Burma - 'The Golden Land'
History & Current Events
Burma - a Southeast Asian nation bordering China, Thailand, India, Bangladesh and Laos - has a rich history and culture going back thousands of years. Its 54-60 million people (the last census was taken in 1983 so exact figures are unknown) are extremely diverse, belonging to hundreds of different ethnic groups and practising various religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and animism (although Buddhism is practised by the vast majority of the people - close to 90%).
The majority Burman ethnic group makes up about two-thirds of the population and controls the military and the government. The minority ethnic nationalities, making up the remaining one-third, live mainly in the resource-rich border areas and hills of Burma, although many have been forcibly removed from their homes by the military-backed government as it confiscates land for development projects and resource exploitation. As a result, millions of people from these minority groups have become IDPs within Burma, or refugees in neighbouring countries. The violent conflict between the Burmese Army and ethnic armed rebel groups is the longest ongoing civil war in the world.
Burma was ruled by a military regime from 1962 until November 2010, when it held its first elections in two decades and transitioned into a civilian-led government, headed by President Thein Sein. However, these elections were widely criticised for being neither free nor fair, and the 'civilians' who came to power were simply the same generals who had been ruling for decades, though no longer in uniform. Furthermore, the 2008 Constitution reserves 25% of the seats in Parliament for the military, so the institution still essentially yields all the power. The Constitution also fails to address the underlying ethnic tensions within Burma which perpetuate the ongoing violent conflict, and it provides no real protection for the rights of the minority ethnic nationalities.
The regime/government has been condemned as one of the worst human rights abusers in the world. In addition to committing war crimes and crimes against humanity against civilians in regions where there is active fighting, the government deprives all the people of Burma - all ethnic groups - of basic human rights and freedoms through a number of oppressive laws and an apparent disregard for the Rule of Law.
Statistics and Facts
PLEASE NOTE: It is impossible to gain fully accurate statistics on indicators in Burma as data collection is non-systematic and tends to be unreliable even from the most credible of sources.