Why is Myanmar less famous in Asia

Myanmar

Myanmar is a state in southern Asia. It is about twice the size of Germany and has a little more than half as many inhabitants. Some people still call the country Burma or Burma, as it used to be. This name has the same meaning as Myanmar. He comes from the Bamar, the largest population group in the country. The transition from "m" to "b" is fluid in the Burmese language. By renaming the country from Burma to Myanmar, the government wanted to show that it is no longer a colony.

The largest city in Myanmar is Yangon with a population of five million. Yangon was also the capital until 2005. But then the capital was moved to Naypyidaw. This city was built specifically for this. Allegedly this happened because Naypyidaw is better suited as a capital because of its central location. But presumably the government moved the capital for fear of uprisings in the city of Yangon. More than ten years after being named capital, Naypyidaw still resembles much of a ghost town.

What does the country look like?

Almost half of the country is made up of forest. Some of the mountains are more than 5,000 meters high. The country is quite far to the south and almost reaches the equator. Because it is in the tropical monsoon area, it is quite hot there. From June to September it is rainy.

The longest river in the country is the Irrawaddy. The government wanted to build a huge dam on this river together with China. But then the government of Myanmar stopped the project because it was not the will of the people. The reservoir would have flooded 47 villages and displaced more than 10,000 people.

What happened in Myanmar in the past?

Aung San Suu Kyi campaigned for more democracy and against violence.

Great Britain conquered the area in the 19th century. The British destroyed the kingdoms of the Burmese. At the same time they supported the smaller peoples. That is why the Burmese fought for the country's independence. Myanmar gained independence in 1948. There was only some democracy at the beginning. In 1962, the military took power.

Since then there has been a dictatorship. The military rulers ruthlessly rule the country. They hardly respect human rights. People are tortured. Minority peoples are oppressed by the Burmese and driven from their homeland.

When the opposition won the elections in 1990, they were declared invalid. Students protested. But the government suppressed the protests by force. In 2007 tens of thousands of Buddhist monks and nuns demonstrated for more freedom.

In 2015, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi won the parliamentary elections and became head of government. Before that, the military locked the popular woman in her house for many years. Now she's working with the military who are still in power. She is also silent on the oppression of the Islamic Rohingya people. Presumably she doesn't want to upset her Buddhist followers.

At the beginning of 2021, Aung San Suu Kyi's party won the elections again. The military then overthrew their government with a coup and took full power again. Since then there have been many protests in the country that have been suppressed by force.

What do you have to know about the inhabitants?

Myanmar is a multi-ethnic state with 135 different peoples. Seven out of ten residents are Bamar or Burmese. They thus form the greatest people. They speak Burmese, a language with its own script that is distantly related to Chinese and Tibetan.

The state does not recognize the Muslim Rohingya as an ethnic group. Abroad they say: No other minority in the world is persecuted like them. Because of the repression, many of the Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh.

What is Myanmar known for?

The golden rock at sunset

Most of the residents of Myanmar are Buddhists, so there are many Buddhist shrines. The Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon is covered with gold from the base to the tip and is a symbol of the whole country.

Also famous is the Golden Rock, which, according to legend, is kept in balance by two hair Buddhas. Pilgrims stick gold leaf to the sacred rock so that it is gilded up to a height of two meters. Women are not allowed to touch the rock, however.

How do people earn their money?

Myanmar is a very poor country because the powerful military has sealed off the national territory. Most people work in agriculture. A lot of rice is grown in the fields, but also intoxicants such as opium. Myanmar is rich in natural resources underground. Different gemstones are mined in mines. This also includes the jade, which is typical for this area. There used to be little tourism either. Since a few years ago non-military came back into government, more tourists want to travel to the country to visit its sights.

  • A map of the peoples of Myanmar: The Bamar (yellow) are surrounded by minorities.

  • The landscape in the Irrawaddy Delta

  • These girls are novices and will later be Buddhist nuns.

  • Shwe yin aye is a cold dessert made with rice.


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