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Overview

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.
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