Myanmar is situated in Southeast Asia and is bordered on the north and north-east by China, on the east and south-east by Laos and Thailand, on the south by the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal and on the west by Bangladesh and India. It is located between latitudes 09 32’N and 28 31’N and longitudes 92 10’E and 101 11’E.
The country covers an area of 677,000 square kilo-meters (261,228 square miles) ranging 936 kilo-meters (581 miles) from the east to west and 2051 kilo-meters (1275 miles) from north to south. It is a land of hills and valleys and is rimmed in the north, east and west by mountain ranges forming a giant horseshoe. Enclosed within the mountain barriers are the flat lands of Ayeyarwady, Chindwin and Sittaung River valleys where most of the country’s agricultural land and population are concentrated. Located East longitude 96 13′ and North Latitude 16 45′ run through Yangon, the capital of Myanmar. The Myanmar Standard Time, taken as on East Longitude 97 30′, is 6 hours 30 minutes ahead of Greenwich meantime. The length of contiguous frontier is 6159 kilo-meters (3828 miles) and the coastline from the mouth of Naaf River to Kawthaung is 2228 kilo-meters (1385 miles). The total length of the Myanmar-Bangladesh boundary is 271 kilo-meters (168.7 miles). It consists of two parts, namely the Naaf River boundary 64 kilo-meters (39.5 miles) and the land boundary 208 kilo-meters (129.2 miles). The total length of Myanmar-China boundary is 2204 kilo-meters (1370 miles); Myanmar-Thailand 2107 kilo-meters (1309.8 miles); Myanmar-India 1338 kilo-meters (831.8 miles); and Myanmar-Laos 238 kilo-meters (147.9 miles).
The climate of Myanmar is roughly divided into three seasons: Summer, Rainy Season, and Winter Season. From the end of February to the beginning of May are Summer months, with highest temperatures during March and April in Central Myanmar up to above 110F (43.3C) while in Northern Myanmar it is about 97F (36.1C) and on the Shan Plateau between 85F (29.4C) and 95F (35C). Rainy Season, from mid-May to the end of October, with annual rain fall of less than 40 inches in Central Myanmar while the coastal regions of Rakhine and Tanintharyi get about 200 inches. The Winter which starts from November and lasts to the end of February with temperature in hilly areas of over 3000 feet drops below 32F (0C). As a whole, the location and topography of the country generate a diversity of climatic conditions. Seasonal changes in the monsoon wind directions create summer, rainy and winter seasons. Extremes of temperature are rare. The direction of winds and depression bring rain, and although it is always heavy in the coastal areas during Monsoon season, it seldom creates hardships. The Government is giving priority to forest conservation and greening of nine arid districts in central Myanmar.
Flora and Fauna
Myanmar is endowed with a rich diversity of habitat types arising largely from its unusual ecological diversity. It is home to nearly 300 known mammal species, 300 reptiles about 100 bird species, and a haven for about 7000 species of plant life. The potential worth of plant species in Myanmar is considerable. Since Myanmar considers such a rich pool of biodiversity as an important national asset, the Government of the Union of Myanmar has drawn up strict regulations to protect its reservoir of biodiversity and biological resources.
Archaeological findings reveal that parts of Myanmar were inhibited some five thousand years ago. The ancestors of present-day Myanmars, the Pyus and the Mons established several kingdoms throughout the country from the 1st century A.D. to the 10th century A.D. From that early beginning, there are today a fascinating 135 nationalities who call Myanmar home. Myanmar history dates back to the early 11th Century when King Anawrahta unified the country and founded the First Myanmar Empire in Bagan more than 20 years before the Norman Conquest of England in 1066(i.e. 1044 A.D.). The Bagan Empire encompassed the areas of the present day Myanmar and the entire Menam Valley in Thailand and lasted two centuries. The Second Myanmar Empire was founded in mid-16th Century by King Bayinnaung(1551-1581). King Alaungpaya founded the last Myanmar Dynasty in 1752 and it was during the zenith of this Empire that the British moved into Myanmar. Like India, Myanmar became a British colony but only after three Anglo-Myanmar Wars in 1825, 1852, and 1885. During the Second World War, Myanmar was occupied by the Japanese from 1942 till the return of the Allied Forces in 1945. Myanmar has become a sovereign independent state since 4th January 1948 after more than 100 years under the colonial administration.
The main religions of the country are Buddhism (89.2%), Christianity (5.0%), Islam (3.8%), Hinduism (0.5%), Spiritualism (1.2%) and others (0.2%). Religious intolerance or discrimination on grounds of religion is non-existent in the Union of Myanmar throughout its long history.
The Union of Myanmar is made up of 135 national races, of which the main national races are Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Bamar, Mon, Rakhine and Shan. Population of the country is estimated at 52.4 million (July, 2003) and the population growth rate is 1.84 percentage.