Burma, which was renamed by the junta in 1989 to “Myanmar”, is situated in Southeast Asia between India, China and Thailand. Since the coup in 1962, a military regime has been ruling in Burma under different names and state models. In 1988, thousands of Burmese had to pay with their lives for demanding democracy and economic reforms. In 2007, monks and their supporters were shot and bludgeoned off the streets in another wave of protests against the junta. The following year, Burma featured in the headlines when Cyclone Nargis devastated the Irrawaddy Delta and took the lives of many tens of thousands. The world was shocked to see that in the aftermath of the cyclone the regime refused for several days foreign aid for the country.
With its new leader Thein Sein, a former general, the Burmese government has initiated a series of political and economic reforms. Despite the reforms, human rights abuses are still commonplace in Burma. While certain positive developments were reported in a number of fields, such as political engagement, media or foreign investments, the majority of Burma’s people, especially ethnic and religious minorities, still face many challenges.