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Preface Last Updated: 6/24/2005 3:57 PM

Burma is a land of magical sights and incredibly friendly people boasting a rich historic, cultural and natural heritage. It is also bizarre Orwellian society that seems locked in a time warp; its modern rulers’ ruthlessness sometimes rivals the cruelty of its ancient kings.

Burma emerged in its present form in the 11th century with the rise of the kingdom of Bagan. Ultimately the Bagan kings failed to maintain control of disparate factions and collapsed before a Mongol invasion in 1287. The ensuing chaos saw competing regional rulers struggle for power until Burman kings from the Mandalay region established their hegemony in the mid-16th century.

In 1885, after the Third Anglo-Burma War, the British subjugated all of Burma and attached it to British India. The country became a major rice exporter, developed a colonial physical and administrative infrastructure, and saw Indian and Chinese workers arrive in substantial numbers. Burma was separated from British India in 1937 and became independent in 1948, following negotiations with Burma’s independence hero, General Aung San (father of Aung San Suu Kyi).

Since General Ne Win’s coup d’etat of 1962 the Burmese have suffered under a succession of military regimes. Armed secession attempts by ethnic minorities plagued border regions; some continue to smolder today. Brutal dictators have suppressed dissent, grossly violated the human rights of the Burmese people, and at times largely closed Burma to the outside world.

In 1988 massive pro-democracy demonstrations were met by heavy-handed violence by the military; thousands of protesters were killed, including some in front of the U.S. Embassy. A new ruling clique held elections in 1990. The National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won overwhelmingly, but the military regime prevented the elected parliament from taking power.

The junta seeks to build bridges, roads, and dams to enhance its prestige and power, often using forced labor in the process. The regime’s domestic opponents continue to hope for a democratic Burma while struggling to put food on the table and avoid imprisonment or worse. Secretary Rice characterized the Burmese regime as “an outpost of tyranny.”

The Host Country

Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 6/27/2005 9:48 AM

Burma (called “Myanmar” by the country’s military regime), with an area of 262,000 square miles (slightly smaller than Texas), is the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia. Rangoon (also called Yangon), the capital (population 5.5 million), is Burma’s largest city. Mandalay (population 700,000) is second. Burma’s population is about 52 million.

Rangoon is Burma’s most important port for both domestic and foreign trade. Located on the Yangon River, 30 miles north of the Gulf of Martaban, it serves not only oceangoing freighters and tankers but also river steamers and country craft that ply Rangoon’s major waterways. The city is built on flat lowland bounded on three sides by the Pazundaung Creek and the Yangon and Hlaing Rivers. The surrounding countryside consists of villages, rice paddies, patches of brush, and occasional rubber plantations.

In the early 1990s, the regime relocated thousands of the city’s urban poor to outlying areas. This, combined with population growth, has led to considerable urban sprawl in recent years.

Located in the Southeast Asian monsoon belt, Rangoon has a tropical climate with three distinct seasons: monsoon, cool, and hot. Throughout the year, Rangoon has an incredible 100-inch average annual rainfall, most of which is received during the monsoon season, mid-May through mid-October. During this time, temperatures are moderate (75°F – 90°F), but the relative humidity is high. The dampness and mildew can damage clothing, furniture, books, records, electrical appliances, and leather goods. However, there is wide variation in average rainfall throughout the country, as shown in the following chart:

Monthly and Annual Mean Rainfall in Selected Districts

District Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year Rangoon 0.2 0.2 0.3 1.6 12.0 18.0 21.4 19.9 15.3 6.9 2.8 0.4 99.0 Sittwe 0.1 0.2 0.5 2.1 14.0 46.9 54.8 45.2 22.6 10.9 5.5 0.8 203.6 Myeik 0.9 2.0 3.1 5.3 16.9 29.4 31.6 29.2 26.4 12.1 3.7 0.7 161.3 Toungoo 0.1 0.3 0.2 1.9 7.7 14.1 17.6 19.1 12.1 7.4 1.8 0.5 82.9 Pyin U Lwin 0.1 0.2 0.5 2.1 9.7 8.9 6.3 9.3 10.2 7.6 3.3 0.6 58.8 Mandalay 0.1 0.1 0.2 1.1 5.9 5.5 3.3 4.6 5.7 4.7 1.6 0.4 33.2

In mid November there is a brief period of warm, humid weather followed by the cool season, which lasts until March. During this time, the weather is pleasant (60°F-90°F) with lower humidity and almost no rain. Days are sunny and clear; nights are cool. In March, temperatures and humidity rise until the monsoon begins in mid-May. During the March–May season, the weather is hot and humid, usually rising in the day to over 100ºF. As at most tropical posts, insects and snakes are numerous year round.

Population Last Updated: 6/27/2005 9:49 AM

Most of Burma’s 52 million people are ethnic Burman. Shan, Karen, Kachin, Chin, Mon, and many other smaller indigenous ethnic groups form about 30% of the population. Indians and Chinese are the largest minorities of foreign origin (many of whom have lived in Burma for generations). The majority of Burma’s citizens are Buddhist, although roughly 20 percent are Christian (comprising many of the ethnic minorities) and approximately 10 percent are Muslim.

Although Burmese is the most widely spoken language, other ethnic groups have retained their own languages. Many people in Rangoon speak English. The Indian and Chinese residents speak various languages and dialects of their homelands: Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Bengali, Mandarin, Fukien, and Cantonese. The variety of racial types, languages, customs, and other cultural manifestations creates a cosmopolitan atmosphere.

About 300 non-U.S. Government Americans and 175 U.S. Government employees and dependents live in Burma. Rangoon’s diplomatic community includes employees of the U.N. and its specialized agencies and officials from 27 embassies and one honorary consulate.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 6/24/2005 11:39 AM

The Union of Burma consists of 14 states and divisions. Administrative control is exercised from the military regime and central government in Rangoon through a system of subordinate executive bodies.

The people of Burma continue to live under a highly repressive, authoritarian military regime. The international community widely condemns that regime for its serious human rights abuses. The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), Burma’s ruling military junta, has made no significant changes in the governing policies of its predecessors, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), the junta that seized power in 1988 from dictator Ne Win, who himself seized power in 1962. Elections for a civilian government were held in May 1990. Although the National League for Democracy (NLD) won over 80% of the parliamentary seats, the military refused to cede power to the civilian government or seat a new parliament. Instead, the regime has attacked the pro-democracy parties and their leaders (including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi) through intimidation, detention, and arrests. The military government is determined to ensure a dominant role for the armed forces in the country's future political structure.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 6/27/2005 9:50 AM

The population of Burma includes seven major ethnic groups and a number of smaller groups. Almost 70% are Burman, a Tibeto-Mongolian people. The myths, traditions, and religions derive largely from India and have mixed with folk traditions of Burma’s varied peoples to form a unique Burmese culture. The merger of Hindu and Buddhist influences is seen in the ruins of Bagan and in the dramatic fine arts of today, which include music, dance, puppetry, painting, tapestry, and sculpture.

Burma’s long and continuing isolation has degraded its scientific resources and capacity. Although medical schools continue to produce medical personnel, the public health system has deteriorated because of underfunding and neglect. Two major technical universities (plus a military science and technology school) have engineering programs, but facilities and resources are old and outdated.

Burma has 154 institutions of higher learning, including 30 universities, 5 professional institutes, 9 degree-granting colleges, and 20 education colleges under the Ministry of Education. Other ministries administer institutes of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, nursing, animal husbandry and veterinary science, agriculture, and forestry. Many of the universities and colleges, however, were closed for lengthy periods during the 1990s. More than two-thirds of the university population is enrolled in distance learning programs. Instruction is in English or Burmese, depending on the subject. Few foreigners attend Burmese institutions of higher learning. Those who are admitted generally attend the University of Foreign Languages and study some aspect of the Burmese language; however, no Americans have been granted admission for several years. A university for the propagation of Theravada Buddhism has opened and encourages enrollment by foreigners interested in Buddhism.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 6/27/2005 9:52 AM

Burma is a resource-rich country with a strong agricultural base. It also has vast timber and fishery reserves and is a leading source of gems and jade. Tourist potential is great but remains undeveloped because of weak infrastructure and Burma’s pariah state international image, due to the junta’s human rights abuses and oppression of the democratic Burma is a resource-rich country with a strong agricultural base. It also has vast timber and fishery reserves and is a leading source of precious gems and jade. Tourist potential is great but remains underdeveloped because of weak infrastructure and Burma’s international image as a pariah state, due to the military regime’s human rights abuses and oppression of the democratic opposition.

Long-term economic mismanagement under military rule has prevented the economy from developing in line with its potential. Although significant economic reforms resulting in strong private sector growth were enacted in the early 1990s, the state has backtracked on many of these reforms and remains heavily involved in economic policy. The benefits of economic liberalization have not been widely shared. The vast majority of Burmese citizens now subsist on an average annual income that equates to about $300 per capita. Inflation, stagnant wages, and an uncertain economic future have undermined living standards.

After the military junta cracked down on dissidents in 1988 and disavowed the results of the 1990 parliamentary election, the United States imposed a host of broad-reaching sanctions against the regime and downgraded our representation in Rangoon from Ambassador to Chargé. In 1997, by Executive Order, the President banned new U.S. investment in Burma. In 2003, the President signed into law the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act and issued an accompanying executive order barring imports of Burmese products into the United States.

Burma remains a primarily agricultural economy with 52% of GDP derived from agriculture, livestock, fisheries, and forestry. Manufacturing constitutes only 9% of recorded economic activity, and state industries continue to play a large role in that sector.

The economy suffers from serious economic distortions, including an official exchange rate that overvalues the Burmese kyat by about 100%. Consumer prices rose about 20% in 2004.

Burma exports primarily commodities, with natural gas, teak, pulses and beans, and prawns and seafood, accounting for more than 50% of recorded export earnings in 2003. Burma has traditionally been a major rice exporter, though it has been hamstrung in recent years by poor quality, inefficient production methods, and inept government agricultural policymaking.

Foreign trade has expanded since most trade was privatized and cross-border trade was legalized in late 1988. There is a high-value black market border trade that sees gems and jade, teakwood, narcotics, and other products flowing out and consumer goods, vehicles, diesel fuel, and other products flowing in. Burma’s chief trading partners (for legal and illegal trade) are Thailand, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, and Bangladesh. Since the July 2003 import ban, bilateral trade with the United States has dropped to nearly zero. In 2004, United States exporters sent only $11.6 million worth of products to Burma (188th on the list of U.S. export markets).


Automobiles Last Updated: 6/27/2005 9:53 AM

Bring a Vehicle. The chancery, Public Affairs Section, General Service Office, residential compounds, school, and the American Embassy Recreation Association (AERA) are located a few miles from each other. Most people find a privately owned vehicle (POV) advantageous.

Employees with diplomatic status may only import or buy locally, one duty-free vehicle during a tour. Administrative and technical staff are allowed to import or buy one duty-free vehicle during the first six months after arrival. Tandem couples are permitted to import or purchase two vehicles. Occasionally, the diplomatic community offers used cars for sale, but availability is irregular. Motorcycles may not be imported. The Burmese government forbids the utilization of all motorcycles except those currently registered or classic, restored models that are eligible for registration. These motorcycles may be purchased locally.

Only after the employee has arrived at post will their POV be cleared from customs. This process can take one to two weeks. In the interim, the Embassy motor-pool vehicles can provide limited local transportation, and taxis are available.

Diplomatic personnel do not pay vehicle tax or registration fees. They are, however, required to obtain a Myanmar Driving License and mandatory third party liability insurance, from a Burmese government company. This is arranged through the Customs and Shipping department of the GSO office. For a nominal fee, along with a valid U.S. driver’s license, three small (1”x1”) photographs, a photocopy of your diplomatic ID card and passport, you can expect to receive a Burmese driver’s license within a week or two. You will not have to take a written or road test. Vehicle owners are advised to purchase comprehensive insurance in the United States, as local insurance is limited.

Embassy personnel use American and foreign vehicles of many different makes and sizes. Cars more than 10 years old may not be imported. Smaller cars and four-door sedans have a better resale value and such resale is limited to diplomatic personnel or to the Burmese government. Fuel-injected vehicles are not recommended. Air-conditioning is necessary.

Bring Spare Parts. Those importing a car should bring a factory handbook and a supply of routine maintenance parts, including spark plugs, fan belts, ignition kits, and gas, oil, and air filters. The commissary stocks 10W30 oil and heavier grades are found on the local market. Cars shipped to Burma should also have good tires and a good battery. Tires and batteries can be purchased locally but finding good quality and specific sizes, especially for SUVs, may be problematic. Replacement parts for American and European made cars are not available in Rangoon. Japanese parts for model year 2000 and older are more readily found. Parts not available on the local market can be ordered or obtained from Bangkok, Singapore, Tokyo, or the U.S. However, ordering and receiving difficult-to-find parts takes time and the shipping costs can be expensive.

Car dealerships such as Toyota, Honda, Mercedes, and Suzuki are present and offer parts and service at comparatively fair to high rates. More often, these dealerships still order in parts for newer vehicles. The less expensive local mechanics vary in ability from poor to good. Many are skilled in “make do” repairs that keep vehicles operating when parts are not available. Alternatively, GSO mechanics are skilled and do repairs on employee’s personal vehicles after hours, at the owner’s expense.

The Embassy gas station is located near the Marine house at 134 University Avenue. Embassy staff, family members, and authorized drivers may obtain tax-free, unleaded 92-octane fuel and diesel. Fuel purchased from the Embassy gas station is charged and an account is payable monthly. Diplomats may also purchase unleaded, 92-octane fuel, with FEC or US dollars from a local MPPE Gas Station, located on Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, near the Marina Residences.

Travel restrictions and poor road conditions inhibit the use of privately owned vehicles for long trips outside of Rangoon. A “jerry can” may be taken along on shorter excursions. Gasoline is available outside of the city; however, it is mostly leaded, 80–82 octane gas, which is not compatible with vehicles equipped with catalytic converters.

When You Leave. Burmese government regulations prohibit the direct sale of diplomatic vehicles to private citizens. Vehicles imported duty free into Burma must be sold to another diplomat, the Burmese government, or exported at the end of your assignment.

Local Transportation Last Updated: 6/24/2005 11:57 AM

Other than the odd bicycle trishaw, the majority of Burmese use local buses and covered pick-up trucks (known as “kyat trucks”) to get around. Foreigners are discouraged from using these forms of transportation, as they are considered unsafe. Nearly all of the buses and trucks are old, poorly maintained, and dangerously overcrowded. Taxis are available and more commonly used in the absence of a personal vehicle. Taxis are not metered and rates must be negotiated before riding. In most cases, these taxis are old, poorly maintained, and do not have air conditioning or seatbelts. All but a few Embassy personnel depend on personally owned vehicles.

Regional Transportation Last Updated: 6/27/2005 9:54 AM

Rangoon’s Mingaladon Airport handles both domestic and international flights. Located approximately 13 miles north of the downtown area, the airport is a 30-minute drive from the Embassy. The international airlines servicing Burma are MAI - Myanmar Airways International (8M), Thai Airways (TG), Silk Air (MI), Bangkok Airways (PG), Biman - Bangladesh Airlines (BG), Indian Airways (IC), Malaysian Airlines (MH), Druk Air - Royal Bhutan Airlines (KB), China Airlines (CA), and Qatar Airlines (QR). MAI, Thai, and Bangkok Airways all have daily flights to and from Bangkok, but confirming a reservation from the U.S. can be difficult due to the absence of online reservation systems. Thai, Malaysian, Silk, and Indian Airlines all have global reservation capabilities.

Domestic flights are available but not up to U.S. standards. The four airlines that operate domestically are Air Bagan, Yangon Airways, Air Mandalay, and Myanmar Airways. Due to persistent problems on the state-owned domestic carrier Myanmar Airways, including regular cancellations, lengthy delays, and the lack of an efficient reservation and ticketing system, the U.S. Embassy advises its employees to avoid travel on this carrier whenever possible. Myanmar Airways had two fatal air crashes in 1998.

Travel by car and train is possible in the dry season, but roads and railway tracks are subject to washout in the rainy season.

Communications Last Updated: 6/24/2005 12:00 AM

All communication in the country is government-controlled.

Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 6/27/2005 9:56 AM

International, in-country, and local telephone service in Burma is unreliable and expensive. For example, an international call to the U.S. ranges from $4.50–$7 per minute depending from where the call is made, e.g., hotels charge the most for telephone calls. Calls to neighboring Asian countries average $2.00 per minute. However, the general condition of the country’s outdated telecommunications infrastructure is poor, and desperately needs upgrading to meet the demands of a capital city. The current system that serves Rangoon barely copes with current demand, leading the Embassy to believe that the telephone system would likely collapse during an emergency. In addition, the heavy monsoon rains that fall between May and September further compounds the problem. Fortunately, the government has begun modernizing its telephone infrastructure by upgrading old cable and exchanges. Some improvement in phone service has been noted, but there are still difficulties, particularly when making local calls between exchanges.

The government has implemented GSM cellular service on a limited basis. Generally, a designated number of SIM cards will be issued to companies/organizations with foreign earnings and the company will distribute them internally to its employees, or sell them. The cost of each SIM card is $2,200. There is also a monthly charge of $60 per SIM card, plus the normal per minute calling rates. At present, the Embassy has been issued 39 SIM cards. The Embassy issues the SIM cards based on position/need and provides USG owned cellular phones.

Telephones in all USG owned or leased housing have international direct dial access, but it is expensive to use. Serviced apartments are provided telephone service through the lessors PBX system. The occupant is only charged for outgoing calls. The rate for local calls from the serviced apartments is $0.20 per minute. The Embassy will provide an additional private telephone line upon request. The cost of the private line is borne by the occupant. There is an IVG line in the embassy that can be accessed by family members to make U.S. or other international calls at U.S. long-distance rates. A pre-paid phone card with either an 800- or D.C. area code dial-up is needed to access the line.

Embassy may be reached at the following telephone numbers:

Chancery: (95-1) 379880, 379881, or 379883 thru 379886 during normal working hours. Post 1: (95–1) 370965 after normal Embassy working hours. GSO: (95-1) 543352, 543354, 542608, 542609, 542610, and 542612 Public Affairs: (95-1) 223140, 223106, and 221585 Medical Unit: (95-1) 379880 x 4385 or (95-1) 546293 or 546294 AERA: (95-1) 660244 Consular Section: ( 95-1) 250240

Embassy has the following fax numbers available 24 hours.

Chancery: (95–1) 256018 GSO: (95-1) 543353 ISY: (95-1) 525020 Medical Unit: (95-1) 558556 ext. 306 Public Affairs: (95-1) 221262 AERA: (95-1) 660676 Consular Section: (95-1) 250642

Fax service has proved relatively reliable considering the condition of the telephone transmission lines. International fax messages are charged the same rates as an international call. Fax service is available at major hotels.

Internet Last Updated: 6/27/2005 9:56 AM

Embassy is connected to the Department’s e-mail system for official use.

The Embassy also provides an OpenNet+ Internet ‘café’ at the chancery with 4 computers designated for use by family members and TDY employees for e-mail and internet access.

Dial-up internet service is available locally for home or business use for $70 annually plus a $9.00 monthly charge for 10 hours of service, and a charge of $1.25 for each additional hour. Wireless connectivity has been recently offered but is prohibitively expensive. Installation for broadband service is $2000. Monthly service charges begin at $150 for 128k service.

Internet service in Burma is not typical of what would be found in the rest of the world. There is no direct connection to the world wide web. All access is through the sole ISP in Burma - Bagan Cybertech. Bagan Cybertech is controlled by the Signal Corps of the military regime. The service is monitored, filtered, and restrictive. No commercial e-mail services (Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, etc.) can be accessed. Instant messaging is not allowed, nor are sites that provide on-line/interactive tech support or chat functions such as game rooms, distance learning “live” mentoring, etc. Bagan CyberTech does provide an e-mail service; however, all incoming/outgoing e-mails are either scanned and/or read before delivery. Some hotels are offering e-mail service via their private account, but prices can be very expensive.

Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 6/27/2005 9:57 AM

Post discourages use of the international mail system, as it is slow: 2 to 3 weeks for letter mail, plus pilferage and censorship are common. The Embassy’s international address is 58l Merchant Street (GPO 521), Yangon, Myanmar.

Rangoon has both Department of State Pouch and limited APO mail services. The Department’s size and weight restrictions must be strictly adhered to for both Pouch and APO; that is, incoming packages may not exceed 24 inches in length or 62 inches in length and girth combined. The maximum allowable weight is 40 pounds. Mail received at the APO, which is located in Bangkok, is pouched to Rangoon. Although DOS Pouch service is available, Post recommends using the APO for letter mail and packages.

The addresses are:

Via Pouch: (official mail) (Name) Department of State 4250 Rangoon Place Washington, D.C. 20521–4250

Via APO: (Name) U.S. Embassy, Box B APO AP 96546

Radio and TV Last Updated: 6/27/2005 9:57 AM

Shortwave radio reception in Burma is satisfactory. Multiband portable receivers can pick up VOA, BBC, Radio Australia, and other international broadcasts. Radio Myanmar is the only station in Burma. It broadcasts in English 2½ hours daily and is limited to brief international news and music.

Burma has limited TV service with broadcasting of about 5 hours each night and on weekends, an additional 2 hours in the morning, and 3 hours in the afternoon. Locally produced programming is in Burmese, with a short satellite news segment and a feature entertainment program in English. Broadcasting is in the U.S. NTSC system and usually in color.

Homes in Dubern Park, as well as the CDA and DCM’s homes are equipped with satellite TV, which is currently tuned to AFRTS. A satellite cable service (UBC) is available locally. Serviced apartments normally receive UBC. Purchase of a receiver and dish, with the first year’s service included is about $1,000. You may also rent a system from the American Embassy Recreation Association (AERA) club for $55.00 per month. You will need a multisystem TV to receive AFRTS stations.

Currently only Burmese content videotapes and DVD’s are available for rent in Rangoon. The AERA Club rents quality tapes using the Stateside NTSC format, but they are mostly outdated.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 6/27/2005 9:58 AM

The government mouthpiece English language daily, The New Light of Myanmar, offers limited international news, uncritical pro-government local coverage, and much propaganda. The Myanmar Times, a joint venture with an Australian publisher, is a colorful weekly newspaper that offers some international news, celebrity gossip, thinly veiled propaganda, and some local economic, cultural, and social news. The monthly Today magazine provides paid advertisements and information useful for tourists and foreign residents in Burma. The International Herald Tribune, Time and Newsweek are sold locally for hard currency at a few selected locations, but are occasionally censored when stories refer to Burma. The Embassy subscribes to the Bangkok edition of the International Herald Tribune, and other periodicals for use by various sections. It is possible to subscribe online for free delivery to an e-mail inbox to the Washington Post, New York Times, and many other newspapers.

A few used bookshops carry expensive, outdated English-language books and periodicals. Purchasing books from online bookstores offers a much greater variety and value for money than buying them in Rangoon or Bangkok. The Department of State’s Ralph Bunch Library has a good collection of Burma books and will pouch them to post for 3 months if you e-mail a librarian with your request. The American Center Library has a good collection of books and materials about the U.S. There is also a wide selection of books of general interest, and a large section of the library devoted to books/materials on Burma. The British Council Library offers membership to the public for USD 20 per year for individual memberships. English language lessons are also available. Personnel who enjoy reading are encouraged to bring or have sent to post reading material to accommodate their respective interests.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 6/27/2005 10:02 AM

The Embassy maintains a dispensary for U.S. Government personnel and their dependents. It is equipped with laboratory facilities and one in-patient bed. The staff includes four Foreign Service Nationals: a doctor (PMO), a nurse (RN), a laboratory technician, and a secretary.

The Medical Unit maintains a stock of medications used for common temporary illnesses and emergencies. Chronic medications, such as those used for high cholesterol, hypertension, arthritis, diabetes, birth control, hormones, etc. are the responsibility of the individual. It is strongly recommended that personnel or family members, taking any special medications, should bring at least a four-month supply to post. Most insurance companies allow an initial 30-day supply, in addition to a 90-day refill prescription.

Refill prescriptions can be issued through the Regional Medical Officer (RMO) and filled through a mail order pharmacy. Prescription medications are available through the medical unit pharmacy in Bangkok or Rangoon but the quantity and dosage amounts are limited. Local pharmacies have a large range of supplies and medications that are imported from China, India, and Thailand. The packaging is often written in foreign script, the products expiry should be checked, and the quality may be questionable.

Frequent consultation with the PMO and reasonable precautions keep medical complaints to a minimum. Report any chronic medical situation to the PMO on arrival. In addition, check which immunizations are required or recommended.

Rangoon hospitals are crowded, sub-optimal in sanitation, and physical plants are in poor condition. Emergency equipment is sparse and primitive in nature. Regional evacuation points are Bangkok and Singapore depending upon the severity of the patient’s condition.

There are two expatriate clinics in Rangoon:

(1) SOS International is situated in the Dusit Inya Lake Hotel, #37, Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, Kamaryut Township. Tel: 95-1-667871. It offers the following core services: 24-hour emergency medical evacuation system; family medicine practice and outpatient facility; pharmacy; x-ray facility; specialist consultations and referrals, and 24-hour emergency clinic.

(2) Kembangan Pacific Medical Center is situated at #81, Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, Bahan Township, Tel: 95-1-548022, Fax: 95-1-542979, Email: It has a pharmacy, lab, x-ray facility, and dental clinic. Three local doctors and specialists, who are available for consultations, staff the Pacific Medical Center. The hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday. It is closed on Sunday.

Dental care is available in Rangoon, but in general, it is substandard. Significant dental problems for which treatment cannot be delayed are sent to Bangkok. Travel and minimum per diem are provided when justified. A recent oral exam and all necessary dental work should be completed before arrival in Rangoon. Travel is not granted for routine care. The medical unit can only recommend one dental clinic with a foreign-trained orthodontist in Rangoon.

Community Health Last Updated: 6/24/2005 12:24 AM

Local sanitation and health conditions are poor. All water must be boiled and filtered to make it potable. Fecal-oral disease transmission is a major public health concern in Burma. Embassy issues distillers to every household. Only distilled water should be used for cooking, drinking, and brushing teeth.

Local dairy products are not considered safe. Most Americans buy canned or powdered milk from the commissary. Local fruit and vegetables should be scrubbed and soaked in a bleach solution. Local restaurants do not maintain U.S. levels of sanitation, although many of the Embassy personnel patronize them. The health of domestic staff is important in maintaining family health.

Pre-employment physicals, immunizations, and constant health supervision are strongly recommended. The health unit conducts a yearly food handler’s course for household employees of the diplomatic community.

Preventive Measures Last Updated: 6/27/2005 10:02 AM

The only required immunization for entry into Burma is yellow fever, and then only if coming from endemic areas of South America or Africa. Immunizations recommended for Burma (in addition to those recommended for the U.S.) are: Hepatitis A and B, Japanese B encephalitis, typhoid, and rabies. All of them can be received or updated at post.

Bacillary and amoebic dysentery are prevalent. A variety of intestinal roundworms and other parasites commonly infect people. Careful food preparation, strict personal hygiene, supervision of the cleanliness and health of domestic staff, and avoidance of local restaurants help reduce opportunities for infections.

Tuberculosis (TB) is still common in Burma and throughout Asia. It is mainly transmitted via close prolonged contact, such as that with household staff members and other relationships. There is also some risk in overcrowded, enclosed areas such as movie theatres, busy indoor restaurants, and public transportation.

Increased contamination during the early part of the heavy monsoon season gives rise to increases in many diseases each June and July. Because of the presence of several varieties of poisonous snakes and endemic rabies (beware of stray dogs), anti-venom and rabies vaccines are available in the medical unit.

Malaria is a serious problem in the rural areas of Burma, but transmission occurs very rarely in Rangoon. No drug prophylaxis is necessary in Rangoon or most of the usual tourist sites in the country. Prophylaxis is necessary in some areas and it is recommended that any travel upcountry be discussed with the medical unit staff. Dengue, another mosquito-borne disease, occurs throughout the country, including Rangoon, and protective measures to avoid mosquito bites should be used. The peak season of dengue hemorrhagic fever is June and July then again in November and December. The medical unit supplies mosquito nets, repellents, and malaria prophylactic medications for official travelers upcountry.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 6/27/2005 10:03 AM

Employment opportunities for spouses and other dependents are limited. Post does not have a bilateral work agreement with host country. Spouses are not allowed to work on the local economy; they are only allowed to work for UN agencies and, in some cases, for international companies. The Embassy strives to employ family members when possible. Typically, spouses work in the Embassy as CLO, escort, and consular associate, with varying schedules depending on the need. Short-term employment opportunities, such as AERA Manager/Consultant, CLO support, or updating post or COLA reports can also become available.

The International School of Yangon, French school, and a growing number of preschools may hire spouses as substitutes, teach English or other language classes, etc. depending on their needs.

The skills most in demand are in the fields of clerical/office, data processing, health care, teaching, and those derived from applicable consular courses.

Volunteer Work

There are international and local charity groups that need volunteers to do a wide range of work from arranging functions and welfare planning to general community service. Non-political, non-profit welfare organizations such as the International Friendship Group (IFG) meet once a month. IFG members consist of both Myanmar and international people who aim to build friendships and assist the local community through welfare-oriented activities.

American Embassy - Rangoon

Post City Last Updated: 6/24/2005 1:59 PM

Rangoon is a British and Indian creation. Although Burmese villages existed near the great Shwedagon Pagoda for many centuries, modern Rangoon dates from about 1852, when it was designated the capital for British-held Lower Burma. British firms were brought in to develop the economy of the new colony, and Indian workers and business representatives followed in great numbers. The Burmese remained a minority in Rangoon until after independence in 1948, and even today, Rangoon’s atmosphere is far more multiracial than that of other Burmese cities. Rangoon’s population is a mixture of Burmans, Indians, Karens, and Chinese, with a few other non-Burman ethnic groups.

The golden Shwedagon Pagoda dominates the Rangoon skyline and landscape. Located within the city are Kandawgyi Lake and Inya Lake, the shorelines of which are dotted with large, stately houses in varying states of repair. Many of Rangoon’s public buildings are attractive. Streets were widened and public parks spruced up after the 1988 military takeover.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 6/27/2005 10:04 AM

Construction on a new embassy complex is underway at Washington Park, the former diplomatic residential compound. Completion of the new chancery, located at 110 University Avenue, is set for July 2007, with operations to commence there in September.

The present chancery is located in downtown Rangoon at 581 Merchant Street. The main telephone numbers are 95 (country code) 1 (city code) 379880 and 379881. Additional chancery numbers are 95-1-379883/6. The Embassy fax number is 95–1–256018. In addition to the Department of State (DOS), the Defense Attaché Office (DAO), the Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Library of Congress are located in the chancery.

The General Services Office (GSO) is located four miles from the chancery at 220 Shwegondine Road, Bahan Township. Telephone numbers are 95–1–543354 and 542608. A brisk five-minute walk from GSO is the Medical Unit, situated in Tower I of the Golden Hill Tower apartment complex at 24-26 Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, Bahan Township. The Medical Unit’s direct telephone number is 95-1-546293/4, or it can be reached through the Golden Hill Tower reception on 95-1-558556, Ext. 306.

The Public Affairs Section (PAS) is located at the American Center, 2½ miles from the chancery at 14 Tawwin Road, Dagon Township. The PAS telephone numbers are 95–1–221585, 223140 and 223106.

Official office hours for the Mission are 8:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. on Friday. Flextime of 7:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. is an option for Mission employees. Rangoon time is 11.5 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. A Marine Security Guard is on duty 24 hours a day. A Duty Officer and communicator are on call outside regular office hours. The Duty Officer can be reached via mobile phone on 95-9-9927246.


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 6/24/2005 2:03 PM

Temporary quarters are provided in several serviced apartment buildings or in vacant USG houses. The serviced apartments have restaurants, swimming pools, playgrounds, tennis courts, and health facilities. Pets are not allowed, but one residential complex, Golden Hill Tower, will make an exception.

Permanent Housing Last Updated: 6/27/2005 10:05 AM

Permanent employees are housed in USG-owned or leased quarters, which are assigned in advance by the Inter-Agency Housing Board. Quarters are often ready for occupancy upon arrival.

Except for the residences of the Chief of Mission, the Deputy Chief of Mission, and the Marine House, quarters are assigned according to family size, position, timing, and availability. The USG owns 12 houses in the University Avenue, Pyay, and Ahlone Road areas, plus a residential compound at Dubern Park.

All houses have two to four bedrooms, high ceilings, and large rooms typical of housing in the tropics. Leased quarters are similar to government-owned housing but can be smaller. The serviced apartments have two to three bedrooms, two baths, kitchen, and living/dining room. Serviced apartments also include complimentary security, fitness club, pool, and switchboard, as well as appliances (including stereo and TV), daily cleaning, dishware, and free cable television. Internet access is also available for a fee. The following web links can provide an insight into apartment style living. Golden Hill Tower; and Sakura Residences;

The Embassy will provide new arrivals with a welcome kit containing essential household items such as pillows, towels, dishes, pots and pans, flatware, iron and ironing board, bathmats, shower curtains, and bed linens. The welcome kit is returned to the GSO office once the employee’s household effects (HHE) have arrived.

Public playgrounds in general are not safe for children. Most are poorly maintained and lack a safe ground surface. There are small playgrounds with western standard equipment at ISY, the Golden Hill Tower residential complex, and at the American Club (AERA.) Families with children may find outdoor equipment such as swings, slides, or seesaws a worthwhile investment. Some families have had wood and bamboo forts and play houses built in their yards. Local carpentry and supplies for such do-it-yourself projects are inexpensive.

Furnishings Last Updated: 6/24/2005 2:09 PM

Basic furniture and furnishings, including rugs and draperies, are provided in all USG owned and leased quarters. Unless shipping personal bed/s and linens, queen and twin-sized sheets are needed for GSO supplied beds in USG owned and leased homes. Bed linens, blankets, and pillows are temporarily provided in the welcome kits. The serviced apartments, in addition to having standard king, queen, and twin size beds, provide freshly laundered towels and bed linens.

All houses are equipped with refrigerator, freezer, stove, microwave oven, washer and dryer, vacuum cleaner, dehumidifiers, and room air-conditioners. The apartments have a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer and stackable washer/dryer. Some garden equipment, such as hoses, sprinklers, and push lawnmowers, is also provided. Employees assigned to a USG owned or leased home should bring their own irons and ironing boards. Serviced apartments provide a full range of household appliances.

GSO will provide transformers and automatic voltage regulators for U.S. appliances (110v), computers and televisions. Other appliances purchased for use in Burma must be able to operate on 220v, 50-cycle, AC, single-phase current. A standard U.S. television (NTSC) can be used in Rangoon for videotapes; however, a multi-system converter or multi-system TV should be brought or purchased to enable satellite reception. See Radio and TV section under Communications.

Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 6/27/2005 10:06 AM

Electrical power in Burma is 220v, 50-cycles. Brownouts, blackouts, and voltage fluctuations are common, especially in the dry season. All USG owned and leased houses and apartments are connected to back-up generators. For sensitive electronic components such as personal computers, stereos, TVs and VCRs, surge protection is recommended. An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for personal computers is essential.

Water is supplied by both tube wells and the city water system. It is filtered before entry into each government-owned house to remove particles, but it is still not potable. Water distillers are provided in all quarters and must be cleaned regularly. Filters and cleaning solution are available at GSO.

Telephone service is sporadic. One IDD line is supplied to each house. Both local and international calls from a residence are expensive. A local call costs between 15 and 20 cents a minute and international calls can exceed $4 a minute. All calls are monitored and telephones are often out of service. One USG telephone is provided; bring a second or third phone, if needed. Dial-up internet connection is available in homes and serviced apartments. Rates are high, connection is sporadic, and most e-mails will be monitored. Internet hook-up is provided through a Burmese government controlled ISP and access to many websites, including Yahoo and Hotmail, are prohibited. Most employees and family members rely on the IVG internet connection at the chancery. See Communications.

Food Last Updated: 6/27/2005 10:08 AM

The American Embassy Recreation Association (AERA) operates a small commissary using employee deposits. Family membership requires a $300 refundable deposit and a non-refundable annual membership fee of $150. For a single membership, the cost is $200 refundable deposit and non-refundable annual membership fee of $75. For single Marine Security Guards the deposit is $100 with annual membership fees of $25. The commissary stocks some staples, including flour, sugar, butter, cheese, margarine, soup, yeast, powdered, canned and UHT milk, coffee, tea, a variety of canned fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices in limited supply, household cleaners, shampoo, razor blades, shaving ream, a limited supply of brand name toiletries, creams, lotions, beer, wine, and liquors. Some frozen foods (e.g. ground beef, sausages, chicken, English Muffins, bagels, cream cheese, etc.) are imported. Members may special order items, although the time lag between order and receipt of goods averages 2–4 months.

The commissary offers as additional services: U.S. postage stamps (requires the deposit of an additional $50 per family), and special case orders. U.S. postage stamps in limited quantity are available from the Embassy mailroom, as is a franking machine with postage billed to the user.

For babies, bring an ample supply of baby food or a blender, as baby food must be special ordered through the commissary in case lots, and delivery takes 2–4 months. Other baby supplies such as disposable diapers also need to be special ordered. Diapers imported from neighboring countries are usually available locally but prices are high. Because of packing, shipping, and clearance charges, commissary prices are considerably higher than U.S. prices.

Imported canned goods are sold locally. Supplies are not reliable, and prices are high. Most fresh food items are purchased in the local market. Fresh beef, lamb, pork, chicken, and seafood are available but must be carefully prepared. Excellent crab, shrimp, fish, and pork are available year round.

Fresh vegetables available include asparagus, baby corn, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, cabbage, string beans, carrots, coriander, potatoes, squash, spinach, onions, garlic, ginger, green pepper (capsicum), straw mushrooms, spring onions, okra, eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes, leaf lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, yam, and snow peas. Some people bring seeds for home vegetable gardens. Good rice is available and inexpensive.

Fresh fruit available in season includes avocados, custard apple, apples, guava, pomelo, cantaloupe, watermelons, mangoes, papayas, pineapples, mangosteens, strawberries, oranges, sweet limes, rambuttan, tamarind, grapes, and tangerines. Bananas and limes are sold year round.

White sliced bread is widely available, but whole grain or other breads must be purchased from bakeries or at the larger hotels. Some people make their own bread with local wheat flour, which is very finely ground, or whole-wheat flour, which must be imported.

Cheese variety is rather limited. Most dairy products are imported from Thailand, but from time to time Australian and New Zealand dairy products, including cheddar cheese, are available in the larger supermarkets.

Being a vegetarian in Rangoon is not difficult because of the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables year round. Soft and hard tofu can be found at almost any market, as well as at the supermarkets. A wide variety of dried legumes can be found at most markets and supermarkets, but need to be cleaned carefully before preparation. Cashews and peanuts are plentiful and cheap, but walnuts, almonds, and pecans must be imported. Local soymilk is available, but may have added sugar and/or flavors. Canned gluten and ‘soy meat’ from Taiwan is available in some of the supermarkets. Dried fruit, nuts, nut butters, certain spices, mixes, etc. need to be brought in with your consumables shipment or by mail order. The following are very good websites for ordering vegetarian or natural foods online: Jaffee Brothers –, Eden foods –, and Shop Natural – Remember postage is not cheap, so take advantage of your consumables allowance.

Membership in the Bangkok commissary is available to members of the Rangoon Embassy community for $40/year through the American Community Support Association (ACSA), Bangkok. Application forms for ACSA are available from CLO Rangoon and fees are paid to ACSA in Bangkok. Many food items not available in Rangoon can be found in the Bangkok commissary or Bangkok supermarkets.

Items purchased in Bangkok may be mailed free of charge to Rangoon via MPS/APO at Embassy Bangkok. You can pack the items yourself or have them packaged for mailing at the gift shop located between the commissary and the Embassy mailroom. There is a nominal charge for the service; however, the packing is well done and goods are more likely to arrive in Rangoon in good condition. Be careful to ensure that APO size/weight restrictions are strictly adhered to. Once your goods are packed, you need to address the boxes and take them to the mailroom.

You do not need to be a member of the Bangkok commissary (ACSA) to take advantage of the MPS mail service, but ACSA membership is required in order to purchase things at the Bangkok commissary.

The cost of a round-trip air ticket to Bangkok is around $200, and there is also the cost of a hotel, so for most Embassy employees, it is impractical to depend on Bangkok for routine grocery shopping. However, since most international travel to/from Rangoon is via Bangkok, it’s a great chance to supplement your family’s food supply and have items sent free to Rangoon.

Clothing Last Updated: 6/27/2005 10:08 AM

Clothing should be light, summer-type fashion and washable. Western style clothing is available in local stores, but sizes run small. Bring what you need with you and use mail order for replenishment. Bangkok is an excellent nearby source for tailor-made clothing. Ready-made clothing and footwear may also be found in Bangkok. Hong Kong has a good reputation for such sales and services. Rangoon has a few skilled dressmakers, tailors, and shoe makers. A limited selection of Burmese and Thai silk and cotton is available. Personnel expecting to participate in sports such as golf and tennis should bring appropriate clothing and footwear with them. Bring extra swimwear. Ladies swimsuits in US sizes are difficult to find, even in Bangkok.

Men Last Updated: 6/27/2005 10:08 AM

Officers with representational responsibilities wear shirts with ties. Bring a jacket for official calls. Locally employed staff and foreign service nationals wear shirts without ties or departmental uniforms, such as tan safari suits worn by Motor Pool drivers. Occasional “informal” receptions call for a business suit. Most Embassy social functions are “casual,” with sport shirts and slacks prevailing. Tuxedos or dinner jackets are worn on rare occasions such as the Marine Corps Ball, and other charity ball events, but are not required for most personnel. See Official Functions.

Women Last Updated: 6/24/2005 2:25 PM

In the evening, dresses, skirts, or slacks are worn for both casual and informal social functions. What is appropriate for social events in Washington, D.C., will be suitable in Burma, except for short skirts and dresses. Dress is often casual inside compounds. Around Rangoon, modest attire is expected. Some women wear nylon hose in the cooler season. Hats are generally not worn but are a welcome accessory for events held outdoors. Light evening wraps, shawls, or sweaters are occasionally needed during the cool season or for trips to the cooler northern regions of Burma. Umbrellas are necessary for the monsoon season and are sometimes used for sun protection. Raincoats are not practical in the tropical heat.

Children Last Updated: 6/24/2005 2:26 PM

Although the international school has no uniform dress code, dress, in general, should be in line with the Burmese sense of modesty. Girls wear dresses, skirts, slacks, and jeans. Boys wear long pants, jeans, and shorts. Both boys and girls need shorts for physical education.

In high school, girls are not allowed to wear shorts to school except for physical education. They wear dresses, skirts, slacks, and jeans. Boys are allowed to wear the longer length shorts plus slacks and jeans. Sneakers, sandals, and thongs are common footwear; bring a good supply of children's shoes along with you.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 6/24/2005 2:27 PM

Local supermarkets stock some familiar grocery items, cleaning supplies, and general consumer goods but they are more expensive than those found in the U.S. Larger supermarkets, such as the City Mart chain, carry a fair selection of imported products from Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand. The commissary stocks a few selected toiletries and pharmaceuticals. You may want to bring a supply of greeting cards, invitations, stationery, supplies for children's activities, and children's birthday presents for parties.

Basic Services Last Updated: 6/27/2005 10:09 AM

Local dressmakers and tailors are satisfactory. Services are reasonable, and quality ranges from fair to excellent. Local sewing supplies such as thread, elastic, zippers, buttons, snaps, and interlining are of decent quality, but the supply is often limited or must be obtained from Bangkok.

Domestic employees usually take care of laundry in the home. Serviced apartments offer a wash service. Good dry cleaning is available and discounts are offered to Embassy employees at Traders Hotel. Some personnel opt to carry their dry cleaning along on occasional trips to Bangkok, Singapore, or Hong Kong and have it done there.

Rangoon has a fair selection of local beauty salons offering cutting, styling, conditioning treatments, and massages. Stylists seem more adept at cutting men’s hair, but there are a couple of stylists, trained in Thailand, who can do more up-to-date cutting and styling for ladies. There are a couple of exclusive health and beauty spas that offer deluxe facials, aromatherapy massage, body treatments, etc., and steeper rates dictate a higher quality of service. In general, the services and hygiene of salons range from mediocre to excellent.

A range of Paul Mitchell products are available; however, bring any other favorite brands with you. Hair spray, color, and other specific hair care preparations should also be brought to post.

Electrical appliance repair is good but spare parts are often not available or must be ordered from abroad. GSO maintenance crews will repair USG appliances and in-house engineering teams take care of repairs in serviced apartments.

Domestic Help Last Updated: 6/24/2005 2:32 PM

Domestic staff wages are reasonable. For a family, the staff usually includes a cook who prepares and serves meals and cleans the kitchen; a housekeeper/maid who also cleans and does washing and ironing; and a gardener. A driver is also helpful, particularly if children must be taken to school and to the American club for recreation. A family with infants and toddlers may also need a nanny to care for the children. A single employee living in a serviced apartment usually requires one full-time housekeeper. The employer traditionally assumes responsibility for the health and welfare of their domestic staff, and often of their families.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 6/24/2005 2:33 PM

Rangoon has Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Armenian, and Seventh-day Adventist churches, a Jewish synagogue, and a Jehovah’s Witnesses Assembly Hall. English services are conducted regularly. There is an international Christian interfaith group that meets in the Sedona Hotel with an English service. There are also numerous Buddhist meditation centers (some of which are popular with foreigners and offer instruction in English), a Sikh temple, Muslim mosques, and Hindu temples.


Dependent Education

At Post Last Updated: 6/27/2005 10:11 AM The International School of Yangon (ISY) is a private, coeducational day school that offers an educational program from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 for students of all nationalities. The school was founded in 1955.

The curriculum is that of a standard college preparatory U.S. elementary, middle, or high school. Students at the elementary level (grades K to 5) have daily classes in English (reading, writing, speaking, and listening), mathematics, social studies (geography, history, and social science), and science. The homeroom teachers usually teach English, math, and social studies classes and specialist teachers teach computer, arts, and science. Students at the middle-school level (grades 6 to 8) begin a transition to high school. They study the same subjects as in elementary school, but may be taught by different, subject-specialist teachers. Students at the high school level (grades 9 to 12) earn credits each semester in order to accumulate at least 24 credits over 4 years and earn a high school diploma. Music, art, computer studies, and physical education are offered at all grade levels. English-as-a-second-language is offered to students in grades 1 to 10 for those who require it.

Students in the high school have the opportunity to study French and Spanish as foreign languages. The testing program includes the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (grades 1–8), the Tests of Achievement and Proficiency (grades 9–11), and ERB (Educational Record Bureau) Test (grades 4 – 8). The PSAT, SAT, and TOEFL exams are regularly offered.

College Entrance: Nearly 100% of ISY graduates attend a 4-year accredited college. Many recent graduates have attended prestigious universities.

Accreditation: ISY is fully accredited by the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges (MSA).

Faculty: There were 50 full-time and 3 part-time faculty members at the beginning of the 2004–2005 school year, including 30 U.S. citizens, 17 host country nationals, and 3 third-country nationals.

Enrollment: Enrollment at the beginning of the 2004–school year was 377 (pre-kindergarten through grade 12), including 48 U.S. citizens, 94 host country nationals, and 235 children of other nationalities. Of the U.S. enrollment, 27 were dependents of U.S. Government direct-hire or contract employees.

Organization: The school is governed by a 9-member Board of Management. The Parents Association, the sponsors of the school, elects eight members for 2-year terms. Membership in the association is automatically conferred on the parents or guardians of children enrolled in the school. One member of the Board of Management represents the U.S. Chief of Mission. ISY is in practice sponsored by the U.S. Embassy. The school is nonprofit and nonsectarian. It is unofficially permitted to operate by the Burmese Government.

Facilities: The school consists of seven buildings on a 4-acre site in a residential area of Yangon. It has a well-equipped library, two music rooms, 2 art rooms, 3 computer rooms, 2 science laboratories, and a multipurpose room. All indoor facilities are air-conditioned. There is a playground, a playing field, and 2 basketball/volleyball courts. No boarding facilities are available. Plans are being completed to add a purpose-built elementary building, which will house all elementary classrooms, elementary and secondary art rooms, elementary computer room, music room, and more. This is the first phase of a multi-phase project to modernize the ISY campus over the next 4–5 years.

Finances/Fees: The USG pays tuition and fees of children of direct-hire American Embassy personnel. In the 2004–2005 school year, about 98 percent of the School’s income derived from regular day school tuition and registration fees. Annual tuition rates are as follows: Pre-K: $3,040; KG: $7,344; grades 1–5: $8,730; grades 6-8: $8,900; and grades 9-12: $9,072. Fees are payable by semester, in U.S. dollars only. There is a one-time registration fee of $1,000 payable by each new student from kindergarten upwards. In addition, a capital fee of $4,000 is levied for each new student. No capital fees will be levied for the returning students in grades 1–12, who have already paid their capital fees. Kindergarten students pay capital fees of $4,000 each.

School Calendar: The school year is divided into two semesters. In 2005–2006, the dates are August 8 – December 16 and January 9 – May 26. Classes meet Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. After-school activities often extend the day to 3:30 p.m. or later.

Away From Post Last Updated: 6/27/2005 10:12 AM An away-from-post allowance is available for grades 9 to l2.

The Office of Overseas Schools (A/OPR/OS) may have more detailed information. Prospective users of the schools may wish to inquire further of A/OPR/OS or contact the school directly for more specific and up-to-the-minute formation regarding curriculum programs, special programs, etc.

International School Yangon (ISY) E-mail: Tel: (95–1) 512–783/4/5 Fax: (95–1) 525–020 Website:

Other Education/Training Opportunities

Art classes are available by excellent Burmese artists, but bring your own supplies. Local special meditation centers accept foreigners as students. Private tutoring can be arranged for various foreign languages, and for piano and guitar lessons. Inexpensive guitars are available locally but are of poor quality, and pianos can be rented but their quality ranges from fair to poor. Other musical instruments should be included in shipments of effects. Burmese-language classes are available to employees. Private tutors are available at your expense. Ballroom and Latin dance classes and a range of martial arts including Aikido are taught through various centers and hotels.

Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 12/3/2003 11:11 AM

Art classes are available by excellent Burmese artists, but bring your own supplies. Local special meditation centers accept foreigners as students. Private tutoring can also be arranged for various foreign languages and for piano and guitar lessons. Inexpensive guitars are available locally but are of poor quality, and pianos can be rented but their quality ranges from fair to poor. Other musical instruments should be included in shipments of effects.

Burmese-language classes are available to employees. Private tutors are available at your expense.

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 6/27/2005 10:13 AM

Almost every sport is available in Rangoon. The climate and facilities make outdoor sports possible and enjoyable, except during the two to three months of heavy monsoon and the afternoon heat in the late dry season.

AERA offers several facilities and programs including a large multi-purpose functions room, the commissary, restaurant, bar with pool table and dartboards, swimming pool, tennis courts, softball field, covered volley/basketball court, internet café, small video library, and an active social and athletic program. The 30’(W) x 60’(L) pool has a pavilion where food and beverages are served. Trained lifeguards are on duty during pool hours.

From November to March, softball is a major part of the sports scene. The AERA sponsors a slow-pitch league with men and women’s division. The international and Burmese communities comprise more than 15 teams. There are also T-Ball and softball leagues for children ages 5–13. Bring cleats (plastic only), gloves, and caps. The leagues play their games on the weekends and provide a spectator sport for the whole community.

In May, AERA facilitates “Monsoon” volleyball, which succeeds the softball season. The game is enjoyed by the American and international community. Tennis is very popular with Rangoon expatriates. Games are played mainly at American homes or compounds with tennis courts, and all staff members have access to them. Good tennis racquets are sold locally. Tennis shoes wear out rapidly on the cement courts. Tennis instruction is available at reasonable fees.

Three 18-hole golf courses, the Myanmar Golf Club, Yangon Golf Club, and Pun Hlaing Golf Club are located within 16 miles of downtown. There are several golf stores and club pro shops that stock a small selection of equipment and clothing. Golfers should bring umbrellas, canvas shoes, and moisture-proof shoes, as the courses are very wet during the rainy season. Instruction is inexpensive and good.

The Yangon Sailing Club on Inya Lake provides small sailboats, 12-foot Sharpies and 14-foot Raters, for members. Old hands are willing to help beginners. Races are held weekly. There is also a University Rowing Club that rents sculls and provides lessons for rowing enthusiasts.

Bird watching opportunities are good, but vary seasonally and by location. Despite travel restrictions in more remote areas, dry-season viewing is good at the Moyhingyi bird sanctuary, Hlawgar Reservoir near Rangoon, and at the Botanic Gardens at Pyin U Lwin (Maymyo), among other places.

Individual hobbies and interests are more important here than in the United States. A group of women meets weekly to work on various handicrafts. Bring your own hobby supplies, as little is available locally. The International School has a good library for a school of its size; the British Embassy library also has some books, including some for children. Families should include a supply of children’s books in their effects. Bring along a TV, DVD, and VCR for additional home entertainment. A community video library exists at AERA, but most of the titles are old. Many families share and exchange personal video and DVDs. For more on videos, DVDs, and books, see sections on “Radio and TV” and “Books, Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals” above.

For more on other hobbies and leisure activities, see section on “Other Education/Training Opportunities” above.

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 6/27/2005 10:14 AM

Mission personnel can travel to those parts of the country normally accessible by tourists. This constitutes the vast majority of locations in Burma, apart from some border regions where ethnic insurgencies still smolder. In some cases post will merely inform the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the planned travel. When mission members intend to travel to areas that may pose security risks or may be considers sensitive by the GOB, we ask permission ten days before the travel.

Because Rangoon is not typical of Burma, visits to other points of interest are recommended. Mandalay, the last capital of the Burmese kings, still retains historical and cultural interest. It is reached by plane (55 minutes). Air schedule reliability varies. Travel by car to Mandalay takes 14–16 hours over poor roads. It is a 14–17 hour trip by overnight train — the rail bed is rough.

Many places of historic, cultural, and artistic interest are in Mandalay or within easy driving distance. Ancient and modern pagodas dot the landscape, particularly in Sagaing, across the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River, Inwa (Ava), and Amarapura, all former Burmese capitals. Photography buffs can find many interesting scenes.

Pyin U Lwin (Maymyo), a British hill station and summer capital before independence, is in the mountains 42 miles ortheast of Mandalay and provides a welcome relief from Mandalay heat. Pyin U Lwin has an excellent 18-hole golf course, and tennis is also popular in the area.

Bagan (Pagan), the ancient capital during the golden era of Burmese history (10th–13th centuries), is the site of hundreds of pagodas, many in ruins, but many still preserved as religious and cultural monuments. It may be reached by a daily flight from Rangoon (1¼ hours). River steamers (a 12 hour-trip) provide another adventurous means of travel to Bagan from Mandalay.

The other hill station of Kalaw and the Shan Plateau town of Taunggyi have cooler temperatures than Rangoon and Mandalay and offer lovely mountain scenery and colorful markets. Taunggyi can be reached by plane (1 hour, 20 minutes) from Rangoon, plus a 45-minute bus ride. Kalaw, served by the same airport (Heho), requires 2 more hours by bus. Inle Lake lies slightly to the south. Its villages and pagodas, which are built on the lake, are a favorite tourist spot. Ngapali Beach, on the Rakhine (Arakan) coast, is Burma’s finest accessible beach and is popular with both Burmese and Westerners. Flights to Thandwe (Sandoway) Airport (45 minutes) near Ngapali beach are available 4 days a week. However, during the beach season, the tourist agencies make special arrangement with the airlines to accommodate passengers, and flights are available daily, but schedules are irregular.

Another seaside resort is Nwe Saung and Chaung Tha beaches in Bassein (Pathein) District. Both are accessible by road during the dry season. One can drive in either private or rented vehicles. The journey takes approximately 5 hours and is open daily during the summer season. During the rainy season, the road is rough and most resorts are closed. This seaside beach was recently opened by the host government and is popular with Burmese and foreigners. Accommodations are available and fairly modest in both quality and cost.

Regional places of interest outside Burma include Bangkok, Thailand; Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Cameron Highlands in Malaysia; Angkor Wat in Cambodia; Bali and Jakarta, Indonesia; Singapore, Calcutta and New Delhi, India; and Kathmandu, Nepal. Sydney is the R&R point for Rangoon, but travel to the nearest point in the continental U.S. instead, is also authorized.

Sightseeing in Rangoon should include the numerous pagodas as well as local shops and bazaars and the various artisans who hand-fashion Burmese goods. Children enjoy the zoo. An interesting circular train trip around Rangoon takes 3 hours.

During the year several colorful festivals are held, such as the Festival of Lights and Thingyan (the four-day water festival (when everyone gets drenched – whether you want to or not). Other interesting cultural events are the Indian fire walking ceremonies, and Burmese plays, dancing, and puppet shows.

Burma is a Buddhist country, and visitors are expected to show respect to the Buddhist pagodas and Buddhist monks, easily identified by their saffron robes. Visitors to pagodas must remove shoes and socks before entering roofed walkways and grounds leading to the pagodas. Bring a plastic bag for this purpose or purchase one from the entrance where you will find many children eager to carry your shoes for some pocket money. You may also check your shoes with an attendant at the entrance for a small fee.

The photographer will find many interesting scenes in Burma. Local processing of black and white and color film is good. Batteries and other camera accessories are in short supply locally.

Entertainment Last Updated: 6/24/2005 2:58 PM

Six movie theaters in Rangoon feature Burmese, Indian, European, Chinese, Japanese, and American films. European, Australian, and Japanese film festivals occur annually with free admission. Projection equipment is good, but theaters are sometimes hot and uncomfortable. During the movie, Burmese like to crunch on sunflower seeds and you may see the odd rat scurrying to collect discarded morsels. A more troubling issue is that doors are often locked during the shows, which in the event of fire, could prove dangerous.

Social Activities

Among Americans Last Updated: 6/24/2005 2:59 PM The American community in Rangoon consists mainly of Embassy personnel, teachers, and their dependents. There are also Americans assigned to Burma by various U.N. agencies and international NGOs. In all, approximately 300 American citizens live in Burma. Much of the community’s social life centers on AERA facilities, the Australian Club, and the British Club. Numerous hotels around town also offer an alternative to these clubs. These activities are supplemented by extensive home entertaining.

International Contacts Last Updated: 6/24/2005 3:00 PM Twenty-eight countries maintain diplomatic missions or consulates in Rangoon. Opportunities for contact with their staff members are not limited.

Rangoon’s three golf clubs, sailing club, and rowing club provide pleasant surroundings for meeting Burmese and third country nationals. The International Friendship Group (IFG), comprised of Burmese and expatriate members, and the U.N. Women’s Association (UNWA), sponsor a number of charitable projects, and a wide spectrum of activities with an international flavor.

Official Functions

Nature of Functions Last Updated: 6/27/2005 10:15 AM

The Chief of Mission, Deputy Chief of Mission, political/economic officers, military attachés, and public diplomacy officers have a heavy schedule of official social functions. Others are less pressed. The most common forms of official entertaining are receptions given on national days or armed forces days. Dress for such occasions is “business or national dress,” generally meaning a business suit for men and a dress for women. Frequently, however, the dress for receptions and dinners is “smart casual,” meaning slacks and open dress shirts for men and informal dresses for women. Mission staff may also occasionally attend black tie diplomatic social events.

Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 6/24/2005 3:03 PM

Social standards in Burma are conservative. Abbreviated clothing is inappropriate outside the home or the AERA Club. The Chief of Mission and spouse make courtesy calls on the other Chiefs of Mission. The Deputy Chief of Mission calls on his/her counterparts in their offices. Other officers make courtesy calls at their own discretion and on the advice of their section chief. All American employees call on the Chief of Mission and the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy. Officers may find it useful to arrive equipped with a small supply of generic business cards and should expect to order permanent ones immediately upon arrival. Adequate invitation cards are available locally.

Special Information Last Updated: 6/24/2005 3:06 PM

Immediately upon arrival, employees and family members should go to the Human Resource (HR) Office in order to start check-in procedures. It is important to obtain an identity card from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to expedite clearance of airfreight, household effects, and POV. The HR office will prepare the necessary documentation. Photos are required for this, as well as for various other ID cards, driver’s licenses, etc. Many inexpensive photo kiosks are available in Rangoon, but having a supply of visa type photos on hand (measuring 1½ x 2 inches and 1x1 inch) may help speed up the process.

Post Orientation Program

Orientation begins for newcomers on the first day of arrival at post. The Community Liaison Office (CLO), and the Management Office provide a welcome packet. The packet includes a checklist of officers with whom the employee should schedule an appointment. The list includes, but is not limited to, the Chargé d’Affaires, the DCM, the Management officer, the post medical officer, the security officer, the general services officer, and the CLO.

At least annually, an expanded orientation program is offered, designed to acquaint employees and their dependents with the role of the U.S. Mission in Burma, the work of various Embassy offices, and Burmese customs and culture.

Related Internet Sites Last Updated: 6/24/2005 3:23 PM

The Burma fund: Burma Net: Democratic Voice of Burma: Burma Project: Free Burma: Free Burma Coalition: Free Burma.Org: State Peace and Development Council Website:

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 6/24/2005 3:07 PM

All personnel arrive in Rangoon by air. American carriers must be used for as much of the journey as possible. The most commonly used transfer point is Bangkok, where an overnight stop is a necessity. Only Thai Airlines, Myanmar Airways International and Bangkok Airways fly to Rangoon (RGN) from Bangkok (BKK). If you should have any difficulty in confirming reservations for BKK/RGN, inform the post by cable.

New personnel are met upon arrival in Rangoon. Notify the Embassy of your arrival date, flight number, accompanying family members, and any assistance that might be required on arrival.

The post supplies Household Welcome Kits to new arrivals. Other than important personal documents, only necessary clothing, toiletries, medical supplies, and baby foods need be brought in accompanied baggage.

Customs, Duties, and Passage Last Updated: 6/24/2005 3:08 PM

Diplomatic personnel are entitled to duty-free entry of household goods and consumables throughout their tour of duty. Embassy personnel not on the diplomatic list are entitled to duty-free entry of household goods and consumables for the first 6 months after arrival. Effects can be cleared only after the arrival of the employee.

Customs officials may confiscate prohibited items such as firearms (including air-powered guns and toy guns), ammunition, and certain books, photographs, and magazines that might be considered offensive.

On all outgoing shipments, the number of boxes/vans and weight is checked against the same information listed in the documents when an employee entered the country. Discrepancies either up or down, which cannot be explained, may result in your outgoing shipment being delayed in customs.

Diplomats are normally not required to show permits for export of teak/rattan furniture, antique lacquerware, wood carvings, or jewelry; however, itemized lists and receipts for such purchases should be retained.

Pets Last Updated: 6/24/2005 3:10 PM

Pets are not quarantined if accompanied by a health certificate and proof of rabies vaccination. Check with the Embassy for advice on current regulations before pets are shipped. If you plan to bring your pet, inform GSO before arrival so that proper papers can be available at the airport, otherwise, pets may have to stay at the airport where no boarding facilities are available.

Dog and cat food is usually available at the commissary. Pet food and supplies are available most of the time in local supermarkets. Local veterinarians are sometimes competent but often lack medicines; when supplied, they are of unfamiliar brands. E-mail consultations with a stateside vet are invaluable. Clipping service is not available; dog owners should bring their own clippers.

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 6/24/2005 3:11 PM

The importation of personal firearms to Burma is strictly prohibited by the Embassy. This includes all types of firearms, air guns, and any other device which can be considered a personal weapon.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 6/27/2005 10:16 AM

Restrictions There are two Burmese currencies, Kyat and Foreign Exchange Certificates (FECs). Kyat is the most prevalent and widely accepted. Its black market value against the USD fluctuates on a daily basis. FECs are essentially “dollar equivalency” currency and are valued at a fixed rate of one FEC/$1.00. The Embassy Class B cashier provides FEC and USD accommodation exchange only. Mission personnel requiring Kyat utilize Burmese Government sanctioned exchange counters on Thein Byu Road. This facility is located approximately 4 blocks from the Embassy. It is a violation of Burmese law to buy Kyat from an unauthorized source.

There are no restrictions on the amount of dollars, traveler’s checks, or other foreign currency brought into Burma.

Facilities Foreigners cannot open local currency checking accounts in Burma. Business transactions are generally on a cash basis. Credit cards are not generally accepted. Debit cards and travelers checks are not accepted and ATM machines are nonexistent.

As salaries, differentials, and allowances are processed and paid in dollars via the Consolidated American Payroll Processing System in Charleston, S.C., with EFT to individual bank accounts, you should maintain a U.S. checking account. Newly arrived personnel may experience delays in the transfer of payroll authorizations. It is advisable to bring enough resources to meet the normally heavy expenses in the first month at Post.

Weights and Measures Like the U.S., Burma is non-metric. Miles, pounds, and gallons are used. At the local market, all foodstuffs are weighed in viss and ticals. One viss equals 3.6 pounds, and there are 100 ticals to a viss. One tical equals 58 ounces. (In Burma, the weight utilized for gold is the tical.) Gasoline (Burmese call it petrol) is measured by the Imperial gallon. One Imperial gallon equals 1.2 U.S. gallons.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 6/24/2005 3:15 PM

Official American personnel do not pay Burmese personal or income taxes.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 6/24/2005 3:23 PM

These resources are provided as a general indication of the material available. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications or Web Sites.

Book List

Aung San Suu Kyi. Freedom from Fear.

Clark, M., and J. Cummings. Lonely Planet Myanmar (Burma), 8th edition. 2002.

Clements, Alan. Voice of Hope. Seven Stories Press, 1997.

Collis, Maurice. Lords of the Sunset. Bangkok, Ava Publications, 1997.

Fink, Christina. Living Silence: Burma Under Military Rule. New York, Zed Books, 2001.

Ghosh, Amitav. The Glass Palace. Random House, 2001.

Hall, H. Fielding. The Soul of a People. London, 1898.

Lintner, Bertil. Burma in Revolt: Opium and Insurgency Since 1948. Silkworm Books, Chiang Mai, 1999.

---. Outrage: Burma’s Struggle for Democracy. Hong Kong, 1989.

Marshall, Andrew. The Trouser People. U.S.A., Counterpoint, 2002.

Masters, John. The Road Past Mandalay. Orion Publishing Group, 2002.

Orwell, George. Burmese Days. New York, 1934. (Many modern reprints.)

Pascal Khoo Thwe. From the Land of Green Ghosts: A Burmese Odyssey. Harper Collins, 2002.

Rabinowitz, Alan. Beyond the Last Village: A Journey of Discovery in Asia’s Forbidden Wilderness. Island Press: A Shearwater Book, 2001.

Sargent, Inge. Twilight Over Burma: My Life as a Shan Princess. Kolowalu Books, 1994.

Selth, Andrew. Burma’s Armed Forces: Power Without Glory. East Bridge, Norwalk, 2002.

Smith, Martin. Burma: Insurgency and the Politics of Ethnicity. Zed Books Ltd., 1999.

Thant Myint-U. The Making of Modern Burma. Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Tucker, Shelby. Among Insurgents: Walking Through Burma. I. B. Taurus, 2000.

Web Sites

The Burma fund: Burma Net: Democratic Voice of Burma: Burma Project: Free Burma: Free Burma Coalition: Free Burma.Org: State Peace and Development Council Website:

Internet News Groups

soc.culture.burma soc.culture.asean soc.rights.burma apc.reg.burma

Local Holidays Last Updated: 6/27/2005 9:47 AM

New Year’s Day January 1 Independence Day* January 4 Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday January 21 Union Day* February 12 Washington’s Birthday February 21 Full Moon of Tabaung* March 24 Peasants’ Day* March 2 Armed Forces Day* March 27 Thingyan (Water Festival)* April 13-16 Burmese New Year* April 17 Workers’ Day* May 1 Full Moon of Kason* May 22 Memorial Day May 30 Independence Day July 4 Martyrs’ Day* July 19 Full Moon of Waso* July 20 Labor Day September 5 Columbus Day October 10 Full Moon of Thadingyut* October 17 Veterans’ Day November 11 Full Moon of Tazaungmone* November 15 Thanksgiving Day November 24 National Day* November 25 Christmas Day** December 25

* Denotes Burmese Holidays ** Denotes American and Burmese Holiday

NOTE: There are approximately 22 Burmese holidays in a year. However, in accordance with 2 FAM 115.2d, post restricts the number of designated local holidays to the number of U.S. holidays or fewer. For Idd, Deepavali, and Karen New Year, the Embassy observes a liberal leave policy. Burmese holidays falling on either Saturday or Sunday will be observed only on the respective day.

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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