“This is Burma. It is quite unlike any place you know about.” Kipling
Myanmar is the largest country in Southeast Asia and is bordered by India, China, Bangladesh, Laos and Thailand. Myanmar is characterized by great geographical diversity and ample natural resources (including oil, natural gas, timber and precious minerals).
With more than 13,000 years of history and a population of nearly 50 million, Myanmar has approximately 135 different ethnic groups, each with its own language, traditions and culture. Nevertheless, the majority of its population is Bamar (68%), and although highly religiously diverse, Myanmar is mainly a country of Buddhists (approximately 90% of its population).
Buddhism has greatly influenced the country’s culture, from its architecture, which is dominated by thousands of extraordinary pagodas, to its traditional festivals (such as the Burmese New Year Water Festival). Throughout its long history, Myanmar’s people have been able to preserve their traditions of close family ties, respect for their elders, and their unique traditional clothing—in particular, the longyi (a sarong worn by both men and women).
Today, despite being potentially one of the richest countries in the region, Myanmar still ranks amongst the 50 least developed countries in the world (UN Human Development Index, 2011). Recent political and economic reforms give signs of change and that the country is trying to move forward towards fulfilling its economic and social development potential.