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Myanmar (formerly Burma) is a country bordering Thailand, China and India on the Indian Ocean and is home to over 54 million people, a largely Buddhist population. It is dominated in the south by the Irrawaddy River System and an archipelago of over 800 islands which are largely uninhabited.

Myanmar is among the poorest countries in South East Asia with almost one third of its people living in poverty. Lack of investment in social programs, health services and education continues to take its toll: On nutrition alone, US government figures estimate almost 30 per cent of children under five are underweight, amongst the world’s worst malnutrition rates. 

Myanmar, "the Golden Country", gained its independence from India in 1948 and has been ruled by a military government since 1962. Economic policy led to chronic inflation and near economic collapse in 1988, which caused mass protests that came close to overthrowing the government of the time. Since then, the military attempted to open up the economy to market forces and foreign investment with little success to-date. Myanmar’s development remains severely constrained by a lack of progress towards real democracy, economic reform and improved service delivery. Ongoing conflict has resulted in refugee populations fleeing to neighbouring countries with estimates of between 500,000 and up to one million people internally displaced.

Sources: AusAID, BBC,,,

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