Monday, September 5, 2011

Myanmar or Burma???

Inspired by the Seinfeld clip in my last post, I will now tackle the Myanmar/Burma name debate, so I can move forth this month using the correct name (unlike in January when I erroneously called the Democratic Republic of the Congo simply the Congo for weeks).

Map of Burma

Officially, the name of the country is Pyidaungzu Myanma Naingngandaw,  which is translated by the US government as the "Union of Myanmar."   Part of the confusion around the name of the country stems from the usage of both terms by the Burman people. "Myanmar" is the term usually used in forma settings and in written sources.  When speaking, the term "Burma" is most commonly used. 

Pyidaungzu Myanma Naingngandaw in Burmese.....
I don't think I could learn this language if I spent the rest of my life working on it!

In 1989, a ruling military junta changed the name of Burma to Myanmar, also changing the city Rangoon to Yangon.  The United Nations and some countries, such as France and Japan, recognize the new name, while the United States and the UK still use the name Burma.  Due to the familiarity of the older names, many news outlets still use "Burma" and "Rangoon."

In a statement, the British Foreign Office commented "Burma's democracy movement prefers the form 'Burma' because they do not accept the legitimacy of the unelected military regime to change the official name of the country." Sometimes the usage of the name Myanmar by individuals or organizations is taken as relative acceptance of the military regime.   Although there are calls for democracy in Burma, some thing the name will continue to be Myanmar even if the military junta is ousted and democratic control comes into power.  A linguist at the University of Western England, Richard Coates, feels that the adoption of the name Myanmar is an attempt to break from colonial past - from 1824-1948 the country was under British control.

Soooooooooooo, what am I going to call it.......well, although I think Myanmar is a funny name to say, I think I'm going to stick with Burma.  I made this decision not particularly based on political reasons (although I will spend some time in an upcoming post learning more about the political situation in the Union of Myanmar), but more because in my blog I celebrate the culture of different regions, and "Burma" seems to reflect the culture of the Burmese people better and is a less formal, more colloquial term, which is closer to the spirit of this blog!

1 comment:

  1. I made this decision because there is no Myannmar Superstar.