- Before the imposition of British colonial rule, Burmese kingdoms did not have fixed boundaries; rather, they extended their power and influence in a circle (mandala) radiating outward from the royal capital, its perimeter determined by the fluid dynamics of power politics and war between competing states as well as the quality and quantity of human and material resources at the ruler's disposal. Thus, at certain times during the Toungoo and Konbaung Dynasties, the Burmese realm included much of modern Siam (Thailand), Laos, and northeastern India, while after the Second Anglo-Burmese War it encompassed only Upper Burma and, loosely, certain ethnic minority areas, such as the Shan States.In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the British made treaties with neighboring states that fixed, at least roughly, the international boundaries of modern Burma. Following the Government of Burma Act (1935), neighboring jurisdictions in British India were separated from Burma by an international boundary. After the country became independent in 1948, the governments of U Nu and Ne Win and the post-1988 military regime concluded further territorial and boundary agreements. At present, Burma's land boundaries total 6,285 kilometers (3,906 miles) in length: 2,227 kilometers (1,384 miles) with the People's Republic of China, 2,098 kilometers (1,304 miles) with Thailand, 1,453 kilometers (903 miles) with India, 235 kilometers (146 miles) with Laos (the entire boundary constituting the midchannel of the Mekong River), and 272 kilometers (169 miles) with Bangladesh.Sea boundaries totaling 2,228 kilometers (1,385 miles) front the Bay of Bengal, the Gulf of Martaban (Mottama), and the Andaman Sea, with territorial jurisdiction extending 12 miles from shore and an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles beyond the territorial waters. Such demarcation is important, given the large quantities of natural gas found within the EEZs, exploited after 1988 with the participation of foreign oil companies.Until recently, both Burma's land and sea boundaries have been poorly defended: insurgents, especially those belonging to the Communist Party of Burma, the Kachin Independence Army/Organization (KIA/KIO), the Karen National Union, and the Mong Tai Army, controlled much of the China-Burma and Thai-Burma border area, gaining major financial support from the black market and opium trade. The Bangladesh-Burma border was unsettled because of the determination of the Ne Win and State Law and Order Restoration Council regimes to expel Muslim Rohingyas from Arakan (Rakhine) State and the operations of Muslim guerrillas, known as mujahadin. The India-Burma border was destabilized by Chin and Naga insurgents, who passed freely between both countries. Burma's waters were regularly infiltrated by foreign vessels, especially Thai fishermen poaching the country's rich marine resources.After 1988, cease-fires with ethnic minority armed groups and Border Area Development programs increased the central government's leverage along the country's boundaries, though areas along the China-Burma border under the control of the United Wa State Army remain closed to the Tatmadaw. Purchases of naval vessels and patrol boats since 1988 have enabled the government to more adequately defend its sea boundaries. The State Peace and Development Council's policy of achieving friendly and cooperative relations with all neighboring states has also played a major role in stabilizing its international boundaries.
Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). Donald M. Seekins . 2014.
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