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Geography and Religion
Cambodia Geography and Religion
International borders are shared with Thailand and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic on the West and the North, and the Social Republic of Viet Nam on the East and the Southeast. The country is bounded on the Southeast by the Gulf of Thailand. In comparison with neighbors, Cambodia is a geographical contact country administratively composed of 20 provinces, three of which have relatively short maritime boundaries, 2 municipalities, 172 districts, and 1,547 communes. The country has a coastline of 435 km and extensive mangrove stands, some of which are relatively undisturbed.
The dominant features of the Cambodian landscape are the large, almost generally located, Tonle Sap (Great Lake) and the Bassac River Systems and the Mekong River, which crosses the country from North to South. Surrounding the Central Plains which covered three quarters of the country’s area are the more densely forested and sparsely populated highlands, comprising: the Elephant Mountains and Cardamom Mountain of the southwest and western regions; the Dangrek Mountains of the North adjoining of the Korat Plateau of Thailand; and Rattanakiri Plateau and Chhlong highlands on the east merging with the Central Highlands of Viet Nam.
The Tonle Sap Basin-Mekong Lowlands region consists mainly of plains with elevations generally of less than 100 meters.
As the elevation increases, the terrain becomes more rolling and dissected.
The Cardamom Mountains in the southwest rise to more than 1,500 meters and is oriented generally in a northwest-southeast direction. The highest mountain in Cambodia –Phnom Aural, at 1.771meters – is in the eastern part of this range.
The Elephant Range, an extension of Cardamom Mountains, runs towards the south and the southeast and rises to elevations of between 500 and 1,000 meters. These two range are bordered on the west are narrow coastal plain facing the gulf of Thailand that contains Kampong Som Bay. The Dangrek Mountains at the northern rim of Tonle Sap Basin, consisting of a steep escarpment on the southern edge of the Korat Plateau in Thailand, marks the boundary between Thailand and Cambodia. The average elevation of about 500 meters with the highest points reaching more than 700 meters. Between the northern part of the Cardamom ranges and the western part of the Dangrek, lies and extension of the Tonle Sap Basin that merges into the plains in Thailand, allowing easy accesses from the border of Bangkok.
The Mekong River Cambodia’s largest river, dominates the hydrology of the country. The river originates in mainland China, flows through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand before entering Cambodia. At Phnom Penh, with alternative arms, the Bassak River from the south, and the Tonle Sap River linking with the " Great Lake " itself –Tonle Sap – form northwest. It continues further southeastward to its lower delta in Viet Nam and to the South China Sea.
The section of Mekong River passing through Cambodia lies within the topical wet and dry zone. It has a pronounced dry season during the Northern Hemisphere winter, with about 80 percent of the annual rainfall occurring during the southwest monsoon in May-October. The Mekong River average annual flow at Kratié of 441 km3 is estimated as 93 percent of the total Mekong run-off discharge into the sea. The discharge at Kratié ranges from a minimum of 1,250m3/s to the maximum 66,700m3/s.
The role of Tonle Sap as a buffer of the Mekong River system floods and the source of beneficial dry season flows warrants explanation. The Mekong River swells with waters during the monsoon reaching a flood discharge of 40,000m3/s at Phnom Penh. By about mid-June, the flow of Mekong and the Bassak River fed by monsoon rains increases to a point where its outlets through the delta cannot handle the enormous volume of water, flooding extensive adjacent floodplains for 4-7 months. At this point, instead of overflowing its backs, its floodwaters reserve the flow of the Tonle Sap River (about 120 km in length), which then has the maximum inflow rate of 1.8m/s and enters the Grate Lake, the largest natural lake in Southeast Asia, increasing the size of the lake from about 2,600 km2 to 10,00 km2 and exceptionally to 13,000 km2 and raising the water level by and average 7m at the height of the flooding. This specificity of the Tonle Sap makes it the only "river with return " in the world.
After the Mekong’s water crest (when its downstream channels can handle the volume of water), the flow reverses and water flows out of the engorged lake. The Great Lake then acts as a natural flood retention basin. When the floods subside, water starts flowing out of the Great Lake, reaching a maximum outflow rate of 2.0m/s and, over the dry season, increase mainstream flows by about 16 percent, thus helping to reduce salinity intrusion in the lower Mekong Delta in Viet Nam. By the time the lake water level drops to its minimum surface size, a band 20-30 km wide of inundate forest is left dry with deposits of a new layer of sediment. This forest, which is of great significance for fish, is now greatly reduced in size through salvation and deforestation. The area flood around Phnom Penh and down to the Vietnamese border is about 7,000 km2.
Religion and King
Buddhist monks are highly disciplined and must follow 227 rules in addition to the ten basic precepts of being a good Buddhist. Monks cannot take part in entertainment. They lead simple lives dedicated to Buddhism and the temple.
Buddhists see the universe and all life as part of a cycle of eternal change. They follow the teaching of Buddha, an Indian prince born in the sixth century B.C. Buddhists believe that a person is continually reborn, in human or nonhuman form, depending on his or her actions in a previous life. They are released from this cycle only when thy reach nirvana, which may be attained by achieving good karma through earning merit and following the Buddhist path of correct living.
Earning merit is an important of Buddhist life. Buddhists in Cambodia earn merit by giving money, goods, and labor to the temples, or by providing one of the two daily meals of the monks.
Children often look after the fruits trees and vegetable gardens inside their local wat, or temple. Boys can earn merit by becoming temple servants or novice monks for a short time. Most young men remain monks for less than a year.
Laos Geography and Religion
Lao PDR shares a 505 km border with China to the north, 435 km of border with Cambodia to the south, 2,069 km of border with Vietnam to the east, 1,835 km of border with Thailand to the west, and a 236 km border with Myanmar to the northwest. The country stretches 1,700 km from north to South, with an east-west width of over-500 km at its widest, and only 140 km at the narrowest point.
Lao PDR covers a total of 236,800 square kilometres, three-quarters of which is mountains and plateaux. The country has three distinct regions.
The north is dominated by mountains that average 1,500 metres above sea level. The highest peak is the 2,800 metre Phou Bia in Xieng Khouang province. The Phou Luang (Annamite Chain) stretches from the southeast of the Phouane Plateau down to the Cambodian border. It has three large plateaux: Phouane Plateau in Xieng Khouang province, Nakai Plateau in Khammouane province, and Boloven Plateau in southern Laos, 1,000 m above sea level.
The plains region comprises large and small plains along the Mekong River. The largest of these is the Vientiane Plain, on the lower reaches of the Nam Ngum River. Also significant are the Savannakhet plain, on the lower reaches of the Se Bang Fai and Se Bang Hieng rivers, and the Champassak plain, which is on the Mekong River, stretching between the Thai and Cambodian borders. Blessed with fertile soil, these plains represent one quarter of the total area and are the "granaries" of the country.
The Lao PDR is criss-crossed by many rivers and streams. The Mekong River flows through 1,835 km of the country from north to south. Rivers and streams provide great potential for hydropower development. Over half of the power potential in the lower Mekong Basin is contained within Laos.
The Nam Ou river flows from Phonsaly to Luang Prabang for 448 km; the Nam Ngum runs 354 km from Xieng Khouang to Vientiane province; the Se Bang Hieng of Savannakhet province is 338 km long; the Nam Tha runs from Luang Namtha to Bokeo for 325 km; the Nam Sekong runs 320 km from Saravane and Sekong to Attopeu province; the Se Bang Fai runs between Khammouane and Savannakhet for 239 km; Oudomsay province's Nam Beng covers 215 km; the Nam Sedong flows for 192 km between Saravane and Champassak; the Nam Selanong in Savannakhet runs for 115 km; the Nam Kading of Borikhamsay province is 103 km long; the Nam Khanh runs for 90 km between Huaphanh and Luang Prabang.
Being a tropical country, the weather in Laos is influenced by monsoons. The weather in the mountains in the north and in the high range of the Annamite Chain bordering Vietnam in the east is semi-tropical. The difference in day and night temperatures is about 10 deg C.
Laos has around 2,300-2,400 hours of sunlight per year. The atmospheric humidity is usually 70-80%, and 75-90% of the precipitation is recorded in the rainy season, May to October. Rainfall in the dry season, November to April, accounts for only 10-25%. There is a sharp difference in rainfall between regions. For instance, in the Phou Luang (Annamite Chain), the annual average rainfall is around 300 millimetres. In Xieng Khouang, Luang Prabang and Sayaboury provinces, annual rainfall is 100-150 millimetres; in Vientiane and Savannakhet 150-200 millimetres of rainfalls every year.
Laos has an abundance of natural resources. Beneath the earth's surface, the mineral deposits include tin, iron, coal, zinc, copper, gold, silver, sulphur and sapphires. Although mining is still in its infancy, surveys show that the quantity and density of mineral deposits are quite high. On the surface, the country has a wealth of forests, covering 47% of the surface. They comprise a variety of species, with many of high economic value such as Khagnoung, Khamphi, Dou, Eaglewood and Longleng.
The forest regions are also rich in non-timber products such as shellac, benzoin, cardamon, pine resin, rattan and medicinal plants, and there is a wide range of fauna, including elephants, tigers, bears, deer and a newly-discovered species of deer called Saola.
Such wealth represents a great potential for the development of the country, ensuring a brighter future and better living standards for its people.
Today Theravada Buddhism is the professed religion of about 90% of Lao people. Buddhism is an inherent feature of daily life and casts a strong influence on Lao society. Lao woman can be seen each morning giving alms to monks, earring merit to lessen the number of their rebirth. Lao men are expected to be come a monk for at least a short time in their lives. Traditionally they spent three months during the rainy season in a Wat. A Buddhist temple. But nowadays most men curtail their stay to one or two weeks.
After the foundation of the unified Kingdom of Lane Xang, King Fan gum (14th century) declared. Buddhism as the state religion and urged the people to the abandon animism or other beliefs such as the cult of spirits. His policy meant to develop the Laos culture based on a common faith: the Theravada Buddhism.
Laos has a total population of 4.6 million, 13% of whom live in Vientiane province. People share a rich ethnic diversity, comprising such groups Hmong, Khmu, Yao, Akha, Lu etc. Most of them have kept their own customs; dialects and traditional dress in total 47 different groups are accounted for in Laos. These can be classified into three broad groups:
The Lao Lum (lowlanders) who make up 70% of the population and predominantly live Mekong River.
The Lao Theung (uplands) who comprise 20% of the population and on the lope and with an elevation of less than 1,000metres.
The Lao Song (hill tribes) who constitute 10% of the population and live in the mountainous areas.
The population density of Laos amounts to 19 people per square kilometer, a small number compared to the country's neighbors: 120 people per square kilometer in Thailand; and 200 people per square kilometer in China.
Myanmar Geography and Religion
The length of contiguous frontier is 6,159 kilometres. The total length of Myanmar-Bangladesh boundary is 271 kilometres (168.7 miles). The total length of Myanmar-China boundary is 2,204 kilometres (1,370 miles); Myanmar-Thailand 2,107 kilometres (1,309.8 miles); Myanmar-India 1,338 kilometres (831.8 miles); and Myanmar-Laos 238 kilometres (147.9 miles).
There are other religions in Myanmar, but they are not as widespread as Buddhism and animism. Some of the beliefs found include Christianity (Baptists) in Myanmar hill areas and Muslims. Christianity is practiced by 5.5 percent of Burmese Myanmar, Islam by 3.8 percent Hinduism by 0.5 percent and Animism by 0.2 percent before respectively in Myanmar.
Myanmar is a predominantly Theravada Buddhist country. Buddhism reached Myanmar around the beginning of the Christian era, mingling with Hinduism (also imported from India) and indigenous animism in Myanmar. The Pyu and Mon kingdoms of the first millennium were Buddhist, but the early Burmese Myanmar peoples were animists. According to Myanmar religion Burma traditional history, Myanmar King Anawrahta of Bagan adopted Buddhism in 1056 and went to war with the Mon kingdom of Thaton in the south of Myanmar country in order to obtain the Buddhist Canon and learned Myanmar monks in Myanmar religion history. The religious Myanmar tradition created at this time, and which continues to the present day in Myanmar, is a syncretalist mix of what might be termed 'pure' Buddhism (of the Sri Lankan or Theravada school) with deep-rooted elements of the original animism or nat-worship   and even strands of Hinduism and the Mahayana tradition of northern India.
Islam reached Myanmar at approximately the same time, but never gained a foothold outside the geographically isolated seaboard running from modern Bangladesh southwards to the delta of the Ayeyarwady (modern Rakhine, known previously to the British as Arakan, and an independent kingdom until the eighteenth century) Myanmar. The colonial period saw a huge influx of Muslim (and Hindu) Indians into Yangon and other Myanmar cities, and the majority of Yangon's many mosques and temples owe their origins to these immigrants.
Christianity was brought to Myanmar by European missionaries in the 19th century. It made little if any headway among Myanmar Buddhists, but has been widely adopted by non-Buddhists such as the Karen and Kachin in Myanmar.
The Chinese contribution to Myanmar's religious mix has been slight, but several traditional Myanmar Chinese temples were established in Yangon and other Myanmar large cities in the nineteenth century when large-scale Chinese migration was encouraged by the British. Since approximately 1990 this migration has resumed in huge numbers, but the modern Chinese immigrants seem to have little interest in Myanmar religion Burma.
Some more isolated indigenous peoples in the more inaccessible parts of Myanmar country still follow traditional animism.
The Roman Catholic Church, Myanmar Baptist Convention and the Assemblies of God of Myanmar are the largest Christian denominations in Myanmar.
There are no totally reliable demographic statistics form Myanmar, but the following is one estimate of the religious composition of Myanmar country:
Myanmar allows complete freedom of religious ex
Thailand Geography and Religion
Approximately the size of France, Thailand covers and area of 510,000 sq. km and has a population of 60 million growing at a rate of 1.5% each year. Thailand shares its border with Myanmar in the west and north, Laos in the northeast, Cambodia in the east and Malaysia in the south.
Administratively, the country is divided into 7 regions: The North, Northeast, Central Plains, East, West, and the Bangkok Metropolitan Region. Each of which has its own distinctive geographical character.
The central region, encompassing the Bangkok metropolitan region and the central plains, is affectionately known as "Thailand's Rice Bowl". One of the world's most fertile rice and fruit growing areas, this is the economic and cultural heartland of the Thai nation.
The mountainous north is Thailand's largest region. Here, elephants work the forest and winter temperatures are sufficiently cool to permit cultivation of temperate fruits such as strawberries and peaches.
The second largest and poorest region is the sprawling northeast. Better known as "Isan" or the "Khorat Plateau", it is largely bordered by the Mekong River, where the world's oldest Bronze Age civilization flourished some 5,000 years ago.
Just south of the northeast lies the eastern region. Sandwiched between the sea and the Damrek range, this is where pristine beaches support the growth of summer resorts such as Pattaya.
Despite recent development efforts undertaken by the government in the west, its beautiful mountains, which rise up towards the Burmese border and its lush valleys remain relatively unspoiled. The towns here have a frontier atmosphere.
Last but not least, the peninsular south. Here, arresting scenic beauty complements the economically vital activities of tin mining, rubber cultivation, and fishing.
Vietnam Geography and Religion
Population (2007 est.): 85,262,356 (growth rate: 1.0%); birth rate: 16.6/1000; infant mortality rate: 24.4/1000; life expectancy: 71.1; density per sq mi: 679
Capital (2003 est.): Hanoi, 2,543,700 (metro. area), 1,396,500 (city proper)
Largest cities: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), 5,894,100 (metro. area), 3,415,300 (city proper); Haiphong, 581,600; Da Nang, 452,700; Hué 271,900; Nha Trang, 270,100; Qui Nho'n, 199,700
Languages: Vietnamese (official); English (increasingly favored as a second language); some French, Chinese, Khmer; mountain area languages (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian)
Ethnicity/race: Kinh (Viet) 86.2%, Tay 1.9%, Thai 1.7%, Muong 1.5%, Khome 1.4%, Hoa 1.1%, Nun 1.1%, Hmong 1%, others 4.1% (1999)
Religions: Buddhist 9%, Catholic 7%, Hoa Hao 2%, Cao Dai 1%, Protestant, Islam, none 81%
Literacy rate: 94% (2003 est.)
Vietnam is shaped in a long "S" stretching for 1000 miles from China in the north to the Gulf of Thailand in the south. The country's land area including water is about 127,000 square miles which makes it slightly larger than Italy or a bit smaller than Japan. It is broad in the north and south and narrow in the center, where at one point, it is only 31 miles wide; Vietnamese often describe their country as resembling a bamboo pole supporting a basket of rice on each end since. This image can also be seen as a metaphor for the demography of Vietnam with the heavily populated, grain producing areas located in the north in the Red River Delta and in the south in the Mekong Delta with a thin, less productive and less densely inhabited coastal region linking them. Vietnam has 2144 miles of coastline and 2372 miles of land borders: 966 miles shared with Laos, 796 miles with China, and 610 miles with Cambodia.
Vietnam is a country of tropical lowlands, hills, and densely forested highlands, with level land covering no more than 20 percent of the area. Three quarters of Vietnam is made up of mountains and hills. In the north, there is the Hoang Lien Mountains which contains the highest point in Vietnam, Fan Si Pan, extending 10,312 feet into the sky. The country can be divided into four geographical regions: the highlands and the Red River Delta in the north, the Truong Son Mountains form the Central Highlands running almost the full length of Vietnam along its borders with Laos and Cambodia, the coastal lowlands, and the Mekong River Delta in the south. The Red River and the Mekong River are navigable in their entirety and are considered to be the two major rivers in Vietnam. To help prevent flooding in their deltas, a system of dikes and canals have been built which confines the rivers to their paths. However, silt carried by the Red River and its tributaries has raised the level of the river beds above that of the surrounding plains and breaks in the levees result in disastrous flooding every year during the Monsoon season.
Due to the vast range of latitudes and altitudes, Vietnam's climate is remarkably diverse. Although the entire country lies in the tropics and subtropics, local conditions vary from frosty winters in the far northern hills to year-round, equatorial heat in the Mekong Delta. Because most of Vietnam is over 1600 feet above sea level, most of the country enjoys a subtropical climate. Vietnam lies in the East Asian monsoon zone, with two monsoons setting the rhythm of rural life. The winter monsoon comes from the northeast between October and March bringing chilly winters to all areas north of Nha Tran, but dry and warm temperatures to the south. From April or May to October, the southwestern monsoon brings warm, humid weather to the whole country except for those areas sheltered by mountains, such as the central coastal lowlands and the Red River Delta. Between July and November, violent and unpredictable typhoons often develop over the ocean east of Vietnam hitting the central and northern regions with devastating results.
In the south, there are two main seasons: the wet and dry. The wet season lasts from May to November. During this time, there are heavy but short-lived downpours almost daily, usually in the afternoon. The dry season usually runs from December to April where late February to May is hot and very humid. Falling in the shadows of the Truong Son Mountains, the Central lowlands are denied significant rainfall from the southwestern monsoon. Much of the coastal strip's precipitation is brought by the northeastern monsoon between December and February. The cold and wet winter weather of the north-central coastal lowlands is accompanied by fog and fine drizzle. Areas north of the 18th Parallel have two seasons: winter and summer. Winter is cool and wet, usually lasting from November to April. February and March are marked by a constant drizzling rain. The hot summers run from May to October. The north is subject to occasional typhoons during the summer months.