Burmese child

Myanmar (Burma)

About Myanmar

The Union of Myanmar, the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia, is bordered by China to the northeast, Laos and Thailand to the east, and Bangladesh and India to the west. The Bay of Bengal lies to the southwest, touching nearly 1,200 miles of Myanmar’s coast. The climate is cooler in the mountainous north and east regions, where average temperatures reach 70 degrees. In the tropical monsoon region of the south and west, annual rainfall totals can amount to 200 inches. The humid coastal and delta regions have an annual average temperature of 90 degrees. Natural resources include petroleum, timber, tin, zinc, copper, tungsten, lead, coal, marble, limestone, precious stones, natural gas, and hydropower.

It is estimated that more than 130 ethnic groups inhabit Myanmar, the largest of which are the Burman, who make up two-thirds of the population. Other groups include the Shan, Karen, Rakhine, Chinese, Indian, and Mon. The country’s official language is Burmese, spoken by 65 percent of the people, though many ethnic groups speak their own dialects. English is a second language used primarily in government settings and in schools. The majority of people live in rural areas near the river valley, with only 31 percent living in urban locations.

2800 Years of History

Formerly called Burma, the Union of Myanmar has a rich history dating as far back as 28 centuries. Myanmar was a sovereign nation ruled by Kings of the Pagan Kingdom which flourished throughout the Ayeyarwady valley. The kingdom developed a prosperous economy that was fueled by overland merchant trading routes between India and China. Prosperous from trade, the Kings built many magnificent temples and pagodas throughout the kingdom – many of which can still be seen today. Bagan's power slowly waned in when Kublai Khan's, the fifth Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, sent three forces invaded northern Burma (1277,1283,1287), and sacked the capital city the Pagan Kingdom in 1287. The result was an end to the 250 year reign of the Pagan kingdom. What followed was another 250 years of political fragmentation that lasted into the mid-16th century.

During the Colonial Era, in 1824, the British East India Company started to take great interest in Burma. Over the next 62 years, Burma came under the rule of the British Empire and was eventually became a colony of India. Burma was administered as a province of India until 1937 when it became a separate, self-governing colony of England. In the 1930s and 1940s, Burma was one of the wealthiest regions in Southeast Asia. It exported more rice than any other country in the world and produced 75 percent of the world’s teak (a type of hardwood). Burma gained full independence in 1948 however, a series of failed economic development plans caused growth to decline. A military junta began ruling in the late 1980s, and in 1989 the rulers changed the name of the country to Myanmar and the name of the capital from Rangoon to Yangon. In November 2005, the ruling junta relocated the capital city further inland to a mountain compound called Pyinmana in Naypyidaw.

Myanmar's Economy Today

Today, several factors are hindering economic improvement: the inflation rate is 24 percent; basic commodity prices have increased 200 percent in the past two years; the transportation infrastructure is in need of repair; and there is a large volume of timber, gems, narcotics, rice, and other products traded on the black market to neighboring countries.

Known as the "Rice Bowl of the Far East," Myanmar continues to grow sugar cane and peanuts and is famous for rubies, sapphires and jade. Unfortunately, the nation also has the distinction of being one of the world's largest sources of opium and heroin. It has appeared on the United Nations list of Least Developed Countries since 1987. Burma, a resource-rich country, suffers from pervasive government controls, inefficient economic policies, and rural poverty. Despite Burma's emergence as a natural gas exporter, socio-economic conditions have deteriorated under the regime's mismanagement, leaving most of the public in poverty, while military leaders and their business cronies exploit the country's ample natural resources. The economy suffers from serious macroeconomic imbalances - including rising inflation, fiscal deficits, and 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. Burma's poor investment climate hampers the inflow of foreign investment; in recent years, foreign investors have shied away from nearly every sector except for natural gas, power generation, and mining. The business climate is widely perceived as opaque, corrupt, and highly inefficient.

Christian Missions

Christian missionaries first came to Myanmar in the 1500s and again in the 18th century, but they saw no results for their labors. After American missionary Adoniram Judson arrived in 1813, six years passed before even one Burmese turned to Christ. Other missionaries began serving in Myanmar and the Gospel gradually spread—especially among some tribal groups—before most workers were expelled in 1966. Today the nation is closed to non native missionaries. Even the native missionaries face daily persecution. On paper, the government of Myanmar promises and guarantees freedom from religious worship but the truth is that Christianity is highly persecuted. The cost of becoming a Christian is very high. It is not unusual that once a person testifies that Jesus is Lord of their lives, they are usually beaten, driven out of their home and village, disowned by their immediate family, face job lose, or face imprisonment. Even though they face daily persecution and are driven underground to practice their Christian faith, the Church continues to grow, despite all the obstacles that are placed in front of believers.

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Statistics for Myanmar

Location: Southeastern Asia, bordering the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, between Bangladesh and Thailand
Climate: 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)
Terrain: Central lowlands ringed by steep, rugged highlands
Elevation Lowest Point: Andaman Sea 0 m
Higest Point: Hkakabo Razi 5,881 m
Natural Resources: Petroleum, timber, tin, antimony, zinc, copper, tungsten, lead, coal, marble, limestone, precious stones, natural gas, hydropower
Total Population: 49,674,000
0-14 years:
15-64 years:
65 years and over:
Urban Population: 33% of total population
Birth Rate: 16.97 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Infant Mortality Rate: 47.61 deaths/1,000 live births
Life Expectancy: 63.39 years
Largest City & Population: Yangon / 4,348,000
Major Ethnic & Linguistic Groups: Burman 68%, Shan 9%, Karen 7%, Rakhine 4%, Chinese 3%, Indian 2%, Mon 2%, other 5%
Language: Burmese, minority ethnic groups have their own languages
Literacy Rate: 93.9% Male, 86.4% Female (2006 est.)
Religion & Christian Missions Progress
Religions: Buddhist 89%, Christian 4%, Muslim 4%, animist 1%, other 2%
Total People Groups/ Unreached 142 / 51
Gospel Outreach Progress: Unreached / Least-Reached
Less than 2% Evangelicals and
Less than 5% Christian Adherents
Unreached People - # Groups
Unreached People - Population
Unreached People - Population %
Formative Church - # Groups
Formative Church - Population
Formative Church - Population %
Established Church -# Groups
Established Church - Population
Established Church - Population %
Persecution Ranking: 23 (1=High to 50=Low)
Human Development Index 0.586 (0=Low to 1=High) Per United Nations
Averge Annual Income: $220 USD (2009 est.)
Unemployment rate: 4.9% (2009 est.)
Population Below Poverty Line: 32.7% (2007 est.)
Industries: Agricultural processing; wood and wood products; copper, tin, tungsten, iron; cement, construction materials; pharmaceuticals; fertilizer; oil and natural gas; garments, jade and gems
Government Type: Military Junta
Independence: 4 January 1948 (from the United Kingdom)
Legal System: Based on English common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

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