Myanmar moved toward closer political and
economic relations with neighboring India and Thailand
in the 1990s, and in 1999 it was accepted as a member
of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Myanmar is divided into seven administrative divisions
and seven states. Theravada Buddhism is the religion
of about 85% of the population. Burmese (the tongue
of the Burmans) is the official language, but each of
Myanmar's ethnic minorities has its own language; in
all, over 100 languages are spoken.
|There are colleges and universities in Yangon and Mandalay.
The country is rich in minerals. Petroleum is found east
of the Ayeyarwady in the Dry Zone. Tin and tungsten are
mined in E Myanmar; the Mawchi mines in Kayah State are
also rich in tungsten. In the Shan State, northwest of
Lashio, are the Bawdwin mines, the source of lead, silver,
and zinc. Coal, copper, natural gas, and iron deposits
have also been found in Myanmar. Gems (notably rubies
and sapphires) are found near Mogok. Since the 13th cent.,
Myanmar has exported to China jade from the Hunkawng valley
in the north.
Aside from food processing, other manufacturing industries
include textiles, footwear, wood and wood products, and
construction materials. The country's chief trade partners
are Singapore, China, Japan, and Thailand. In addition
to teak and rice, exports include oilseeds, beans, rubber,
metals, hardwood, and gemstones. The chief imports are
machinery, transportation equipment, food products, and
consumer goods. Myanmar's developing economy, depressed
by political turmoil, began to recover in the 1980s with
increased private activity and foreign investment.