Myanmar – Burma
The Union of Myanmar is a country in Southeast Asia, also known as Burma, which used to be the official name of the country until 1989. This change of name has been officially recognized by the United Nations, but some national governments, such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and much of the Burmese population, do not recognize this name change, since they did not recognize the military government which instituted it. For the time being, however, Myanmar, which is a derivative of the Burmese short-form name Myanma Naingngandaw, is still used by many regardless of their opinion.
Since the 2010 election, the government has embarked on a series of reforms to direct the country towards liberal democracy, a mixed economy, and reconciliation, although doubts persist about the motives that underpin such reforms. The series of reforms includes the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission, the granting of general amnesties for more than 200 political prisoners, new labour laws that permit labour unions and strikes, a relaxation of press censorship, and the regulation of currency practices.
In 1 April 2012 by-elections the NLD won 43 of the 45 available seats; previously an illegal organization, the NLD had never won a Burmese election until this time. The 2012 by-elections were also the first time that international representatives were allowed to monitor the voting process in Burma. Following announcement of the by-elections, the Freedom House organization raised concerns about “reports of fraud and harassment in the lead up to elections, including the March 23 deportation of Somsri Hananuntasuk, executive director of the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL), a regional network of civil society organizations promoting democratization
Previously an independent kingdom, in 1886 Burma was annexed by the British Empire to the colony of India. The Japanese Empire invaded and occupied the country during World War II but it was returned to British control.
In 1948 the nation became sovereign, as the Union of Burma, with U Nu as the first Prime Minister. Democratic rule ended in 1962 with a military coup led by General Ne Win. Win ruled for nearly 26 years, bringing in harsh reforms. In 1990 free elections were held, but were voided by the military, which refused to step down
Myanmar is considered to have 3 seasons. The hot season is usually from March-April, and temperatures then cool off during the rainy season from May-October. The peak tourism season is the cool season from November-February. Temperatures can climb as high as 36°C in Yangon in the hot season while in the cool season, noontime temperatures are usually a more bearable 32°C, with night temperatures falling to around 19°C. Mandalay is slightly cooler in the cool season, with temperatures falling as low as 13°C, while temperatures in the hot season can go as high as 37°C. Generally, Lower Myanmar, the area around Yangon, receives more rainfall than the drier Upper Myanmar (around Mandalay).
Visas are required from all visitors except ASEAN, People’s Republic of China and Russian nationals. Electronic Myanmar visas are now available online at the eVisa site. Tourist visa applications cost US$30 and require a digital photograph and a credit card; if approved, the visa is valid for 28 days and must be used within 90 days. Electronic visas can only be used if arriving via air to Yangon or Mandalay.
Myanmar has announced the resumption of Visa-On-Arrival (VOA) starting in June 2012 for several countries including all ASEAN member states, the EU, New Zealand and the USA. The following categories of VOA are available: BUSINESS VISA, valid up to 70 days upon entry; ENTRY VISA (Meetings/Workshops/Events) valid up to 28 days upon entry; TRANSIT VISA valid up to 24 hours upon entry. Ensure you check the embassy website for the specific details. Note that, according to the Myanmar government website there is no VOA for tourists, but Myanmar Airways claims that VOA is now available for tourists of all nationalities for USD 30 (as of February 2013), but only on flights with their airline from Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Guangzhou.
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