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Burma, officially the Union of Myanmar (Burmese: [pjìdàunzṵ mjəmà nàinŋàndɔ̀]), is the largest country by geographical area in mainland Southeast Asia.
Burma achieved independence from the United Kingdom on 4 January 1948, as the “Union of Burma.” It became the “Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma” on 4 January 1974, before reverting to the “Union of Burma” on 23 September 1988. On 18 June 1989, the State Law and Order Restoration Council adopted the name “Union of Myanmar.” This was recognised by the United Nations, but not by the US or UK Governments.
Burma is bordered by China on the north, Laos on the east, Thailand on the southeast, Bangladesh on the west, and India on the northwest, with the Andaman Sea to the south, and the Bay of Bengal to the southwest. One-third of Burma's total perimeter, 1,930 kilometres (1,199 mi), forms an uninterrupted coastline.
Burma's diverse population has played a major role in defining its politics, history and demographics in modern times. Its political system remains under the tight control of the State Peace and Development Council, the military government led, since 1992, by Senior General Than Shwe. The Burmese military has dominated government since General Ne Win led a coup in 1962 that toppled the civilian government of U Nu. Part of the British Empire until 1948, Burma continues to struggle to mend its ethnic tensions. The country’s culture, heavily influenced by neighbours, is based on Theravada Buddhism intertwined with local elements.