The Union of Myanmar, also known as Burma, is a country in Southeast Asia. The country has been ruled by a military government since a coup in 1988. The country is a developing nation. It has a population of approximately forty-three million.
On becoming independent in 1948 the country became known as the "Union of Burma" but in 1989 the ruling military government renamed the state to the "Union of Myanmar". This change of name has been rejected by opponents of the current government, both within and outside of the country, who argue that the government did not have authority to institute it. The title of the Union of Myanmar is recognized by the United Nations, but rejected by some national governments, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. Myanmar is a derivative of the Burmese short-form name Myanmar Naingngandaw.
Previously an independent kingdom, in 1886 Burma was annexed by the British Empire to the colony of India. The Japanese Empire invaded and occupied the country during World War II but it was returned to British control. In 1948 the nation became sovereign, as the Union of Burma, with U Nu as the first Prime Minister. Democratic rule ended in 1962 with a military coup led by General Ne Win. Ne Win ruled for nearly 26 years, bringing in harsh reforms. In 1990 free elections were held for the first time in almost 30 years, but the landslide vistory of NLD, the party of Aung San Suu Kyi was voided by the military, which refused to step down. One of the top figures in Burmese history is General Aung San whose daughter is 1991 Nobel Peace Laureate and world's peace, freedom and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi of NLD. The third most world's recognised figure of Burma is U Thant, the UN Secretary General for two terms and highly respected in the UN history. The picture in the History page display the Burmese map at its heights in the history before 1886. Burmese kings occasionally occupied some parts of China, India, small part of Bangladesh, Laos and mostly the hearts of Thailand's ancient kingdoms for some times in history.
Myanmar has been under military rule since 1988. The current head of state is General Than Shwe who holds the title of "Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council." His appointed prime minister was Khin Nyunt until 19 October 2004, when he was replaced by Lt.-Gen. Soe Win. Almost all cabinet offices are held by military officers. US sanctions against the military government have been largely ineffective, due to loopholes in the sanctions and the willingness of mainly Asian business to continue investing in Myanmar and to initiate new investments, particularly in natural resource extraction. For example, the French petroleum company Total is able to buy Myanmar's oil despite the country being under sanctions, although Total (formerly Total-Elf-Fina) is the subject of a lawsuit in French and Belgian courts for alleged connections to human rights abuses along the gas pipeline jointly owned by Total, the American company Unocal, and the Myanmarian military. The United States clothing and shoe industry could also be affected if all the sanctions loopholes were to be closed, although they were already subject to boycotts prior to US sanctions imposed in June of 2002. The regime is accused of having a poor human rights record, and the human rights situation in the country is a subject of concern for a wide number of international organizations. There is no independent judiciary in Myanmar and political opposition to the military government is not tolerated. Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party won 83% of parliamentary seats in a 1990 national election , but who was prevented from becoming prime minister by the military, has earned international praise as an activist for the return of democratic rule to Myanmar. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. She has been repeatedly placed under house arrest, although in recent years the regime has been willing to enter into negotiations with her and her party, the National League for Democracy. She was most recently placed under house arrest on May 31, 2003, following an attack on her convoy in northern Myanmar. She remains under house arrest.
Myanmar is divided into 7 divisions and 7 states. The divisions are Ayeyarwady, Bago, Magway, Mandalay, Sagaing, Tanintharyi and Yangon. The states are Chin State, Kachin State, Kayin State or Karen state, Kayah State, Mon State, Rakhine State, and Shan State.
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