Myanmar country brief
Australia has had diplomatic relations with Myanmar since 1952. Myanmar is undergoing a period of upheaval following the deposition on 1 February 2021 of the democratically elected government. Australia has been a steadfast supporter of Myanmar's transition to democracy and a market-led economy. This is underpinned by Australia's humanitarian and development assistance.
Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in South-East Asia. Abundant natural resources have the potential to bolster economic development and reforms have begun to open and rejuvenate Myanmar's economy. Rising exports, consumption and investment have fuelled growth over recent years, but this growth will slow in light of the impacts of COVID-19. Australia is supporting Myanmar to respond to the immediate challenges of COVID-19 and set the groundwork to tackle the medium- and longer-term health, economic and social impacts.
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. We continue to call on the military to engage in dialogue to resolve their grievances and honour the results of the 2020 general election, in line with the democratically expressed will of the Myanmar people.
Significant human rights challenges 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.