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Country Reports

Myanmar Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Travelers to Myanmar (population 56 million), a Buddhist country located between the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, should make sure that they are well-informed before visiting this developing nation. The country is continuing the process of rehabilitating its diplomatic relations with the international community after a half-century of military rule.

POLITICS

Myanmar's political and social environment has calmed (e.g. new constitution, new civilian government since 2011, political prisoners liberated, various reforms, October 2015 signature of a "national" ceasefire agreement) - a relatively encouraging development.

Following the general elections (peaceful, with results accepted by militants) on November 8, 2015, the country's marginalization by the international community appears to be subsiding - another welcomed development - despite some hits to its public image abroad (e.g. regular fighting between army and ethnic groups in the Shan, Kachin, and Rakhine states at the end of 2016).

The Burmese government and eight armed ethnic groups (out of 21 officially recognized) signed a national ceasefire agreement in mid-October 2015. This historic event paved the way for peace negotiations at the political level in the near future (e.g. political dialogue).

Despite this historic advance, violent clashes between government forces and armed groups continue in Kachin (north) and Shan (northeast) states, regions where nonessential travel is ill-advised. On November 8, 2015, after a non-violent electoral campaign, 80 percent of the Burmese electorate went to the polls to elect members of parliament; the vote was the first “free” election organized in the country in a quarter century. The election was easily won by the main opposition group, National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi. A new president (elected by parliamentarians) took office on April 1, 2016. The new head of state (U Htin Kyaw, a supporter of Aung San Suu Kyi) must now create a government in this newly-formed democracy, where the military remains highly influential in political and economic affairs. The next parliamentary elections will be in November 2020.

SECURITY

Some Western governments advise their citizens against travel to areas bordering China, Laos, and Thailand, where movement is often restricted by Burmese authorities. This is also true for the Kokang region (Shan state) where clashes are still being reported in early 2016.

Following ethnic conflicts that broke out in 2012 and 2013 in the west of the country (along the border with Bangladesh in Rakhine - formerly Arakan - state; several dozen killed), some governments also advise against travel north of Rakhine, including the cities of Sittwe, Mrauk U, and neighboring tourist sites due to significant inter-ethnic tensions that continue to mount in the region.

A series of military operations was launched against rebel groups in the northern part of Arakan state (former Rakhine state) following a number of attacks on several security checkpoints located at the border with Bangladesh in October 2016 (hundreds of individuals from the Rohingya community carried out the attack; more than ten members of the security forces killed. Some 60 assailants and 15 military personnel were killed. A curfew has been implemented in various areas of Arakan state; foreign nationals, journalists, and humanitarian workers have been banned from accessing the region.

HEALTH

Generally speaking, medical and hospital facilities are poorly-equipped and scarce throughout the country; travelers should avoid undergoing medical treatment in the country if possible. In case of emergency, it is recommended to seek treatment in more developed countries in the region (e.g. Thailand or Singapore).

Dengue fever and chikungunya are endemic in Myanmar and require preventive measures against mosquito bites. Rabies is prevalent (roughly 100 human cases a year). Meningococcus meningitis was reported in March 2016 in Mandalay (north). Diarrheal diseases are frequent in this Southeast-Asia developing country.

NATURAL RISKS

The country is also at risk for natural disasters; Cyclone Nargis devastated the south (Irrawaddy Delta area) in May 2008, leaving 140,000 dead and affecting 2.4 million residents. In September 2014, the Irrawaddy River burst its banks and flooded the central Bagan area, the country's main tourist destination. Finally, in early August 2015, a quarter million Burmese were impacted by monsoon floods, especially in the Rakhine, Chin, Sagaing, and Magway regions, all of which were placed under a "natural catastrophe" alert.

TRANSPORTATION

Finally, visitors should avoid taking public transportation, whether by ground (bus), rail, ferry, or air, due to a lack of safety regulations (ferries sink relatively often).

Climate

The dry season extends from October until March during which days are sunny and pleasant. The hot season, from April to June, is marked by very high temperatures, particularly inland. The monsoon is a fixture in the Rangoon region between June and October; the center of the country receives slightly less rainfall during this period.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +95 Police: 199 Fire Dept.: 191

Electricity

Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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