Facts about Burma

World Facts Index

BurmaBritain conquered Burma over a period of 62 years (1824-1886) and incorporated it into its Indian Empire. Burma was administered as a province of India until 1937 when it became a separate, self-governing colony; independence from the Commonwealth was attained in 1948. Gen. NE WIN dominated the government from 1962 to 1988, first as military ruler, then as self-appointed president, and later as political kingpin. Despite multiparty legislative elections in 1990 that resulted in the main opposition party - the National League for Democracy (NLD) - winning a landslide victory, the ruling junta refused to hand over power. NLD leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient AUNG SAN SUU KYI, who was under house arrest from 1989 to 1995 and 2000 to 2002, was imprisoned in May 2003 and subsequently transferred to house arrest. After Burma's ruling junta in August 2007 unexpectedly increased fuel prices, tens of thousands of Burmese marched in protest, led by prodemocracy activists and Buddhist monks. In late September 2007, the government brutally suppressed the protests, killing at least 13 people and arresting thousands for participating in the demonstrations. Since then, the regime has continued to raid homes and monasteries and arrest persons suspected of participating in the pro-democracy protests. The junta appointed Labor Minister AUNG KYI in October 2007 as liaison to AUNG SAN SUU KYI, who remains under house arrest and virtually incommunicado with her party and supporters.

Geography of Burma

Southeastern Asia, bordering the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, between Bangladesh and Thailand
22 00 N, 98 00 E
total: 678,500 sq km
land: 657,740 sq km
water: 20,760 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly smaller than Texas
Land boundaries:
total: 5,876 km
border countries: Bangladesh 193 km, China 2,185 km, India 1,463 km, Laos 235 km, Thailand 1,800 km
1,930 km
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
continental shelf: 200 NM or to the edge of the continental margin
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
tropical monsoon; cloudy, rainy, hot, humid summers (southwest monsoon, June to September); less cloudy, scant rainfall, mild temperatures, lower humidity during winter (northeast monsoon, December to April)
central lowlands ringed by steep, rugged highlands
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Andaman Sea 0 m
highest point: Hkakabo Razi 5,881 m
Natural resources:
petroleum, timber, tin, antimony, zinc, copper, tungsten, lead, coal, some marble, limestone, precious stones, natural gas, hydropower
Natural hazards:
destructive earthquakes and cyclones; flooding and landslides common during rainy season (June to September); periodic droughts
Environment - current issues:
deforestation; industrial pollution of air, soil, and water; inadequate sanitation and water treatment contribute to disease
Geography - note:
strategic location near major Indian Ocean shipping lanes

Population of Burma

47,758,180 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 26.4% (male 6,335,236/female 6,181,216)
15-64 years: 68.5% (male 16,011,723/female 16,449,626)
65 years and over: 5.1% (male 1,035,853/female 1,368,979)
Median age:
27 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
61.85 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 60.97 years
male: 58.07 years
female: 64.03 years
Total fertility rate:
1.98 children born/woman
noun: Burmese (singular and plural)
adjective: Burmese
Ethnic groups:
Burman 68%, Shan 9%, Karen 7%, Rakhine 4%, Chinese 3%, Indian 2%, Mon 2%, other 5%
Buddhist 89%, Christian 4% (Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic 1%), Muslim 4%, animist 1%, other 2%
Burmese, minority ethnic groups have their own languages
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 85.3%
male: 89.2%
female: 81.4%


Country name:
conventional long form: Union of Burma
local short form: Myanma Naingngandaw
local long form: Pyidaungzu Myanma Naingngandaw (translated by the US Government as Union of Myanma and by the Burmese as Union of Myanmar)
former: Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma
note: since 1989 the military authorities in Burma have promoted the name Myanmar as a conventional name for their state; this decision was not approved by any sitting legislature in Burma, and the US Government did not adopt the name, which is a derivative of the Burmese short-form name Myanma Naingngandaw
Government type:
military junta
Rangoon (regime refers to the capital as Yangon)
Administrative divisions:
7 divisions* (taing-myar, singular - taing) and 7 states (pyi ne-myar, singular - pyi ne); Chin State, Ayeyarwady*, Bago*, Kachin State, Kayin State, Kayah State, Magway*, Mandalay*, Mon State, Rakhine State, Sagaing*, Shan State, Tanintharyi*, Yangon*
4 January 1948 (from UK)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 4 January (1948)
3 January 1974 (suspended since 18 September 1988); national convention started on 9 January 1993 to draft a new constitution; progress has since been stalled
Legal system:
has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) Sr. Gen. THAN SHWE (since 23 April 1992)
head of government: Prime Minister, Lt. Gen THEIN SEIN (since 24 October 2007)
cabinet: Cabinet is overseen by SPDC; military junta assumed power 18 September 1988 under name State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC)
Legislative branch:
unicameral People's Assembly or Pyithu Hluttaw (485 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
Judicial branch:
remnants of the British-era legal system are in place, but there is no guarantee of a fair public trial; the judiciary is not independent of the executive


Burma, a resource-rich country, suffers from pervasive government controls, inefficient economic policies, and rural poverty. The junta took steps in the early 1990s to liberalize the economy after decades of failure under the "Burmese Way to Socialism," but those efforts stalled, and some of the liberalization measures were rescinded. Despite Burma's increasing oil and gas revenue, socio-economic conditions have deteriorated due to the regime's mismanagement of the economy. Lacking monetary or fiscal stability, the economy suffers from serious macroeconomic imbalances - including rising inflation, fiscal deficits, multiple official exchange rates that overvalue the Burmese kyat, a distorted interest rate regime, unreliable statistics, and an inability to reconcile national accounts to determine a realistic GDP figure. Most overseas development assistance ceased after the junta began to suppress the democracy movement in 1988 and subsequently refused to honor the results of the 1990 legislative elections. In response to the government of Burma's attack in May 2003 on AUNG SAN SUU KYI and her convoy, the US imposed new economic sanctions in August 2003 including a ban on imports of Burmese products and a ban on provision of financial services by US persons. Further, a poor investment climate hampers attracting outside investment slowing the inflow of foreign exchange. The most productive sectors will continue to be in extractive industries, especially oil and gas, mining, and timber with the latter especially causing environmental degradation. Other areas, such as manufacturing and services, are struggling with inadequate infrastructure, unpredictable import/export policies, deteriorating health and education systems, and endemic corruption. A major banking crisis in 2003 shuttered the country's 20 private banks and disrupted the economy. As of 2007, the largest private banks operated under tight restrictions limiting the private sector's access to formal credit. Moreover, the September 2007 crackdown on prodemocracy demonstrators, including thousands of monks, further strained the economy as the tourism industry, which directly employs about 500,000 people, suffered dramatic declines in foreign visitor levels. In November 2007, the European Union announced new sanctions banning investment and trade in Burmese gems, timber and precious stones, while the United States expanded its sanctions list to include more Burmese government and military officials and their family members, as well as prominent regime business cronies, their family members, and associated companies. Official statistics are inaccurate. Published statistics on foreign trade are greatly understated because of the size of the black market and unofficial border trade - often estimated to be as large as the official economy. Though the Burmese government has good economic relations with its neighbors, better investment and business climates and an improved political situation are needed to promote serious foreign investment, exports, and tourism.

$91.13 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 56.4%
industry: 8.2%
services: 35.3%
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
27.75 million
Labor force by occupation:
agriculture: 70%
industry: 7%
services: 23%
revenues: $7.9 billion
expenditures: $12.2 billion, including capital expenditures of $5.7 billion 
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 44.5%
hydro: 43.4%
other: 12.1%
nuclear: 0%
agricultural processing; knit and woven apparel; wood and wood products; copper, tin, tungsten, iron; construction materials; pharmaceuticals; fertilizer; cement
rice, pulses, beans, sesame, groundnuts, sugarcane; hardwood; fish and fish products
Clothing, gas, wood products, pulses, beans, fish, rice
Export partners:
Thailand 44.5%, India 11.9%, China 6.8%, Japan 5.1%
Fabric, petroleum products, plastics, machinery, transport equipment, construction materials, crude oil; food products
Import partners:
China 28.4%, Thailand 21.5%, Singapore 18.1%, South Korea 5.9%, Malaysia 5.4%
kyat (MMK)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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