Country Profile

The Land and its People
The Land

Myanmar, with a total land area of 676,577 (261,228 sq.miles), is the largest country on the mainland of South East Asia. It shares a total of 5858 km (3640 miles) of international borders with Bangladesh and India on the north-west, China on the north-east, Laos on the east and Thailand on the south-east. It has a total length of 2832 km (1760 miles) of coastlines. The country stretches 2090 km (1299 miles) from north to south and 925 km (575 miles) from east to west at its widest points.

Myanmar is a forest-clad mountainous country. Three parallel chains of mountain ranges run from north to south: the Western Yoma or Rakhine Yoma, the Bago Yoma and the Shan Plateau. They begin from the eastern extremity of the Himalaya mountain range. The peak of the Hkakabo-Razi at 5881 m is the highest in South-East Asia.

These mountain chains divide the country into three river systems: the Ayeyarwady, the Sittoung and the Thanlwin. The Ayeyarwady, the most important river, about 2170 km (1350 miles) long, and its major tributary, the Chindwinn, 960 km (600 miles) long, constitute the greatest riverine system in the country. As it enters the sea, the Ayeyarwady forms a vast delta of 240 km (150 miles) by 210km (130 miles).

According to these mountain chains and river systems, the country can be divided into seven major topographic regions: the Northern Hills, the Western Hills, the Shan Plateau, the Central Belt, the Lower Myanmar Delta, the Rakhine Coastal Region and the Tanintharyi Coastal Strip.

As it is mainly in the Tropical Region, Myanmar has a tropical monsoon climate with three seasons: the hot season from mid-February to mid-May, the rainy season from mid-May to mid-October and the cool season from mid-October to mid-February.

Annual rainfall varies from 500cm in the coastal regions to 75 cm and less in the central dry zone. Mean temperature ranges from 32 C in the coastal and delta areas to 21 C in the Northern lowlands. During the hot season, the temperature could run considerably high in the central dry zone.

The People

The population of Myanmar, spread over seven States and seven Divisions, was estimated at 42.33 million in 1992/93. Myanmar is inhabited by many ethnic nationalities. There are as many as 135 national groups with the Bamars, comprising about 68.96 per cent of the population, forming the largest group.

Most of the people live in the Central Belt, (i.e. Sagaing, Magway and Mandalay Divisions) the Lower Myanmar Delta and the Shan Plateau. Seven other nationalities have States of their own. The Kachins live in the Kachin State and the Northern Shan State. The Kayahs live mainly in the Kayah State. The Kayins have mostly become intermingled with the Bamars and the Mons, while the rest now live in the delta region and the lowland Sittoung Valley. The Chins live in the Chin Hills and also in the dry zone west of the Ayeyarwady. The Mons live mainly in the South-East of Myanmar while the Rakhines, who speak and write Myanmar but with a different tone and accent, have their own State which lies in the coastal region of Rakhine Yoma, the western range. The Shans live mainly in the Shan Plateau area.


About 89.4 per cent of the population, mainly Bamars, Shans, Mons, Rakhines, and some Kayins, are Buddhists, while the rest are Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Animists. The Christian population is composed mainly of Kayins, Kachins and Chins. Islam and Hinduism are practised mainly by people of Indian origin.


The agricultural sector being the mainstay of the Myanmar economy and accounting for about 39 per cent of the total GDP is accorded priority. Prevalence of different agro-ecological tracts has made it possible to grow a multitude of over 60 crops ranging from typical tropical ones to moderate temperate varieties including cereals such as rice, wheat. maize, millet, beans, pulses and oilseeds: industrial crops such as cotton, jute, rubber, sugar cane, toddy palm, tobacco and spices, and many others both edible and non-edible.

Land Resources

Myanmar possesses a large land area in the South East Asian region and unlike most neighbouring countries, still has a vast potential of land resources for cultivation and for further expansion of cultivable land. Of the total area of 67.6 million hectare (167.2 million acres) only about 12 per cent is under cultivation. There is also great potential for further expansion of mixed and multiple cropping areas, especially in lower Myanmar where moisture content of the soil and water availability are much better than in Upper Myanmar. In Upper Myanmar, especially in the dry belt zone, cultivation is done with water drawn from irrigation networks. There still exists much room for further extension of irrigation facilities as the potential has so far been exploited only to a small extent. The total cultivated area under irrigation accounts for about 12 per cent of net area sown.

Land Utilization

With a view to developing agriculture, livestock breeding and related activities, the State Economic Enterprises, joint ventures, co-operative societies and other organisations and private individuals will be granted the right to cultivate/utilise cultivable, fallow and waste land upon application. Hence a Central Committee for the management of cultivable land, fallow land and waste land has been formed. The Committee has prescribed procedures for the right to cultivate/utilise land. Foreigners or organisations consisting of foreigners may also apply for the right to utilise land.

Persons who desire to invest in commercial enterprises concerning such activities will be granted the right to cultivate/utilise cultivable land, fallow land and waste land up to the maximum areas mentioned below:

   (a) Agriculture
        (1) Plantation Crops		5000    acres
        (2) Orchards			3000    acres
        (3) Seasonal Crops		1000    acres

   (b)   Livestock, Poultry Farming and Aquaculture
        (1) Aquaculture			2000    acres
        (2) Livestock & Poultry Farming
             (a) Buffalo, cattle, horse		5000    acres
             (b) Sheep, goat		1000    acres
             (c) Poultry, pig		  500    acres  

Duration has been fixed for a maximum period of thirty years for cultivation and utilisation of land for plantation crops and orchards, livestock and poultry farming and aquaculture purposes. The period may be extended upon negotiation. In the case of cultivation of seasonal crops the duration shall continue as long as there is no breach of conditions.

Exemption from payment of land revenue shall be granted for a period of 2 to 8 years from the granting of the lease, depending upon the type of agricultural crops, livestock breeding and aquaculture; and at least 3 years of income-tax exemption may be granted from the year of commencement of commercial running of the business carried out on land developed and invested.

An order permitting the right to cultivate/utilise land shall be granted after a deposit of 10% of the investment has been paid as guarantee fees.

Livestock and Fishery

The Livestock and Fishery sector is one of the most productive sectors and it holds vast potential for further expansion and export of the products therefrom.


Livestock breeding of pedigree stock, cattle, buffalo, sheep, goat, pig, and poultry etc., forms an integral part of the rural economy. Ownership of livestock is characterized by small individual herds and flocks. Cattle and buffalo are being bred primarily for use in cultivation, while pig and poultry for consumption. For the development of the cattle industry, vast pasture lands with suitable climatic conditions are available in different regions.


Fisheries in Myanmar can be classified into fresh water fisheries and marine fisheries. Fresh water fisheries are mainly of the nature of flood fisheries, made possible through vast river systems and heavy rainfall. There are also leasable fisheries which cover vast areas. Fish culture operations are presently being undertaken extensively in ponds, lakes and reservoirs.

Myanmar has a long coastline, 2832 kilometres (1,760 miles) in all. The continental shelf covers 228.781 sq. km. (66,700 nautical sq. miles) and Myanma's exclusive economic zone is 486,000 sq. km. wide. According to surveys and researches undertaken in marine fisheries, the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) of the Union of Myanmar is estimated at about 1.05 million metric tons per year, of which only 0.59 million metric tons was exploited last year, leaving a large potential for development. In conformity with the provisions contained in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea regarding the sharing of surplus fishery resources with neighbouring States, the Department of Fisheries has started granting fishing rights, initiated some joint fishery development programmes and formation of joint venture companies with effect from 1989/90.

In order to cope with the increasing fishing activities in Myanmar, in addition to the existing Fisheries Manual of 1905, various laws such as Law Relating to the Fishing Rights of Foreign Fishing Vessels, Myanma Aquaculture Law, Myanma Marine Fisheries Law and Freshwater Fisheries Law have been enacted and procedures have been prescribed. A person desiring to carry out any fishery activity in the form of joint venture under the Foreign Investment Law must apply to the Department of Fisheries for licence. Fishing grounds will be determined as required in Myanmar Marine Fisheries Waters beyond the baseline by the said department.


Myanmar is indeed very rich in forest resources as the forests cover about 50.87 per cent of the total land area. There are over 8570 different plant species, including 2300 tree species, 850 kinds of orchid, 97 varieties of bamboo and 32 different types of cane. In 1992/93 reserved forest area totalled 101425 sq. km . (39160 sq. miles).


The forest area with significant teak resources covers about 6.1 million hectare (15 million acres), accounting for about 10 per cent of the growing stock in some places. Teak is very well known in the world market and is extensively used for ship building, bridges, wharves, railway carriages, wagons, houses and furniture. It is also much valued in the carving industry. At present, Myanmar enjoys the largest share of the world teak trade. The annual potential yield of the teak is around 0.3 million hoppus tons (0.6 million cubic meters). An average of 164913 hoppus tons in log form and 28831 tons in conversion form are exported annually. Other items exported are veneer, plywood, furniture, carving, joinery, flooring products. moulding etc.


There are different species of hardwood such as Padauk (Pterocarpus macrocarpus), Pyinkado (Xylia dolabriformis), Kanyin (Dipterocarpus species), Taungthayet (Swintonia floribunda), Pine (Pinus insularis) etc. The annual potential yield of hardwood is round 1.4 million hoppus tons (2.5 million cubic metres). During the last 10 years, an average of 1.22 million hoppus tons were extracted annually, of which 0.45 million hoppus tons was extracted by the State.


Bamboo grows mostly mixed with other tree species while in the Rakhine State there is a single patch of Kayin-Wa (Mellocanna bambusoides) growing in pure stands stretching over about 7770 sq. km (3000 sq. miles). On a cutting cycle of 10 years, the annual yield is 2.0 million tons, an equivalent of about 0.8 million tons of bamboo pulp. In the Tanintharyi Division, there are single pure bamboo patches and also some mixed with other tree species. The growing stock covers an area of 1860 sq. km (718 sq. miles). On a cutting cycle of 10 years, the annual yield is about 0.6 million tons, an equivalent of about 0.2 million tons of bamboo pulp.


Cane grows in abundance in Myanmar and about 32 species having been identified and recorded. The annual potential yield of various species is estimated at about 67 million pieces. At present, only a few species are exported. However, with the present extent of cane resources, there is ample scope for expansion of its extraction and for export.


Myanmar is well endowed with mineral resources and has many famous mines. To explore, develop and exploit the mineral resources of the country and to establish partnership in bilateral co-operation, the Ministry of Mines is welcoming foreign investors interested in investing in joint ventures with the Economic Enterprises under the Ministry. Two State Enterprises under the Ministry are responsible for the production of metallic minerals and one Enterprise deals with industrial minerals as well as iron and steel products. The production of precious stones, such as gems, jade and diamond are handled by another State Enterprise. The main minerals produced are refined lead, refined silver, zinc concentrate, copper concentrate, refined tin, tin concentrate, tin-wolfram-scheelite concentrate and gold. The precious stones produced are ruby, sapphire, diamond and jade. Industrial minerals produced include coal, gypsum, baryte, limestone, dolomite, bentonite, chromite, fireclay, fluoride, granite and various other items.

No. (1) Mining Enterprise The Bawdwin Mine which was the richest silver mine during 1930 produces the country's major portion of lead together with two other mines, Bawsaing and Yadanatheingi. The Bawdwin Mine also operates its own two hydroelectric power plants with a total installed generating capacity of 13.0 Megawatts. All the three mines are situated in the Shan State.

No. 1 Copper Mine situated in Salingyi Township operates an open pit mine producing 8000 tonnes of ore per day. Total ore reserves are about 130 million metric tons of mainly chalcocite ore containing an average copper content of 0.77%. The ore is known to contain some amount of gold and silver. Another large deposit called Letpadaung, was found to contain about 180 million tons of copper ore.

No. (2) Mining Enterprise Tin concentrates, tin and tungsten concentrates, tin tungsten and scheelite concentrates, refined tin are the main products of this enterprise. Gold is produced from four gold deposits, of which the first major gold production at Kyaukpahtoe was put on stream during early 1993. Diamonds of gem quality were also found while sluicing tin concentrates in Tanintharyi Division and systematic exploratory work is being carried out to find the main source of occurrence. High grade tin concentrate is produced from Heinda open-pit mine in the Tanintharyi Division. Heinze placer deposit is suitable for dredging tin concentrate by small dredgers with low operation costs. Most of the Tin and Tungsten mines are situated in Dawei area, Taninthary Division.

No.(3) Mining Enterprise This Enterprise deals with industrial minerals as well as iron and steel products. About 21 items of industrial minerals are produced. Pig iron, steel billets, steel grinding balls and mild steel rods are produced at No.1 Iron and Steel Plant situated in Pyin-Oo-Lwin and steel billets, wire rods, mild steel rods, formed products and M.S sheets at the Ywama Steel Mill situated in Yangon-North district. It can also produce G.l sheets, wire nails, barbed wire and G.I wire mesh.

Myanma Gems Enterprise The world's finest and most valuable rubies are found in the Mogok area in Mandalay Division. Rubies from Myanmar are acknowledged to be the finest in quality. It is considered by connoisseurs to be the world's most valuable gem. Sapphire has all the properties of ruby except for its colour. Sapphire is also found in the picturesque mountains of Mogok. Mogok produces a dazzling variety of assorted coloured gems including Spinal, Garnet, Peridot, Tourmaline, Aquamarine, Amethyst, Citrine, Zircon, Moonstone, Lolite, Danburite. Recently two new gems tracts were discovered by geologists in the Northern Shan State. The area is found to be promising for the production of high quality gems in the future.

Phakant Area in Kachin State is renowned for its production of Jade in Myanmar. Imperial jade, whose colour is emerald green of unequal purity, is the best. Jade with superb lustre, texture and an attractive variety of colours including mottled green is known as Commercial Jade. Utility jade is remarkable for its purity of grain and colour and is good for carving figurines and ornaments.

Crude Oil and Natural Gas

The exploration, development, production and transportation of crude oil and natural gas in the Union of Myanmar are the responsibility of Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE). MOGE operates (14) oil and gas fields in onshore areas for the production of oil and gas.

Oil producing fields are mostly in the Central Belt and Pyay Embayment. Recent test wells in Myanaung oil field yielded crude oil and natural gas. In Pyay oil field, some new discoveries were made from the subthrust zone. MOGE has discovered more gas pools near Aphyauk in Shell's relinquished Block-G.

At present, Natural Gas from Aphyauk gas field in Taikkyi Township is being distributed to Yangon and Pyay Area for power generation and industrial use.

To promote development in the oil and gas sector, the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise has signed 20 Production Sharing Contracts with 14 Multinational Oil Companies to explore and produce petroleum in several onshore and offshore areas of Myanmar since 1989.

After an exploration period of three years, some of the companies terminated their contracts. At present, 6 contractors onshore and 2 contractors offshore are continuing exploration work.

Offshore in Myanmar, Total/Unocal has completed the drilling of a number of appraisal wells, resulting in the discovery of additional gas reserves the surplus from which will be exported to neighbouring countries. In offshore Block M-13 and M-14, Texaco/Premier/Nippon Oil has also successfully drilled and discovered substantial amounts of condensate and natural gas.

Potential for further onshore exploration and development exists in Hukaung Basin, Chindwin Basin, Shwebo - Monywa Plain, Salin Basin, Central Myanmar Basin, Bago Yoma Region, Pyay Embayment, Ayeyarwady Delta Basin, Rakhine Coastal Plain and the Sittoung Basin.

With such encouraging discoveries in the Myanmar offshore area, the remaining offshore blocks are expected to become prospective areas for hydrocarbon play.


A variety of consumer good such as textiles and garments, foodstuff and beverages, pharmaceuticals, soap and toilet goods, enamelwares, aluminium wares and steel products, cement, marble and porcelain wares, rubber goods, leather packing materials, pulp, paper and paints, jute carpets. etc. are being produced by the State-owned factories of the 8 manufacturing enterprises under Ministry of Industry No.1.

Most of these factories have ample capacity left for foreign investors to take advantage of in the manufacturing sector. Some of these factories need renovation and modernisation to enhance their production capacity to the maximum level.

Foreign investors are welcome to submit proposals for activities under the Foreign Investment Law, either as joint ventures or wholly owned foreign enterprises. They can aso make manufacturing contracts with these factories by providing raw materials and spare parts and taking back the finished products after payment of processing charges in foreign currency. Foreign investors can also cooperate on a buy-back system, where they need to supply the machinery and equipment for the new factories or the existing factories on a deferred payment basis and the cost of the machinery and equipment would be paid back in such quantity of finished goods annually at mutually agreed upon prices.

The Private Industrial Enterprise Law and Procedures have been endorsed in November 1990 to enable the establishment of small, medium and large scale enterprises and to promote private industrial enterprises which may be formed either individually or in partnership or in the form of a company but excludes industrial enterprises conducted in joint venture with the State.

In order to promote small scale industries utilising local natural resources as main raw materials, by-products, waste products and raw materials from SEEs and Government Departments, the promotion of Cottage Industries Law was also enacted in October 1991.


For the development of Tourism and to expedite foreign exchange earnings as well as enable the carrying out of business under the Tourism Industry, a Myanmar Tourism Law was enacted in June 1990 with a view to providing security and satisfaction to tourists. Procedures to the said law have been prescribed for the application of a licence to operate a Hotel and Lodging House business, Tourist Transport business and Tour Guide business in Myanmar at the Directorate of Hotels and Tourism of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. The Myanma Tourism Commission has also been formed to lay down policy guidelines and for the systematic operation of the Tourism Industry.


Prepared by THAN TUN WIN, Embassy of the Union of Myanmar , Brussels