Myanmar Geography and Population

By | January 8, 2023

Burma – Geography

Burma contains very varied landscapes. To the west, north and east are large mountain areas, while the old cultural land in the middle of the kingdom consists of the fertile agricultural areas around Irrawaddy. Throughout history, the river with the ancient royal cities of Mandalay, Amarapura, Ava and Bagan has been the main nerve of the community; it is navigable over 1000 km from the state of Kachin in the north to the great delta with the Mouths of the Irrawaddy at the mouth of the Bay of Bengal to the south. The core area is the dry zone with 500-1000 mm of rain per year. Using irrigation, it was Burma’s traditional granary. The southern lowlands are dominated by the deltas of the Irrawaddy and Sittang, which since the mid-1800’s. has taken over the role of the country’s most important agricultural area. The precipitation here is 1500-2000 mm, and two or three annual rice crops can be grown. Here is also the former capital, Rangoon (Yangon), and the mon people’s ancient capital, Pegu. Between the two rivers lie the low Pegu Yoma Mountains with the sacred mountain Popa.

The mountain areas are in a horseshoe shape around the large river valleys. Large areas are inhabited by the country’s various ethnic minorities; several have their own state within the union. The majority of these states are still quite inaccessible and are characterized by self-sufficient agriculture, in several places as sweat farms; traditionally, they are in stark contrast to the government. In the states of Shan and Kachin, opium poppies are grown, and drugs are an important source of income as well as the background to much of the unrest that has plagued the country. Among other things. It is likely that both regional armies and the government army are players in the opium industry, and the area is one of the world’s most important centers for heroin production.

To the west are the states of Arakan (Rakhine) and Chin. The area is largely without roads; it is inhabited by several peoples with ethnic connection to the small states of northeastern India. Further north is the Kachin State, populated by a large number of ethnic groups. Significant mineral resources have been found here, and the infrastructure is being developed. The Ledove Road, built during World War II as a strategically important connecting road between China and India, runs through the state. Farthest to the north, Kachin borders the Tibetan Plateau with Burma’s highest point, Hkakabo Razi (5881 m).

Almost half of the country is covered by forest. At altitudes above 1000 m there are pine and oak and above 2000 m rhododendron forests. The lower-lying rainforests contain valuable tropical woods; Among other things, Burma has a significant share of the world’s teak wood resources. In the forests, there are still elephants, tigers, bears and various deer species in addition to the peacock, which is the national symbol. Here you will also find the jungle hens, which are the ancestral form of domestic hens all over the world.


Burma is predominantly agricultural land, but there are significant resources of minerals, oil, natural gas and timber, of which only a part is utilized. Despite the great natural resources, the country is among the poorest in the world and has the status of one of the least developed countries in the UN. After the military regime came to power in 1988, foreign investment was opened up, and in particular the ASEAN countries and China have invested, while many Western companies have withdrawn from Burma as a result of the regime’s extensive human rights violations. Despite this boycott, however, foreign investment has increased; the growth is especially visible in hotel construction and tourism. Since the creation of the civilian government in 2011, development aid as well as investment from abroad has increased significantly.


Agriculture continues to contribute more than half of GDP, and the majority of the labor force is in the countryside. Rice is the dominant crop; in addition, corn, beans, cotton and various oil plants. Previously, the country was the world’s leading rice exporter, but lack of expansion of irrigation systems has meant that it is now only partially self-sufficient. Poverty and its consequences in the form of malnutrition and high child mortality are widespread.

Burma has increased its exports of timber, minerals and precious stones; however, the economy is very vulnerable and most years there is a large trade deficit. Some are financed by opium exports; large sums from here are believed to be laundered in the tourism industry.


Road and railway networks are poorly developed, and large outlying areas are practically inaccessible. The railway network is obsolete on long distances, but since the mid-1990’s it has been expanded to 5304 km (2010). Since 2005, many new roads and bridges have been built, often financed by China, which is also behind the oil and natural gas pipeline from offshore fields in the Bay of Bengal to China. A Correspondence A similar pipeline to Thailand through large protected forest areas is criticized by environmental organizations. In 2011, for five years, the president suspended the construction of a large Chinese-funded dam in the state of Kachin, which was to supply power to China so that the objections of local residents could be investigated.

For tourists, Burma has unique attractions, both natural and cultural. Since the regime began to loosen the tight controls in 2011, the influx of tourists has been growing so fast that hotels and infrastructure can barely keep up.

Burma – Peoples

1/3 of Burma’s population is estimated to belong to the country’s ethnic minorities. As there is no reliable census, the figures are based on estimates. The largest group are the Burmese, who make up approximately 33 million This is followed by (3-4 million) shan, a Thai people who are culturally related to Thailand’s majority. In the northwestern part of the state of Shan, the palaung lives, and on the border with China and the Laos wa tribes, which until the 1970’s were known for conducting headhunting. The Palaung and Wa populations are estimated to be 1-2 million. In addition, the Tuangthu people (pa-o), which is considered to be related to the Karen. The Shan population is also found in the Kachin state, where Kachin (1 million) is the dominant ethnic group. For culture and traditions of Burma, please check animalerts.

  • Countryaah: Do you know how many people there are in Burma? Check this site to see population pyramid and resident density about this country.

On the border with India live the naga people, and along the border with Thailand the Karen. Kayah and a number of smaller groups live in Kayah State, and sgaw and pwo along the Salween River and in Tenasserim. Many Karen are also found on the Irrawaddy Delta from Bassein to Rangoon. The Karen incl. pa-o counts approximately 4 mio. Mon (1.3 million) mainly lives in Tenasserim.

States, regions and union territories
residents (million) area (km2) ethnic groups
Kachin 1.2 89000 kachin (jinghpaw, maru, lashi, atsi, nung, lisu), shan
Shan 4.6 156000 shan, palaung, wa, lahu, akha, pa-o, kachin, padaung, danu, intha
Kayah 0.3 11700 kayah, geba, padaung, bre, manu, paku, yintale
Chin 0.5 36000 chin
Arakan 2.6 36800 rakhine (arakanesere), rohingya
Karen 1.4 30400 pwo, sgaw (karener)
Mon. 2.3 12300 mon, karener, burmanere
Sagaing 5.1 94600 burmanere, shan, kachin, naga
Mandalay 6.2 37000 Burmese, Chinese
Magwe 4.3 44800 Burmese
Pegu 4.8 39400 Burmese, Karen, Mon.
Rangoon 5.3 10200 Burmese, Karen
Irrawaddy 6.4 35100 Burmese, Karen
Tenasserim 1.2 43300 burmanere, dawei, mon, karener
Union territories
Naypyidaw Union Territory 0.9 2724 civil servants, politicians and leaders from across the country

In the west live the Arakanes (rakhine) and chin, both 2 million. However, these major ethnic categories include a large number of subgroups with local cultural identities. Among Karen and Kachin, about 10-15% are Christians, while the majority of minorities are Buddhists and animists.

After World War II, many of the minorities believed that the British would work for the creation of independent ethnic states. After independence in 1948, the Christian Karen and Kachin in particular were disappointed to be betrayed by the British, whom they had loyally supported during the war against Japan, as opposed to the Burmese, who initially supported the Japanese. Against this background, a series of uprisings erupted, first the Karen in 1948, then Kachin in 1961 and then other ethnic groups. Following a Chinese-backed military operation, most groups have been forced to conclude a ceasefire with the regime since 1993. After the 2010 election, new unrest erupted between Karen and Kachin.

The military government claims that there are 135 ethnic groups, and rejects the major ethnic categories as a colonial construction. The regime will give local autonomy to some of the 135 “national races” as they are called.

To the variegated ethnic pattern also contribute descendants of a significant population, which the English colonial power imported for office away and workers. Of these, there are still approximately 100,000 Indians and approximately 400,000 Chinese. In addition, there are 500,000-800,000 Muslims, Rohingya, with roots in Bangladesh. Most live in the state of Arakan (Rakhine state). Since 2012, militant Buddhists led by monks have increasingly persecuted and tried to expel the Rohingya and since then other Muslims. The Rohingya and 500,000 Indians were exiled in 1962. The Indians moved to India, while the Rohingya could not find land or citizenship elsewhere.

Burma – Language

Official language is Burmese, which is the mother tongue of approximately 2/3 of the population. In addition, more than 110 languages ​​are spoken, including jingpo and chin, which, like Burmese, belong to the Tibeto-Burmese language family, the Karen language, the Thai languages Shan and Khamti, and Mon-Khmer languages such as Mon, Palaung, and Wa. Tibeto-Burmese languages ​​are spoken by a total of approximately 78%, Thai language of approximately 10% and Austro-Asian languages of approximately 7%. Shanspoken by about 3 million. people; it is an important cultural language, but has been deprived of its status as an official language and thus also as a language of instruction. Many smaller languages ​​do not have their own script. English, which still stands strong as an administrative language, is the language of instruction at the higher education institutions.

Myanmar Geography