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
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
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
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
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
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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: email@example.com. 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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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; http://www.ghtower.com and Sakura
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
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
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 – www.organicfruitsandnuts.com, Eden
foods – www.edenfoods.com, and Shop Natural – www.shopnatural.com.
Remember postage is not cheap, so take advantage of your consumables
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
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
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.
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
College Entrance: Nearly 100% of ISY graduates attend a 4-year
accredited college. Many recent graduates have attended prestigious
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel: (95–1) 512–783/4/5 Fax: (95–1) 525–020 Website: http://www.isy.net.mm
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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: www.burmafund.org Burma Net: www.burmanet.org
Democratic Voice of Burma: www.communique.no/dvb Burma Project:
www.soros.org/initiatives/regions/southeast-asia Free Burma:
www.sunsite.unc.edu/freeburma Free Burma Coalition:
www.freeburmacoalition.org/ Free Burma.Org: www.freeburma.org
Irrawaddy.org: www.irrawaddy.org State Peace and Development Council
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
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
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
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
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
Official American personnel do not pay Burmese personal or income
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.
Aung San Suu Kyi. Freedom from Fear.
Clark, M., and J. Cummings. Lonely Planet Myanmar (Burma), 8th
Clements, Alan. Voice of Hope. Seven Stories Press, 1997.
Collis, Maurice. Lords of the Sunset. Bangkok, Ava Publications,
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,
Orwell, George. Burmese Days. New York, 1934. (Many modern
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,
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
Tucker, Shelby. Among Insurgents: Walking Through Burma. I. B.
The Burma fund: www.burmafund.org Burma Net: www.burmanet.org
Democratic Voice of Burma: www.communique.no/dvb Burma Project:
www.soros.org/initiatives/regions/southeast-asia Free Burma:
www.sunsite.unc.edu/freeburma Free Burma Coalition:
www.freeburmacoalition.org/ Free Burma.Org: www.freeburma.org
Irrawaddy.org: www.irrawaddy.org State Peace and Development Council
Internet News Groups
soc.culture.burma soc.culture.asean soc.rights.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
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.