Country Summary - Myanmar/Burma


Overview: In many respects, Burma’s cultural diversity  

reflects its location on a strategic crossroads in Asia. Here it  

has acted as a historic buffer between the neighboring  

powers of China, India, and Siam (Thailand). A fertile land . . .  

the country is protected by a rugged horseshoe of mountains  

that surround the Irrawaddy plains


Official Language: Burmese 

Burmese is spoken by at least two thirds of the population.  

English is the secondary language but there are over 100  

languages and dialects in Myanmar. 


  • Please – Kyeizu pyu yue 
  • Hello – Min gla ba 
  • How are you? – Nei kaon la? 
  • I’m fine – Ne kaon ba de 
  • What is your name? – na mal bal loe kall  lal? 
  • My name is… – Kya nau na mee… ba Nice to meet you – Twe ya da wanta ba de 


  • Thank you – Kyeizu tin ba de 
  • You are welcome – Ya ba de 
  • Yes – Ho de 
  • No – Ma ho bu 
  • Excuse me (getting attention) – Ka mya? I’m sorry – taung pan par tal 
  • Goodbye! – Thwa dau mal 
  • The US has welcomed refugees from Myanmar: 2021 (581 individuals-as of 31 August 2021), 2020 (2,115),  2019 (4,932), 2018 (3,557) 
  • Popular Sports include the following: Football(soccer), Golf, Lethwei (pronounced ‘la-way, it’s a form of  martial arts) and Chinlone (a combination of dance and sport)  
  • Clothing: Thummy 
  • – traditional dress for women, Longyi-traditional dress for men, Burmese people are often seen wearing  traditional clothing and European-style clothing 
  • Customs 

o The family, both immediate and extended, is the most important social unit in Burman life.  Uncles, aunts, and cousins may live together under extended family arrangements.  

o After marriage it is usual for children to continue to live with parents.  

o In Burman families, males have priority, with father and sons assuming first place. They wield  greater authority and are shown deference. Grandparents living with the family are also shown  deference.  

o Females have many rights, however, including inheritance rights and the right to an equal share  of property upon divorce. Enrollment in higher education shows almost equal numbers of  females and males. 

  • Religion: Buddhism 85- 90%, Christianity 6-8%, Islam 2-4%
  • Food:  

o The Burmans typically eat boiled rice accompanied by curry and condiments. The early morning  meal may consist of fried leftover rice or steamed sticky rice, eaten with sesame and finely  ground salt, boiled beans, and sometimes grilled dried fish.  

o In the urban areas, breakfast might be bread and jam or Indian naan (flatbread) with boiled  beans. The midday meal is usually rice and some kind of curry, which for the more well-to-do  may be a meat dish accompanied by stir-fried vegetables and a soup.  

o More side dishes, such as various fermented fish paste dips (eaten with boiled vegetables) and  other meat or vegetable dishes, may be served, depending on the family’s income.  

Current Events  

  • Resource-rich and fertile, Burma was once regarded as “the rice bowl of Asia.” Under military rule since  1962, its fortunes have steadily declined, and today it is one of the world’s least developed and least free  countries. It is also the source of one of the world’s most protracted refugee crises. 
  • The military regime changed the name from “Burma” to “Myanmar”. The names mean the same thing,  but Myanmar is more formal. Many people and countries refused to acknowledge the name change in  order to deny the regime’s legitimacy, but today it is more accepted. Many Burmese people will say they  are from Burma, not Myanmar.  
  • The military seized power on February 1, 2021, and have declared a year-long state-of-emergency. Min  Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief, is currently in charge. There are widespread protests against his  power and many countries do not support him. Various ethnic groups have fled for their lives to countries  such as Bangladesh. 
  • While the generals who overthrew Myanmar’s elected government on 1 February envisioned a swift,  smooth and bloodless action, they have increasingly resorted to repressive and brutal measures to try to  bring overwhelming public resistance under control. 
  • Neither the military nor the protest movement can be certain of the current crisis’ ultimate outcome. 

Sources for further study;, the UN Refugee Agency;; 

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