Just under 54 million (July 2011 estimate)
Burmese
Nearly 90% of the population embraces Buddhism
  • In 1989, the military government officially changed the English translations of many names dating back to Burma’s colonial period, including that of the country itself: “Burma” became “Myanmar”. This renaming remains a contested issue.
  • The country is one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia, suffering from decades of stagnation, mismanagement and isolation.

Conflict and Crisis History

The military junta controlling Burma since 1962 has continuously violated human and Indigenous rights, using murder, rape, torture, and forced labor to oppress Indigenous Peoples.

To counter this repression, several Indigenous groups have created their own military forces.  The Burmese government often responds to these groups by cutting off civilian access to water, food, and aid, or by forcibly relocating entire communities.  Sexual violence perpetrated by the Burmese Army is a major problem for the Indigenous Peoples of Burma. Though many women have reported being sexually assaulted by the Burmese Army, the government often fails to investigate these charges or punish offenders.  The cultural, religious, and linguistic freedom of Indigenous Peoples in Burma is brutally repressed. For instance, Indigenous Peoples are prohibited from speaking and learning their traditional languages.

The military junta was officially dissolved in 2011 following a general election in 2010 and a nominally civilian government installed, though the military retains great influence.

Refugee History

  • An estimated 3 million Burmese have been forced to flee to neighboring countries.
  • Approximately 750,000 Indigenous Peoples have been forcibly displaced by the Burmese state. With their villages destroyed and their fields sown with land mines, many of Burma’s Indigenous Peoples are internally displaced or forced to live in refugee camps in Thailand.
  • An estimated 500,000 people are displaced by conflict in eastern Burma and another 800,000 Muslims in western Burma, are stateless and lack the most basic of human rights.