Myanmar – a multi-ethnic state in South-east Asia

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dpa/GNA – Myanmar, formerly Burma, is located in South-east Asia between India and China. The country with a long coast on the Bay of Bengal has almost 54 million inhabitants.

The population is made up of more than 130 ethnic groups. Two thirds are Bamar, including hitherto de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and almost the entire state and military elite.

The Chin, Kachin, Karenni, and Karen are among the largest ethnic groups.

The ethnic minorities live in the border areas, some of which are rich in natural resources.

Since the country’s independence from Britain in 1948, many of the ethnic minorities have been fighting for independence or autonomy.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced as a result of fighting with armed rebels.

Myanmar has faced international criticism for state discrimination against the Rohingya in particular. The United Nations has described the persecution of the Muslim minority in Myanmar as an “ongoing genocide.”

The country was ruled by a military dictatorship from 1962 until the transition to democracy from 2010 that saw many political prisoners freed and ushered in partial civilian rule.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate who spent 15 years under house arrest, was among those freed.

She came to power in the country’s freest election in decades in 2015 amid a wave of intense optimism.

Barred from becoming president under a widely opposed 2008 constitution written by the military, she served as state counsellor or de facto leader until being toppled in Monday’s coup.

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