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Myanmar (the Republic of the Union of Myanmar), was Burma before 1989. It borders Bangladesh and India (west), and China, Laos and Thailand (east). Its coast runs along the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea.
Humans have lived in Burma since 11,000 BC. Migrants from China created city states (Pyu) around 200 BC, trading with India and by 900 AD other states developed in the south (Mon and Arakan). The Bamar then unified the country under the Buddhist Pagan Kingdom in 1050.
After Mongol invasions the country split into competing multi-ethnic Shan States and kingdoms, including Ava, Hanthawaddy and Arakan until 1510 when it was progressively unified by the expansive Taungoo Dynasty. In 1752 this was replaced by the Konbaung Dynasty.
The Konbaung fought many wars with neighbours but by 1885 the UK, moving east from India, had conquered all of Burma. Independence movements flourished and, after occupation by Japan during World War 2, Burma unified as an independent, ethnically diverse nation in 1948.
The country was taken over by a communist military dictatorship in 1962 and has been subject to ethnic civil wars (which continue), rebellion, economic decline and sanctions. The military had finally relinquished most of its power by 2016. It carried out a new coup in February 2021 that has led to considerable unrest. Myanmar is rich in natural resources although the income gap is very wide.
Myanmar is a mountainous country with valleys between the mountain chains formed by 3 river systems; the Irrawaddy, Salween and Sittaung. The Irrawaddy River flows into the Gulf of Martaban east of the Bay of Bengal where it has created an expansive and fertile delta region.
In the north the Hengduan Mountains form the border with China. Hkakabo Razi in Kachin State is the highest point at 5,881m. Other mountain ranges trend north to south from the Himalayas including the Rakhine Yoma, the Bago Yoma, the Shan Hills and the Tenasserim Hills.
Oil production began in 1887 at Yenangyaung in the centre of the country and most oil comes from fields in fore-arc basins that run through north-south through this region. The Mann field, onstream in 1970 in the Central Basin, has been the largest producer. Reservoirs are generally poor. Total output peaked in 1979, despite introduction of foreign companies and newer technologies.
Onshore gas production has been constrained by lack of infrastructure although Globalshift believes that there probably remains potential for new fields in the south within Irrawaddy Delta sediments.
Offshore gas production began in 1998 from the Yadana field. New projects have come onstream whilst many others are in development. Gas is exported by pipeline to Thailand and China, which is receiving growing volumes.
Map and National Flag
Land area (sq kms)
Oil prod (000s b/d)
Gas prod (bcm/yr)
Oil cons (000s b/d)
Gas cons (bcm/yr)
Myanmar is now governed as a parliamentary system with a bicameral legislature (Pyidaungsu Hluttaw) and an executive President accountable to the legislature.
The legislature comprises a 224-seat upper house Amyotha Hluttaw (House of Nationalities) of whom 168 are elected and 56 are appointed by the Burmese Armed Forces. In the 440-seat lower house Pyithu Hluttaw (House of Representatives) 330 are elected and 110 are appointed by the armed forces.
The Ministry of Energy and Electricity is responsible for the energy sector. The Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) witihn the Ministry is the department responsible for exploration and production of oil and gas.
Myanmar is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) which it joined in 1997.
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