Myanmar Geography MapBurma Geography Map
Fundamental geography of the Burma/Myanmar conflict
In Burma/Myanmar, messages keep pouring out of the conflict and it can be quite disconcerting to hear words like Rohingya, Burma, Myanmar, Yangon, Rangoon, Aung San Suu Kyi, the Karen, Karenni, Kachin, Shan..... But when you try to comprehend the longest civilian conflict in contemporary society, the first thing to do is to comprehend geography.
The map is kindly provided by Free Burma Rangers, an organisation that has been carrying out aid work in Burma for years; see below for an explanation of what you see. Prime minister, the army and day-to-day infrastructures are located in the centre and southern parts of the country. In general, the further you leave places like Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon, commented here as such), the further you get away from the plywood of tranquil southeastern Asia as you might find it in Thailand.
If you are a traveler, you can go to Yangon, go from one place to another, take a full excursion to and out of the city. Except when you come across a big urban clash, you would never know what the administration is doing in the jungles.
But that doesn't mean there are no conflicts and strains in Burma's towns. 1988 the "8888 Uprising" was a Yangon students' revolt that ended with the deaths of several thousand people. Since then, there has been a fluctuating and high level of suspense; the regime is trying to keep the press and those who wish to oppose it under scrutiny.
Burma's main powers are sandwiched between ethnically segregated states, which are normally the object of violent and violent tension. There were many fights here before the recent clashes with the Rohingya. Burma's government's attack on the civilian population sent flocks of refugees across the Thai frontier in vast mines.
Their war crimes are seen again in the western world with the Rohingya, the same armies. That is a great scepticism about the Muslim extremism advocated by the Burma administration that justifies their action against the Rohingya. The Karen have done the same horrors against the Karen, most of whom are Christians, animists or Buddhists - the same ones who beat babies against the tree, use rapes as a weapons and burn their houses with family - to a nation on the other side of the land that has little or no connection with the Rohingya.
What they have in common here is the regime and its practices in the treatment of minority nationalities. Karen are currently in an instable ceasefire with the regime, which everyone is hoping for, but few trust it. There are many who are still working untiringly to make daily progress towards greater freedom.
The Rakhine usually live here, but the Rohingya have also lived here for generation. More than 650,000 Rohingya were forced into neighbouring Bangladesh by pure force, and the number of civilian deaths is astonishing. The Rohingya are not regarded as a citizen, although they were not only regarded as Burmese when they first moved to the Burmese countryside, but were even given places of power right up to the Burmese parliaments.
All the other ethnical states have been and are still suffering from the Burma administration conflicts - the Shan and Kachin states in the north-eastern, the Karenni state in the eastern and the Chin state in the north-western. All these states have experienced massive violations of fundamental freedoms, and while the ceasefire and force concentrations have tended to falter, the state has not experienced a year of rest for well over 70 years.
Burma's administration has a real record of varying states and towns when they are in controversies and conflicts. Rangoon, for example, was re-named Yangon in 1989 after the 8888 uprising and the ensuing massacres. Indeed, the initial nicknames are retained by many natives - they see the administration unable to change the name of their towns and states and are refusing to accept these changes.
That' s why many still call it Burma instead of Myanmar.