Sarah Wayne Callies: Burma/Myanmar, “obscure and obscured”
February 17, 2012 by Sara Wayne Callies
|A young Burmese refugee in the Mae La camp in northwesternThailand. With its over 40,000 residents, Mae La is the largest camp on the Thailand-Myanmar border. Photo: Peter Biro/IRC|
Actress and IRC Voice Sarah Wayne Callies is preparing to travel to Thailand this week to visit camps on the border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, where the International Rescue Committee assists Burmese refugees who have fled conflict and economic hardship at home.
“Burma/Myanmar is, after North Korea, probably the most obscure and obscured state in the contemporary world.”
3. It shares borders with India, Bangladesh, China, and Thailand.
4. It was under British rule until 1948.
5. It is a natural resource-rich nation with reserves of oil, natural gas, gems (primarily rubies and jade), and teak.
6. Per capita income is estimated to be about $290 (U.S.) a year, making it one of the poorest countries in the world.
7. It’s a diverse nation with 135 ethnic groups, eight of which make up the majority of the population: Burman, Shan, Karen, Kayah, Chin, Kachin, Mon, Arakanese. Among these ethnic groups are those who practice Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam.
8. From 1962 to 2011, the country was ruled by a military junta that maintained one of the world’s most tightly controlled censorship regimes.
9. Although the country’s new military-backed civilian government has undertaken a series of reforms recently, the social and economic situation remains dire.
You can read all of Sarah Wayne Callies's blog posts here. Look for Sarah's update from Thailand next week.