2 Myanmar men charged with murdering 2 British tourists in Thailand write plea to Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, protesting their innocence and claiming to have been 'scapegoated' by police - @Reuters
Burma (/ˈbɜrmə/ BUR-mə), officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, commonly shortened to Myanmar (/ˈmjɑːnˌmɑr/ MYAHN-mar, /ˈmaɪænmɑr/ or /ˈmjænmɑr/), is a sovereign state in Southeast Asia bordered by Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand. One third of Burma's total perimeter of 1,930 kilometres (1,200 miles) forms an uninterrupted coastline along the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. Burma's population of over 50 million makes it the world's 25th most populous country and, at 676,578 square kilometres (261,227 sq mi), it is the world's 40th largest country and the second largest in Southeast Asia. Its capital city is Naypyidaw and its largest city is Yangon.
Early civilizations in Burma included the Tibeto-Burman speaking Pyu in Upper Burma and the Mon in Lower Burma. In the 9th century, the Burmans of the Kingdom of Nanzhao entered the upper Irrawaddy valley and, following the establishment of the Pagan Empire in the 1050s, the Burmese language and culture slowly became dominant in the country. During this period, Theravada Buddhism gradually became the predominant religion of the country. The Pagan Empire fell due to the Mongol invasions (1277–1301), and several warring states emerged. In the second half of the 16th century, reunified by the Taungoo Dynasty, the country was for a brief period the largest empire in the history of Southeast Asia. The early 19th century Konbaung Dynasty ruled over an area that included modern Burma and briefly controlled Manipur and Assam as well. The British conquered Burma after three Anglo-Burmese Wars in the 19th century and the country became a British colony (a part of India until 1937 and then a separately administered colony). Burma became an independent nation in 1948, initially as a democratic nation and then, following a coup in 1962, a military dictatorship which formally ended in 2011.
For most of its independent years, the country has been engrossed in rampant ethnic strife and a myriad of Burma's ethnic groups have been involved in one of the world's longest-running unresolved civil wars. During this time, the United Nations and several other organizations have reported consistent and systematic human rights violations in the country. In 2011, the military junta was officially dissolved following a 2010 general election, and a nominally civilian government was installed. Although the military retains enormous influence through the constitution that was ratified in 2008, it has taken steps toward relinquishing control of the government. This, along with the release of Burma's most prominent human rights activist, Aung San Suu Kyi, and many other political prisoners, has improved the country's human rights record and foreign relations and has led to the easing of trade and other economic sanctions that had been imposed by the European Union and the United States. There is, however, continuing criticism of the government's treatment of the Muslim ethnic Rohingya minority and its poor response to the religious clashes that have occurred throughout the nation, described by various human rights organizations as a policy of ethnic cleansing.
Burma is a country rich in jade and gems, oil, natural gas and other mineral resources. In 2013, its GDP (nominal) stood at US$59.427 billion and its GDP (PPP) at US$111.120 billion. Despite good economic growth, it is believed that Burma's economic potential won't be easily achieved due to the nation's lack of development. As of 2013, according to the Human Development Index (HDI), Burma had a low level of human development, ranking 150 out of 187 countries.