Union of Burma
Area: 678,500 sq. km. (slightly smaller than Texas).
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 (December to April).
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Burmese.
Population: 48.8 million (IMF, 2008); no official census has been taken since 1983.
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.
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. (Keep Reading)
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The Union of Burma is ruled by a military junta that currently calls itself the "State Peace and Development Council" (SPDC). 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." Out of support for the democratically elected leaders, the U.S. Government likewise uses "Burma." (Keep Reading)
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 economic 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. Australia, Canada, and the EU also imposed additional economic sanctions on the Burmese regime. (Keep Reading)
The political relationship between the United States and Burma worsened after the 1988 military coup and violent suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations. Subsequent regime repression, including the brutal crackdown on peaceful protestors in September 2007, further strained the relationship. (Keep Reading)
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program advises Americans traveling and residing abroad through Country Specific Information, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings. Country Specific Information exists for all countries and includes information on entry and exit requirements, currency regulations, health conditions, safety and security, crime, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. Travel Alerts are issued to disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas that pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel to a certain country because the situation is dangerous or unstable. (Keep Reading)