Confusion Over The Name Of The Country - Myanmar or Burma

Refusing to call a nation by its proper official name may seem insignificant to some but generates resentment among a very high majority of the Myanmar population. The subject is concerned with the recognition of the country by its original name. Of course, there are a few politicians in Myanmar who for certain political reasons prefer to retain the name Burma given by the former British Colonial Administration. Myanmar and its capital Yangon are not new names created by the State Law and Order Restoration Council. In fact, Myanmar and Yangon are the original names that were renamed Burma and Rangoon by the British Colonial Administration. In spite of the fact that in the Myanmar language people use the names Myanmar and Yangon, unfortunately, none of the successive Myanmar Governments took the trouble of reinstating the original names. The SLORC administration did so with two main purposes: to provide a feeling of release from the British colonial past and to give a previously divided and fractious country a sense of national unity under the new banner of "The Union of Myanmar".

In the Union of Myanmar there are 8 major national races with some 135 ethnic groups and among the 8 major nationalities Bamar is the largest national race constituting 70% of the whole population. In this regard, when the British Colonial Administration colonized Myanmar in the late 1800's it is presumed that Britain renamed it Burma since Bamar or Burmans (the British usage) were the majority in the country which they occupied. In a cave temple built in the Bagan area is a stone tablet bearing a date equivalent to AD 1190. It is one of the first known references to 'Myanmar'. In contrast, the name 'Bamar' did not appear during this and subsequent periods. The first reference to Bamar was only found in artifacts and buildings dating from the KONBAUNG Period (18th and 19th centuries). Moreover, it is quite interesting to know that China since ancient times has referred to Myanmar as Myan-Tin in the Chinese language. It never referred to Myanmar as Burma-Tin or Bur-Tin as the British Colonial Administration had re-named it. A few years ago in Yangon there was an interview between members of the media and some of the leaders of the ethnic races (former insurgent groups) and the question of name-change was raised by some of the media. The ethnic leaders' response was that they now feel they are not left out but are being equally given a national identity under the name Myanmar. Naturally, the ethnic group still opposing the Myanmar Government will say things differently because they have aligned themselves with the political party which refuses to recognize the country by its original name. The party (National League for Democracy) stated that the name-change is not a priority and it has to be carried out with a vote. It is quite amazing for someone to say such a thing since national unity is and always would be a top priority in any country in the world. It would be highly pertinent to ask, if the British Colonial Administration implemented the name-change with a vote. If General Aung San, Myanmar national leader, had not been assassinated in 1947, before Myanmar regained her independence, the national leaders of the time would have definitely reinstated the original names. The new names imposed by the British are not only phonetically wrong but nationally and historically misrepresentative. Anyhow, since the United Nations has recognized Myanmar by her original name it is the obligation of all U.N. member countries to accept it whether they approve of it or not. If the situation had been reversed, certainly, these same nations would be urging the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to impose sanctions and embargoes on countries not recognizing and implementing the U.N. resolution or mandate.


Designed by THAN TUN WIN, Embassy of the Union of Myanmar , Brussels