Australia has had diplomatic relations with Myanmar since 1952. Myanmar, one of the poorest countries in the region, is undergoing an unprecedented, complex and challenging set of reforms: a transition to democracy; economic reform; and peace negotiations to end decades of conflict with the country’s ethnic armed groups.
Australia is working to broaden and deepen our bilateral partnership with Myanmar through strengthening government-to-government ties, growing trade and investment and expanding people-to-people links. This is underpinned by Australia’s development assistance that aims to support Myanmar’s reform process by improving the quality of education; promoting peace and stability; and promoting inclusive economic growth and government management.
Myanmar is the largest country in mainland South-East Asia by area. It has a diverse population of approximately 51.4 million. Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in the region, with 37.5 per cent of its population estimated to be living in poverty. Bordering China, India, Thailand, Bangladesh and Laos—40 per cent of the world’s population—Myanmar’s geostrategic location and prospects for regional trade are compelling.
Following historic openly-contested general elections on 8 November 2015, there has been a peaceful transition of power to a new government. Since 2011, other significant political reforms include 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.
Progress has been made towards resolving ethnic conflicts, notably through the partial signing of a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement in October 2015. The peace process remains a priority of the Myanmar Government.
Reforms have begun to open and rejuvenate Myanmar’s economy. Rising exports, consumption and investment have fuelled growth of over eight per cent in 2014-15, and Myanmar is forecast to embark on an extended period of rapid economic growth. An abundant supply of natural resources, including oil, gas and gems has the potential to bolster economic development.
Despite progress, significant human rights challenges remain. Australia continues to stress the importance of resolving the situation in Rakhine State as well as the need to protect the rights of all people living in the country.