Myanmar or Burma? : The Never Ending Question

Posted on July 9, 2012


Some of you may know it as Burma while some call it Myanmar. Needless to say for foreingers, it’s a never ending debate even among its citizens. The government calls it as Myanmar while pro-democracy icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi refers it as Burma. Not only in English language but also in Myanmar, there are two usages known as “Bamar” and “Myanmar”. Let’s explore why?

Myanmar or Burma

Myanmar Netizens conducted a poll on Facebook to choose Myanmar or Burma.

Why Burma?
Those who are totally against with whatever government does prefer Burma. Other ethnics such as Kachin, Kayin and so on usually use Burma. Majority of people in exile community always use Burma.

Their main reason is that Burma is the name of the country in 1947 constitution. The military government changed it to Myanmar without any wish of the public so that they wouldn’t want to recognize it.

In addition, the admiring leaders of the country such as General Aung San and his daughter Daw Aung San Suu Kyi just use Burma so that their followers prefer to call the country as Burma. Moreover, Burma is easier to pronounce when someone is talking in English. With Burma, it has proper adjective “Burmese” as well while there’s no such word called Myanmarese or Myanmese.

Why Myanmar?
Normally, younger generation prefers to use Myanmar. Most prominent reason is that “Bamar” which is equivalent to Burma represents only one ethnic of 8 major ethnics in the country while Myanmar represents the whole country.

Burma is the name given during Colonial time since English couldn’t pronounce “Bamar” properly. The word Burma could make the people recall the memory of colonial era while Myanmar couldn’t. Though Burma has been changed to Myanmar without any wish of public, naming it “Burma” was not processed by citizens’ votes as well.

Regardless of strong dislike to government, Myanmar is the current official name of the country, more precisely “Republic of Union of Myanmar”. Following one standard to make the communication easier is also another reason of using Myanmar.

Though Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is using “Burma” when she talks in English, she usually uses “Myanmar” instead of “Bamar” which is equivalent to Burma in her mother tongue which proves that Myanmar represents the country rather than one ethnic.

Final Result?
No one could make one. It would depend on people’s choice and preference. They would continue referring using their preferred term until there would be fair and square voting for new constitution which includes the clear naming standard about the country.

Posted in: Language