Republic of the Union of Myanmar

Capital: Nay Pyi Taw

  • Population 48.7 million
  • Currency Kyat
  • Area 676,552 sq km (261,218 sq miles)
  • Major language Burmese, minority languages
  • Major religions Buddhism
  • Life expectancy 64 years (men), 68 years (women)


President: Htin Kyaw

Htin Kyaw, president of MyanmarImage copyrightEPA

Htin Kyaw was sworn in as president in March 2016, ushering in the first democratically elected government into office after decades of military rule.

Rightfully, the job belonged to Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been the face of the pro-democracy movement and who endured decades of house arrest and harassment by military rulers without ever giving up on her non-violent campaign to unseat them.

But Suu Kyi was barred by the constitution from becoming president, and she made it clear that whoever sits in that chair will be her proxy. She has said repeatedly she will run the government from behind the scenes.

Htin Kyaw will be remembered by history as the first civilian president for Myanmar and the head of its first government to be elected in free and fair polls.

The military retains considerable amount of power in the government and parliament.

Myanmar's Aung San Suu KyiImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionAung San Suu Kyi symbolised opposition to military rule


A group of men read newspapers in the Myanmarese capital Yangon in 2014Image copyrightAFP

Myanmar’s media have seen a gradual easing of strict state controls imposed after the 1962 military coup.

Under reforms introduced since 2011 by a new government, Myanmar has unblocked international news websites, emigre news websites and YouTube. In 2012, it lifted pre-publication censorship for the press and allowed privately-owned daily newspapers to publish.

But the state still controls the main broadcasters and publications and has a monopoly on telecommunications.


The ruins of the historic city of Bagan, in MyanmarImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThe ruined city of Pagan, capital of the Kingdom of Pagan

1057 – King Anawrahta founds the first unified Myanmar state at Pagan and adopts Theravada Buddhism.

1531 – Toungoo dynasty reunites country as Burma.

1885-86 – Burma comes under British rule.

1948 – Burma becomes independent.

1962 – The military junta takes over, initially in the shape of a single-party socialist system.

1990 – Opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) wins landslide victory in elections, but the military ignores the result.

2011 – The military hands over to a nominally civilian government following elections the previous year.

2015 – Elections. Opposition National League for Democracy – led by Aung San Suu Kyi – wins enough seats in parliament to form a government.

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