two, State Peace & Development Council:

Min. for Agriculture & Irrigation: HTAY OO, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Commerce: TIN NAING THEIN, Brig. Gen.

Min. of Communications, Post, & Telegraph: THEIN ZAW, Brig. Gen.

Min. of Construction: SAW TUN, Maj. Gen.

Min. for Cooperatives: ZAW MIN, Col.

Min. of Culture: KHIN AUNG MYINT, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Defense: THAN SHWE, Sr. Gen.

Min. of Education: THAN AUNG

Min. of Electric Power 1: TIN HTUT, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Electric Power 2: KHIN MYAUNG MYINT, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Energy: LUN THI, Brig. Gen.

Min. of Finance & Revenue: HLA TUN, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Foreign Affairs: NYAN WIN, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Forestry: THEIN AUNG, Brig. Gen.

Min. of Health: KYAW MYINT, Dr.

Min. of Home Affairs: MAUNG OO, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Hotels & Tourism: SOE NAING, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Immigration & Population: MAUNG MAUNG SWE, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Industry 1: AUNG THAUNG

Min. of Industry 2: SAW LWIN, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Information: KYAW HSAN, Brig. Gen.

Min. of Labor: THAUNG

Min. of Livestock Breeding & Fisheries: MAUNG MAUNG THEIN, Brig. Gen.

Min. of Military Affairs: THIHA THURA TIN AUNG MYINT OO, Lt. Gen.

Min. of Mines: OHN MYINT, Brig. Gen.

Min. of National Planning & Economic Development: SOE THA

Min. of Progress of Border Areas, National Races, & Development Affairs: THEIN NYUNT, Col.

Min. of Rail Transport: AUNG MIN, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Religious Affairs: THURA MYINT MAUNG, Brig. Gen.

Min. of Science & Industry: THAUNG

Min. of Social Welfare, Relief, & Resettlement: MAUNG MAUNG SWE, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Sports: THURA AYE MYINT, Brig. Gen.

Min. for Transport: THEIN SWE, Maj. Gen.

Min. in the Office of the Prime Min.: PYI SONE, Brig. Gen.

Min. in the Office of the Prime Min.: THAN SHWE

Governor, Central Bank of Burma: KYAW KYAW MAUNG

Ambassador to the US: LINN MYAING

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: KYAW TINT SHWE

Burma maintains an embassy to the United States at 2300 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel.: (202) 332-3344; fax: (202) 332-4351.

ECONOMY

Burma is a resource-rich country with a strong agricultural base. It also has vast timber, natural gas, and fishery reserves and is a leading source of gems and jade. Tourist potential is great but remains undeveloped because of weak infrastructure and Burma’s international image, which has been damaged by the junta’s human rights abuses and oppression of the democratic opposition. Due to Burma’s poor human rights record, the U.S. has imposed a range of trade sanctions, including bans on the importation of Burmese products into the U.S. and the export of financial services from the U.S. to Burma passed in 2003.

Long-term economic mismanagement under military rule has prevented the economy from developing in line with its potential. Burma experienced 26 years of socialist rule under the dictator, General Ne Win, from 1962-1987. In 1988 the economy collapsed, and pro-democracy demonstrators took to the streets. The military government violently put an end to the civil unrest and pledged to move toward a market-based economy. Although some aspects of economic policy have changed, the state remains heavily involved in the economy, infrastructure has deteriorated, and no rule of law exists.

The regime’s mismanagement of the economy has created a downward economic spiral. The vast majority of Burmese citizens now subsist on an average income that equates to less than $200 per capita. Inflation, caused primarily by public sector deficit spending, and the eroding value of the local currency (the kyat) have reduced living standards. The limited moves to a market economy have been accompanied by a significant rise in crony capitalism. A handful of companies loyal to the regime has benefited from policies that promote monopoly and privilege.

Agriculture, light industry, trade and transport dominate the private sector of Burma’s economy. State-controlled activity predominates in energy, heavy industry, and the rice trade. The military’s commercial arms play a major role in the economy.

Burma remains a primarily agricultural economy with 55% of GDP derived from agriculture, livestock and fisheries, and forestry. Manufacturing/industry constitutes only 10% of recorded economic activity, and state industries continue to play a large role in that sector. Services constitute only 34% of GDP. Foreign investment increased markedly in the early to mid-1990s, but has declined precipitously since 1999 due to the increasingly unfriendly business environment and mounting political pressure from Western consumers and shareholders. The government has tried hard to conserve foreign exchange by limiting imports and promoting exports. Published estimates of Burma’s foreign trade (particularly on the import side) are greatly understated because of the volume of off-book, black-market, illicit, and unrecorded border trade.

In the near term, growth will continue to be constrained by government mismanagement and minimal investment. A number of other countries, including member states of the European Union, Canada, Australia, Japan, and Korea, have joined the United States in applying some form of sanctions against the regime.

Government economic statistics are unavailable or very unreliable. According to official figures, GDP growth has been over 10% annually since FY 1999-2000, including 12.2% in 2005. However, the rate is likely much smaller. Burma’s top export markets include Thailand, India, China, Japan and Malaysia. Burma’s primary exports include natural gas, wood and wood products, beans and pulses, garments, and fish and fish products. Natural gas exports will increase once production begins from the offshore Shwe Field, recently confirmed to hold 5.7-10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Burma remains the world’s second-largest producer of illicit opium–although it only produces 6% of the world’s total opium. Annual production of opium has declined over the past decade and is now estimated to be less than 20 percent of mid-1990 peak levels. Burma is also a primary source of amphetamine-type stimulants in Asia, producing hundreds of millions of tablets annually. The Burmese Government has committed itself in recent years to expanded counternarcotics measures.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

During the Cold War, Burmese foreign policy was grounded in principles of neutrality, often tending toward xenophobia. Since 1988, however, Burma has expanded its regional ties. It now is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), and several other regional organizations and initiatives. Burma’s lack of progress on human rights and democracy have frayed some ties, and in July 2005, Burma passed up its scheduled 2006 ASEAN chairmanship.

Although Burmese-Thai relations are generally cooperative, they have been tainted by a long history of border conflicts, and sporadic hostilities over narcotics trafficking and insurgents operating along the Burmese-Thai border. Nonetheless, official and unofficial economic ties remain strong. In addition to the sizeable population of Burmese refugees it hosts, the Thai Government has issued temporary work permits to another one million Burmese who live outside the refugee camps in Thailand. Despite their often-contentious history, Burma and China have grown much closer in recent years. China is quickly becoming Burma’s most important partner, offering debt relief, economic development grants, and soft loans used for the construction of infrastructure and light industry. China also is purportedly Burma’s major supplier of arms and munitions. Burma’s ties with India are also growing, although not as quickly as with China.

The UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy to Burma, Tan Sri Razali Ismail, resigned his position in December 2005 due to the regime’s lack of cooperation. UN Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Paulo Sergio Pinheiro has not been allowed to visit the country since 2003. In December 2005, UN Under Secretary General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari briefed the UN Security Council for the first time ever on the situation in Burma. Although the regime permitted Gambari to visit Burma in May and meet with Senior General Than Shwe and Aung San Suu Kyi, it immediately thereafter renewed Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest.

Burma is involved in the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Program of Economic Cooperation in the Greater Mekong Subregion. As such, it participates in regional meetings and workshops supported by the ADB. Burma joined ASEAN in 1997, and has participated in that regional forum, even hosting a number of seminars, conferences, and ministerial meetings. As one of ASEAN’s least developed members, Burma also has an extra five years (until 2008) to comply with most of AFTA’s liberalization requirements. Burma also is a member of the World Trade Organization.

Most Western foreign aid ceased in the wake of the suppression of the democracy movement in 1988. The World Bank reports that aid now represents only about $2 per capita (compared with $53 per person in Laos and $33 per person in Cambodia). According to the United Nations, official development assistance totaled only $76 million in 2000. Burma receives grants of technical assistance (mostly from Asia), limited humanitarian aid and debt relief from Japan and China, and concessional loans from China and India.

Burma became a member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in 1952, the International Financial Corporation (IFC) in 1956, the International Development Association (IDA) in 1962, and the ADB in 1973. Since July 1987, the World Bank has not made any loans to Burma. Since 1998 Burma has been in non-accrual status with the Bank. The IMF performs its mandated annual Article IV consultations, but there are no IMF assistance programs. The ADB has not extended loans to Burma since 1986. Technical assistance ended in 1988. Burma has not serviced its ADB loans since January 1998. Burma’s total foreign debt now stands at over $7 billion.

U.S.-BURMESE RELATIONS

The political relationship between the United States and Burma worsened after the 1988 military coup and violent suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations, and remains estranged today.

The United States has imposed broad sanctions against Burma under several different legislative and policy vehicles. The Burma Freedom and Democracy Act (BFDA), passed by Congress and signed by the President in 2003, includes a ban on all imports from Burma, a ban on the export of financial services to Burma, a freeze on the assets of certain Burmese financial institutions, and extended visa restrictions on Burmese officials. Congress has renewed the BFDA annually, most recently in July 2006.

In addition, since May 1997, the U.S. Government has prohibited new investment by U.S. persons or entities. A number of U.S. companies exited the Burma market even prior to the imposition of sanctions due to a worsening business climate and mounting criticism from human rights groups, consumers, and shareholders. The United States has also imposed countermeasures on Burma due to its inadequate measures to eliminate money laundering.

For its particularly severe violations of religious freedom, the United States has designated Burma a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act. Burma is also designated a Tier 3 Country, subject to additional sanctions, for its poor record in preventing Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and use of forced labor.

The United States downgraded its level of representation in Burma from Ambassador to Chargé d’Affaires after the government’s crackdown on the democratic opposition in 1988.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

RANGOON (E) Address: Rangoon, 581 Merchant St. (GPO 521); APO/FPO: Box B, APO AP 96546; Phone: (95)(1) 379880; Fax: 95-1-256-018; INMARSAT Tel: 383131573 or 383131574; Workweek: M-F 0800–1630.

AMB:Shari Villarosa
AMB OMS:Eugenia Wray
DCM:Karl Stoltz
DCM OMS:Karen Heinrich
POL:Leslie Hayden
POL/ECO:Dean Tidwell
CON:S. Lee McManis
MGT:Robert Bare
AFSA:Walter Parrs
APHIS:U Khin Maung
CLO:Lila Tidwell
DAO:Dan Tartar
ECO:Theresa Manlowe
EEO:Thomas Pierce
FMO:D. Craig Shaw
GSO:Franklin White
ICASS Chair:Karl Stoltz
IMO:E. Alex Copher
IPO:R. Scott Trezise
ISO:E. Alex Copher
ISSO:E. Alex Copher
PAO:Thomas Pierce
RSO:Thomas McDonough
State ICASS:Thomas Pierce

Last Updated: 2/1/2007

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet : November 28, 2006

Country Description: Burma (Myanmar) is an underdeveloped agrarian country ruled by an authoritarian military junta. The country’s government suppresses all expression of opposition to its rule.

After a long period of isolation, the Burmese has started to encourage tourism. Foreigners can expect to pay several times more than locals for accommodations, domestic airfares, and entry to tourist sites. Tourist facilities in Rangoon, Bagan, Ngapali Beach, Inle Lake, and Mandalay are superior to tourist facilities in other parts of the country, where they are limited. Please note that visitors should travel with sufficient cash to cover their expenses for the duration of their visit. Travelers’ checks and credit cards are not accepted anywhere, and ATM machines are nonexistent in Burma.

Entry and Exit Requirements: The government of Burma strictly controls travel to, from, and within Burma. Since October 1, 2006, the Burmese government has often prohibited entry or exit at most land border crossings, unless the traveler is part of a package tour group that has received prior permission from the Burmese authorities. A passport and visa are required for entry into Burma. Travelers are required to show their passports with a valid visa at all airports, train stations, and hotels. Security checkpoints are common outside of tourist areas.

The Burmese government rarely issues visas to persons with occupations it deems “sensitive,” including journalists. Many journalists and writers traveling to Burma on tourist visas have been denied entry. Journalists and tourists mistaken for journalists have been harassed. Some journalists have had film and notes confiscated upon leaving the country.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child’s travel from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Information about entry requirements as well as other information may be obtained from the Embassy of the Union of Myanmar, 2300 S Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone 202-332-4350, website: http://www.mewashingtondc.com, or the Permanent Mission of Myanmar to the U.N. 10 East 77th St., New York, N.Y. 10021, (212-535-1311). Overseas inquiries may be made at the nearest embassy or consulate of Burma (Myanmar).

Safety and Security: U.S. citizens traveling in Burma should exercise caution and check with the U.S. Embassy for an update on the current security situation. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry their U.S. passports or photocopies of passport data and visa pages at all times so that if questioned by Burmese officials, they have proof of U.S. citizenship readily available.

Americans in Burma should avoid crowded public places, including shopping areas, malls and markets, demonstrations, large public gatherings, and any area cordoned off by security forces.

On May 7, 2005, three large bombs simultaneously exploded in Rangoon at two crowded shopping areas frequented by foreigners and at an international trade center, killing at least twenty people and wounding several hundred. On April 26, 2005, an explosive device detonated at a busy market in Mandalay, killing at least three people. Although other smaller-scale bombings have occurred in Burma in recent years, these two events had specific targets and used more sophisticated techniques. However, there is no indication that these attacks targeted American citizens or U.S. interests. The perpetrators of these bombings have not been identified. In light of these incidents and the possibility of additional attacks in the capital of Rangoon and other locations, Americans in Burma should exercise caution in public places and be alert to their surroundings.

Burma experienced major political unrest in 1988 when the military regime jailed as well as killed thousands of Burmese democracy activists. In 1990, the military government refused to recognize the results of an election that the opposition won overwhelmingly. Major demonstrations by opposition activists occurred in 1996 and 1998. In May 2003, individuals affiliated with the Burmese government attacked a convoy carrying opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Sagaing Division; dozens were killed or injured.

Ethnic rebellions still smolder in regions along Burma’s borders with Thailand, China, India, and Bangladesh, and anti-personnel landmines along border areas pose an additional danger. Occasional fighting between government forces and various rebel groups has occurred in Chin and Rakhine States and along the Thai-Burma border area in Burma’s southern Shan, Mon, and Karen states. From time to time, the Thai government has closed the border with Burma due to increases in rebel activity. The September 19, 2006, coup in Thailand led to intermittent closures at some border crossings, primarily on the Thai-Burma border. In January 2005, regional governments announced a major regional law enforcement initiative aimed at dismantling the operations of Southeast Asia’s largest narcotics trafficking organization, the United Wa State Army. At that time, the Burmese government stated that it could not guarantee the safety of foreign officials or personnel from non-governmental organizations traveling or working in Wa Special Region 2 (northeastern Shan State).

U.S. citizens have been detained, arrested, tried, and deported for, among other activities, distributing pro-democracy literature and visiting the homes and offices of Burmese pro-democracy leaders. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may also result in problems with authorities. Burmese authorities have warned U.S. Embassy officials that those who engage in similar activities in the future will be jailed rather than deported. Should an emergency arise involving the detention of a U.S. citizen, especially outside of Rangoon, it may be difficult for U.S. Embassy personnel to assist quickly, because travel inside Burma can be slow and difficult. The Burmese authorities do not routinely notify the U.S. Embassy of the arrest of American citizens, and the Burmese government has obstructed access by consular officers to American citizen detainees.

Security personnel may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance. Hotel rooms, telephones, and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet web site, where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings, and Public Announcements can be found. Up to date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S.

Crime: Crime rates in Burma, especially toward foreigners, are lower than those of many other countries in the region. Nevertheless, due in part to the poor economic situation in Burma, the crime rate has been increasing. Violent crime against foreigners is rare.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.

The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Medical facilities in Burma are inadequate for even routine medical care. There are few trained medical personnel. Most foreign drugs on sale have been smuggled into the country, and many are counterfeit or adulterated and thus unsafe to use. HIV/AIDS is widespread among high-risk populations such as prostitutes and illegal drug users. Malaria, tuberculosis, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases are endemic in most parts of the country.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Burma is provided for general reference only, and may not be accurate in a particular location or circumstance. Rangoon’s main roads are generally in poor condition. Traffic in the capital is increasing rapidly, but heavy congestion is still uncommon. Some roads are in serious disrepair. Slow-moving vehicles, bicycles, animals, and heavy pedestrian traffic create numerous hazards for drivers on Rangoon’s streets. Drivers must remain extremely alert to avoid hitting pedestrians, who do not fully appreciate the risks they take in walking and darting into traffic. In the event of an accident with a pedestrian, the driver is always considered to be at fault and subject to fines or arrest, regardless of the circumstances.

Most roads outside of Rangoon are one to two lanes wide and are potholed, often unpaved, and unlit at night. Truck drivers in country traversing from China to Rangoon are known to drive under the influence of methamphetamines and other stimulants. Drunken and/or drugged drivers are also common on the roads during the four-day Buddhist water festival in mid-April. Driving at night is particularly dangerous. Few, if any, streets are adequately lit. Most Burmese drivers do not turn on their headlights until the sky is completely dark; many do not use headlights at all. Many people ride bicycles that have no lights or reflectors.

Vehicles are required to drive on the right side, as in the United States. However, a majority of vehicles have the steering wheel positioned on the right. The “right of way” concept is generally respected, but military convoys and motorcades always have precedence. Most vehicle accidents are settled between the parties on site, with the party at fault paying the damages. Accidents that require an investigation are concluded quickly and rarely result in criminal prosecution. There is no roadside assistance, and ambulances are not available. Vehicles generally do not have seat belts. Child car seats are also not available.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Burma, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Burma’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

Due to serious safety concerns regarding state-owned Myanmar Airways, including two fatal air crashes in 1998, the U.S. Embassy has advised its employees to avoid travel on this carrier whenever possible. Myanmar Airways International (MAI) is a different carrier that operates flights between Bangkok and Rangoon.

Foreigner Travel Within Burma: Burmese authorities require that hotels and guesthouses furnish information about the identities and activities of their foreign guests. Burmese who interact with foreigners may be compelled to report on those interactions to the Burmese government. Travelers must assume their actions are being closely monitored, particularly in hotel lobbies and rooms, when meeting Burmese citizens, and when using the telephone.

Travelers are not generally required to obtain advance permission to travel to the main tourist areas of Mandalay and the surrounding area, Bagan, Inle Lake, Ngapali, and other beach resorts. However, some tourists traveling to places where permission is not expressly required have reported delays due to questioning by local security personnel. Additionally, the military government restricts access to some areas of the country on an ad hoc basis, and recently stated it could not guarantee the safety of foreigners traveling in eastern Shan State, specifically in Wa territory, also known as Special Region 2. Those planning to travel in Burma should check with Burmese tourism authorities to see whether travel to specific destinations is permitted. Even if travel is allowed, it may not be safe.

Customs Regulations: Customs regulations in Burma are restrictive and strictly enforced. Customs authorities closely search luggage upon arrival and departure. It is illegal to enter or exit Burma with items such as firearms, religious materials, antiquities, medications, business equipment, currency, gems, and ivory. On several occasions in the past two decades, foreigners have been detained, searched, and imprisoned for attempting to take restricted items out of the country.

Customs officials also strictly limit what is brought into the country, including bans on pornography and political material or literature critical of the regime or supportive of the opposition. Travelers have also reported problems bringing in high tech electronic devices and equipment, from toys to computers. However, the military government has not provided a complete listing of prohibited imports. For information on restricted items, it is best to consult the nearest Embassy of the Union of Myanmar. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the Union of Myanmar in Washington or Burma’s Mission in New York for specific information regarding customs requirements.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.

Computers, Internet, and E-Mail: The military government carefully controls and monitors all Internet use in Burma. The government has made available a heavily censored version of the Internet and has allowed several cyber cafes to open. However, access to the Internet is very expensive, and the government prohibits access to most “free” international email services such as Hotmail and Yahoo. Currently, gmail (Google mail) accounts can be accessed in Burma, and many locals and resident expatriates use it. It is illegal to own an unregistered modem in Burma. Tourists may bring in one laptop computer per person and must declare it upon arrival. Limited e-mail service is available at some large hotels. All emails are read by military intelligence. It is very expensive to send photographs via e-mail. One foreign visitor was presented a bill for $2,000.00 after transmitting one photograph via a major hotel’s e-mail system.

Consular Access: U.S. consular officers do not always receive timely notification of the detention, arrest, or deportation of U.S. citizens. In addition, the Burmese government has on occasion refused to give Embassy consular officers access to arrested/detained U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens who are arrested or detained should request immediate contact with the U.S. Embassy. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry their U.S. passports with them at all times so that if questioned by local officials, they have proof of identity and U.S. citizenship readily available.

Currency: Executive Order 13310, signed by President Bush on July 28, 2003 imposed a ban on the exportation of financial services to Burma. Travelers’ checks, credit cards, and ATM cards can rarely, if ever, be used. Although moneychangers sometimes approach travelers with an offer to change dollars into Burmese kyat at the market rate, it is illegal to exchange currency except at authorized locations such as the airport, banks and government stores. It is also illegal for Burmese to have possession of foreign currency without a permit.

Foreigners are required to use U.S. dollars, other hard currency, or Foreign Exchange Certificates (FEC) for the payment of plane tickets, train tickets and most hotels. Burmese kyat is accepted for nearly all other transactions.

Photography: Photographing people in uniform or any military installation is prohibited by Burmese authorities and could lead to arrest or the confiscation of cameras and film. It is also advisable to avoid photographing power plants and bridges.

Telephone Services: Telephone services are poor in Rangoon and other major cities and non-existent in many areas. Calling the United States from Burma is difficult and extremely expensive.

U.S. Treasury Sanctions: As of August 27, 2003, U.S. Treasury sanctions ban the import of almost all goods from Burma into the United States. This ban includes Burmeseorigin products such as gifts, souvenirs, and items for personal use, even if carried in personal luggage. These sanctions are part of a much larger U.S. sanctions regime for Burma, which includes a ban on new U.S. investment among other measures. For specific information, contact the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) home page on the Internet at http://www.treas.gov/ofac, or via OFAC’s Info-by-Fax service at 202-622-0077.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Burmese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Burma are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Some foreigners have been denied even minimal rights in criminal proceedings in Burma, especially when suspected of engaging in political activity of any type. This includes, but is not limited to, denial of access to an attorney, denial of access to court records, and denial of family and consular visits. The criminal justice system is controlled by the military junta, which orders maximum sentences for most offenses. Torture has been reported in Burmese jails, and in 2000, a foreigner was tortured until he surrendered his personal possessions to his jailers.

Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States.

Children’s Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location: Americans living or traveling in Burma are encouraged to register with the Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration website and to obtain updated information on travel and security with Burma. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at 581 Merchant Street, Rangoon. The Consular Section telephone number is (95-1) 250-240, fax (95-1) 250-642, email [email protected], website http://rangoon.usembassy.gov. The after-hours emergency number is +95 (1) 370-965. The Consular Section is open from 8:00 am to 12:00 noon and from 2:00 to 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday.

International Adoption : October 2006

The U.S. Embassy in Rangoon has been informed by Burmese authorities that Burmese law does not allow for the adoption of Burmese children by non-Burmese nationals. Only Burmese citizens are allowed to adopt Burmese children.

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Burma

BURMA

Compiled from the December 2003 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Union of Burma



Editor's Note: The Burmese Government was dissolved on September 18, 1988 in a military coup and the nation was renamed Myanmar. The US does not presently recognize the current government of Myanmar and therefore continues to refer to the nation as Burma.


PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-BURMESE RELATIONS
TRAVEL


PROFILE


Geography

Area: 678,500 sq km. (about the size of Texas).

Cities: Capital—Rangoon (pop. 5.5 million), Mandalay (pop. 700,000).

Terrain: Central lowlands ringed by steep, rugged highlands.

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).


People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Burmese.

Population: (official 2001 est.) 51 million, but no census has been taken since 1983.

Annual growth rate: (2001 est.) 2.02%.

Ethnic groups: Burman 68%, Shan 9%, Karen 7%, Arakanese 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.

Education: (1999 est.) Literacy—male 88.7%; female 77.7% (official Government of Burma statistics); estimates of functional literacy are closer to 30%.

Health: (2001 est.) Infant mortality rate—73.71 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy—53.73 yrs.: male; 56.68 yrs. female.


Government

Type: military regime.

Constitution: January 3, 1974 (suspended since September 18, 1988 when latest junta took power). A national convention started on January 9, 1993 to draft a new constitution, but progress has since been stalled.

Branches: Executive—Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) Senior General Than Shwe is the head of state. Prime Minister General Khin Nyunt is the head of government. Legislative—unicameral People's Assembly (Pyithu Hluttaw) has 485 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve 4-year terms. The last elections were in 1990, but the Assembly was prevented from convening by the military regime. Judicial—Supreme Court. The legal system was based on the British-era system, but now the junta rules by Decree and there is no guarantee of a fair public trial; the judiciary is not independent.

Political parties: National League for Democracy (NLD) is the primary opposition party; National Unity Party (NUP) is the primary proregime party; the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) is a pro-regime social organization; and other smaller parties.

Administrative subdivisions: Seven primarily Burman divisions (tain) and seven ethnic states (pyi nay); Chin State, Kachin State, Karen State, Karenni State, Mon State, Arakan State, Shan State, Rangoon Division, Mandalay Division, Tenessarim Division, Irrawaddy Division, Pegu Division, Magway Division, and Sagaing Division.

Suffrage: Universal suffrage at 18 years of age (but there have been no elections since 1990).

Flag: Red with a blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner bearing, all in white, 14 five-pointed stars encircling a cogwheel containing a stalk of rice. The 14 stars represent the 14 administrative subdivisions.


Economy

GDP: (2002 est.) $15 billion.

GDP per capita: (2002 est.) $300.

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

Agriculture: Products—rice, pulses, beans, sesame, groundnuts, sugarcane, hardwood, fish and fish products.

Industries: Types—agricultural processing, knit and woven apparel, wood and wood products, copper, tin, tungsten, iron, construction materials, pharmaceuticals, and fertilizer.

Trade: (2001 est.) Exports—$2.8 billion (natural gas, beans and pulses, teak logs, prawns and fish products, rice, and apparel). Major markets—Thailand 26%, United States 16%, India 10%, P.R.C. 4%, and Singapore 4%. Imports—$2.7 billion (machinery and transport equipment, crude oil, base metals and manufactures, electrical machinery, and edible oils). Major suppliers—P.R.C. 20%, Singapore 17%, Thailand 15%, South Korea 10%, and Malaysia 8%.




PEOPLE

A majority of Burma's estimated 50 million people are ethnic Burmans. Shans, Karens, Arakanese, Kachins, Chins, Mons, and many other smaller indigenous ethnic groups form about 30% of the population. Indians and Chinese are the largest immigrant groups.

Although Burmese is the most widely spoken language, other ethnic groups have retained their own languages. English is spoken in the capital Rangoon and in areas frequented by tourists. The Indian and Chinese residents speak various languages and dialects of their homelands: Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Bengali, Mandarin, Fujianese, and Cantonese.

According to the 1974 Constitution, Buddhism is the official religion of Burma. An estimated 89% of the population practices it. Other religions, Christian 4%—Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic 1%—Muslim 4%, and animist 1%, are less prevalent.

Much of the population lives without basic sanitation or running water. In 1997, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked Burma's health infrastructure second to last globally. High infant mortality rates and short life expectancies further highlight poor health and living conditions. The HIV/AIDS epidemic poses a serious threat to the Burmese population, as do tuberculosis and malaria.

There are numerous documented human rights violations, and internal displacement of ethnic minorities also is prevalent. Several million Burmese, many of them ethnic minorities, have fled for economic and political reasons to the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, India, China, and Thailand to seek work and asylum. More than 160,000 Burmese live in the nine refugee camps in Thailand and the two in Bangladesh while hundreds of thousands of other Burmese work and reside illegally in the countries in the region.




HISTORY

Burma was unified by Burman dynasties three times during the past millennium. The first such unification came with the foundation of the Pagan Dynasty in 1044 AD, which is considered the "Golden Age" in Burmese history. It is during this period that Theravada Buddhism first made its appearance in Burma, and the Pagan kings built a massive city with thousands of pagodas and monasteries along the Irrawaddy River. The Pagan Dynasty lasted until 1287 when a Mongol invasion destroyed the city. Ethnic Shan rulers, who established a political center at Ava, filled the ensuing political vacuum for a short time.

In the 15th century, the Toungoo Dynasty succeeded again in unifying under Burman rule a large, multiethnic kingdom. This dynasty, which lasted from 1486 until 1752, left little cultural legacy, but expanded the kingdom through conquest of the Shans. Internal power struggles, and the cost of protracted warfare, led to the eventual decline of the Toungoo.

The final Burman royal dynasty, the Konbaung, was established in 1752 under the rule of King Alaungpaya. Like the Toungoo Kings, the Konbaung rulers focused on warfare and conquest. Wars were fought with the ethnic Mons and Arkanese, and with the Siamese. The Burmese sacked the Siamese capital of Ayuthaya in 1767. This period also saw four invasions by the Chinese and three devastating wars with the British.

The British began their conquest of Burma in 1824, expanding their holdings after each of the three wars. At the end of the third war in 1885 the British gained complete control of Burma, annexing it to India. Under British control, which lasted until 1948, Burma underwent enormous change. The British established strong administrative institutions and reorganized the economy from subsistence farming to a large-scale export economy. By 1939 Burma had become the world's leading exporter of rice.

Burmese nationalists, led by General Aung San and 29 other "Comrades," joined the Japanese forces in driving out the British at the outbreak of World War II. However, the Burmese Army switched sides in mid-1945 and aided U.S. and British forces in their drive to Rangoon. After the war, the Burmese, with General Aung San at the helm, demanded complete political and economic independence from Britain. The British Government acceded to these demands. A constitution was completed in 1947 and independence granted in January 1948. General Aung San was assassinated with most of his cabinet before the constitution was put into effect.

During the weak constitutional period from 1948 to 1962 Burma suffered widespread conflict and internal struggle. Constitutional disputes and persistent division among political and social groups contributed to the democratic government's weak hold on power. In 1958, the military was invited in temporarily by Prime Minister U Nu to restore political order. The military stepped down after 18 months; however, in 1962 General Ne Win led a coup abolishing the constitution and establishing a xenophobic military government with socialist economic priorities. These policies had devastating effects on the country's economy and business climate.




In March 1988 student disturbances broke out in Rangoon in response to the worsening economic situation which evolved into a call for change in regime. Despite repeated violent crackdowns by the military and police, the demonstrations increased in size as the general public joined the students. During mass demonstrations on August 8, 1988, military forces killed more than 1,000 demonstrators. It was at a rally following this massacre that Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of General Aung San, made her first political speech and assumed the role of leader of the opposition.

On September 18 the military deposed the Ne Win's Burmese Socialist Program Party (BSPP), abolished the constitution, and established a new ruling junta called the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). In an effort to "restore order," the SLORC sent the army into the streets to suppress the ongoing public demonstrations. An estimated additional 3,000 we re killed, and more than 10,000 stu-dents fled into the hills and border areas.

The SLORC ruled by martial law until national parliamentary elections were held on May 27, 1990. The results were an overwhelming victory for Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which won 392 of the 485 seats, even though she was under house arrest. However, the SLORC refused to call the Parliament into session and imprisoned many political activists.

The ruling junta changed its name to the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1997, but did not change its policy of autocratic control and repression of the democratic opposition. In 2000, the SPDC announced it would begin talks with the political opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been released once from house arrest in 1995, only to be detained once more. These talks were followed by the release of many political prisoners and some increase in political freedoms for Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD. On May 6, 2002, she was allowed to leave her home and subsequently traveled widely throughout the country. On May 30, 2003, Aung San Suu Kyi and a convoy of her supporters were attacked by a group of government-affiliated thugs. Many members of the convoy were killed or injured and others remain unaccounted for. Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of her party were detained, and the military government forcibly closed the offices of the NLD.

The central government has had a contentious relationship with ethnic groups calling for autonomy or secession for their regions since the country's independence. In 1948, only the capital city itself was firmly in control of the Rangoon authorities. Subsequent military campaigns brought more and more of the nation under central government control. Since 1990, the regime has signed a series of cease-fire agreements with insurgent groups, leaving only a handful still in active opposition.




GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

The Union of Burma (or Myanmar as it is called by the ruling junta) consists of 14 states and divisions. Administrative control is exercised from the central government at Rangoon through a system of subordinate executive bodies.

Power is centered on the ruling junta—the State Peace and Development Council, or SPDC—which maintains strict authoritarian rule over the people of Burma. Control is maintained through the strict censuring of information, repression of individual rights, and suppression of ethnic minority groups.

Today the SPDC continues its harsh rule and systematic human rights abuses. Any future political transition will have to be negotiated among the SPDC, the political opposition, and representatives of Burma's many ethnic minorities.

Although the SPDC changed the name of the country to "Myanmar," the democratically elected Parliament of 1990 does not recognize the name change, and the democratic opposition maintains use of the name, "Burma." Due to unyielding support of the democratically elected leaders, the U.S. Government likewise uses "Burma."

Principal Government Officials
Last Updated: 2/9/04


Prime Minister: KHIN NYUNT, Gen.

Chmn., State Peace and Development

Council: THAN SHWE, Sr. Gen.

Vice Chmn., State Peace and Development Council: MAUNG AYE, Vice Sr. Gen.

Secretary 1, State Peace and Development Council: SOE WIN, Lt. Gen.

Secretary 2, State Peace and Development Council: THIEN SEIN, Lt. Gen.

Min. of Agriculture & Irrigation: NYUNT TIN, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Commerce: PYISONE, Brig. Gen.

Min. of Communications, Post, & Telegraph: THEIN ZAW, Brig. Gen.

Min. of Construction: SAW TUN, Maj.Gen.

Min. of Cooperatives: HTAYOO, Maj.Gen.

Min. of Culture: KYI AUNG, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Defense: THAN SHWE, Sr. Gen.

Min. of Education: THAN AUNG,

Min. of Electric Power: TIN HTUT, Maj.Gen.

Min. of Energy: LUN THI, Brig. Gen.

Min. of Finance & Revenue: HLA TUN, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Foreign Affairs: WIN AUNG,

Min. of Forestry: THEIN AUNG, Brig.Gen.

Min. of Health: KYAW MYINT, Dr.

Min. of Home Affairs: TIN HLAING, Col.

Min. of Hotels & Tourism: THEIN ZAW, Brig. Gen.

Min. of Immigration & Population: SEIN HTWA, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Industry 1: AUNG THAUNG,

Min. of Industry 2: SAW LWIN, Maj.Gen.

Min. of Information: KYAW HSAN, Brig.Gen.

Min. of Labor: TIN WINN,

Min. of Livestock Breeding, & Fisheries: MAUNG MAUNG THEIN, Brig. Gen.

Min. of Military Affairs: THIHA THURA TIN AUNG MYINT,

Min. of Mines: OHN MYINT, Brig. Gen.

Min. of National Planning & Economic Development: SOE THA,

Min. of Progress of Border Areas, National Races, & Development Affairs: THEIN NYUNT, Col.

Min. of Rail Transport: AUNG MIN, Maj.Gen.

Min. of Religious Affairs: THURA MYINT MAUNG, Brig. Gen.

Min. of Science & Technology: U THAUNG,

Min. of Social Welfare, Relief, & Resettlement: SEIN HTWA, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Sports: THURA AYE MYINT, Brig. Gen.

Min. of Transport: HLA MYINT SWE, Maj. Gen.

Min. in the Office of the Prime Min.: KO LAY, Col. (Ret.)

Min. in the Office of the Prime Min.: THAN SHWE,

Min. in the Office of the Prime Min.: THEIN SWE, Maj. Gen.

Governor, Central Bank of Burma: KYAW KYAW MAUNG,

Ambassador to the US: LINN MYAING,

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: KYAW TINT SWE,



Burma maintains an embassy to the United States at 2300 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel.: [1] (202) 332-9044; fax: [1] (202) 332-9046.




ECONOMY

Burma is a resource-rich country with a strong agricultural base. It also has vast timber and fishery reserves and is a leading source of gems and jade. Tourist potential is great but remains undeveloped because of weak infrastructure and Burma's international image, which has been damaged by the junta's human rights abuses and oppression of the democratic opposition. The economy has been affected further by recently imposed U.S. sanctions, including a ban on the importation of Burmese products into the U.S. and a ban on the exportation of financial services from the U.S. to Burma.

Long-term economic mismanagement under military rule has prevented the economy from developing in line with its potential. Burma experienced 26 years of socialist rule under the dictator, General Ne Win, from 1962-1987. In 1988 the economy collapsed, and pro-democracy demonstrators took to the streets. The military government violently put an end to the civil unrest and pledged to move toward a market-based economy. Although some aspects of economic policy have changed, the state remains heavily involved and additional, much needed reforms have not been forthcoming.


The regime's mismanagement of the economy has created a downward economic spiral. The vast majority of Burmese citizens now subsist on an average income of only about $300 per capita. Rampant inflation, caused primarily by public sector deficit spending, stagnant wages, and the eroding value of the local currency (the kyat) have undermined living standards. The limited move to a market economy appears to have favored crony capitalism. A handful of companies loyal to the regime has benefited from policies that promote monopoly and privilege.


Burma has a mixed economy with private activity dominant in agriculture, light industry, and transport. However, state-controlled activity predominates in energy, heavy industry, and the rice trade. The military, through its commercial arms, also plays a major role in the economy of Burma.


Burma remains a primarily agricultural economy with 57% of GDP derived from agriculture, livestock and fisheries, and forestry. Manufacturing constitutes only 9% of recorded economic activity, and state industries continue to play a large role in that sector. Services constitute nearly 8% of GDP.


Foreign investment increased markedly in the early to mid-1990s, but has declined precipitously since 1999 due to the increasingly unfriendly business environment and mounting political pressure from Western consumers and shareholders. The government has tried hard to conserve foreign exchange by limiting imports and promoting exports. Published estimates of Burma's foreign trade (particularly on the import side) are greatly understated because of the volume of off-book, black-market, illicit, and unrecorded border trade.


In the near term, growth will continue to be constrained by poor government planning and minimal foreign investment. A number of other countries, including the members of European Union, Canada, Australia, Japan, and Korea, have joined the United States in applying some form of sanctions against the regime.

Government economic statistics are unavailable or very unreliable. According to official figures, GDP growth has been over 10% annually since FY 1999-2000. However, the real numbers are likely much smaller. Burma's top export markets include Thailand, India, China, and Singapore. Burma's top export commodities include clothing, natural gas, wood and wood products, and fish and fish products.


Burma was the world's second-largest producer of illicit opium in 2002. Burma also has been the primary source of amphetamine-type stimulants in Asia, producing hundreds of millions of tablets annually. The Burmese Government has committed itself in recent years to expanded counternarcotics measures.




FOREIGN RELATIONS

During the Cold War, Burmese foreign policy was grounded in principles of neutrality, often tending toward xenophobia. Since 1988, however, Burma has been less xenophobic, attempting to strengthen regional ties. It now is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), and several other regional organizations and initiatives.


Burmese-Thai relations have been tainted by a long history of protracted border conflicts, sporadic hostilities over narcotics trafficking, Burmese insurgents operating along the Burmese-Thai border, and the large number of Burmese who cross the border to work illegally or claim refugee status. In fact, the Burmese Government closed the Burma-Thai border for several months during the summer of 2002. However, official and unofficial economic ties between the two nations are significant, and the current Thai and Burmese Governments seem eager to reach a new, more cooperative, level in their bilateral relations. Despite their often-contentious history, Burma and China have grown closer in recent years, though most Burmese remain suspicious of China's economic influence. China is quickly becoming Burma's most important partner, offering debt relief, economic development grants, and soft loans used for the construction of infrastructure and light industry. China also is purportedly Burma's major supplier of arms and munitions.

Burma is involved in the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) Program of Economic Cooperation in the Greater Mekong Subregion. As such, it participates in regional meetings and workshops supported by the ADB's regional technical assistance. Burma joined ASEAN in 1997, and has participated in that regional forum, even hosting a number of seminars, conferences, and ministerial meetings. Due to difficulties in reforming its economic and trading system, Burma has requested extensions on compliance with the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA). As one of ASEAN's least developed members, Burma also has an extra 5 years (until 2008) to comply with most of AFTA's liberalization requirements. Burma also is a member of the World Trade Organization.


Most Western foreign aid ceased in the wake of the suppression of the democracy movement in 1988. The World Bank reports that aid now represents only about $2 per capita (compared with $53 a head in Laos and $33 per person in Cambodia). According to the United Nations, official development assistance totaled only $76 million in 2000. Burma receives grants of technical assistance (mostly from Asia), limited humanitarian aid and debt relief from Japan and China, and concessional loans from China and India.


Burma became a member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in 1952, the International Financial Corporation (IFC) in 1956, the International Development Association (IDA) in 1962, and the ADB in 1973. There have been no World Bank loans to Burma since July 1987. Since 1998 Burma has been in non-accrual status with the Bank. The IMF performs its mandated annual Article IV consultations, but there are no IMF assistance programs. The ADB has not extended loans to Burma since 1986. Technical assistance ended in 1988. Burma has not paid its loan service payments to the ADB since January 1998. Burma's total foreign debt now stands at over $6 billion.




U.S.-BURMESE RELATIONS

The political relationship between the United States and Burma is strained. Official relations between the United States and Burma have been cool since the 1988 military coup and violent suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations.


The United States has imposed broad sanctions against Burma. Many of the sanctions in place are applied under several different legislative and policy vehicles. Thus the improvement of the situation in one area in Burma would not necessarily lead to a lifting of any particular sanction. Recent measures include a ban on imports from Burma, a ban on the export of financial services to Burma, a freeze on the assets of certain Burmese financial institutions and extended visa restrictions on Burmese officials. The United States has also imposed countermeasures on Burma due to its non-compliance with the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering.


The U.S. Government has an official policy to neither encourage nor discourage trade with Burma. Since May 1997, the U.S. Government has prohibited new investment by U.S. persons or entities. However, a number of U.S. companies exited the Burma market even prior to the imposition of sanctions due to a worsening business climate and mounting criticism from human rights groups, consumers, and some shareholders because of the Burmese Government's serious human rights abuses and lack of progress toward democracy.

For its particularly severe violations of religious freedom, the United States has designated Burma a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act.


The United States downgraded its level of representation in Burma from Ambassador to Chargé d'Affaires after the government's crackdown on the democratic opposition in 1988.


Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Rangoon (E), 581 Merchant St. (GPO 521). Box B, APO AP 96546, Tel [95] (1) 379880, 379881; Fax 256018; direct-in-dial: EXEC Tel 370962; DAO Tel 377570; CON Tel 538-037, Fax 538040; GSO Tel 543354, 542608, Fax 543353; Health Unit Tel 511072, Fax 511069; PAO Tel 221585, 223106, 223140, Fax 221262. After-hours number 379-880 ext. 4325. Internet Address: [email protected]

COM: Carmen M. Martinez
COM OMS: Judith K. Groves
DCM: Ronald K. McMullen
DCM OMS: Virginia S. Burns
PAO: Mary Ellen Countryman
POL/ECO: W. Patrick Murphy
ECO/COM: Benjamin V. Wohlauer
CON: Kerry L. Brougham
MGT: Stanley E. Gibson
FMO: James D. Wickersham
S/GSO: Vincent P. Raimondi
RSO: Gary F. Truchot
IMO: Monte R. Marchant
DAO: COL Michael A. Norton
DEA: John M. Whalen
USDA: S. Roderick McSherry (res. Bangkok)

Last Modified: Monday, December 15, 2003


TRAVEL


Consular Information Sheet
September 24, 2003


Country Description: Burma (Myanmar) is an underdeveloped, agrarian country ruled by an authoritarian military regime. The country's military government suppresses expression of opposition to its rule.


After a long period of isolation the country has begun to encourage tourism. Foreigners can expect to pay at least five times more than locals do for hotels, domestic airfare, and entry to tourist sites. Tourist facilities in Rangoon, Bagan, Taunggyi, Inle Lake, and Mandalay are adequate but are very limited in most of the rest of the country.


Entry Requirements: The Government of Burma strictly controls travel to, from, and within Burma. A passport and visa are required. Travelers are required to show their passports with a valid visa at airports, train stations, and hotels. There are frequent security roadblocks on all roads, immigration checkpoints, and domestic air flights in Burma.


The military government rarely issues visas to journalists, and several journalists traveling to Burma on tourist visas have been denied entry. Journalists, and tourists mistaken for journalists, have been harassed. Some journalists have had film and notes confiscated upon leaving the country.


In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Information about entry requirements as well as other information may be obtained from the Embassy of the Union of Myanmar, 2300 S Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone 202-332-9044/6, or the Permanent Mission of Myanmar to the U.N. 10 East 77th St., New York, N.Y. 10021, (212-535-1311). Overseas inquiries may be made at the nearest embassy or consulate of Burma (Myanmar).


Safety and Security: U.S. citizens have been detained, arrested, tried, and deported for, among other activities, distributing pro-democracy literature, photographing sites and activities, and visiting the homes and offices of Burmese pro-democracy leaders. Burmese authorities have warned U.S. Embassy officials that future offenders of these vague restrictions will be jailed rather than deported. Should an emergency arise, it may be difficult to assist U.S. citizens quickly because travel inside Burma can be slow and difficult.


Burma previously experienced major political unrest in 1988 when the military regime jailed and/or killed thousands of Burmese democracy activists. In 1990, the military government refused to recognize the results of an election that the opposition won overwhelmingly. Burma experienced major demonstrations in 1996 and 1998. In May 2003, individuals affiliated with the Burmese government attacked a convoy carrying opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Sagaing Division. Dozens were killed or injured. Popular unrest and violence continue.


For the last decade, sporadic anti-government insurgent activity has occurred in various locations, such as an attack on a natural gas pipeline in the Tenasserim Division and bomb attacks against family members of senior military officials in Rangoon. Two small bombs exploded in downtown Rangoon in the spring of 2003, and Burmese authorities reportedly found other explosive devices in 1999 and 2000. In early 2002, the military government tightened security around the international airport in Rangoon after two rocket-propelled grenades devices were discovered near the airport in early 2002.

Ethnic insurgencies still smolder in regions along the Thai-Burma border and anti-personnel landmines pose a danger. Occasional fighting between government forces and various insurgent groups has occurred in Chin and Rakhine states and along the Thai-Burma border area in Burma's southern Shan, Mon, and Karen states. In February 2001, several people were killed and some tourists were stranded during shelling and cross-border gunfire in the town of Tachileik, Shan State. From time to time, the Thai government has closed the border with Burma due to increases in insurgent activity.


U.S. citizens traveling in Burma should exercise caution and check with the U.S. Embassy for an update on the current security situation. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry their U.S. passports or photocopies of passport data and photo pages at all times so that if questioned by Burmese officials, they have proof of U.S. citizenship readily available.


Burmese authorities require that hotels and guesthouses furnish information about the identities and activities of their foreign guests. Burmese who interact with foreigners may be compelled to report on those interactions to the Burmese Government. Travelers must assume their actions are being closely monitored, particularly in hotel lobbies and rooms, when meeting Burmese citizens, and when using the telephone.


Travelers are not generally required to obtain advance permission to travel to the main tourist areas of Bagan, Inle Lake and the Mandalay area. However, some tourists traveling to places where permission is not expressly required have reported delays due to questioning by local security personnel. Additionally, the military government restricts access to some areas of the country on an ad hoc basis. Those planning to travel in Burma should check with Burmese tourism authorities to see if travel to specific destinations is permitted. Even if travel is allowed, it may not be safe.


Crime: Crime rates in Burma, especially toward foreigners, appear to be lower than those of many other countries in the region. Nevertheless, the increasingly dire economic situation has led to a reported increase in street crime.


The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and the U.S. Embassy. U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of State's pamphlet "A Safe Trip Abroad" to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://travel.state.gov/asafetripabroad.html via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov or at the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon.


Medical Facilities: Medical facilities in Burma are inadequate for even routine medical care. There are few trained medical personnel. Most foreign drugs on sale have been smuggled into the country, and are often counterfeit or adulterated and thus unsafe to use. HIV/AIDS is widespread among high-risk populations such as prostitutes and illegal drug users. Malaria, as well as tuberculosis, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases are endemic in most parts of the country.


Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Furthermore, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.


When making a decision regarding health insurance, U.S. citizens should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties, whereas travelers who have purchased overseas medical insurance have, when a medical emergency occurs, found it lifesaving. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas health care provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur.


Some insurers will authorize payment only for medical evacuations (medevacs) performed by companies with whom they have pre-existing agreements. Not all medevac companies can operate freely in Burma. Medevac companies connected to the government can operate freely and effectively, while unconnected companies cannot. Precious time has been lost during medical emergencies while unconnected medevac companies tried to negotiate with the government for permission to land their air ambulances. Look for an insurer that has pre-existing arrangements with a medevac company and has a proven record operating in Burma.


Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.


Other Health Information: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at: http://www.cdc.gov/.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Burma is provided for general reference only, and may not be accurate in a particular location or circumstance:


Safety of Public Transportation: Unavailable
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Unavailable


Rangoon's main roads are generally in fair condition. Traffic in the capital is increasing rapidly, but serious congestion is still uncommon. So me roads are in serious disrepair. Slow-moving vehicles, bicycles, animals, and heavy pedestrian traffic create numerous hazards for drivers on Rangoon's streets. Drivers must remain extremely alert to avoid hitting pedestrians, who do not fully appreciate the risks they take in walking and darting into traffic.


Most roads outside of Rangoon are one lane and a half, potholed, often unpaved, and unlit at night. Truck drivers traversing from China to Rangoon are known to drive under the influence of methamphetamine-spiked betel nuts. Drunken and/or drugged drivers are common on the roads during the four-day water festival in early spring.


Driving at night is dangerous. Few, if any, streets are adequately lit. Most Burmese drivers do not turn on their headlights until the sky is completely dark; many do not use headlights at all. Many people ride bicycles that have no lights or reflectors.


Vehicles are required to drive on the right side, as in the United States. However, over 80 percent of the vehicles have the steering wheel on the right. The speed limit in the area of schools is posted at 48 kph, or about 30 mph. No other speed limits are posted in Burma. The "right of way" concept is generally respected, but military convoys and motorcades always have precedence. Right turns on a red light are permitted.

Most vehicle accidents are settled between the parties with the party at fault paying the damages. Accidents that require an investigation are concluded quickly and rarely result in criminal prosecution. There is no roadside assistance, and ambulances are not available. Vehicles generally don't have seat belts. Child car seats are also not available.


Aviation Safety Oversight: Currently, there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers, or economic authority to operate such service between the U.S. and Burma. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has not assessed Burma's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards of Burma's air carrier operations.


For further information, travelers may contact the U.S. Department of Transportation within the United States at 1-800-322-7873 or visit the FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the Pentagon at (618) 229-4801.


Due to serious safety concerns regarding state-owned Myanmar Airways, including two fatal air crashes in 1998, the U.S. Embassy has advised its employees to avoid travel on this carrier whenever possible.


Customs Regulations: Customs regulations are restrictive and strictly enforced. Travelers have reported that customs authorities closely searched their luggage upon arrival and departure. It is illegal to take many items, including antiques, out of Burma. Foreigners have been detained, searched and imprisoned for attempting to take Burmese gems out of the country. Customs officials also strictly limit what is brought into the country. However, the military government has not provided a complete listing of prohibited imports.


The military government restricts access to outside information. Newspapers are censored for articles unfavorable to the military government. Any publications that could be viewed as pro-democracy and/or antijunta will be confiscated. Travelers have also reported problems bringing in high tech electronic devices and equipment, from toys to computers.


Computers, internet, and email: The military government carefully controls and monitors all Internet use in Burma. The government has made available a censored version of the Internet and has allowed several cyber cafes to open. However, access to the Internet is very expensive. It is illegal to own an unregistered modem in Burma, and tourists have had their laptop computers taken and held at the airport until their departure. Limited E-mail service is available at some large hotels. All e-mails are read by military intelligence. It is very expensive to send photographs via e-mail. One foreign visitor was presented a bill for 2,000.00 U.S. dollars after transmitting one photograph via a major hotel's e-mail system.


Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than those in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession or use of or trafficking in illegal drugs in Burma are strict, and convicted offenders can expect stiff jail terms, fines and even the death penalty.


Some foreigners have been denied even minimal rights in criminal proceedings in Burma, especially when suspected of engaging in political activity of any type. This includes, but is not limited to, denial of access to an attorney, to court records, and family and consular visits. The criminal justice system is controlled by the military junta, which orders maximum sentences for all offenses. Torture has been reported in Burmese jails, and in 2000, a foreigner was tortured so that he would surrender his personal possessions to his jailers.

Consular Access: U.S. consular officers do not always receive timely notification of the detention, arrest, or deportation of U.S. citizens. In addition, the Burmese government has on occasion refused to give Embassy consular officers access to arrested/detained U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens who are arrested or detained should request immediate contact with the U.S. Embassy. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry their U.S. passports with them at all times so that if questioned by local officials they have proof of identity and U.S. citizenship readily available.


Currency: Executive Order 13310, signed by President Bush on July 28, imposed a ban on the exportation of financial services to Burma. As of August 2003, Diners Club, American Express, and Visa announced that their credit cards would no longer be usable in Burma. Mastercard pulled out of Burma in 1998. Local banks and businesses have also stopped accepting U.S. traveler's checks. There are no automatic cash machines in the country to access currency from overseas and it is not possible to cash a personal check drawn on a foreign bank.


Although moneychangers sometimes approach travelers to offer to change dollars into Burmese kyat at the market rate, it is illegal to exchange currency except at authorized locations such as the airport, banks and government stores.


Foreigners are required to use U.S. dollars, other hard currency, or Foreign Exchange Certificates (FEC) for the payment of plane tickets, train tickets and most hotels. However, due to the growing gap in market value between the FEC and U.S. dollar, many hotels and other businesses will not accept FECs at par with dollars. Burmese kyat are accepted for nearly all transactions.

Photography: Photographing people in uniform or any military installation is prohibited by Burmese authorities and could lead to arrest or the confiscation of cameras and film. It is also advisable to avoid photographing power plants and bridges.


Telephone Services: Telephone services are poor in Rangoon and other major cities or non-existent in many areas. Calling the United States from Burma is difficult and expensive.


U.S. Treasury Sanctions: As of August 27, 2003, U.S. Treasury sanctions banned the import of goods from Burma into the United States. This ban includes Burmese-origin products, including such items as gifts, souvenirs, and items for personal use, even if carried in personal luggage. These sanctions also forbid the provision of financial services to Burma by U.S. citizens. These latest sanctions are part of a much larger U.S. sanctions regime for Burma, which includes a ban on new U.S. investment, among other measures. For specific information, contact the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) home page on the Internet at http://www.treas.gov/ofac, or via OFAC's Info-by-Fax service at 202-622-0077.


Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction issues, please refer to our Internet site at travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000. The OCS call center can answer general inquiries regarding international adoptions and will forward calls to the appropriate country officer in the Bureau of Consular Affairs. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.


Registration and Embassy Location: U.S. citizens living in or visiting Burma are encouraged to visit the U.S. Consular Section to register and obtain updated information on travel and security within the country, or visit our website at: http://rangoon.usembassy.gov. The Consular Section is located at 114 University Avenue, Rangoon; telephone (95-1) 538-036, 538-037, 538-038; fax: (95-1) 538-040; email: [email protected] The Consular Section is open for American Citizen Services from 8:00 am to 12:00 noon Monday through Friday, and 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm Monday through Thursday. The Embassy is closed on American and Burmese holidays. For after-hours emergencies please call 370-965. Please note that the Consular Section is not located at the U.S. Embassy. The Embassy is located at 581 Merchant Street, Rangoon, telephone (95-1) 379-880, 379-881, 370-963, 370-964, or 379-883 through 379-886; fax (95-1) 256-018.

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Burma

BURMA

Compiled from the December 2004 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Union of Burma


Editor's Note: The Burmese Government was dissolved on September 18, 1988 in a military coup and the nation was renamed Myanmar. The US does not presently recognize the current government of Myanmar and therefore continues to refer to the nation as Burma.



PROFILE

Geography

Area: 678,500 sq km. (about the size of Texas).

Cities: Capital—Rangoon (pop. 5.5 million), Mandalay (pop. 700,000).

Terrain: Central lowlands ringed by steep, rugged highlands.

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).

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Burmese.

Population: (official 2003 est.) 52.17 million (UNFPA estimate), but no official census has been taken since 1983.

Annual growth rate: (2003 est.) 0.47%.

Ethnic groups: Burman 68%, Shan 9%, Karen 7%, Arakanese 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.

Education: (1999 est.) Literacy—male 92.60%; female 91.02% (2003 official Government of Burma statistics); estimates of functional literacy are closer to 30%.

Health: (2001 est.) Infant mortality rate—77 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy—54.22 yrs.: male; 57.9 yrs. female.

Government

Type: Military junta.

Constitution: January 3, 1974 (suspended since September 18, 1988 when latest junta took power). A national convention started on January 9, 1993 to draft a new constitution, but collapsed in 1996 without an agreement. The junta reconvened the convention in May 2004 without the participation of the National League for Democracy and other pro-democracy ethnic groups. The convention adjourned in July 2004 and is scheduled to reconvene sometime in early 2005.

Branches: Executive—Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) Senior General Than Shwe is the head of state. Prime Minister Lt. Gen. Soe Win is the head of government. On October 19, 2004, former Prime Minister Khin Nyunt was ousted by the SPDC senior leadership and replaced by Soe Win. Legislative—unicameral People's Assembly (Pyithu Hluttaw) has 485 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve 4-year terms. The last elections were in 1990, but the Assembly was prevented from convening by the military. Judicial—Supreme Court. The legal system was based on the British-era system, but now the junta rules by Decree and there is no guarantee of a fair public trial; the judiciary is not independent.

Political parties: National League for Democracy (NLD) is the primary opposition party; National Unity Party (NUP) is the primary pro-regime party; the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) is a pro-regime social organization; and other smaller parties.

Administrative subdivisions: Seven primarily Burman divisions (tain) and seven ethnic states (pyi nay); Chin State, Kachin State, Karen State, Karenni State, Mon State, Arakan State, Shan State, Rangoon Division, Mandalay Division, Tenessarim Division, Irrawaddy Division, Pegu Division, Magway Division, and Sagaing Division.

Suffrage: Universal suffrage at 18 years of age (but there have been no elections since 1990).

Economy

GDP: (2004 est.) $11.7 billion (IMF figures).

Annual growth rate: actual rate is unknown, although the official 2003 rate was 13.4%.

GDP per capita: (2004 est.) $225.

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

Agriculture: Products—rice, pulses, beans, sesame, groundnuts, sugarcane, hardwood, fish and fish products.

Industries: Types—agricultural processing, knit and woven apparel, wood and wood products, copper, tin, tungsten, iron, construction materials, pharmaceuticals, and fertilizer.

Trade: (2003 est.) Exports—$2.6 billion (natural gas – 25.3%, teak and forest products 14.8%, garments 14.4%, beans and pulses 11.7%, and marine products 6.8%). Major markets—Thailand 39%, India 17%, P.R.C. 10.6%, Singapore 6.4%, and Japan 5.7%. Imports—$2.4 billion (machinery and transport equipment 20.2%, refined mineral oil 12.3%, base metals and manufactures 9.4%, artificial and synthetic fabrics 8.8%, and plastic 4.6%). Major suppliers—Singapore 28.8%, P.R.C. 21.4%, Japan 12%, Thailand 8.5%, and Malaysia 7%.


PEOPLE

A majority of Burma's estimated 52 million people are ethnic Burmans. Shans, Karens, Arakanese, Kachins, Chins, Mons, and many other smaller indigenous ethnic groups form about 30% of the population. Indians and Chinese are the largest immigrant groups.

Although Burmese is the most widely spoken language, other ethnic groups have retained their own languages. English is spoken in the capital Rangoon and in areas frequented by tourists. The Indian and Chinese residents speak various languages and dialects of their homelands: Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Bengali, Mandarin, Fujianese, and Cantonese.

According to the 1974 Constitution, Buddhism is the official religion of Burma. An estimated 89% of the population practices it. Other religions, Christian 4%—Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic 1%—Muslim 4%, and animist 1%, are less prevalent. Much of the population lives without basic sanitation or running water. In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked Burma among the lowest countries worldwide in health-care delivery to its citizens. High infant mortality rates and short life expectancies further highlight poor health and living conditions. The HIV/AIDS epidemic poses a serious threat to the Burmese population, as do tuberculosis and malaria. In 2004, the UNDP's Human Development Index, which measures achievements in terms of life expectancy, educational attainment and adjusted real income, ranked Burma 132 out of 177 countries.

There are numerous documented human rights violations, and internal displacement of ethnic minorities also is prevalent. Several million Burmese, many of them ethnic minorities, have fled for economic and political reasons to the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, India, China, and Thailand to seek work and asylum. More than 160,000 Burmese live in the nine refugee camps in Thailand and the two in Bangladesh while hundreds of thousands of other Burmese work and reside illegally in the countries in the region.


HISTORY

Burma was unified by Burman dynasties three times during the past millennium. The first such unification came with the foundation of the Pagan Dynasty in 1044 AD, which is considered the "Golden Age" in Burmese history. It is during this period that Theravada Buddhism first made its appearance in Burma, and the Pagan kings built a massive city with thousands of pagodas and monasteries along the Irrawaddy River. The Pagan Dynasty lasted until 1287 when a Mongol invasion destroyed the city. Ethnic Shan rulers, who established a political center at Ava, filled the ensuing political vacuum for a short time.

In the 15th century, the Toungoo Dynasty succeeded again in unifying under Burman rule a large, multiethnic kingdom. This dynasty, which lasted from 1486 until 1752, left little cultural legacy, but expanded the kingdom through conquest of the Shans. Internal power struggles, and the cost of protracted warfare, led to the eventual decline of the Toungoo.

The final Burman royal dynasty, the Konbaung, was established in 1752 under the rule of King Alaungpaya. Like the Toungoo Kings, the Konbaung rulers focused on warfare and conquest. Wars were fought with the ethnic Mons and Arakanese, and with the Siamese. The Burmese sacked the Siamese capital of Ayuthaya in 1767. This period also saw four invasions by the Chinese and three devastating wars with the British.

The British began their conquest of Burma in 1824, expanding their holdings after each of the three wars. At the end of the third war in 1885 the British gained complete control of Burma, annexing it to India. Under British control, which lasted until 1948, Burma underwent enormous change. The British established strong administrative institutions and reorganized the economy from subsistence farming to a large-scale export economy. By 1939 Burma had become the world's leading exporter of rice.

Burmese nationalists, led by General Aung San and 29 other "Comrades," joined the Japanese forces in driving out the British at the outbreak of World War II. However, the Burmese Army switched sides in mid-1945 and aided U.S. and British forces in their drive to Rangoon. After the war, the Burmese, with General Aung San at the helm, demanded complete political and economic independence from Britain. The British Government acceded to these demands. A constitution was completed in 1947 and independence granted in January 1948. General Aung San was assassinated with most of his cabinet before the constitution was put into effect. During the weak

constitutional period from 1948 to 1962 Burma suffered widespread conflict and internal struggle. Constitutional disputes and persistent division among political and social groups contributed to the democratic government's weak hold on power. In 1958, the military was invited in temporarily by Prime Minister U Nu to restore political order. The military stepped down after 18 months; however, in 1962 General Ne Win led a coup abolishing the constitution and establishing a xenophobic military government with socialist economic priorities. These policies had devastating effects on the country's economy and business climate.

In March 1988 student disturbances broke out in Rangoon in response to the worsening economic situation which evolved into a call for regime change. Despite repeated violent crackdowns by the military and police, the demonstrations increased in size as the general public joined the students. During mass demonstrations on August 8, 1988, military forces killed more than 1,000 demonstrators. It was at a rally following this massacre that Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of General Aung San, made her first political speech and assumed the role of leader of the opposition.

On September 18, 1988, the military deposed Ne Win's Burmese Socialist Program Party (BSPP), abolished the constitution, and established a new ruling junta called the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). In an effort to "restore order," the SLORC sent the army into the streets to suppress the ongoing public demonstrations. An estimated additional 3,000 were killed, and more than 10,000 students fled into the hills and border areas.

The SLORC ruled by martial law until national parliamentary elections were held on May 27, 1990. The results were an overwhelming victory for Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which won 392 of the 485 seats, even though she was under house arrest. However, the SLORC refused to call the Parliament into session and imprisoned many political activists.

The ruling junta changed its name to the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1997, but did not change its policy of autocratic control and repression of the democratic opposition. In 2000, the SPDC announced it would begin talks with the political opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been released once from house arrest in 1995, only to be detained once more. These talks were followed by the release of many political prisoners and some increase in political freedoms for Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD. On May 6, 2002, she was allowed to leave her home and subsequently traveled widely throughout the country. On May 30, 2003, Aung San Suu Kyi and a convoy of her supporters were attacked by a group of governmentaffiliated thugs. Many members of the convoy were killed or injured and others remain unaccounted for. Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of her party were detained, and the military government forcibly closed the offices of the NLD. Although NLD headquarters is open, all the party's other offices remain closed and Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD Vice Chairman U Tin Oo remain under house arrest.

On October 19, 2004, hard-line members of the senior leadership consolidated their power by ousting Prime Minister Khin Nyunt and removing him and his allies from control of the military intelligence apparatus. In late November 2004, the junta announced it would release approximately 9,000 prisoners it claimed had been improperly jailed by Khin Nyunt's National Intelligence Bureau. As of early December 2004, it was unclear how many of the 9,000 had actually been released. However, of those who have been released, fewer than 50 appear to have been prisoners held for their political beliefs. One of those released was Min Ko Naing, a key figure in the 1988 demonstrations.

The central government has had a contentious relationship with ethnic groups calling for autonomy or secession for their regions since the country's independence. In 1948, only the capital city itself was firmly in control of the Rangoon authorities. Subsequent military campaigns brought more and more of the nation under central government control. Since 1990, the regime has signed a series of cease-fire agreements with insurgent groups, leaving only a handful still in active opposition.


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

The Union of Burma (or Myanmar as it is called by the ruling junta) consists of 14 states and divisions. Administrative control is exercised from the central government at Rangoon through a system of subordinate executive bodies.

Power is centered on the ruling junta—the State Peace and Development Council, or SPDC—which maintains strict authoritarian rule over the people of Burma. The Prime Minister is appointed directly by the SPDC. Control is maintained through the strict censuring of information, repression of individual rights, and suppression of ethnic minority groups.

Today the SPDC continues its harsh rule and systematic human rights abuses. Any future political transition will have to be negotiated among the SPDC, the political opposition, and representatives of Burma's many ethnic minorities.

Although the SPDC changed the name of the country to "Myanmar," the democratically elected but not convened Parliament of 1990 does not recognize the name change, and the democratic opposition maintains use of the name "Burma." Due to consistent, unyielding support for the democratically elected leaders, the U.S. Government likewise uses "Burma."

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 12/13/04

Prime Minister: SOE WIN , Lt. Gen.
Chmn., State Peace and Development Council: THAN SHWE , Sr. Gen.
Vice Chmn., State Peace and Development Council: MAUNG AYE , Vice Sr. Gen.
Secretary 1, State Peace and Development Council: THEIN SEIN , Lt. Gen.
Secretary 2, State Peace and Development Council:
Min. for Agriculture & Irrigation: HTAY OO , Maj. Gen.
Min. of Commerce: TIN NAING THEIN , Brig. Gen.
Min. of Communications, Post, & Telegraph: THEIN ZAW , Brig. Gen.
Min. of Construction: SAW TUN , Maj. Gen.
Min. for Cooperatives: ZAW MIN , Col.
Min. of Culture: KYI AUNG , Maj. Gen.
Min. of Defense: THAN SHWE , Sr. Gen.
Min. of Education: THAN AUNG
Min. of Electric Power: TIN HTUT , Maj. Gen.
Min. of Energy: LUN THI , Brig. Gen.
Min. of Finance & Revenue: HLA TUN , Maj. Gen.
Min. of Foreign Affairs: NYAN WIN , Maj. Gen.
Min. of Forestry: THEIN AUNG , Brig. Gen.
Min. of Health: KYAW MYINT , Dr.
Min. of Home Affairs: MAUNG OO , Maj. Gen.
Min. of Hotels & Tourism: THEIN ZAW , Brig. Gen.
Min. of Immigration & Population: SEINHTWA , Maj. Gen.
Min. of Industry 1: AUNG THAUNG
Min. of Industry 2: SAW LWIN , Maj. Gen.
Min. of Information: KYAW HSAN , Brig. Gen.
Min. of Labor: THAUNG
Min. of Livestock Breeding, & Fisheries: MAUNG MAUNG THEIN , Brig. Gen.
Min. of Military Affairs: THIHA THURA TIN AUNG MYINT OO , Lt. Gen.
Min. of Mines: OHN MYINT , Brig. Gen.
Min. of National Planning & Economic Development: SOE THA
Min. of Progress of Border Areas, National Races, & Development Affairs: THEIN NYUNT , Col.
Min. of Rail Transport: AUNG MIN , Maj. Gen.
Min. of Religious Affairs: THURA MYINT MAUNG , Brig. Gen.
Min. of Science & Industry: THAUNG
Min. of Social Welfare, Relief, & Resettlement: SEIN HTWA , Maj. Gen.
Min. of Sports: THURA AYE MYINT , Brig. Gen.
Min. for Transport: THEIN SWE , Maj. Gen.
Min. in the Office of the Prime Min.: PYI SONE , Brig. Gen.
Min. in the Office of the Prime Min.: THAN SHWE
Governor, Central Bank of Burma: KYAW KYAW MAUNG
Ambassador to the US: LINN MYAING
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: KYAW TINT SWE

Burma maintains an embassy to the United States at 2300 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel.: (202) 332-9044; fax: (202) 332-9046.


ECONOMY

Burma is a resource-rich country with a strong agricultural base. It also has vast timber and fishery reserves and is a leading source of gems and jade. Tourist potential is great but remains undeveloped because of weak infrastructure and Burma's international image, which has been damaged by the junta's human rights abuses and oppression of the democratic opposition. The economy has been affected by U.S. sanctions, including 2003 bans on the importation of Burmese products into the U.S. and the export of financial services from the U.S. to Burma.

Long-term economic mismanagement under military rule has prevented the economy from developing in line with its potential. Burma experienced 26 years of socialist rule under the dictator, General Ne Win, from 1962-1987. In 1988 the economy collapsed, and pro-democracy demonstrators took to the streets. The military government violently put an end to the civil unrest and pledged to move toward a market-based economy. Although some aspects of economic policy have changed, the state remains heavily involved and additional, much needed reforms have not been forthcoming.

The regime's mismanagement of the economy has created a downward economic spiral. The vast majority of Burmese citizens now subsist on an average income that equates to about $225 per capita. Inflation, caused primarily by public sector deficit spending, stagnant wages, and the eroding value of the local currency (the kyat) have undermined living standards. The limited moves to a market economy have been accompanied by a significant rise in crony capitalism. A handful of companies loyal to the regime has benefited from policies that promote monopoly and privilege. Agriculture, light industry, and transport dominate the private sector of Burma's economy. State-controlled activity predominates in energy, heavy industry, and the rice trade. The military, through its commercial arms, also plays a major role in the economy.

Burma remains a primarily agricultural economy with 54% of GDP derived from agriculture, livestock and fisheries, and forestry. Manufacturing constitutes only 9% of recorded economic activity, and state industries continue to play a large role in that sector. Services constitute only 8% of GDP.

Foreign investment increased markedly in the early to mid-1990s, but has declined precipitously since 1999 due to the increasingly unfriendly business environment and mounting political pressure from Western consumers and shareholders. The government has tried hard to conserve foreign exchange by limiting imports and promoting exports. Published estimates of Burma's foreign trade (particularly on the import side) are greatly understated because of the volume of off-book, black-market, illicit, and unrecorded border trade.

In the near term, growth will continue to be constrained by poor government planning and minimal foreign investment. A number of other countries, including member states of the European Union, Canada, Australia, Japan, and Korea, have joined the United States in applying some form of sanctions against the regime.

Government economic statistics are unavailable or very unreliable. According to official figures, GDP growth has been over 10% annually since FY 1999-2000. However, the real numbers are likely much smaller. Burma's top export markets include Thailand, India, China, and Singapore. Burma's top export commodities include clothing, natural gas, wood and wood products, and fish and fish products.

Burma was the world's second-largest producer of illicit opium in 2003. Burma also has been the primary source of amphetamine-type stimulants in Asia, producing hundreds of millions of tablets annually. The Burmese Government has committed itself in recent years to expanded counternarcotics measures.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

During the Cold War, Burmese foreign policy was grounded in principles of neutrality, often tending toward xenophobia. Since 1988, however, Burma has been less xenophobic, attempting to strengthen regional ties. It now is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), and several other regional organizations and initiatives.

Burmese-Thai relations have been tainted by a long history of protracted border conflicts, sporadic hostilities over narcotics trafficking, Burmese insurgents operating along the Burmese-Thai border, and the large number of Burmese who cross the border to work illegally or claim refugee status. In fact, the Burmese Government closed the Burma-Thai border for several months during the summer of 2002. However, official and unofficial economic ties between the two nations are significant, and the current Thai and Burmese Governments seem eager to reach a new, more cooperative, level in their bilateral relations. Despite their often-contentious history, Burma and China have grown closer in recent years, though most Burmese remain suspicious of China's economic influence. China is quickly becoming Burma's most important partner, offering debt relief, economic development grants, and soft loans used for the construction of infrastructure and light industry. China also is purportedly Burma's major supplier of arms and munitions. Burma's ties with India are also growing.

In 2004, the junta continued to refuse requests by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's Envoy Razali Ismail and the UN Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Paulo Sergio Pinheiro to visit the country.

Burma is involved in the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) Program of Economic Cooperation in the Greater Mekong Subregion. As such, it participates in regional meetings and workshops supported by the ADB. Burma joined ASEAN in 1997, and has participated in that regional forum, even hosting a number of seminars, conferences, and ministerial meetings. Burma is scheduled to take over the rotating chairmanship of ASEAN in 2006. Due to difficulties in reforming its economic and trading system, Burma has requested extensions on compliance with the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA). As one of ASEAN's least developed members, Burma also has an extra five years (until 2008) to comply with most of AFTA's liberalization requirements. Burma also is a member of the World Trade Organization.

Most Western foreign aid ceased in the wake of the suppression of the democracy movement in 1988. The World Bank reports that aid now represents only about $2 per capita (compared with $53 per person in Laos and $33 per person in Cambodia). According to the United Nations, official development assistance totaled only $76 million in 2000. Burma receives grants of technical assistance (mostly from Asia), limited humanitarian aid and debt relief from Japan and China, and concessional loans from China and India.

Burma became a member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in 1952, the International Financial Corporation (IFC) in 1956, the International Development Association (IDA) in 1962, and the ADB in 1973. Since July 1987, the World Bank has not made any loans to Burma. Since 1998 Burma has been in non-accrual status with the Bank. The IMF performs its mandated annual Article IV consultations, but there are no IMF assistance programs. The ADB has not extended loans to Burma since 1986. Technical assistance ended in 1988. Burma has not paid its loan service payments to the ADB since January 1998. Burma's total foreign debt now stands at over $6 billion.


U.S.-BURMESE RELATIONS

The political relationship between the United States and Burma worsened after the 1988 military coup and violent suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations, and remains estranged.

The United States has imposed broad sanctions against Burma. Many of the sanctions in place are applied under several different legislative and policy vehicles. In 2003, the Congress adopted and the President signed into law the Burma Freedom and Democracy Act (BFDA), which includes a ban on imports from Burma, a ban on the export of financial services to Burma, a freeze on the assets of certain Burmese financial institutions and extended visa restrictions on Burmese officials. Congress renewed the BFDA in July 2004.

In addition, since May 1997, the U.S. Government has prohibited new investment by U.S. persons or entities. However, a number of U.S. companies exited the Burma market even prior to the imposition of sanctions due to a worsening business climate and mounting criticism from human rights groups, consumers, and some shareholders because of the Burmese Government's serious human rights abuses and lack of progress toward democracy. The United States has also imposed countermeasures on Burma due to its non-compliance with the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force on money laundering.

For its particularly severe violations of religious freedom, the United States has designated Burma a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act. The United States downgraded its level of representation in Burma from Ambassador to Chargé d'Affaires after the government's crackdown on the democratic opposition in 1988.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

RANGOON (E) Address: Rangoon, 581 Merchant St. (GPO 521); APO/FPO: Box B, APO AP 96546; Phone: (95)(1) 379880; Fax: 95-1-256-018; INMARSAT Tel: 383131573 or 383131574; Workweek: M-T 0800-1700 F: 0800-1200

AMB:Carmen Martinez
AMB OMS:Judy Groves
DCM:Ron McMullen
DCM OMS:Karen Heinrich
POL:Patrick Murphy
CON:Kerry Brougham
MGT:Laura Eppers
AFSA:William Brown III
CLO:Angela Shepherd
DAO:Mike Norton
DEA:Joseph Shepherd
ECO:Ben Wohlaeur
EEO:Judith Groves
FMO:James Wickersham
GSO:Thomas Favret
ICASS Chair:Deanna Merriman
IMO:Monte Marchant
IPO:Monte Marchant
ISO:James H. Johnson
ISSO:James H. Johnson
PAO:Mary Ellen Countryman
RSO:Alfred Vincent
State ICASS:Ben Wohlaeur
Last Updated: 10/1/2004

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

February 3, 2005

Country Description: Burma (Myanmar) is an underdeveloped, agrarian country ruled by an authoritarian military junta. The country's military government suppresses all expression of opposition to its rule. After a long period of isolation the country has begun to encourage tourism. Foreigners can expect to pay at least five times more than locals do for hotels, domestic airfare, and entry to tourist sites. Tourist facilities in Rangoon, Bagan, Ngapali Beach, Inle Lake, and Mandalay are adequate but are very limited in most of the rest of the country.

Please note that visitors should bring cash necessary to cover their expenses for the duration of their visit, since traveler's checks, credit cards, and ATM cards will not be honored in Burma.

Entry/Exit Requirements: The Government of Burma strictly controls travel to, from, and within Burma. A passport and visa are required. Travelers are required to show their passports with a valid visa at airports, train stations, and hotels. There are frequent security roadblocks on all roads, immigration checkpoints, and domestic air flights in Burma.

The military government rarely issues visas to journalists, and several journalists traveling to Burma on tourist visas have been denied entry. Journalists, and tourists mistaken for journalists, have been harassed. Some journalists have had film and notes confiscated upon leaving the country.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Information about entry requirements as well as other information may be obtained from the Embassy of the Union of Myanmar, 2300 S Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone 202-332-9044/6, website: http://www.mewashingtondc.com, or the Permanent Mission of Myanmar to the U.N. 10 East 77th St., New York, N.Y. 10021, (212-535-1311). Overseas inquiries may be made at the nearest embassy or consulate of Burma (Myanmar). See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Burma and other countries. See also Special Circumstances below.

Safety and Security: U.S. citizens have been detained, arrested, tried, and deported for, among other activities, distributing pro-democracy literature, photographing sites and activities, and visiting the homes and offices of Burmese pro-democracy leaders. Burmese authorities have warned U.S. Embassy officials that those who engage in similar activities in the future will be jailed rather than deported. Should an emergency arise involving the detention of a U.S. citizen, especially outside of Rangoon, it may be difficult for U.S. Embassy personnel to assist quickly, because travel inside Burma can be slow and difficult.

Burma previously experienced major political unrest in 1988 when the military regime jailed as well as killed thousands of Burmese democracy activists. In 1990, the military government refused to recognize the results of an election that the opposition won overwhelmingly. Burma experienced major demonstrations in 1996 and 1998. In May 2003, individuals affiliated with the Burmese government attacked a convoy carrying opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Sagaing Division. Dozens were killed or injured.

For the last decade, sporadic anti-government insurgent activity has occurred in various locations, such as an attack on a natural gas pipeline in the Tenasserim Division and bomb attacks against family members of senior military officials in Rangoon. Two small bombs exploded in downtown Rangoon in the spring of 2004. A similar event occurred in Rangoon a year earlier.

Ethnic insurgencies still smolder in regions along the Thai-Burma border and anti-personnel landmines pose a danger. Occasional fighting between government forces and various insurgent groups has occurred in Chin and Rakhine states and along the Thai-Burma border area in Burma's southern Shan, Mon, and Karen states. From time to time, the Thai government has closed the border with Burma due to increases in insurgent activity. In January 2005, a major regional law enforcement initiative aimed at dismantling the operations of Southeast Asia's largest narcotics trafficking organization, the United Wa State Army, was announced. At that time, the Burmese government stated that it could not guarantee the safety of foreign officials or personnel from non-governmental organizations traveling or working in Was Special Region 2 (eastern Shan State).

U.S. citizens traveling in Burma should exercise caution and check with the U.S. Embassy for an update on the current security situation. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry their U.S. passports or photocopies of passport data and photo pages at all times so that if questioned by Burmese officials, they have proof of U.S. citizenship readily available. Americans in Burma should avoid demonstrations, large public gatherings and any area cordoned off by security forces.

Security personnel may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance. Hotel rooms, telephones and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.

Up to date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

Crime: Crime rates in Burma, especially toward foreigners, appear to be lower than those of many other countries in the region. Nevertheless, because of the difficult economic situation in Burma, the potential exists for an increase in street crime. Violent crime against foreigners is rare.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. See our information on Victims of Crime at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/emergencies/emergencies_1748.html.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Medical facilities in Burma are inadequate for even routine medical care. There are few trained medical personnel. Most foreign drugs on sale have been smuggled into the country, and are often counterfeit or adulterated and thus unsafe to use. HIV/AIDS is widespread among high-risk populations such as prostitutes and illegal drug users. Malaria, as well as tuberculosis, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases are endemic in most parts of the country. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at: http://www.cdc.gov/. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Burma is provided for general reference only, and may not be accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Rangoon's main roads are generally in fair condition. Traffic in the capital is increasing rapidly, but serious congestion is still uncommon. Some roads are in serious disrepair. Slowmoving vehicles, bicycles, animals, and heavy pedestrian traffic create numerous hazards for drivers on Rangoon's streets. Drivers must remain extremely alert to avoid hitting pedestrians, who do not fully appreciate the risks they take in walking and darting into traffic.

Most roads outside of Rangoon are one lane and a half, potholed, often unpaved, and unlit at night. Truck drivers traversing from China to Rangoon are known to drive under the influence of methamphetaminespiked betel nuts. Drunken and/or drugged drivers are common on the roads during the four-day Buddhist water festival in early spring.

Driving at night is dangerous. Few, if any, streets are adequately lit. Most Burmese drivers do not turn on their headlights until the sky is completely dark; many do not use headlights at all. Many people ride bicycles that have no lights or reflectors.

Vehicles are required to drive on the right side, as in the United States. However, over 80% of the vehicles have the steering wheel on the right. The speed limit in the area of schools is posted at 48 kph, or about 30 mph. No other speed limits are posted in Burma. The "right of way" concept is generally respected, but military convoys and motorcades always have precedence.

Most vehicle accidents are settled between the parties with the party at fault paying the damages. Accidents that require an investigation are concluded quickly and rarely result in criminal prosecution. There is no roadside assistance, and ambulances are not available. Vehicles generally don't have seat belts. Child car seats are also not available.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Burma, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Burma's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

Due to serious safety concerns regarding state-owned Myanmar Airways, including two fatal air crashes in 1998, the U.S. Embassy has advised its employees to avoid travel on this carrier whenever possible.

Foreigner Travel Within Burma: Burmese authorities require that hotels and guesthouses furnish information about the identities and activities of their foreign guests. Burmese who interact with foreigners may be compelled to report on those interactions to the Burmese government. Travelers must assume their actions are being closely monitored, particularly in hotel lobbies and rooms, when meeting Burmese citizens, and when using the telephone.

Travelers are not generally required to obtain advance permission to travel to the main tourist areas of Bagan, Inle Lake, Ngapali and other beach resorts, and the Mandalay area. However, some tourists traveling to places where permission is not expressly required have reported delays due to questioning by local security personnel. Additionally, the military government restricts access to some areas of the country on an ad hoc basis, and recently stated it could not guarantee the safety of foreigners traveling in eastern Shan State (also known as Wa territory or Special Region 2). Those planning to travel in Burma should check with Burmese tourism authorities to see if travel to specific destinations is permitted. Even if travel is allowed, it may not be safe.

Customs Regulations: Customs regulations are restrictive and strictly enforced, including on items such as, firearms, religious materials, antiquities, medications, business equipment, currency restrictions, ivory, and others. Travelers have reported that customs authorities closely searched their luggage upon arrival and departure. It is illegal to take many items, including antiques, out of Burma. Foreigners have been detained, searched and imprisoned for attempting to take Burmese gems out of the country. Customs officials also strictly limit what is brought into the country, including pornography and political material critical of the regime or supportive of the opposition.

The military government restricts access to outside information. Newspapers are censored for articles unfavorable to the military government. Any publications that could be viewed as pro-democracy and/or antijunta will be confiscated. Travelers have also reported problems bringing in high tech electronic devices and equipment, from toys to computers. However, the military government has not provided a complete listing of prohibited imports. For information on restricted items, it is best to consult the nearest Embassy of the Union of Myanmar.

It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the Union of Myanmar in Washington or Burma's Mission in New York for specific information regarding customs requirements. In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.

Computers, Internet, and E-mail: The military government carefully controls and monitors all Internet use in Burma. The government has made available a censored version of the Internet and has allowed several cyber cafes to open. However, access to the Internet is very expensive, and the government prohibits access to most "free" international e-mail services. It is illegal to own an unregistered modem in Burma. Tourists may bring in one laptop computer per person and must declare it upon arrival. Limited e-mail service is available at some large hotels. All e-mails are read by military intelligence. It is very expensive to send photographs via e-mail. One foreign visitor was presented a bill for 2,000.00 U.S. dollars after transmitting one photograph via a major hotel's e-mail system.

Consular Access: U.S. consular officers do not always receive timely notification of the detention, arrest, or deportation of U.S. citizens. In addition, the Burmese government has on occasion refused to give Embassy consular officers access to arrested/detained U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens who are arrested or detained should request immediate contact with the U.S. Embassy. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry their U.S. passports with them at all times so that if questioned by local officials they have proof of identity and U.S. citizenship readily available.

Currency: Executive Order 13310, signed by President Bush on July 28, 2003 imposed a ban on the exportation of financial services to Burma. Traveler's checks, credit cards, and ATM cards are not honored in Burma. Although moneychangers sometimes approach travelers to offer to change dollars into Burmese kyat at the market rate, it is illegal to exchange currency except at authorized locations such as the airport, banks and government stores.

Foreigners are required to use U.S. dollars, other hard currency, or Foreign Exchange Certificates (FEC) for the payment of plane tickets, train tickets and most hotels. Burmese kyat is accepted for nearly all transactions.

Photography: Photographing people in uniform or any military installation is prohibited by Burmese authorities and could lead to arrest or the confiscation of cameras and film. It is also advisable to avoid photographing power plants and bridges.

Telephone Services: Telephone services are poor in Rangoon and other major cities or non-existent in many areas. Calling the United States from Burma is difficult and expensive.

U.S. Treasury Sanctions: As of August 27, 2003, U.S. Treasury sanctions ban the import of almost all goods from Burma into the United States. This ban includes Burmeseorigin products, including such items as gifts, souvenirs, and items for personal use, even if carried in personal luggage. These latest sanctions are part of a much larger U.S. sanctions regime for Burma, which includes a ban on new U.S. investment, among other measures.

For specific information, contact the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) home page on the Internet at http://www.treas.gov/ofac or via OFAC's Info-by-Fax service at 202-622-0077.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Burmese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Burma are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Some foreigners have been denied even minimal rights in criminal proceedings in Burma, especially when suspected of engaging in political activity of any type. This includes, but is not limited to, denial of access to an attorney, to court records, and family and consular visits. The criminal justice system is controlled by the military junta, which orders maximum sentences for all offenses. Torture has been reported in Burmese jails, and in 2000, a foreigner was tortured so that he would surrender his personal possessions to his jailers.

Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Locations: U.S. citizens living in or visiting Burma are encouraged to visit the U.S. Consular Section to register and obtain updated information on travel and security within the country. The Consular Section is located at 114 University Avenue, Rangoon; telephone (95-1) 538-036, 538-037, or 538-038; e-mail [email protected]; or website: http://rangoon.usembassy.gov. Please note that the Consular Section is not located at the U.S. Embassy. The Embassy is located at 581 Merchant Street, Rangoon, telephone 95-1) 379-880 and (95-1) 379-883; fax (95-1) 379-883. The after-hours emergency number is (95-1) 370-965.

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Burma

BURMA

BURMA Characterized by its riverine system and the river valleys of the Salween, Sittang, and, especially, the Irrawaddy, Burma is a country of villages with few large cities. The Burmese people, ethnically related to the Tibetans and the Chinese, are some 70 percent of the estimated population of 43 million in 2005. There are a large number of hill tribes with their own languages and customs. They include Chins, Kachins, Karens, Lahus, Nagas, and the Shans, who organized a Shan State National Army to fight for independence. The country is rich in such products as copper, tin, silver, tungsten, and precious stones, and in rice, rubber, cotton, and teak. Hinduism and Buddhism, via Sri Lanka, came to Burma and mixed with local animistic practices. Ninety percent of the people are Buddhist, 4 percent are Christian, 4 percent are Muslim, and 3 percent are animist. Chinese people make up 3 percent and Indians 2 percent of the population. Since 1989 the military government has called Burma the Union of Myanmar (or Myanmar Naingandaw, "country of Myanmar"). The capital, Rangoon, is known as Yangon. The literacy rate is claimed to be about 80 percent for females and 90 percent for males. The currency is the kyat. Burma is the world's second-largest producer of illicit opium.

British Colonial Period

The Toungoo dynasty (1531–1752) came to an end as Alaungpaya (r. 1752–1760) established the Konbaung dynasty, the last dynasty in Burmese history, which, with its capital at Rangoon, was of an imperialistic nature; it attacked Thailand and conquered Arakan. Arakenese refugees fled to India. In 1819 King Bodawpaya (r. 1782–1819) expanded into Manipur and Assam, frontier territories for India, triggering alarm from the British, who were apprehensive about the security of India on both its northeast and northwest frontiers and across the Bay of Bengal in Malaya and the Indian Ocean in south and east Africa. In addition, warlike tribes from both sides of the border were not averse to raiding in each other's territories, creating unsettled conditions. There was also great concern about the conditions of investment and trade for British traders in Burma, who felt they were badly treated by the Burmese. Cultural practices also embittered relationships between the British and the Burmese. The British resented the Burmese custom of removing their shoes before entering the royal palace and flatly refused to do so. This angered the Burmese, as proud a people as the British. Before Hong Kong became a British territory, there was hope that a lucrative trade with China would develop through Burma. Finally, the British were wary of diplomatic and economic competition from the French, who were based in Vietnam. All these factors impelled the British to an increasingly interventionist position in Burma and the absorption of Burma into the empire through three Anglo-Burmese Wars.

The First Anglo-Burmese War broke out in March 1824 after King Bagyidaw (r. 1819–1837) invaded Manipur and annexed Assam. The British pushed 10,000 troops, led by steam-powered gunboats, up to the Burmese capital of Mandalay. The Burmese were forced to sign the Treaty of Yandabo on 24 February 1826 with a number of humiliating conditions, including a £1 million indemnity; the control of Arakan and Tenasserim ceded to the British East India Company; the promise not to interfere in Assam, Manipur, and Cachar; and the stationing of an ambassador in Calcutta and a British Resident at Ava. These conditions, however, did not appease the insatiable Victorian appetite for wealth and power, not to mention missionary impulses for greater freedom to proselytize. The cassus belli for the Second Burmese War in 1852–1853, however, was conflict between British traders and the Burmese governor of Rangoon. The result was British annexation of Pegu province, which they renamed "Lower Burma," the deposition of the king, Pagan (r. 1846–1853), and control of Burma's access to the sea.

King Mindon (r. 1853–1878) was a modernist, reforming king who introduced in his new capital of Mandalay a measure of industrialization and economic development and the creation of coinage, newspapers, and the building of the telegraph. However, he also attempted to establish diplomatic and trade relations with France, angering the British, who were in competition with the French for influence in neighboring Thailand. His successor King Thibaw (r. 1878–1885) imposed a heavy fine on the Bombay-Burmah Trading Company for its failure to pay for all the teak they had extracted from Burma. His biggest crime in the eyes of the British, however, was his opening of diplomatic negotiations with the French. This was the justification for an attack in November 1885. The conquest of Burma took twenty days. It was absorbed on 1 January 1886 and was ruled from Calcutta as a province of India. Thibaw was exiled to India, his throne was placed in a museum in Calcutta, and his palace in Mandalay became a British officers' club.

The British brought a modern administrative and police system to the country and its economy was brought into the global system of finance and trade. Rangoon, rather than Mandalay, became the nation's center. The British also transformed Burma with the clearing of swampland in the south and the creation of a new non-hereditary, urban, Western-educated elite landlord class (the University of Rangoon was founded in 1920), who acquired more and more land as small owner-cultivators fell into debt and lost their land to larger, often absentee, landlords and investors. Indian moneylenders and Chinese businessmen moved into Burma to provide the credit for this growing market-driven economy. The effect was devastating, as the British attempted to introduce the Indian system of village government and taxation. It was alien to Burma and led to social deterioration and cultural disintegration. The deplorable condition of Burma under the British is famously and realistically depicted in George Orwell's novel, Burmese Days. A resistance movement led by monks and ex-monks developed. Until 1942, Burma was under martial law in one form or another, with as many as 40,000 army and police in the field at one time.

Burma's nationalist movement

The Young Men's Buddhist Association was established in 1906. It was a modernist organization concerned with cultural and religious revival but became increasingly political and nationalistic during the next decade. In 1909, when the British introduced the Minto-Morley Act, Burma was given a Legislative Council with a nonofficial majority. The country was excluded from the reforms of the Government of India Act of 1919, but the uproar was so great that the British introduced the Indian system of dyarchy in 1923, and Burma received five seats in the Indian Legislative Assembly in Delhi. Fifty percent of the recruits to the Burmese civil service were also reserved for the Burmese. A peasant rebellion was led by former monk Saya San, originally Ya Gyaw (1874–1931), who crowned himself king of Burma in 1930. His Galon Army tried to resist British machine guns with amulets and charms. It was snuffed out after two years. Saya San was captured, tried for sedition, and hanged, but his trial and death were rallying cries for nationalists. Also in 1930, a nationalist organization the Dobama Asiayone (We Burmese Association) was founded by a group of students who were graduates of the University of Rangoon. They called themselves Thakin (Master) and they, most notably Aung San (1915–1947), became the leaders of the nationalist movement in 1936. In the Government of India Act of 1935, Burma was separated from India and received a fully elected assembly.

When World War II broke out, Aung San fled to China and came into contact with the Japanese, who took him and twenty-nine others, the "Thirty Comrades," to Japan for military training in their Burma National Army. By May 1942 the Japanese had captured all of Burma, and the British retreated to Imphal in India. The Burma National Army was disbanded and the Japanese formed a smaller Burma Defense Force, still with Aung San as its head. A civil administration was set up by Ba Maw (1893–1977) and on 1 August 1943, Burma was declared an independent state. Aung San became the war minister and U Nu (1907–1995) foreign affairs minister. The Burma National Army was formed by Ne Win ("Brilliant as the Sun"), born Shu Maung (1911–2002), in 1943 and later, in March 1945, was led by Aung San. Aung San also formed the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League (AFPFL), which was recognized as the leading organization in Burma. The Japanese retreated in May 1945, and in October 1946 Aung San and his allies were appointed to the Governor's Council. In the general elections that followed, Aung San and his party received an overwhelming victory for his proposal for the Union of Burma. In September 1946 he headed a provisional government and reached an agreement with British prime minister Clement Attlee on 27 January 1947 that Burma would become independent. On 19 July 1947, he and six of his colleagues were murdered at a Cabinet meeting. U Nu then headed the government, and on 17 October 1947 he signed a treaty with the British, under which Burma would become independent on 4 January 1948.

Independent Burma

A western parliamentary system was created, with separate states for the Shan, Kachin, Karen, and Kayah, and a division for the Chin peoples. Burma was one of the first states to recognize the People's Republic of China in 1949, and it declined to become a member of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization in 1954. In October 1958, U Nu resigned in favor of General Ne Win, who had remained in the army after the war and had built a loyal following in the 4th Burmese Rifles. U Nu, however, was allowed back as prime minister in April 1960 after general elections swept his "Clean Wing" section, later named "Union Party," of the AFPFL into power. However, on 2 March 1962, Ne Win and the military arrested U Nu and assumed power in an anticommunist Revolutionary Council whose policies were outlined in a manifesto, The Burmese Way to Socialism, published on 3 April 1962. Its guiding principle was an isolationist "Burma for the Burmese." Private enterprise was abolished, enterprises were nationalized, and thousands of Indians and other foreigners were expelled from Burma. All political parties were banned in March 1964, and their leaders arrested and imprisoned, except for the sole legal party, the Burma Socialist Program Party, which had been founded by Ne Win on 4 July 1962. Its power was enshrined in the new constitution of 2 March 1974. This began the military domination of every aspect of Burmese life.

Between 1962 and 1988, Ne Win dominated Burma as military ruler until 1972, as president until 1981, and as party leader until 1988. He withstood the antigovernment demonstrations in 1974 that broke out at the funeral of the former United Nations secretary-general U Thant (1909–1974) who was a symbol of opposition to the military regime. In 1986 and again in 1988 widespread demonstrations against the government led to the death of tens of thousands of protesters. On 18 September 1988, the army seized power and formed the State Law and Order Restoration Council, six days before Aung San Suu Kyi (b. 1945), the daughter of Aung San (and the future 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient for her fight for human rights in Burma), who had lived outside the country between 1960 and 1988, became the general secretary of the National League for Democracy. In 1987 Burma sought relief from its massive foreign debt and received Least Developed Nation status from the United Nations. On 27 May 1990, multiparty elections were held for the 485-seat unicameral People's Assembly, and the National League for Democracy won a landslide victory, but the military refused to relinquish power. Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest from 1989 to 1995, 2000 to 2002, and from 2003. Since 3 March 1992, Burma has been subject to annual reports written by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights concerning the lack of human rights for many of Burma's citizens, and in April 1998 Amnesty International published a major report on human rights violations in Burma. The United Nations, the European Union, the International Labor Organization, and the U.S. government have all condemned the Burmese government. The material, health, and environmental conditions of the people continue to worsen, with a quarter of Burma's people believed to living below the poverty line in a land blessed with abundant natural resources.

Roger D. Long

See alsoSoutheast Asia, Relations with

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Seekins, Donald M. The Army-State in Burma since 1962. Bangkok: White Lotus Press, 2002.

Steinberg, David I. Burma: The State of Myanmar. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2001.

Tarling, Nicholas, ed. The Cambridge History of Southeast Asia, vol. 2, pts. 1–2. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Tucker, Shelby. Burma: The Curse of Independence. London: Pluto Press, 2001.

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