Myanmar, also known as Burma, was long considered a pariah state while under the rule of an oppressive military junta from 1962 to 2011.
The generals who ran the country suppressed almost all dissent – symbolised by the house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi – and stood accused of gross human rights abuses, prompting international condemnation and sanctions.
A gradual liberalisation process has been under way since 2010. The country is expected to see a major shift after the government changed hands early in 2016.
The dominance of the largest ethnic group, the Burman or Bamar people, over the country’s many minorities has been fuelling a series of long-running rebellions, although a gradual peace process yielded a draft ceasefire deal in 2015.
- Republic of the Union of Myanmar
- Capital: Nay Pyi Taw
- Population: 48.7 million
- Currency: Kyat
- Area: 676,552 sq km (261,218 sq miles)
- Major language: Burmese, minority languages
- Major religions: Buddhism
- Life expectancy: 64 years (men), 68 years (women)