Myanmar officially known as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and also known as Burma, is a country in Southeast Asia.
Myanmar is bordered by Bangladesh and India to its northwest, China to its northeast, Laos and Thailand to its east and southeast, and the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal to its south and southwest. With a size of 676,578 square kilometres (261,228 square miles), Myanmar is the largest of the Mainland Southeast Asian states by area. As of 2017, the population is about 54 million. Its capital city is Naypyidaw, and its largest city is Yangon (Rangoon). Myanmar has been a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) since 1997. Myanmar has a total area of 678,500 square kilometres (262,000 sq. mi).
A brief history of Myanmar
The Bagan Era + Taungu Dynasty
In 849 the Burman founded the town of Bagan on the banks of the Irrawaddy about 310 miles north of Yangon. Bagan was the first Burmese kingdom about which there are historical records. Before the Burman’s the people of the Mon, who were related to the Cambodians, and the Tibeto-Burman people of the Pyu had founded kingdoms in the Irrawaddy valley or delta, but they came to be conquered by the Bagan Burman’s. In 1044 King Anawratha ascends the throne of Bagan and in 1056 he is converted to Buddhism by a Mon monk, Shin Arahan. Shortly afterwards he starts a war against the Mon town of Bago to gain possession of holy Buddhist scripts (the Tripitaka) which the Mon King Manuha is unwilling to give up voluntarily. The Burmese even incorporate the script of the Mon. Mon King Manuha is offered to the main pagoda of Bagan, Shwezigon, as a temple slave. After a reign of 33 years, King Anawratha is died in 1077 and succeeded to his son Sawlu, who further extends the borders of the realm. After King Sawlu's death in 1084, King Kyanzittha ascends the throne and extends the boundaries of the kingdom to the South. In 1287 hordes of Mongolian horsemen under Kublai Khan bring the Bagan realm to a graceless and bloody end.
After two centuries, during which the realms of the Burman, the Shan and the Mon fight ceaselessly, King Minkyino ascends the throne of the Burmese town of Taungu in 1486. In 1636 the Burman transfer their capital from Taungu to Ava in the North (close to today's Mandalay). The realm of the Burman continues to lose influence. At the same time the realm of the Mon, whose capital is still at Bago, grows in strength. The Mon conquer Ava in 1752 and make it temporarily their own capital.
In 1753 Alaungpaya, a Burmese official in the small town of Shwebo, about 65 miles north of Ava, starts a revolt against the reign of the Mon in Ava. The revolt is successful and he succeeds in conquering Ava. Only a few years later, in 1757, King Alaungpaya conquers the Mon capital Bago. In 1782 Alaungpaya's fifth son, Bodawpaya becomes King of the Burmese. During his reign, which lasts until his death in 1819, the Burmese realm expands, with the conquest of Arakan to the West. This leads to conflicts with the British Empire, which at the time is already securely established in Bangladesh and wields a strong influence over the Indian subcontinent from its base in Calcutta.
In 1824 the first Anglo-Burmese war breaks out but peace is restored with the Treaty of Yandabo in 1826 under which the Burmese cede the old fiefdom of Arakan and the southern province of Tenasserim to the British. In 1852 the Burmese arrest two British captains and release them only after payment of a ransom. This sparks the second Anglo-Burmese war. With little effort the British occupy Yangon and southern Myanmar. In 1886 another trade conflict causes a military confrontation between the British Empire and the part of Burma not yet occupied by the British. After a short campaign (the third Anglo-Burmese war) the British occupy northern Burma and the capital Mandalay. Now Burma is entirely under British colonial rule. In the following decades there is an unprecedented economic boom in Myanmar. From 1855 to 1930 the area of the Irrawaddy Delta, which is used for the cultivation of rice, sees production increase ten-fold. Between 1930 and 1942 Burmese nationalists increasingly agitate for an end to colonial reign and a return to Burmese sovereignty under the leadership of Aung San and U Nu. In 1936 the British grant Myanmar a certain degree of autonomy. After decades being part of the crown colony India, in 1937 Burma finally becomes an autonomous colony of the British Empire. The British allow Burma a constitution and a parliament of its own.
World War II & Post-war
Period In 1942 the Japanese army invades Burma. It is initially supported by a small troop of Burmese nationalists, among them Aung San and his comrade in arms Ne Win. The Japanese declare Burma independent. Aung San becomes Burmese Minister of War and Ne Win is appointed Chief of the General Staff of the pro-Japanese Burmese army. In January 1947 at a conference in London the British Government, under Prime Minister Atlee, concedes to the Burmese demand for independence. During parliamentary elections held in April 1947 Aung San's Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League wins 248 out of 255 parliament seats. But on 19 July 1947, Aung San and five of his closest advisors are assassinated by the pre-war Prime Minister U Saw.
On 4 January 1948, a time recommended by Burmese astrologers, the Burmese flag is raised over Yangon and the country formally gains its independence. U Nu, who has played a significant part during the Burmese student revolts in the 1930s, becomes the first Prime Minister of the new state. In 1958 internal conflict inside the government cause Prime Minister U Nu to order the Minister of Defence & Chief of the General Staff of the army, General Ne Win, to create a temporary military government. In April 1962 the military government publishes a communiqué entitled ‘The Burmese Way to Socialism’ in which Myanmar is prescribed a cocktail of Marxism and Buddhism as state philosophy. In 1972 Ne Win and 20 of his followers from the Burmese army resign from their military posts and form a civilian government. In 1981 Ne Win resigns as President of State, but remains at the head of the Burma Socialist Program Party thus remaining the power behind the government.
The Modern Era
In July 1989 the co-founder of the Burmese opposition party National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi, is placed under house arrest in Yangon. During the parliamentary elections on 27 May 1991 the National League for Democracy wins. In October 1991 Aung San Suu Kyi is awarded the Peace Nobel Prize. She is released from house arrest in June 1995 but is subsequently re-arrested, only to be released in 2010 as Myanmar starts to open up and usher in a new era of 'fledgling' democracy. The 'fledgling' democracy that grew out of these early elections has continued to grow since 2010 and in 2016, after the most democratic process in Myanmar’s history, U Htin Kyaw was sworn in as president, finally ending Myanmar’s long and arduous path towards the implementation of a democratic system. Now in current time, U Win Myint (born 8 November 1951) is a Burmese politician and former political prisoner who is serving as the 10th President of Myanmar since 30 March 2018. He was the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Myanmar from 2016 to 2018. He also served as a member of parliament for House of Representatives (Pyithu Hluttaw) from 2012 to 2018. Win Myint is seen as an important ally and placeholder for State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, who is the actual head of government in Myanmar but is constitutionally barred from the presidency.