Myanmar, also referred to as Burma, is located in Southeast Asia encompassing a land mass comparable to the size of Texas, with an area of 676,578 square kilometers (“Burma”). The country borders two of the world’s superpowers, India and China, as well as a widespread border with Thailand. Laos and Bangladesh also share relatively small borders with Myanmar. The country’s location can be seen as highly strategic. The placement of Myanmar lies near major Indian Ocean shipping lanes, making trade an asset to the country.
The Irrawaddy, Myanmar’s major river, runs South across the country. It is Myanmar’s longest river, with a total navigable length of approximately 900 miles (Tinker). The Irrawaddy runs through Myanmar’s Central Lowlands, the most important area of the country in terms of population and economics. The river is navigable for most of its length, therefore serving as Myanmar’s major transportation route for communication, warfare, and most importantly trade.
Myanmar consists of six diverse regions, divided into the Central Lowlands, the Tenasserim, the Shan Plateau, the Northern and Western Mountains, and Arakan (Silverstein). The Central Lowlands contain the upper Irrawaddy and Chindwin Rivers. Along the banks of these rivers are permanent communities and developed agriculture. The Tenasserim is Myanmar’s coastal area between the Andaman Sea and the country’s southeastern border. This region is vital for its tin resources, fisheries, and rubber. The third region of Myanmar is the Shan Plateau. This area includes the eastern uplands that rise from the central plain, narrowing southward into the Tenasserim. The northern uplands have an average elevation of approximately 3,000 feet, and are watered by the Salween and numerous other rivers (Silverstein). Due to the exceptional water supply and cooler climate at higher elevations, the north grows various crops. The southern area of the plateau is rich in minerals, and covered with forests where Myanmar’s best teak is found. The mountains of the north portray a landscape of steep and rugged mountains, with fast rivers and luscious forests. The Western Mountains include the Patkai, Naga, and Chin hills that form a natural wall. The hills rise 12,000 feet in the north, and then decrease further south (Silverstein). The last of Myanmar’s regions is Arakan. It is a long and narrow coastal area, composed of short rivers that flow into the Bay of Bengal. These six major land divisions make up the naturally formed geographical unit of Myanmar.
The beginnings of Myanmar, previously known as Burma, can be traced back to 1948 when it gained its independence from the United Kingdom (“Myanmar”). The first inhabitants of Burma were the Mon, who settled in the country around 3000 BC (“Myanmar”). The Tibeto-Burmans of Tibet followed around AD 638, along with the Shan who came from China (“Myanmar”). The Mon people gained trade links with India and became followers of Buddhism. In 850, the Burmese...