The Port of Yangon is the largest city of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), and it was the country’s capital from 1948 to 2006. Located on the central coastline on the banks of the Yangon River, it is 40 kilometers upriver from the Gulf of Martaban off the Andaman Sea. Known internationally as Rangoon until 1989, Yangon reflects the Burmese pronunciation of the city’s name.
Tourism has been a major source of income for the Port of Yangon, although down dramatically since the 2007 revolution and Cyclone Nargis. In 2005, over four million people lived in the Port of Yangon.
The Port of Yangon is Myanmar’s biggest city and its commercial and industrial center. Despite an underdeveloped banking industry and communications system, the Port of Yangon is the main trade center for merchandise that ranges from used cards to basic foods. The Port of Yangon is also home to several light industry zones, consisting of 2500 factories, that account for much local employment, despite electrical shortages and economic sanctions imposed by Western nations.
Founded as Dagon in the 6th Century by the Mon, the ancient Port of Yangon was a small fishing village. In 1755, King Alaungpaya conquered the town and renamed it, bringing more settlers to the Port of Yangon.
During the First Anglo-Burmese War from 1824 to 1926, the British took the Port of Yangon but returned it to Burma after the war. In 1841, a fire destroyed the Port of Yangon. In the Second Anglo-Burmese War of 1852, the British again took the Port of Yangon and all of southern Burma. Under the British Empire, the Port of Yangon was transformed into a political and commercial center. They built a new city there on delta land, and the Port of Yangon was made the capital of British Burma when they conquered Upper Burma in the Third Anglo-Burmese War of 1885. In 1880, the Commissioners for the Port of Rangoon were formed.
By the late 19th Century, the Port of Yangon had a fast-growing population, increasing commerce, and greater prosperity. The British created hospitals and colleges in the city. As a British colony, the Port of Yangon had many big parks, lakes, and a blend of modern and traditional architecture. For a time, it was called the “garden city of the East.” At the beginning of the 20th Century, the Port of Yangon’s city infrastructure and services rivaled that of London.
When World War I ended, the Port of Yangon became the nucleus of the country’s movement for independence. Three nationwide strikes began there against the British (1920, 1936, and 1938). During World War II, Japan occupied the Port of Yangon, and the Port of Yangon suffered heavy damage. After World War II, the Port of Yangon became independent Burma’s capital in 1948, when many street and park names were changed to more traditional Burmese names. In 1989, the government changed the English name of Rangoon to Yangon, although many Burmese citizens do not accept the name changes.
Since the middle of the 20th Century, the Port of Yangon has grown. In 1954, the Board of Management for the Port of Rangoon was established. Satellite towns have sprung up around the Port of Yangon until the metropolitan area covers almost 60 thousand hectares. During the rule of General Ne Win, the city’s infrastructure was not well maintained, nor did it keep pace with increasing population.
In the late 20th Century, the new military government had somewhat more open market policies, and domestic and foreign investments brought the Port of Yangon a bit of relief. In 1972, the Burma Ports Corporation was created. Much redevelopment occurred. Many inner Port of Yangon dwellers were forced to the new satellite towns, and old colonial-period buildings went down so that new high-rise offices, hotels, and shopping centers could rise. (The Port of Yangon government, in an effort to preserve the city’s history, put around 200 colonial buildings on the Yangon Heritage List.) Many new roads and bridges were constructed. The Myanmar Port Authority was established in 1989. Despite these efforts, much of the Port of Yangon still lacks basic municipal services like electricity and garbage collection.
Since independence, the Port of Yangon has gained a more Burmese atmosphere. Many of the foreign residents left the country, and many more were forced to leave by General Ne Win during the 1960s. Anglo-Burmese no longer live in the Port of Yangon, having left the country or returned to their Burmese heritage.
In 1974, 1988, and 2007, the Port of Yangon saw anti-government protests and heavy bloodshed as the government suppressed the protestors. In 2008, much of the Port of Yangon was severely damaged by Cyclone Nargis, and losses were estimated to be around $800 million US.
In late 2005, the military government announced a new capital city for Myanmar, Naypyidaw. The new city is over 300 kilometers north of the Port of Yangon, and much of the government has moved. Despite this, the Port of Yangon is still Myanmar’s biggest city and main commercial center.
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