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State structure

After the SLORC seizure of power, the 1974 constitution was abolished. All state organs were abolished, including parliament. From then on, the actual exercise of power was entirely in the hands of the military. The head of state is the chairman of the SPDC, who is also prime minister and appoints members of parliament. The 485-member parliament was re-elected in 1990.

There is no independent judiciary in Myanmar. Judges are appointed by the SPDC and must follow government instructions. In the absence of due process and the Rule of Law, the exercise of power by the Burmese government is essentially arbitrary.

The junta promised to hold new elections after the completion of the new constitution. Work on this has been going on since 1993 under the leadership of the military regime in the National Convention, 15% of which is made up of elected representatives and the rest of which consists of members appointed by the junta. The NLD withdrew from this Convention in November 1995, because it did not want to give legitimacy to a constitution in which a dominant role for the military would be guaranteed and because it was not free to say what it wanted. The Convention met for the last time from October to December 2006. For the current political situation see chapter history.

Myanmar is divided into seven districts (tain) and seven states (pyi). Burmese people are in the majority in the districts and ethnic minorities are in the majority in the states. These administrative units are further subdivided into regions, towns and villages.

DistrictsCapitalInhabitants (rough estimate)
SubstatesCapitaInhabitants (rough estimate)


Primary education in Myanmar consists of eight classes, after which a kind of exam has to be taken. In secondary school, pupils are divided into two streams on the basis of their performance in primary education: 'arts and sciences'. The best pupils of the secondary schools may go to university. However, because of the student protests, these universities have often been closed down by the military regime in recent decades. Dagon University was even moved to a location outside the capital for these reasons.

Illiteracy is not so bad in one of the poorest countries in the world. Most people can read and write, but the overall level of education is very low.

Typical Myanmar


Men in Myanmar wear a LongyiMen in Myanmar wear a LongyiPhoto: Christopher Michel CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Not only the women, but also most men in Myanmar wear the traditional wrap or longyi, a piece of cloth that is sewn around the hips and covers the legs and lower body. The longyi worn by women is called 'htamain', and the men wear a 'paso'.


Myanmar Thanaka

Myanmar ThanakaPhoto:Jakub Halun CC 4.0 International no changes made

Thanaka is a pale yellow dye that women and girls apply to their faces, sometimes in figures. The dye is made from the bark of the Murraya paniculata. The pale yellow paste protects the skin from the sun, prevents dehydration and cools it down. It also makes the skin look lighter, which is another beauty ideal for the women of Myanmar.


Myanmar Cheroot

Myanmar CherootPhoto:David Stanley Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Cheroots are traditional Burmese cigars smoked by both men and women. The purely handmade cigars are made from the cordia plant. The best-tasting cigars come from the Kalaw area and around Inle Lake in Shan State.


Myanmar Jade

Myanmar JadePhoto:James St John CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Jade is the common name for two minerals used as gemstones: jadeïet and nephrite. Jade has many different colours: green, brown, black or cloud white, from very light to very dark.


Myanmar Pagodas

Myanmar PagodasPhoto:Bjørn Christian Tørrissen CC 4.0 International no changes made

Myanmar is the country of pagodas. Pagodas have two variants: the massive bell-shaped "zedi" and the hollow, square or rectangular "patha". The most important pagoda is the nearly 100-metre high Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon.

Especially in Bagan, many pagodas can be found. This is partly due to a series of kings who tried to outdo each other with even more beautiful buildings. In 1287, the Mongolian ruler Kublai Khan conquered Pagan. His army plundered the temples. Nowadays, the restoration of the buildings is in full swing. The twelfth century was Bagan's golden age. In an area of over 40 km², there were 13,000 pagodas and temples, of which several thousand are still standing today. All religious buildings are made of stone and thanks to the dry climate many of them have been well preserved throughout the centuries. Bagan is on UNESCO's World Heritage List.

Burma road

Myanmar Starting Point Burma Road

Myanmar Starting Point Burma RoadPhoto:::::=UT=:::: CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Burma Road is a road connecting Myanmar (then Burma) with China. Its terminus is in Kunming and Lashio, Burma. When the road was built, Burma was a British colony. The road is about 1,130 kilometres long and runs through a rugged mountainous landscape. The section from Kunming to the Burmese border was built by 200,000 Chinese workers during the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 and was completed by 1938. It played an important strategic role in World War II when the British used the Burma Road to transport war materials to China before Japan was at war with the British. Supplies were brought in from Rangoon and were taken by rail to Lashio, where the road through Burma began. After the Japanese overran Burma in 1942, the Allies began flying in supplies over the eastern tip of the Himalayan range and, under the command of General Stillwell, constructed the Ledo Road to link Assam in India with the Burma Road.


Hulst, H. / Birma: (Myanmar)
KIT Publishers/Oxfam Novib

K├Âllner, H. / Myanmar (Birma)
Het Spectrum

Myat Yin, S. / Burma
Times Books

Peterse, L. / Birma (Myanmar)

Reid, R. / Myanmar (Burma)
Lonely Planet


CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
Copyright: Team The World of Info