Fighting in Myanmar

In the western state of Myanmar called Rakhine, fighting has broken out between the Buddhist people and a group of Muslims called Rohingya. Fighting between the two has been going on since June this year, but in recent weeks, the fighting has flared up. Majority of the citizens of the Rakhine state are Buddhists. The Rohingya are a small group of Muslims. The government of Myanmar doesn’t consider the Rohingya as citizens of Myanmar even though many of them were born there and have lived there for many years. The government considers the Rohingya to have illegally come over from the neighboring country of Bangladesh, and doesn’t offer much support for them. Many people of the Rohingya group are leaving their homes and running away from the area because they fear for their lives. Almost 90% of Myanmar’s population is Buddhist, and about 4% is Muslim.

Myanmar, known as Burma until 1989, got its independence from the United Kingdom in 1948. From 1962 until 2010, Myanmar was rued by military governments. In the last couple of years, Myanmar has been going through changes and is moving towards becoming a more democratic country. In 2010, elections were held in Myanmar and a new government was elected. Thein Sein became the country’s president. In 2010, the country also changed  its national anthem, its flag, and even its official name from “Union of Myanmar” to “Republic of the Union of Myanmar”. Earlier this year, the government removed a law that had been in place for about 50 years. The owners of print publications (such as newspapers and magazines) in the country would no longer have to go through government approval before printing their articles.

The capital of Myanmar is Naypyidaw and the largest city is Yangon.  The official language of the country is Burmese and its currency is the kyat. One very popular food is mohinga, which is noodles in a fish soup. A unit of weight commonly used in Myanmar is called “peiktha” or “viss” (1 peiktha or 1 viss = 1.63 kg = 3.6 pounds).

Myanmar is known as the “Land of Pagodas”, because there are many pagodas in the country. A pagoda has a distinct bell-shaped top and is often used by Buddhists as a religious building. One of the landmarks of the country is the Shwedagon Pagoda , a sacred Buddhist pagoda in Yangon.

Image Credits: Ralf-André Lettau for the image of Shwedagon Pagoda; Wagaung for the image of mohinga