In the last three years things have changed dramatically in Myanmar. The former military regime has given way to a civilian government which is slowly leading the country towards democracy.
The big cities are losing the dust of centuries. New buildings are going up, the dilapidated old taxis have been replaced with air-conditioned cars, shopping malls are springing up and there is a real estate boom that equals that of cities like New York or London.
In the rural areas little has changed as regards well-being, and even in the cities many find it difficult to keep pace with the rapidly rising prices.
Myanmar shares borders with Bangladesh, India, China, Thailand and Laos. It is 678.500 km² (twice the size of Italy), is the largest of the South-east Asian countries and is crossed by the Tropic of Cancer.
The population of some 60 million people consists of many ethnic groups including the Bamars, Shan, Karen, Kachin, Mon e Rakhaing. The predominant religion is Buddhism.
The life expectancy for men is 58,4 years and for women 64,2 years. The infantile mortality rate is 69 per thousand, putting Myanmar in the category of the countries with the lowest human development rate.
Almost 79% of the population lives in rural areas and one third lives under the poverty line. (US$1 a day according to the World Bank).
The country has abundant natural resources and exports precious woods like teak, natural gas, jade and rubies.
Yangon, the commercial, diplomatic and financial heart of the country has 4 million inhabitants. In 2006 the government moved the capital from Yangon to Naypyidaw.