• According to the results of a (controversial) census taken in 2014, Myanmar has a population of 51.4 million. Yangon is the largest city (5.2 million), followed by the national capital Naypyitaw (1.6 million) and Mandalay (1 million).

At 676,000 square kilometres, Myanmar is slightly smaller than Turkey, and slightly larger than France.

Buddhism is the main religion (around 90 percent of the population), though there are also sizeable populations of Christians, Muslims and Hindus.

The country was formerly named Burma after its majority ethnic group – the Bamar, who are thought to represent around 68 percent of the population. Other major groups include the Shan (9 percent), Kayin (7 percent), Rakhine (4 percent) and Mon (2 percent).

• Three major linguistic families are represented in Myanmar: Sino-Tibetan (which includes Burmese), Tai-Kadai (which includes the Shan languages) and Austro-Asiatic tongues such as those of the Mon, Palaung and Wa tribes.

George Orwell lived in Burma from 1922 until returning to England after catching dengue fever in 1927; his Burmese Days remains one of the most-read books about the country. Rudyard Kipling had also popped by in 1889; though this gave rise to his vaunted poem “Mandalay”, he never actually visited the city.

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