The Republic of the Union of Myanmar (Myanmar), with its capital in Naypyidaw, is bordered by the ASEAN countries of Thailand and Lao PDR in the east, and Bangladesh, India and China to the west and north/north-east. The total area of Myanmar is 677,000 square km with population estimated at 52.4 million (2003 official est.). Myanmar has 135 “national races”, including Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Bamar, Mon, Rakhine and Shan. Burmese or “Myanmar language” is the official language under the 2008 Constitution and is spoken by roughly 60% of Myanmar’s population. However, there are some 100 languages spoken in Myanmar. The main religion practiced in Myanmar is Buddhism (90%), followed by Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.
Myanmar became an independent state in 1948. From 1962-1988, Myanmar was ruled by a socialist regime that was replaced in 1988 by a military junta. In 1990, when opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won a majority in the general elections, the result was ignored by the military and elections suspended. In 2010, the military-backed party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), won the first election for 20 years, amid claims of election fraud. The NLD did not participate in these elections. A civilian government with military representation was formed in 2011. In 2012, by-elections were held, in which the NLD participated and won the majority of contested seats.
Power in the Myanmar political system is centralized in the president who is both the head of state and head of government. The president and vice-president are appointed by the legislature for a five-year term, renewable once. The president has the power to appoint and dismiss government ministers (the Cabinet), the attorney general and chief justice. Such appointments must be confirmed by the parliament.
The national parliament, the “Pyidaungsu Hluttaw”, consists of the People’s Assembly (Pyithu Hluttaw) and the House of Nationalities (Amyotha Hluttaw). The People’s Assembly includes 330 elected representatives and 110 military appointees. The House of Nationalities includes 56 appointed military representatives and 168 elected representatives comprising 12 per region or state, and one per self-administered area. Legislation can originate from either house and must be approved by both houses of parliament before promulgation by the president.
The Constitution divides Myanmar up into seven regions, seven states and union territories. The states and regions have their own assemblies comprised of military appointees and elected members.
Myanmar joined the United Nations (UN) on 19 April 1948. Myanmar is also a member of the following inter-governmental organizations: the World Health Organization (WHO), World Trade Organization (WTO), World Bank Group, International Labour Organization (ILO), International Organization for Migration (IOM), Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Non-Aligned Movement.