Myanmar country brief
Australia has had diplomatic relations with Myanmar since 1952.
Myanmar is in a period of crisis following the coup on 1 February 2021. The Australian Government has made clear its deep concerns at the deteriorating political, economic and development situation, particularly in relation to the shocking violence and the high number of deaths and detentions.
Even prior to the coup and COVID-19, Myanmar had been one of the poorest countries in Southeast 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 due to the impacts of the coup and COVID-19.
Myanmar is the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia by area, with a diverse population of approximately 56.6 million people. Bordering China, India, Thailand, Bangladesh and Laos, Myanmar’s peace, security and stability is important for the Indo-Pacific.
Following historic, openly contested, general elections in 2015 and 2020, 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 was lost. Myanmar’s economy faces serious challenges.
Australia continues to call on the military to end violence against civilians, engage in dialogue, release those unjustly detained, allow unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance 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.