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Republic of the Union of Myanmar

ပြည်ထောင်စု သမ္မတ မြန်မာနိုင်ငံတော်
Flag of Burma
Flag
{{{coat_alt}}}
State seal
Anthem: Kaba Ma Kyei
Till the End of the World
Location of  Myanmar  (green)in ASEAN  (dark grey)  —  [Legend]
Location of  Myanmar  (green)

in ASEAN  (dark grey)  —  [Legend]

Capital Naypyidawa
Largest city Yangon (Rangoon)
Official languages Burmese
Recognised regional languages
  • Jingpho
  • Kayah
  • Karen
  • Chin
  • Mon
  • Rakhine
  • Shan
Official scripts Burmese script
Ethnic groups
  • 68% Bamar
  • 9% Shan
  • 7% Karen
  • 4% Rakhine
  • 3% Chinese
  • 2% Indian
  • 2% Mon
  • 5% other
Demonym(s) Burmese / Myanma
Government Unitary presidential constitutional republic
• President
Win Myint
Area
• Total
676,578 km2 (261,228 sq mi) (40th)
• Water (%)
3.06
Population
• Estimate
60,280,000
ISO 3166 code MM

Myanmar is a country in South East Asia. Its full name is the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. It is also sometimes called Burma. Myanmar is the largest country in South East Asia that is not an island. It is also part of South Asia.

It is bordered by China on the north, Laos on the east, Thailand on the southeast, Bangladesh on the west, and the India on the northwest, with the Andaman Sea to the south, and the Bay of Bengal to the southwest. There are over 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) of coast line.

Government

The country was ruled by a military junta led by General Ne Win from 1962 to 1988. Its political system today stays under the tight control of its military government. In 1992, Senior General Than Shwe began ruling the country. In 2016 Htin Kyaw became the first elected civilian leader. Aung San Suu Kyi, who is prevented from becoming President by the constitution of Myanmar, will act as an advisor to Kyaw.

In March 2018, Win Myint became the country's tenth and current President.

Origin and history of the name

In 1989, the military junta officially changed the English version of its name from Burma to Myanmar. It also made a new name in English for places in the country, such as its former capital city, from Rangoon to Yangon. The official name of the country in the Burmese language, Myanma did not change, however. The renaming was controversial, seen by some as linguistically bad. Accepting the name change in the English-speaking world has been slow, with many people still using the name Burma to refer to the country. Major news organizations like the BBC still call it Burma. Some question the military junta's authority to "officially" change the name in English in the first place. Aung San Suu Kyi, however, calls the country Myanmar now.

History

British forces arrival mandalay1885
The landing of British forces in Mandalay after the last of the Anglo-Burmese Wars, which resulted in the abdication of the last Burmese monarch, King Thibaw Min.

Myanmar had a strong kingdom in ancient times, but the nation was taken over by the British in the 1800s. It was occupied by the Empire of Japan in the 1940s. Myanmar became independent in 1948 as the Union of Burma, and had a democratic government at first. However, in 1962, a coup d'état brought the military into power, where it has been ever since. The founder of modern Myanmar, Aung San was assassinated months before independence. His daughter Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest many times for leading the democracy movement.

In 1991, the military junta agreed to democratic elections, which were won by the National League for Democracy, and should have made Aung San Suu Kyi the Prime Minister. However, the dictatorship ignored the results of the elections and continued ruling. In November 2005, the military government stated that the national capital would be moved from Yangon to a location near Pyinmana, which was renamed Naypyidaw in March 2006.

Since independence in 1948 and the assassination of Aung San Burma has had civil wars between its governments and minority ethnic groups like the Kachin, Karen, Shan and others. These conflicts are known as the Internal conflict in Burma.

National symbols of Myanmar

Land

Downtown Yangon (2006)
Downtown Yangon
Mandalay, Myanmar
Mandalay, Myanmar
Bago, Myanmar (15168477180)
Bago

Today, there are 14 sections. 7 are called states and the other 7 are called divisions.

The divisions are split into townships. The townships are divided into villages and wards.

Largest cities of Myanmar

  • Yangon - Population: 5,211,431
  • Bago, Burma - Population: 491,434
  • Hpa-An - Population: 421,575
  • Taunggyi - Population: 381,636
  • Monywa - Population: 372,095
  • Myitkyina - Population: 306,949
  • Mawlamyine - Population: 289,388
  • Magway, Burma - Population: 289,247

Culture

Burmese Ramayana dance
Burmese Kinnayi Kinnaya dance

A diverse range of indigenous cultures exist in Myanmar, the majority culture is primarily Buddhist and Bamar. Bamar culture has been influenced by the cultures of neighbouring countries. This is manifested in its language, cuisine, music, dance and theatre. The arts, particularly literature, have historically been influenced by the local form of Theravada Buddhism. Considered the national epic of Myanmar, the Yama Zatdaw, an adaptation of India's Ramayana, has been influenced greatly by Thai, Mon, and Indian versions of the play. Buddhism is practised along with nat worship, which involves elaborate rituals to propitiate one from a pantheon of 37 nats.

Myanmar Traditional novitiation march
A Buddhist Shinbyu ceremony in Mandalay.

In a traditional village, the monastery is the centre of cultural life. Monks are venerated and supported by the lay people. A novitiation ceremony called shinbyu is the most important coming of age events for a boy, during which he enters the monastery for a short time. All male children in Buddhist families are encouraged to be a novice (beginner for Buddhism) before the age of twenty and to be a monk after the age of twenty. Girls have ear-piercing ceremonies at the same time. Burmese culture is most evident in villages where local festivals are held throughout the year, the most important being the pagoda festival. Many villages have a guardian nat, and superstition and taboos are commonplace.

Rakhine Thingyan 2011
An Arakan (Rakhine) girl pours water at revellers during the Burmese New Year Thingyan Water Festival in Yangon.

British colonial rule introduced Western elements of culture to Myanmar. Myanmar's education system is modelled after that of the United Kingdom.

Colonial architectural influences are most evident in major cities such as Yangon. Many ethnic minorities, particularly the Karen in the southeast and the Kachin and Chin who populate the north and northeast, practice Christianity.

Cuisine

Burmese cuisine is characterised by extensive use of fish products such as fish sauce, ngapi (fermented seafood) and dried prawn.

Mohinga is the traditional breakfast dish and is Myanmar's national dish. Seafood is a common ingredient in coastal cities such as Sittwe, Kyaukpyu, Mawlamyaing (formerly Moulmein), Mergui (Myeik) and Dawei, while meat and poultry are more commonly used in landlocked cities like Mandalay. Freshwater fish and shrimp have been incorporated into inland cooking as a primary source of protein and are used in a variety of ways, fresh, salted whole or filleted, salted and dried, made into a salty paste, or fermented sour and pressed.

Burmese cuisine also includes a variety of salads (a thoke), centred on one major ingredient, ranging from starches like rice, wheat and rice noodles, glass noodles and vermicelli, to potato, ginger, tomato, kaffir lime, long bean, lahpet (pickled tea leaves), and ngapi (fish paste).

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Myanmar Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.