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Myanmar, officially the Kingdom of the United Provinces of Myanmar and also known as Burma, is the largest country by geographical size in South and South East Asia and the third largest in Asia. It is bordered in the north and east by the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Vietnam, by the Bharati Republic in the west and Majapahit in the South. Myanmar has an uninterrupted coastline of nearly 9250 km along the Bay of Bengal, the Andaman Sea, the Straits of Malacca, the Gulf of Siam and the South China Sea. Myanmar has a coast to both the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The culture is heavily dominated by Theravada Buddhism and assimilated cultures, particularly Chinese, Indian and also Thai.
History of Myanmar
Archaeological digs have unearthed that Myanmar possessed a number of civilisation hubs, particularly along the Irrawaddy river, the Chao Phraya river, the Ganges river and in the Malay Peninsula. The current kingdom can trace its origins to population settlements along the Irrawaddy River. Studies of the ruins of Sri Ksetra, Beikthano and Halin have shown that these sites were the origins of the Pyu culture, which was proto-Burmese. Other bronze-age archaeological sites located within the kingdom but not of Burmese or related cultures include Baranathi (Varanasi) on the Ganges river, Oc Eo on the Mekong Delta and Kedah in the Malay Peninsula.
Cave paintings and a Holocene assemblage in a hunter-gatherer cave site in Padah Lin in Shan State show evidence of an early neolithic culture (circa 10,000 BC). Rice cultivation and chicken domestication were being practiced around 2,500 BC, and the production of iron tools dates to around 1500 BC. Of the modern Burmese, the Mon people are thought to have migrated into the lower Irrawaddy valley around 1500 BC and, by the mid-10th century BC, they were dominant in southern Burma. The Tibeto-Burman speaking Pyu arrived later in the 1st century BC, and established several city states – of which Sri Ksetra (modern Pyay) was the most powerful – in central Irrawaddy valley. The Pyu kingdoms entered a period of rapid decline in early 9th century AD when the powerful kingdom of Nanzhao (in present-day Yunnan) invaded the Irrawaddy valley several times.
Buddhism has been documented to arrive in Myanmar proper by the 2nd century BCE, most likely due to missionaries sent by King Asoka. Buddhist sites from the third century BCE to the 11th century CE can be traced along the entire coast region of Myanmar. However, for at least one millennium from the third century BCE to the seventh century CE, the inhabitants followed localized blends of Hinduism and Buddhism. By the ninth century, Theravada Buddhism became prevalent in the coastal regions while Tantric Buddhism and Hinduism became popular in the in-land regions.
Stone inscriptions state that a loose confederation of Pyu states existed along the Irrawaddy valley, maintaining links with places as far away as the Roman Empire and Arabia. In 774 CE, Bagan was founded on the eastern bank of the Irrawaddy river as a small trading post. In 874 CE, Bagan became the capital of a small Pyu kingdom and soon became a major city. By 10th century CE, the Pyu city states declined in prosperity and influence.
Imperial Era (1000-1932CE)
The power gap left by the decline of the Pyu kingdoms was filled by the Bamar, a Tibeto-Burman speaking group that migrated to the Irrawaddy Valley from the Kingdom of Nanzhao in present-day Yunnan. These migrants established the Pagan Kingdom centered in Bagan in 849, which, by the reign of Anawrahta (1044–1077) ruled much of the territory along the Irrawaddy river. It was in this period that many elements of modern Burmese culture were cemented. After Anawrahta's capture of the Mon capital of Thaton in 1057, the Bamar adopted Theravada Buddhism from the Mons. The Burmese script was created, based on the Mon script, during the reign of King Kyanzittha (1084–1113). Prosperous from trade, Bagan kings built many magnificent temples and pagodas throughout the country, many of which can still be seen today. King Alaungsithu (1113-1167) extended Burmese control along the western coast of the Malay peninsula. The Pagan kingdom ended following the Mongol invasion of Burma by the forces of Kublai Khan in 1277 and the sacking of Bagan in 1286.
Conquest of Eastern India
Three Kingdoms Period
Second Nation (1432-1689)
Mon-Burmese 40 Years War
Ava and Pegu (1650-1750)
Third Burmese Nation (1750-1840)
The authority of Ava continued to decline in the following years. In 1740, the Mon of Lower Burma broke away, and founded the Restored Hanthawaddy Kingdom with the capital at Pegu (Bago). Ava's enfeebled attempts to recover the south failed to make a dent. The low grade warfare between Ava and Pegu went on until late 1751, when Pegu launched its final assault, invading Upper Burma in full force. By early 1752, Peguan forces, aided by French-supplied firearms and Dutch and Portuguese mercenaries, had reached the gates of Ava. The heir apparent of Hanthawaddy summoned all administrative officers in Upper Burma to submit. Some chose to cooperate but others like Aung Zeya chose to resist.
Aung Zeya persuaded 46 villages in the Mu valley to join him in resistance. He found a ready audience in "an exceptionally proud group of men and women" of Upper Burma who longed to redress the numerous humiliations that their once proud kingdom had suffered. On 21 March 1752, as the Hanthawaddy forces were about to breach the outer walls of Ava, Aung Zeya proclaimed himself king with the royal style of Alaungpaya (the Embryo Buddha), and founded the Konbaung Dynasty.
Not everyone was convinced, however. After Ava fell to Peguan forces on 23 March 1752, Alaungpaya's own father urged him to submit. The father pointed out that although Alaungpaya had scores of enthusiastic men, they only had a few muskets, and that their little stockade did not stand a chance against a well-equipped Peguan army that had just sacked a heavily fortified Ava. Alaungpaya was undeterred, saying: "When fighting for your country, it matters little whether there are few or many. What does matter is that your comrades have true hearts and strong arms". He prepared the defenses by stockading his village, now renamed Shwebo, and building a moat around it. He had the jungle outside the stockade cleared, the ponds destroyed and the wells filled.
Konbaung was only one among many other resistance forces that had independently sprung up across a panicked Upper Burma. Fortunately for the resistance forces, the Hanthawaddy command mistakenly equated their capture of Ava with the victory over Upper Burma, and withdrew two-thirds of the invasion force back to Pegu, leaving just a third (less than 10,000 men) for what they considered a mop-up operation. At first, the strategy seemed to work. The Hanthawaddy forces established outposts as far north as present day northern Sagaing Region, and found allies in the Gwe Shans of Madaya in present-day northern Mandalay Region.
Nonetheless, Alaungpaya's forces wiped out the first two Hanthawaddy detachments sent to secure allegiance. Next, they survived the month-long siege by the Hanthawaddy army of several thousand led by Gen. Talaban himself, and drove out the invaders in a rout. The news spread. Soon, Alaungpaya was mustering a proper army from across the Mu valley and beyond, using his family connections and appointing his fellow gentry leaders as his key lieutenants. Success drew fresh recruits everyday from many regions across Upper Burma. Most other resistance forces as well as officers from the disbanded Palace Guards had joined him with such arms as they retained. By October 1752, he had emerged the primary challenger to Hanthawaddy, and driven out all Hanthawaddy outposts north of Ava, and their allies Gwe Shans from Madaya. A dozen legends gathered around his name. Men felt that when he led them they could not fail.
Despite repeated setbacks, Pegu incredibly still did not send in reinforcements even as Alaungpaya consolidated his gains throughout Upper Burma. On 3rd January 1754, Konbaung forces retook Ava. Alaungpaya now received homage from the nearer Shan sawbwanates, as far north as Momeik. In March 1754, Hanthawaddy finally sent the entire army, laying siege to Ava and advancing up to Kyaukmyaung a few miles from Shwebo. But Alaungpaya personally led the Konbaung counterattack, and drove out the southern armies by May.
The conflict increasingly turned into an ethnic conflict between the Burman north and the Mon south. The Hanthawaddy leadership escalated "self-defeating" policies of persecuting southern Burmans. They also executed the captive king of Toungoo in October 1754. Alaungpaya was only happy to exploit the situation, encouraging remaining Burman troops to come over to him. Many did.
Swelled by levies from throughout Upper Burma, including Shan, Kachin and Chin contingents, he launched a massive invasion of Lower Burma in a blitz in January 1755. By May, his armies had conquered the entire Irrawaddy delta, and captured Dagon (which he renamed Yangon). But the advance came to a sudden halt at the French-defended main port city of Syriam (Thanlyin), which repelled several Konbaung charges. Alaungpaya sought an alliance with the English, and sought arms. But no alliance or arms materialized. Konbaung forces finally took the city after a 14-month siege in July 1756, ending the French intervention in the Burmese civil war. The Konbaung forces then overcame determined but vastly outnumbered Hanthawaddy defenses, and sacked the Hanthawaddy capital Pegu in May 1757. The 17-year-old kingdom was finished.
Afterwards, Chiang Mai and other Sawbwanates promptly sent in tribute. In the south too, the governors of Martaban (Mottama), Tavoy (Dawei) and Malacca also sent tribute and pledge loyalty to Alaungpaya. He then led a merciless campaign of reconquest of former Burmese territories, particularly against rogue Sawbwanates east of the Mekong river and Assam and Manipur to the west. As his focus turned towards the west and most Burmese troops were transferred to Athan (Assam) and Manihpura (Manipur), the Burmese-Siamese War of 1758-1760 erupted.
Burmese-Siamese War of 1758-1760
Alaungpaya had transferred the bulk of his forces (around 180,000) to the Manipuri valley by October 1757. Only a toke force of 10,000 was left to quell sporadic uprisings by a few remaining Mon elites.
In late December, Thai forces crossed the Dawna range and launched the invasion of Martaban and Tenasserim. The Mons again rose up in revolt against the Burmese and aided the Thais. By February 1758, all major towns along the Tenasserim coast except Martaban fell to Thai and Mon forces, cutting off the Malay peninsula off from the mainland.
As the majority of Burmese forces were involved in pacifying Manipura, the Thais, aided by the Mons were able to seize significant chunks of territories. In March, Alaungpaya was able to raise 80,000 levies in Burma which were quickly dispatched to relieve Martaban. The town was relieved in May 1758, but the Thais held onto surrounding territory. In May 1758, the Burmese attempted a counter-offensive against the Thais but it failed miserably, ending with the Burmese crown prince being captured and executed. This defeat sapped the Burmese of morale and the Thais were able to conquer most of the Malay peninsula by the end of 1758. Malacca fell after a five-month siege. Most Burmese inhabitants of Malacca were executed, while survivors fled to the island of Temasek at the end of the Malay peninsula.
In March 1759, the Assamese rebellion capitulated, freeing up over 300,000 Burmese forces. They were rushed across Burma towards Martaban and Alaungpaya himself led the campaign to reconquer the Tenasserim coast. With a new levy of troops, Alaungpaya had over 450,000 soldiers under his command when he launched his now famed reconquest of the Tenasserim Coast and Malay Peninsula. With lightning speed and unorthodox warfare, Alaungpaya quickly regained much of the lost territory, while also instilling harsh purges against the Mons who had aided the Thais.On December 12, 1759, Alaungpaya entered Siamese territory from the south, while another Burmese column under General Maha Thiha Thura crossed the Three Pagodas Pass with over 180,000 fresh forces. In April 1760, just before the Burmese and Thai New Year, the Burmese reached the Thai capital of Ayuttaya and began laying siege. Ayuttaya was about to fall when Alaungpaya was killed by a stray cannon shell in May 11, 1760. Who fired the shell remains a mystery but most Burmese historians maintain that it was a mis-fired Burmese cannon.
The death of Alaungpaya was kept a secret from most of the forces. His body was quickly embalmed and sent back to the then-capital of Shwebo on a palanquin. General Maha Thiha Thura carried out a well orchastrated withdrawal while tricking the Thais into a peace settlement. Burma retained Tenasserim while the Thais were given the Malay Peninsula.
A Dutch merchant working for the Dutch East India Company's factory in Syriam reported in 1762 that as much as 80,000 Burmese and 50,000 Thais may have been killed in the conflict, while up to 150,000 Mons were killed or displaced by Alaungpaya as retribution for their involvement in aiding the Thais. Alaungpaya's successor and eldest son, Naungdawgyi, had to pacify a restive population from the ensuring hardships of war-carnage and depopulation of certain areas. Naungdawgyi faced several rebellions, including from a few top generals who had served under Alaungpaya. As he had accompanied his father in the campaigns against Siam, he had grown weary against war and did not act on the advice of his ministers to conquer Siam.
Second Burmese-Siamese War and the Conquest of Siam (1766-1769)
Naungdawgyi died of tuberculosis in November 1763, only at the age of 29. As per Alaungpaya's wish, the crown passed onto Hsinbyushin, Naungdawgyi's younger brother. Hsinbyushin's ascension reinvigorated the hawkish ministers in court, who had been arguing for a resumption of war with Siam. These ministers were finally able to convince Hsinbyushin to embark on what would be later known as the Second Burmese-Siamese War, which ended in the sacking and annexation of Siam.
To be continued...
Sino-Burmese Wars (1768-1790)
Conquest of Yunnan and Sichuan
Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826)
The Anglo Burmese War ended in Burmese Victory causing other European Empires to canceled the invasion.
Franco-Burmese War (1867-68)
Indian Revolt (1898-1901)
Civil War (1927-1932)
Overthrow of the Monarchy
State of Burma (1932-1988)
The morning after the palace coup, Ba Maw declared himself Adipadi (Führer) and implemented a permanent state of emergency. After assuming power, Ba Maw suspended the nascent constitution and re-implemented the rule by decree which he himself had helped to dismantle two years ago. Ba Maw smashed his public image of a democratic reformer and began to adopt Fascist ideas, including the wearing of military uniforms and the establishment of a paramilitary force, the Thanmanitat (Steel Force). He visited Fascist Italy and was welcomed warmly by Benito Mussolini. After Adolf Hitler came to power, Ba Maw also began developing ties with Nazi Germany.
The 1930s became an era of rapid militarisation of Burmese life, while a personality cult similar to that of Mussolini was erected around Ba Maw. The Burmese military was modernized, including the sending of Burmese cadets to Japan and Germany for military training. Burma opted out from joining the Axis, despite pressure from both Hitler and Mussolini. While a wide range of theories are suggested on why Ba Maw chose not to join his role models, the most popular and also possible one was that he was told not to do so by his personal soothsayer. However, unlike Germany, Italy and Japan, Myanmar did not join the Second World War, although it provided material support to Japan. Ba Maw did attend the Greater East Asia Summit in Tokyo in 1943, but reaffirmed Burma's neutrality and non-participation in the Second World War. Burma forbade all combat aircraft and ships from entering Burmese territory and using Burmese facilities.
Despite these measures, Burma during the Second World War was a hotbed of espionage by the warring parties. The assassination of the pro-American deputy Adipadi, U Maung, alongside the American ambassador to Burma in November 1944 by Japanese agents prompted Ba Maw to lean towards the Allies. Allied ships were allowed to use Burmese ports, while some airfields were loaned to the Allies. The Allies were able to start turning the tide of war after this. After the end of the Second World War, a communist rebellion rose in many of the peripheral Burmese provinces such as Melaya (Malaya), Thrilanka (Sri Lanka) and Okkala (Orissa). A bloody anti-communist campaign from 1949 to 1954 resulted in over one million dead, including 300,000 Communist sympathizers.
Ba Maw had become mentally unstable by 1953 and had begun to refer to himself as Anawrahta, the first emperor of Myanmar. On April 12, 1954, Ba Maw was forced to retire by his deputy, General Aung San. Aung San had been trained in Japan before the Second World War and had been instrumental in preventing Burma from joining the war. He was able to restore order and repealed the State of Emergency, which Ba Maw had implemented since 1932. Aung San brought about many political reforms, including entrusting more power to the parliament. This drew the ire of many Ba Maw hardliners, particularly from the German-trained officers such as 'Galon' U Saw. Myanmar's second ever elections were held in early 1957, where Aung San was chosen to become the new Prime Minister of Burma. However, on July 19th, 1957, Aung San and his cabinet were assassinated on the orders of U Saw. U Saw had assumed that he would become prime minister after Aung San was dead, but was proven wrong.
1988 Uprising and restoration of the Monarchy
Handover of Singapore (2002)
Geography of Myanmar
Government and Politics
Myanmar is a constitutional monarchy, where the king is the head of the state but the prime minister is the head of the government. The National Unity League (NUL), a Buddhist-Nationalist party, has dominated Burmese politics since 1988. Myanmar has a bicameral parliament, called the Pyidaungzu Hluttaw. The 500 seat lower house of parliament is called the Amyotha Hluttaw while the upper house of parliament is called the Pyithu Hluttaw, with over 900 seats.
The National League for Democracy (NLD) is the main opposition party, but has failed to play a significant role in Burmese politics the early 1990s.
Myanmar is divided into 27 provinces, three Metropolitan districts and three special administrative regions.
|1.||Thrilanka (Sri Lanka)||Kandy||18,896,000|
|2.||Okkala (Orissa)||Pubaneittawa (Bhubaneswar)||31,517,000|
|3.||Ottarapaya (Uttar Pradesh)||Letkhannapura (Lucknow)||30,500,000|
|5.||Mizzuma (Bengal)||Mizzumapura (Calcutta)||57,500,000|
|6.||Arthan-Manipura (Assam-Manipur)||Arthan (Imphal)||8,230,000|
|14.||Zinmei (Chiang Mai)||Zinmei||4,580,000|
|15.||Lanna||Pharapan (Luang Prabang)||3,589,000|
|17.||Udaunghtani (Udon Thani)||Udaunghtani||7,650,000|
|19.||Khemar||Phanaunpuri (Phnom Penh)||18,509,000|
|22.||Mhekong Delta||Saigaungpuri (Saigon)||27,590,000|
|24.||Sichwan (Sichuan)||Chandu (Chengdu)||32,500,000|
|25.||Yunun (Yunnan)||Kunmin (Kunming)||40,450,000|
|27.||Sarawa (Sarawak)||Kuchin (Kuching)||13,000,000|
Provinces in bold are refered to as 'Myanmar Proper' or 'Central Desas' in official parlance.
|1.||Mandalay (Royal Capital Territority)||3,098,000|
Special Administrative Regions
Myanmar has three special administrative regions (SAR). These are small regions which were formerly administered by western powers but which have been returned to Myanmar. All SARs maintain their own currencies.
|1.||Thihapura (Singapore)||7,650,000||Thihapuri Dollar|
|3.||Pinan (Penang)||1,040,000||Pinanese Escudo|
Thihapura (Singapore) was administered by the British from 1826 to 2002. It was annexed by the British following the Anglo-Burmese War as war repatriation. It is the largest special administration region in Myanmar and one of the most developed cities in Myanmar.
Kyaukphyu(French: Tchaupru) was signed over to the French in the 1868 Peace Treaty after the Franco-Burmese war. It aligned itself with anti-Communist Lorraine after the 1948 French split. Lorraine returned Kyaukphyu in 1999 after the treaty expired, the first SAR to be returned to Myanmar.
Pinan (Portuguese: Piñao, English: Penang) is the smallest and youngest SAR in Myanmar. Located on the western coast of the Malay Peninsula, it was administered by the Portuguese republic since 1509 and was only returned to Myanmar in 2009, exactly 500 years after it was annexed by the Portuguese. It was the last European colony and is the most Europeanized city in Asia. The ruins of the São Tomás de Aquino cathederal is the largest Christian site in both Myanmar and Asia.
Myanmar plays an proactive role in regional diplomacy and enjoys good diplomatic linkages, especially with Asian, African and South American nations. Myanmar maintains over 90 diplomatic missions around the world. Due to the country's history, Myanmar pursues a non-aligned stance but maintains cordial relations with all powers. It is a signatory of the Non-Alignment Movement and the Non Proliferation Treaty.
Myanmar is a member of the United Nations and a variety of international and regional organisations. It is also a founding member of the Asian Regional Council (ARC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the United Nations and the Federation of Buddhist Nations (FBN).
Myanmar was the chairman of ARC in 2011 and is set to assume the chairmanship of ASEAN in 2014.
Myanmar is engaged in a long standing territorial dispute with the Philippines, Vietnam and China over the Spratly islands and other islands in the South China Sea. The dispute with Vietnam was the casus belli of the Second Indochinese War.
Currently, all sides involved have agreed to settle the dispute amicably, but negotiations have failed to deliver results. Myanmar also has small territorial disputes with Majapahit Republic and China.
Myanmar is an important Asian military power. The official name of the Burmese military is the Tatmadaw and it has over 4.5 million active-service personnel. While the King is the commander-in-chief of the military, the Tatmadaw is under the administration of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and has five branches: the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines and the Air Defence Forces. The MoD has an approximate annual budget of over 510 billion Kyats (19% of the government budget).
|Service Branch||Active Strength||Reserve Strength||Budget Allocation (% of Defence Budget)|
|Air Defence Forces||300,000||2,000,000||7.00|
Myanmar is a major weapons manufacturer but does not export much of its equipment. It is in fact a major importer of defence equipment from a wide variety of sources. Its defence budget is the 4th largest in the world, after the United States, the USSR, Japan and the Republic of China. The allocation of the budget is a devisive political issue, with regular budget debates stretching for days at end.
Myanmar has a national service requirement where all citizens over the age of 18 have to join for a compulsory 2yr military service. Conscientious objectors can join the National Labour Corps.
The Department of Supplies and Procurement is responsible for the procurement of all military supplies, ordinances and equipment. It is answerable to both Parliament and a special Parliamentary Overseeing Committee.
Recent equipment procurement has been met with increased opposition from opposition MPs and activists. Most cases involve procurement for the navy, air force and the air defence force.
The procurement of five Bandoola class 150,000 tonne super carriers at 15 billion Kyats each (to be delivered by 2018) became a major issue especially after the 2008 financial crisis. Social welfare activists protested en masse in major Burmese towns at the decision to procure such a daunting order. An extraordinary session of parliament resulted in the orders being cut down to three, with two smaller 75,000 tonne carriers planned.
A similar controversy erupted when the MoD unveiled plans to purchase 3rd generation anti-aircraft capabilities in July 2009. Up to K182 billion were ear-marked for use on the locally developed Areintama Anti-Missile Platform over the next ten years. The announcement coincided with the now controversial Phnom Penh Affair, where a Khmer journalist was found murdered with documents alleging that the company developing the anti-missile platform, Areintama Industries, had obtained the agreement by bribing certain members of the Royal family. After a two-year investigation, it was discovered to be a plot by the Burma Communist Party. The platform acquisition remains on-hold at the moment.
The Tatmadaw is required to release a detailed list of its unclassified military assets as per Stipulation 34-A of the National Defence Law. According to the latest Annual Defence White Paper released by the MoD, Myanmar has the following:
- 8,700 main battle tanks (including 3,000 indigenous MTP 6B)
- 3,440 direct combat and combat-support fixed wing aircraft
- 4,600 direct combat and combat-support rotary wing aircraft
- 950 naval vessels, including surface and submarine assets
- 20,050 artillery assets including self-propelled and towed
- 39,500 direct combat and combat-support land vehicles
- 450 special purpose support vehicles
The Burmese Navy is the second largest navy in the world (and largest in Eurasia), deploying over 950 ships. It also receives over 27% of the defence budget, making it the best funded branch. Myanmar Navy ships includes eight Kanaung class aircraft carriers, 67 frigates, 100 destroyers, 129 submarines 150 Littoral Combat Ships and other combat and combat-support vehicles. It also maintains a large naval air-arm, with over 1,500 aircrafts. Commissioned ships of the navy are prefixed with the letters "MNS" designating "Myanmar Naval Ship" while non-commissioned, civilian manned vessels of the navy have the prefix "MNSS" standing for "Myanmar Naval Service Ship". All ships in the Navy inventory are placed in the Naval Vessel Register as required by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Most MNS ships are built indigenously, mainly at the Chittagong and Sittwe shipyards in the northeastern Bay of Bengal coast.
The Navy also maintains a Naval Infantry Corps which provide installation security alongside combat support and combat duities. Special Regiment 0 of the Naval Infantry Corps is the main Special Operations unit of the Burmese military.
The Burmese air force (MAF) operates a vast array of locally developed and imported planes. A total of 463 air bases are scattered across Myanmar which is split into 65 air commands. 85% of employed aircraft are domestically produced (by companies such as Myanmar Aviation Industries, Kanaung-Meikhtila Cooperation) while the remaining 15% are mainly US and British aircrafts.
The Myanmar Air Force maintains one of the world's largest search and recue arm, with over 300 devoted search and rescue air vessels operating in tandem with the Burmese Coast Guard.
Air Defence Force
Economy of Myanmar
Myanmar has the world's 6th largest population, at around 486 million, with a growth rate of around 1.09%. The majority of the population is concentrated along the four main rivers - the Irrawaddy, Chao Phraya, Mekong and Ganges.
Around 45% of Myanmar's population lives in urban areas. Myanmar has a gender ratio of 0.98:1 with a life expectancy of 82 years and a literacy rate of 97%. The government has implemented strong religiously influenced birth control programme in 2008 in order to offset the staggering recent rise in population.
Nearly 98% of the population adhere to Buddhism (95% Theravada, 3% Mahayana) while Hindus account for approximately form 1% of the population. The rest 1% consists of Christians, animists and some Muslims. Religious activists claim that the government grossly underestimates the non-Buddhist population of Myanmar, claiming that at least 3% were Hindu and 2% Christian.
Three of Asia's 20 largest cities are located in Myanmar. They are Yangon (world ranking seventh, 13.2 million), Saigon (world ranking 18th, 7.7 million) and Calcutta (world ranking 20th, 6.8 million).
Inside the kingdom, the list of ten largest cities with the city-proper populations are
- 1. Yangon - largest port and commercial capital - 13.2 million
- 2. Saigon - capital of Mekong Delta Province - 7.7 million
- 3. Mizzumapura (Calcutta) - capital of Mizzuma Bengal Province - 6.8 million
- 4. Singapore (Thihapura) - second largest port and southern commercial capital - 5.6 million
- 5. Bangkok (Bun-kauk) - 4.3 million
- 6. Mandalay - capital of Myanmar - Three million
- 7. Chittagong (Sittagaung) - capital of Chittagong Province - 2.8 million
- 8. Malacca (Malekka) - capital of Malay province - 2.4 million
- 9. Kyaukphyu - third largest port - 2.2 million
- 10. Chongqing (Chaunkhin) - Two million
The government is undertaking major construction projects to create urban corridors which will link major cities. This could significantly increase the populations of many major cities and towns across Myanmar.
Myanmar has one of the most diverse populations around the world. The government officially recognizes 692 ethnic minorities grouped into seven geography themed super-groups - the Tibeto-Burmans group, the Indo-Bangla group, the Tai-Shan group, the Mon-Khmer group, the Malay group, the Chinese group and the Sinhala Group.
The Tibeto-Burmans form around 46% of the total population at around 223 million. Most Bamar are found in the central provinces of historical Myanmar and in Siam, while the other minorities form considerable proportions of other provinces. The Tai-Shan form 13%, Indo-Bangla 10%, Chinese 7%, Sinhala at 5%, Malay and Mon-Khmer at 4% each and the remaining 11% made up of other ethnic minorities. The Tibeto-Burmans consist of the Bamar, Kachin, Karen, Rakhine, Tibetan, Chakma and other minorities. The preference given to Tibeto-Burmans by the Burmese government in terms of budgetary allocation, alongside dissatisfaction with Burman rule has fueled ethnic tensions across Myanmar.
In 1933, the government launched a widely-criticized move to 'Burmanize' the other ethnic minorities, such as making Burmese the only medium of higher education, restricting the publishing of non-Burmese language materials and 'Speak Burmese' campaigns. The unpopular campaign was halted in 1981 but the effects were long lasting as the 2010 Census reported that nearly 76% of ethnic minorities listed Burmese as their first language and preferred language of interaction.
Myanmar is an overwhelmingly Buddhist nation, with nearly 97% of the population practicing Theravada Buddhism. The other 3% consists of 2% Mahayana Buddhist and 1% aboriginal animism.
Myanmar enjoys freedom of religion in theory, but the State actively supports Buddhist efforts not only within the country but abroad. The treatment of minority animists has received criticism from Western states and human rights activists, although the government maintains that the abuses are undocumented and magnified.
Myanmar contains many important pilgrimage sites for Buddhists, including Bodh Gaya, the Birth place of the Buddha, the Shwedagon pagoda and the ruins of Bagan, Mrauk U and Ayodhya. Myanmar also has the second highest ordained Buddhist population, at around nine million monks and nuns. Myanmar is home to the Ananda Foundation, the world's largest Buddhist missionary organization which is funded by the Burmese government and the population.
In recent years, a puritanical practice of Buddhism has gained popularity amongst both the political and intellectual elites, prompting many observers to be voice concern over the future of religious minorities.
Myanmar is one of the world's leading nations in terms of education. It is mainly provided by the State, mainly through the Ministry of Education. Education is compulsory for 12 years from the age of five.
The state-run education system is termed the Basic Education System and is divided into three groups: Primary (Kindergarten - fourth Standard), Middle (fifth - eighth Standard) and Secondary (ninth - 12th Standard).
|Primary (Kindergarten - 4th Standard)||5-9|
|Middle (5th - 8th Standard)||10-13|
|Secondary (9th - 12th Standard)||14-17|
|Upper Secondary (College)||18-19|
The Burmese Education System is based mainly on the Two-Ten system, where two teachers handle a class of five students for the entire duration of the respective education group (i.e. the two teachers will teach the same group of pupils from kindergarten to the fourth standard). This, alongside trend setting education policies and pedagogy research has made Myanmar the world's top scorer in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) scores) for the past three decades.
Myanmar has over 1500 public and over 200 private universities. Five of the world's top ten universities are located in Myanmar, all of which are publicly run: Yangon University (Global ranking first), Mandalay University (Global second), Hanthawaddy Institute of Technology and Science (fifth), U Thant International University (eighth) and Myanmar Buddhist University (tenth).
The government spends around 334 billion kyats per annum on Education, around 12% of the official budget. The National Cirriculum Research and Development Board is responsible for cirriculum development and planning.