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Nationality: Noun and adjective--Burmese.
Population (official 2001 est.): 51 million, but no census has been taken since 1983.
Annual growth rate (2001 est.): 2.02%.
Ethnic groups: Burman 68%, Shan 9%, Karen 7%, Arakanese 4%, Chinese 3%, Mon 2%, Indian 2%, other 5%.
Religions: Buddhist 89%, Christian 4% (Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic 1%), Muslim 4%, animist 1%, other 2%.
Languages: Burmese, minority ethnic groups have their own languages. Education (1999 est.): Literacy--male 88.7%; female 77.7% (official Government of Burma statistics); estimates of functional literacy are closer to 30%.
Health (2001 est.): Infant mortality rate--73.71 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy--53.73 yrs.: male; 56.68 yrs. female.
A majority of Burma's estimated 50 million people are ethnic Burmans. Shans, Karens, Arakanese, Kachins, Chins, Mons, and many other smaller indigenous ethnic groups form about 30% of the population. Indians and Chinese are the largest immigrant groups.
Although Burmese is the most widely spoken language, other ethnic groups have retained their own languages. English is spoken in the capital Rangoon and in areas frequented by tourists. The Indian and Chinese residents speak various languages and dialects of their homelands: Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Bengali, Mandarin, Fukienese, and Cantonese.
According to the 1974 Constitution, Buddhism is the official religion of Burma. An estimated 89% of the population practices it. Other religions, Christian 4%--Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic 1%--Muslim 4%, and animist 1%, are less prevalent.
Much of the population lives without basic sanitation or running water. In 1997, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked Burma's health infrastructure second to last globally. High infant mortality rates and short life expectancies further highlight poor health and living conditions. The HIV/AIDS epidemic poses a serious threat to the Burmese population, as do tuberculosis and malaria.
There are numerous documented human rights violations, and internal displacement of ethnic minorities also is prevalent. Several million Burmese, many of them ethnic minorities, have fled for economic and political reasons to the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, India, China, and Thailand to seek work and asylum. There are 10 refugee camps with Burmese minority residents in Thailand and two in Bangladesh. In addition, hundreds of thousands of Burmese work and reside illegally in the countries bordering Burma.