Profile of Myanmar: Foundation of Strength and Culture

Sep 21, 2019 | Culture, Gov, KariA, Myanmar

East Asia DeskKari.Amarnani author

Myanmar | ©Fabio Liggeri

A spiritual nation that stands with a full heart and a courageous spirit

Myanmar is a staple destination spot for explorers who seek sacred experiences along with whirls of fun and delightful encounters. With ancient temples on almost every corner, untouched beaches that would make you swoon and tropical islands with the most breathtaking views— Myanmar is hard to miss. One of the nation’s most beautiful attributes is its ability to stop time and immerse people in the rawness and beauty of its culture and history. Forget cars, why not feel like an old-timey traveler touring the towns in a horse-drawn carriage? 

Also known as Burma, Myanmar is a nation in Southeast Asia that borders the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal. China lies north and northeast of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand sit in the east and the west is Bangladesh and various Indian states. Due to its location, the country is surrounded by different influences that have merged to form Myanmar’s distinctive identity. 

Its area comes up to about 676,578 km². For perspective, it’s just a bit smaller than Texas and twice the size of Germany. The population stands at 54.4 million. Myanmar’s most important state is Yangon which is its largest city and economic center. It was the country’s capital city until 2005 when it changed to Naypyidaw.

The nation is known as the Golden Land because of its rich commodities such as oil, copper, gas, sapphires, jade, rubies and emeralds. The place is rife with minerals and precious stones. Its forests contain rare timbers such as rosewood and teak. A medley of wild animals roam the forests. Life and exuberance are in the air. If there’s one thing Myanmar never lacks, it is abundance. Unfortunately, at one point in time, this includes an abundance of militia and colonialism. 

History and Government: From Independence to Struggle

Burma was once a self-sustaining kingdom with its own autonomy and legislation. In 1886, it was annexed by Britain and made into a colony of India and it was no longer a state with its own sovereignty. Japan invaded and occupied the colony in World War II, but in the end, Burma was still returned to Britain. It was not until 1948 that Burma broke free from its chains.

In 1962, Burma was ruled by a military junta that held complete power them and only relinquished the regime in 2011. Burma was officially changed to Myanmar in 1989 by the ruling political party at the time. Many countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and the majority of the population in Myanmar do not honor the name change as it was enforced by an administration that they never exalted.

Aung San Suu Kyi riceve il sigillo della città di Parma ©Città di Parma

Aung San Suu Kyi riceve il sigillo della città di Parma ©Città di ParmaAung San Suu Kyi riceve il sigillo della città di Parma ©Città di Parma

Though elections had been held in 1990 with a victory in the opposing party, the military junta refused to renounce its power. Not until Aung San Suu Kyi entered the picture. 

Aung San Suu Kyi’s father was a hero aiding in the quest for Myanmar’s independence. He was assassinated when she was two. Her mother was a Burmese ambassador in Delhi, India. Both parents were dedicated to the freedom and development of Myanmar and the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Aung San Suu Kyi spent most of her time from 1989 to 2010 in house arrest due to her unrelenting efforts of bringing democracy to Myanmar. 

She succeeded in 2011 and the military power was officially dissolved. She won a Nobel Peace Prize for her peaceful resistance amidst oppression. She is currently the State Counselor of Myanmar. Because her children are foreign nationals, she is unable to become president but is widely recognized as the de facto head of the country. She has achieved so much, but it is still a long journey ahead. Regardless of its disestablishment, the military still holds substantial power in the government.

Myanmar’s Greatest Asset:

No doubt about it— this country’s best attraction is its people. Travelers from all over the globe can vouch for this. Myanmar houses the kindest and friendliest people in the world. They say that money buys happiness, but Myanmar’s population is proof that you don’t need wealth to be a merry person. When you have the richness of the heart, you have all you need.

Yangon, Chinatown, Myanmar - ©LWYang

Yangon, Chinatown, Myanmar | ©LWYang

Though financially poor, the country has strong nationalistic pride. It is not considered to be unusual if tourists get approached by locals hoping to show them around. While the tourists expect a fee to be exchanged at the end of the journey, surprisingly, the locals refuse often the money. They may ask for help with their English, but that’s about it. No compensation required whatsoever. It is enough to be able to help others love their country as much as they do.

88% of Myanmar’s population practice Buddhism in the Theravada tradition. It is known as the most spiritual Buddhist country in the world for its abundance of devoted monks and the sizable contribution the nation allots towards its religious institutions. Constitutionally, the population has the right to freedom of religion but unfortunately, this freedom is restricted by other factions of the constitutional articles. Oppression continues to show its ugly fangs in very subtle ways. 

Anti-discrimination laws apply only to certain ethnic groups. In fact, though residing in the nation all their lives, some minority ethnic groups are prohibited to vote. Everybody has the right to freedom of religion, choice and expression— but they are merely words. It is an unspoken rule that adherence to Buddhism is mandatory compliance. 

Plucking Tea at Ceylon | Museum of Photography Unknown

Food for the Soul:

Just like its culture, Burmese food is a sum of many parts. With each ethnic influence comes a deliciously perfect symmetry that can only found in this cuisine. It is a hit of overpowering sourness and savory ingredients with a unified rich flavor. Usually, the main dishes are accompanied by boiled vegetables, soups, sauces, pastes and herbs. Unlike its Indian and Chinese neighbors, the country is not too big with sweet and spicy flavors. The cuisine focuses mainly on strong palates.

Yangon, Chinatown, Myanmar ©Neville Wootton

Yangon, Chinatown, Myanmar ©Neville Wootton

 

Like many Asian countries, rice is the staple in every person’s diet in Myanmar. Rice is utilized in many different Burmese dishes from savory to sweet. Another staple dish is Burmese salads which make use of almost any ingredient under the sun. Whatever it is, whatever flavor it is, it can be made into a salad.  Some of Myanmar’s most famous dishes are ngapi, mohinga, and of course, its street food. Ngapi is a Burmese fish sauce made into a pungent paste. Locals incorporate ngapi in many ordinary and household dishes. Mohinga, which is a rice noodle and fish soup, is considered to be the country’s national dish.

The country’s main exports are fish, rice, beans, natural gas and jade. Its biggest exporter is China followed by Thailand and India.

Myanmar is a nation that is trapped in time but its beauty grows day by day. No matter how golden this land becomes, it will always be the people that make it into the shimmery splendid that it is. They will forever fight for a better Myanmar and they will continue to love it in all its many forms.