macrohistory & world report

Union of Burma

Map of Burma

Burma (capital Rangoon) and neighboring states

World Factbook as of November 2014: "Since the transition to a civilian government in 2011, Burma has begun an economic overhaul aimed at attracting foreign investment and reintegrating into the global economy. Economic reforms have included establishing a managed float of the Burmese kyat in 2012, granting the Central Bank operational independence in July 2013, and enacting a new Anti-corruption Law in September 2013. The government's commitment to reform, and the subsequent easing of most Western sanctions, has begun to pay dividends. The economy accelerated in 2012 and 2013. And Burma's abundant natural resources, young labor force, and proximity to Asia's dynamic economies have attracted foreign investment in the energy sector, garment industry, information technology, and food and beverages."

Economic growth rate
2011: 5.5%
2010: 5.5%

Health expenditures
2009: 2% of GDP


Living in an urban area
2010: 34%

Seventy percent of the labor force in Burma is in agriculture.

Ethnicity and Religion:
Burman 68%, Shan 9%, Karen 7%, Rakhine 4%, Chinese 3%, Indian 2%, Mon 2%, other 5%

Buddhist 89%, Christian 4% (Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic 1%), Muslim 4%, animist 1%, other 2%


Southeast Asia, between Bangladesh and Thailand. Almost as big as Texas. Humid, tropical and rainy. Less so in winter.


A parliamantary government took power in 2011. Parliament is bicameral: House of Nationalities [Amyotha Hluttaw] (224 seats, 168 directly elected and 56 appointed by the military, and members serving five-year terms; House of Representatives [Pythu Hluttaw] (440 seats, 330 directly elected and 110 appointed by the military; members serve five-year terms). Last elections held on 7 November 2010.

President elected by parliament, Thein Sein, both head of state and government, since 30 March 2011, Buddhist

Recent History

Burma was administered as a province of India until 1937, when Britain made it a separate, self-governing colony. British rule was not popular and Burmese joined the Japanese in driving the British out. Arrogance by the Japanese drove Burmese against them and toward the end of the war they helped the British drive the Japanese out. Britain gave Burma its independence in 1948.

From 1962 Burma was dominated by General Ne Win, as a military ruler, then self-appointed president and later as a power broker. In 1962 the general created a military Revolutionary Council, which he chaired. He announced that he was on a Burmese road to  socialism.

On 4 January 1974 Burma was named Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma. In 1988 protests against economic hardship and political oppression erupted. Demonstrations were violently crushed by army troops who fired relentlessly into unarmed crowds. The world took little notice because of Burma's isolation. sters throughout the country. Thousands were arrested. On September 18, 1988, army chief-of-staff General Saw Maung "staged" another military coup. A civilian, Dr. Maung Maung, was appointed President and he promised free and fair multi-party elections. Elections for parliamentary seats in 1990 gave a landslide victory to members of the National League for Democracy, but ruling military men denied the party power, and rule by military junta continued. The leader of the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

Since 1992 Burma's politics has remained the control of the State Peace and Development Council – the military government – led General Than Shwe. He is described in Wikipedia as having relaxed some state control over the economy, and have having allowed the International Commitee of the Red Cross and Amnest International to make visits to Burma, but also as "often seen as not tolerating criticism," as an opponent of democractization (losing power), and as "sullen and rather withdrawn, as marking national holidays and ceremonies with messages in the state-run newspapers, but rarely talking to the press.

2007: Burma is run by twelve generals in a clique called the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). Differences among the generals and other details about them have been guarded state secrets.

March 30, 2011: Burma military government is officially dissolved. A president of a civilian-led parliament is sworn in.

Copyright © 2009-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.