Myanmar (Burma)

Wonders of Myanmar

The Union of Myanmar also known as Burma is a country located in Southeast Asia. It has borders with Bangladesh at the west, the Bengal Bay at the southwest, Thailand at the southeast, Laos at the east, China at the northeast and India to the northwest. The capital of the country is Naypydaw.

The country sits at the crossroads of Asia’s great civilizations of India and China. Burma is one of the most exotic and mysterious destinations of the world. Burma owns a rich and diverse culture. This country has one of the greatest concentrations of Buddhist temples of the world.

There are around 55 million people in Burma and 135 different ethnic groups which speak around 108 different languages. Almost 90% Burmese populations is Buddhist and the literacy rate is almost 90%.

The climate in all the country is quite warm. Temperatures fluctuate between 19ºC and 38 ºC. The humidity rates range from 66% to 88%. There are three well defined seasons: hot (from March to May), rainy (from June to October) and cool (from November to February).

The economy of the country is based mainly in the agriculture, being the major agricultural product the rice. Another important economical activity is the extraction of gems like jade, sapphires, pearls and mostly rubies.

This country produces almost 90 % of the rubies of the world. The tourism industry is growing rapidly; Burma has many archeological sites, beaches and another wonderful landscapes as well as one of the lowest tourist crime records and a good infrastructure.

The region of Burma has been inhabited from 11 000 years ago, nevertheless the first archeological remains dates from 2500 BC. The first known inhabitants of the zone were the Mons who arrived to the current Burma around 1500 BC.

The history of Burma is very linked to Buddhism. It believes that the first contacts of the local people with the Buddhism occurred in the III century BC, but the Buddhism was installed definitely in the II century BC, when the monks from Ashoka (India) arrived to the region.

Because of the contact between Mons and Indian civilizations, a new culture was developed in Burma. This civilization reached its peak around the IX century AD mainly the south of the actual territory of Burma.

The golden age of the ancient Burmese civilization occurred between the X and XII centuries. This period began when the King Anawrata unified the country. It was during this time that the religious complex of Bagan (one of the man made wonders) was constructed and the Buddhism became the main religion in Burma.

But, the golden age of this kingdom lasted short time, because in 1277 the army of the Mongol King Khan invaded the country and sacked Bagan in 1287. Later the reign of Bagan was divided into several small kingdoms such as Hanthawady, Mrauk, Innwa, Bago, Shan amongst others.

The most important reigns were Ava and Bago and they were constantly in conflict. Bago was the kingdom that reached the greatest development, mainly whereas the Queen Shin Saw Bu ruled. It was during this period, the gilded Shewedagon Pagoda was constructed, which is one of the greatest symbols of the country.

In the XVI century the reign of Taungoo leaded by the King Tabinshwehti defeated Ava and Bago and took the control of the region, but when the king died the young empire was dismembered. In 1599 the forces of Rakhine together with Portuguese mercenaries sacked Bago city which was the new capital. Some time later, the Portuguese mercenaries revealed against Rakhine and took Thanlyin which was the greatest port of the country.

In 1611 the Burmese leaded by the king Anaukpetlun defeated Portuguese and created a new kingdom, which lasted until 1740 when, the Mons helped by France rebelled. In the XVIII and XIX centuries, the Kounbaung dynasty ruled in Burma, but during this period the country was invaded several times by China.

In this period, Mandalay the second largest city of the country was founded as the new capital. But a combined force British- French captured the capital Mandalay and controlled the country, then Burma became a British colony part of the India.

The British colonial age was a repressive time in Burma. The Burmese Buddhist culture was absolutely disrespected, generating a great resentment amongst the population. The Buddhist monks became the leaders and martyrs of the Independence movements.

But the British colonial power ruled in Burma until the World War II, when the Japanese invaded the country. The British army took again Burma but its power was very weak because of the war. Therefore on January 4, 1948 Burma finally got its independence.

Unfortunately, the democracy government in Burma lasted only 14 years; since in 1962 the General Ne Win led a coup d’état and took the control of the power. The country has been ruled the last 30 years by a very repressive military government. All the protests against the government are violently suppressed. Many students and monks have been killed, because their political or religious ideas.

The State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) decided in 1989 to change the English name of the country “Union of Burma” to the “Union of Myanmar”. In 1990 the government held free elections, but the election results were refused by SLORC, because its candidates lost.

In the last years many crimes against the humanity has been reported in Burma, therefore the International Labour Organization has denounced, at the International Court of Justice to several members of SLORC by crimes against the humanity.

The last great protests occurred between August and September 2007. When many citizens (mainly monks and students) made protest march; but the Military Council repressed savagely these marches. Many dissidents were arrested and several were killed. The media both local and foreigner were forbidden to report about the waves of protests; internet was cut during several weeks in all the country.

The insurrection finished in October 2007. The Military Council announced a referendum for the constitution and Election by 2010. Nevertheless, the truth is that Burma is ruled still by a dictatorial power which has not respect by the human rights. But, despite its political situation, Burma is a very nice country full of marvels with a rich culture and good people.

Myanmar (Burma)