Myanmar country brief
Australia has had diplomatic relations with Myanmar since 1952.
Myanmar is currently undergoing significant upheaval as a result of the coup on 1 February 2021. The Australian Government has made clear its grave concerns, particularly in relation to the shocking violence and high numbers of deaths and detentions.
Even prior to the coup and COVID-19, Myanmar had been one of the poorest countries in South-East Asia. Abundant natural resources have the potential to bolster economic development, and reforms had begun to open and rejuvenate Myanmar's economy. But recent growth is being reversed in light of the impacts of the coup and COVID-19.
Myanmar is the largest country in mainland South-East Asia by area, with a diverse population of approximately 56.6 million. Bordering China, India, Thailand, Bangladesh and Laos – 40 per cent of the world's population – Myanmar's peace, security and stability is important for the Indo-Pacific.
Following historic, openly contested, general elections in 2015, there was a peaceful transition of power to a new government. Under the Constitution, elections are due every five years. Over the period 2011-2021, there were significant political reforms, including the release of many political prisoners and the introduction of laws to relax media censorship and provide for greater political participation, labour rights and freedom of expression. However, with the military coup taking place in February 2021, significant progress has been lost. Australia continues to call on the military to engage in dialogue, release those arbitrarily detained, and return Myanmar to the path of democracy.
Other significant human rights challenges also remain. Australia continues to stress the importance of resolving the humanitarian crisis facing the Rohingya, the situation in Rakhine State and protracted conflicts elsewhere in Myanmar, as well as the need to protect the rights of all people living in the country.