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Geography Demographics Telephone
Location: West coastal
Area: 36,780 km2
Population: 2,698,000
Density: 73/ km2
Ethnicities: Rakhine,Bamar,Rohingya,Chin
Calling code
Town and Districts
Sittwe, Maungdaw, Buthidaung, Kyaukpru and Thandwe
General Information
The Rakhine State (formerly Arakan) is a state of Myanmar. Situated the western coast, it is bordered by Chin State in the north, Magway Division, Bago Division and Ayeyarwady Division in the east, the Bay of Bengal to the west, and the Chittagong Division of Bangladesh to the northwest. It is located approximately between latitudes 17o30' north and 21o30' north and east longitudes 92o10' east and 94o50' east.
The Arakan Roma mountain range, which rises to 3,063 m at Victoria Peak, separates Rakhine State from Myanmar proper. Its area is 36,762 km? and its capital is Sittwe (formerly Akyab). The estimated population in 1985 was 2,698,000 and it is inhabited primary by two groups of people the Rakhine ethnic group and Rohingyas ethnic group. The remaining ethnic groups are Mro, Khami (Khumi), Kaman Muslim, Dienet, Marmagri and a few others. The majority of people are Buddhists, and second being Muslims.
The natives of Arakan trace their history as far back as 2666 B.C., and give a lineal succession of 227 native princes down to modern times. According to them, their empire had at one period far wider limits, and extended over Ava, part of China, and a portion of Bengal. This extension of their empire is not, however, corroborated by known facts in history. According to recorded history, a kingdom called Dhanyawady arose in the Arakan region in the 1st century AD. The famous Mahamuni Buddha (located in Mandalay) was cast in Dhanyawady in around 150 AD. The kingdom of Wethali (Rakhine: Wai-tha-li) was the successor to Dhanyawady from the 3rd century AD.
Arakan reached the zenith of its power in the Bay of Bengal during the Waithali, Lemro and Mrauk-U periods, but the country steadily declined from the seventeenth century onwards. Chittagong, which was part of Arakan, was invaded and occupied by the Mughal Empire in 1666. Internal instability and dethroning of kings was very common. The Portuguese, during the era of their greatness in Asia, gained a temporary establishment in Arakan; but on December 28th 1784 the province was finally conquered by the Burmese.
The famous Mahamuni Buddha image was taken as a war trophy to his capital of Amarapura (The image was relocated to Mandalay in 1853 when King Mindon relocated the capital to Mandalay). The Burmese, after conquering Arakan, came directly into contact with British interests in east India. Burmese seizures of Arakan's neighbouring states of Assam and Manipur and the assult on Shinmaphyu Isle, which was a British outpost in Bengal was the instigating causes of the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824 to 26). Under the Treaty of Yandabo (1826), Burma ceded Arakan and Tenasserim to British India. Arakan was thus one of the first Burmese territories to be ceded to the British. The British made Akyab capital of Arakan, and retained the traditional divisions of the country into the districts of Akyab, Kyaukpyu and Sandoway (Ramree) with a district officer in charge of each. Akyab district originally included the Arakan Hill Tracts, which were detached 1865 and made into a separate district (and which is now Chin State).
With independence and the formation of the Union of Burma in 1948, the three Arakan districts became Arakan Division, on equal footing with the majority Burmese administrative divisions.
From the 1950s, there was a growing movement for secession and restoration of Rakhine independence. In part to appease this sentiment, in 1974, the Burmese government of Ne Win constituted Rakhine State from Arakan Division giving at least nominal acknowledgement of the majority Rakhine ethnic group. Pro-independence movements have been highly fragmented, and the Burmese military has capitalised on the existing tension between the majority Buddhists and minority Muslims Rohingyas.
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