Cruising to Burma

Background

Britain conquered Burma over a period of 62 years (1824-1886) and incorporated it into its Indian Empire. Burma was administered as a province of India until 1937 when it became a separate, self-governing colony; independence from the Commonwealth was attained in 1948. Gen. NE WIN dominated the government from 1962 to 1988, first as military ruler, then as self-appointed president, and later as political kingpin.

Despite multiparty legislative elections in 1990 that resulted in the main opposition party - the National League for Democracy (NLD) - winning a landslide victory, the ruling junta refused to hand over power. NLD leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient AUNG SAN SUU KYI, who was under house arrest from 1989 to 1995 and 2000 to 2002, was imprisoned in May 2003 and subsequently transferred to house arrest, where she remains virtually incommunicado.

In November 2005, the junta extended her detention for at least another six months. Her supporters, as well as all those who promote democracy and improved human rights, are routinely harassed or jailed.

Geography

Location: Southeastern Asia, bordering the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, between Bangladesh and Thailand
Geographic coordinates: 22 00 N, 98 00 E
Map references: Southeast Asia
Area: total: 678,500 sq km

Coastline

1,930 km

Maritime claims

Territorial sea: 12 nm
Contiguous zone: 24 nm
Exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin

Climate

Tropical monsoon; cloudy, rainy, hot, humid summers (southwest monsoon, June to September); less cloudy, scant rainfall, mild Temperatures, lower humidity during winter (northeast monsoon, December to April)

Terrain

Central lowlands ringed by steep, rugged highlands

Elevation extremes

Lowest point: Andaman Sea 0 m
Highest point: Hkakabo Razi 5,881 m

Economy

Burma, a resource-rich country, suffers from pervasive government controls, inefficient economic policies, and rural poverty. The junta took steps in the early 1990s to liberalize the economy after decades of failure under the "Burmese Way to Socialism," but those efforts stalled, and some of the liberalization measures were rescinded. Burma does not have monetary or fiscal stability, so the economy suffers from serious macroeconomic imbalances - including inflation, multiple official exchange rates that overvalue the Burmese kyat, and a distorted interest rate regime.

Most overseas development assistance ceased after the junta began to suppress the democracy movement in 1988 and subsequently refused to honor the results of the 1990 legislative elections. In response to the government of Burma's attack in May 2003 on AUNG SAN SUU KYI and her convoy, the US imposed new economic sanctions against Burma - including a ban on imports of Burmese products and a ban on provision of financial services by US persons.

A poor investment climate further slowed the inflow of foreign exchange. The most productive sectors will continue to be in extractive industries, especially oil and gas, mining, and timber. Other areas, such as manufacturing and services, are struggling with inadequate infrastructure, unpredictable import/export policies, deteriorating health and education systems, and corruption. A major banking crisis in 2003 shuttered the country's 20 private banks and disrupted the economy. As of December 2005, the largest private banks operate under tight restrictions limiting the private sector's access to formal credit.

Official statistics are inaccurate. Published statistics on foreign trade are greatly understated because of the size of the black market and unofficial border trade - often estimated to be as large as the official economy. Burma's trade with Thailand, China, and India is rising. Though the Burmese government has good economic relations with its neighbors, better investment and business climates and an improved political situation are needed to promote foreign investment, exports, and tourism.

Transportation

Airports: 84 (2005)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 19
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 65
Heliports: 1 (2005)
Pipelines: gas 2,056 km; oil 558 km (2004)
Railways: total: 3,955 km
Roadways: total: 27,000 km

Waterways

12,800 km (2005)

Merchant marine

Total: 34 ships (1000 GRT or over) 402,724 GRT/620,642 DWT
By type: bulk carrier 8, cargo 18, passenger 2, passenger/cargo 3, roll on/roll off 2, specialized tanker 1
Foreign-owned: 9 (Germany 5, Japan 4) (2005)

Sailing Specifics: Ports and terminals

Moulmein, Rangoon, Sittwe   

Other Sailing Destinations in the Region

Brunei - Burma - Cambodia - China - East Timor - Hong Kong - Indonesia - Japan - Macau - Malaysia - North Korea -Philippines - Russia - Singapore - South Korea - Taiwan - Thailand - Vietnam

Further Reading

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