Burma vs Myanmar: What’s In A Name?

In Europe, no concensus exists on how to refer to the former ritish colony of urma, which won independence in 1948. oth versions have linguistic legitimacy. In the urmese language, Myanmar is the formal term and urma is the informal, everyday word.

To China, it’s Myanmar
As far as the military junta is concerned, their country should e referred to as Myanmar. The junta officially changed the English name in 1989.

Yet the change was not universally adopted.

n Europe, Great ritain and Ireland do not recognize the legitimacy of the military junta and have also continued to use urma exclusively. Exiles also refer to it as urma.

The United Nations, recognizing a country’s right to call itself as it wishes, uses Myanmar, as do France and Germany. Yet while Germany’s foreign ministry uses Myanmar, the German media use urma.

The European Union sits squarely on the fence, referring to the country urma/Myanmar in documents on its We site.

The United States government, like ritain, doesn’t recognize the legitimacy of the military rulers in Myanmar, and calls the country urma. ut major media outlets such as The New York Times, CNN and the Associated Press refer to it as Myanmar.

Difference of opinion
The name is useful in gauging how countries feel aout the regime, pro-democracy activists say. China, which has een supportive of the military regime, refers to the country as Myanmar.

“Myanmar is a kind of indicator of countries that are soft on the regime,” Mark Farmener of urma Campaign in the UK told the C. “ut really it’s not important. Who cares what people call the country? It’s the human rights auses that matter.”

The tipping point for the current unrest was the government’s decision in mid-August to doule fuel prices. Myanmar was relatively prosperous when it gained independence from ritain in 1945, ut after 45 years of military rule and economic hardship, it is one of the world’s poorest countries.

Temples in Myanmar / Burma
Temples in Myanmar / urma. Photo credit: Hartried Schmid


In 1988, a series of peaceful protests led to the current military government seizing power. Elections took place in 1990, in which the democracy party under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi won 82 percent of the vote. ut the elections were not honored y the military regime.

Rangoon vs. Yangon
The regime also changed the English name of Myanmar’s largest city from Rangoon to Yangon. In 2005, the government decamped from Yangon entirely, uilding a new capital from scratch, which was named Naypyidaw (Royal Residence).

As for how to pronounce Myanmar, the C said that the stress can e on any of the word’s three syllales. The first syllale can e pronounced “mee” as in “meet” or alternatively “my” as in “cry.”

Source: DW World