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Myanmar: Introduction

Aung San Suu Kyi


The often forgotten country of Myanmar is in fact the second largest country in Southeast Asia. Nicknamed “The Golden Land” after the nation’s most precious metal, Myanmar is brimming with pagodas and Buddhist icons. The color gold is seen in specks in every direction since the country is predominantly Buddhist; gold-covered pagodas are pervasive throughout the land. Contrary to the gold associated with the country, Myanmar is actually a poor developing country consisting of 135 different ethnic groups, nine of which make up most of the population. The main language spoken in the country is Burmese, but there are several dialects spoken throughout the country depending on the geography and ethnicity of the people.

The country of Myanmar is also known as Burma, and the two names are often confused. Both names, Myanmar and Burma, existed historically when kings and queens ruled the country. There is a misconception that British colonialism transformed the country’s name to Burma. However, the country had always been called “Burma” in English. The Burmese people referred to their own country as “bama” and “myanma.” Both names had been used throughout history, “Burma” being the more common name and “Myanmar” being a more formal title.

Recently emerging from isolation, Myanmar has been making headlines in the news for its democratic strides. The United States recently renewed diplomatic relations with Myanmar in January 2012. The country’s most famous figure, Aung San Suu Kyi, is an opposition leader to the current ruling military junta. She advocates for democracy in the country and won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest and was allowed to run in the most recent election in Myammar in April 2012. Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy, won 43 out of 45 seats in the Burmese Parliament in April 2012. For more information, Aung San Suu Kyi’s biography can be obtained from our Lending Library. After decades of isolation, Myanmar is finally beginning  to enter the world stage as the rest of the world watches the country’s next move.