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Myanmar (English name since 1989; officially Republic of the Union of Myanmar[1]) or Burma (traditional English name; Burmese: Bama or formally Myanma) is a country in south-east Asia. Its largest city and former capital is Rangoon, officially known as Yangon. The new capital has been Naypyidaw since 2005. Burma was a British colony until independence on 4 January 1948.


The USA has refused since 1989 to use the official (and also self-determined) United Nations name of Myanmar. The CIA World Factbook consistently uses the name Burma, not even mentioning the new name other than in a concealed footnote: "since 1989 the military authorities in Burma have promoted the name Myanmar as a conventional name for their state; the US Government did not adopt the name, which is a derivative of the Burmese short-form name Myanma Naingngandaw". Thus the actual name used for the country is a heavily politicised matter.[2]


During the Second World War, there was heavy fighting in Burma. The Burma Road was the main supply route for Allied aid to China. The Japanese had taken neighboring Malaya and Thailand, invaded Burma, and controlled much of it for several years. They were resisted by Allied forces including troops from several parts of the British Empire, plus American and Chinese forces. The Allies achieved their main aims — there was no Japanese push into India and the Burma Road was re-opened after being cut off for some time — but costs were heavy on both sides.

In 1962, General Ne Win's coup overthrew the civilian government. Today, the military State Law and Order Restoration Council (the SLORC), under Than Shwe, rules Burma, despite the fact that in 1990 the National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won the general election. The military refused to allow Suu Kyi and her party to take power; she was finally released from house arrest in 2010, and has since won a seat in the Burmese Parliament amid some signs of reform.

The country has been a stronghold of Theravada Buddhism for centuries, and has hosted two ecumenical councils.


  1. “Myanmar gets new flag, official name, anthem” (Reuters).
  2. Among English language broadcasters, CNN and Al-Jazeera were quick to adopt 'Myanmar', while the BBC officially changed only in 2015.