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Burma, officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, commonly shortened to Myanmar, is a sovereign state in Southeast Asia bordered by Laos, Thailand, Chinades, Bangladesh, and India. One third of Burma's total perimeter of 1,930 kilometres forms an uninterrupted coastline along the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea.
The country is divided into seven states and seven regions, formerly called divisions. The announcement on the renaming of division to regions was made on 20 August 2010. Regions are predominantly Bamar. States, in essence, are regions that are home to particular ethnic minorities. The administrative divisions are further subdivided into districts, which are further subdivided into townships, wards, and villages.
Much of the country lies between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator. It lies in the monsoon region of Asia, with its coastal regions receiving over 5,000 mm of rain annually. Annual rainfall in the delta region is approximately 2,500 mm, while average annual rainfall in the Dry Zone, which is located in central Burma, is less than 1,000 mm.
Burmese, the mother tongue of the Bamar and official language of Burma, is related to Tibetan and to the Chinese languages. It is written in a script consisting of circular and semi-circular letters, which were adapted from the Mon script, which in turn was developed from a southern Indian script in the 5th century. The earliest known inscriptions in the Burmese script date from the 11th century. It is also used to write Pali, the sacred language of Theravada Buddhism, as well as several ethnic minority languages, including Shan, several Karen dialects, and Kayah, with the addition of specialised characters and diacritics for each language.
Many religions are practised in Burma. Religious edifices and orders have been in existence for many years. Festivals can be held on a grand scale. The Christian and Muslim populations do, however, face religious persecution and it is hard, if not impossible, for non-Buddhists to join the army or get government jobs, the main route to success in the country.