Burma or Myanmar?

Old Apr 16th, 2007, 10:11 AM
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Burma or Myanmar?

I notice that many on this forum usually call this country "Burma" rather than "Myanmar", its official name since 1989. I am aware that it was the brutally repressive military regime currently in power that decided to change the name. However, my understanding is that it was the British that actually named it "Burma" after they invaded the country in the 1800's. Apparently the British intent was to give it a name reflecting that the tribal majority in the country were Bamar or Burmans.

If "Myanmar" is the original name for the country, I can't see the harm in reverting to that. I believe the intent of the change was for national unity - acknowledging all of ethnic tribes (both majority and minority) in the country. The same goes for the changes from Rangoon to Yangon and Pagan to Bagan. I do realize that the US State Department doesn't recognize the name "Myanmar" or the regime that represents it. Any expert opinions on this would be appreciated.
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Old Apr 16th, 2007, 11:20 AM
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"she" will now come out of the woodwork since you mentioned state department....it must be right then!!
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Old Apr 16th, 2007, 11:22 AM
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There is contraversy about this, as you know. Ang San Suu Kyi and the democratic movement use the name Burma to distinguish it from the re-naming by the junta. Out respect for the democratic movement, I use "Burma." Both names have their cultural baggage. As you note the name "Burma" came from the British and the name Myanmar was imposed by the junta (though it has some older roots).
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Old Apr 16th, 2007, 11:37 AM
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The people there still call it Burma and I do as well for the same reason as Kathie.
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Old Apr 16th, 2007, 11:41 AM
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One of the reasons I asked was that no one I spoke to when I was there called it Burma.
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Old Apr 16th, 2007, 11:44 AM
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"no one I spoke to when I was there called it Burma." - ditto
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Old Apr 16th, 2007, 12:55 PM
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Well, as it was the junta who imposed the return to Myanmar, I am not surprised that you didn't hear anyone use the name Burma.

I believe there are serious consequences for many 'apparently' minor sins.

If Myanmar is the original name then of course there is merit in returning to it.

But, for me, doing so at this moment in time would be an acknowledgement and some mark of approval, of the current brutal regime.

So for now, I prefer to use Burma.
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Old Apr 16th, 2007, 02:00 PM
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Once we got to know people -- our guide, other people we spent a lot of time with etc-- they would use burma. o
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Old Apr 16th, 2007, 02:23 PM
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I think what we all have to realize that a lot of time has passed. The younger Burmese (those 45-50 years old and under) have known nothing other than the regime. The Myanmar name has been around for almost 20 years. We discussed the Myanmar/Burma name with one of our guides with whom we had become very close and she basically said it just didn't matter what we called the country. And, quite honestly, in the big picture for Myanmar/Burma it really doesn't. These small protests are meaningless and do not change anything. The best way to help these people understand what is going on is to expose them to the values and culture of the outside world. Tourism is a very small percentage of income for the regime but has a great impact on the people. They are begging for us to come. You are better off boycotting China for the massive multi-billion dollar natural gas deal they have with the junta rather than nitpicking on the tiny fees that go to the government from tourism.

Bottom line is by a policy of isolation, we do not accomplish anything - maybe we feel good that we are expressing our disapproval of a regime that does and continues to do very bad things but in the end what is the result?
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Old Apr 16th, 2007, 03:47 PM
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People in thailand called it Burma, and said that`s what others are calling it too.
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Old Apr 16th, 2007, 06:31 PM
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Those around 45-50 remember well ASSK's election by a landslide vote, and her subsequent (and continuing) imprisionment.
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Old Apr 16th, 2007, 07:33 PM
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Craig-- I agree with you 100%. The best way to help them is to expose them to outside ideas and people and to give them money. In other words not to isolate them. It's why I urge people to travel there.
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Old Apr 17th, 2007, 02:47 AM
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Interesting - My mother-in-law just sent us the following editorial published a couple of weeks ago in the Washington Post:

http://tinyurl.com/2ufjwa
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Old Apr 17th, 2007, 03:37 AM
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What was the name of the geographical region before the British? Was it a single entity or several geopolitical entities? Inquiring pandas want to know.
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Old Apr 17th, 2007, 03:48 AM
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Can't answer your question gpanda, but can tell you that the junta are keen on name changes.
In 1997 it changed it's own name from the State Law and Order Restoration Council to the more pleasant State Peace and Development Council.
When plans for the new capital were announced in 2005, the name Yan Lon, meaning 'secure from strife' was used.
They now call it Naypyidaw meaning 'seat of kings'! Some in Rangoon prefer to call it 'Escape City'
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Old Apr 17th, 2007, 04:09 AM
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For the panda,

conventional long form: Union of Burma
conventional short form: Burma
local short form: Myanma Naingngandaw
local long form: Pyidaungzu Myanma Naingngandaw (translated as Union of Myanma and by the Burmese as Union of Myanmar)
former: Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma
note: since 1989 the military authorities in Burma have promoted the name Myanmar as a conventional name for their state; this decision was not approved by any sitting legislature in Burma, and the US Government did not adopt the name, which is a derivative of the Burmese short-form name Myanma Naingngandaw

I believe that before the British 'imposed' the name Burma on the country, it allready had that word. ie. The Republic of Burma, for example. At least, that is my understanding but I am certainly open to correction.

On a lighter note, another name used in Burma for the new capital is Kyetpyay...which translates into 'fleeing chicken', but not among strangers, I suspect.
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Old Apr 17th, 2007, 04:52 AM
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For the Panda - an attempt to answer to your second question: Through the 1800's the British fought 3 wars with the Burmese. In the early part of the century, the British took over the south (Rangoon/Yangon). By the mid-1880's they had established total control of most of the country as Mandalay fell and the king that ruled that area was exiled to India. I don't believe the British ever had total control of some of the outer lying tribal areas. For all practical purposes the country was made up of several geopolitical entities.
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Old Apr 17th, 2007, 05:19 AM
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And their names were?
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Old Apr 17th, 2007, 06:05 AM
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Not sure if this panda is pulling my leg nor if this kind of info is wanted on this site, but here you are


The History of Burma




* The early history
* The kingdoms of Burma
* The British colonial period
* The post WW II period - Independence



The early history of Burma

Burma's early history is practically uncharted but by the 8th century the Mons - who probably originated in Central Asia - occupied the lower portions of the Irrawaddy basin, while the Burmans had established themselves on the upper reaches of the Irrawaddy. Burma's subsequent violent history largely concerns the struggle between these 2 predominant racial groups. Kings fought wars in order to carry off slaves from the kingdoms they conquered; it was important to have a large labor force to build temples and pagodas and to grow rice.

The Glass Palace Chronicle of the Kings of Burma (a 19th century historical mythology) claims that the Burmese kings were descendants of the Buddha's family but historians have found no evidence of any ruler before the 1th century King Anawrahta of Pagan. From the 10th century on, the Burmans were the largest group; they were also the most important in terms of their historical, cultural and political contribution to Burma's heritage. Between the I7th and 19th centuries, the Burmans succeeded in uniting the country under one monarch on 3 separate occasions. When each of these empires fragmented, Burma became a muddle of quarrelling races. In the 19th century, the Burmese frequently clashed with the British and were defeated in 1885, resulting in the capture and exile of the last king. Early history

There are traces of some form of settlement in Burma as far back as 2,500-2,000 BC. The Pyus were the first settlers and occupied the upper Irrawaddy River. The early Pyu city of Sri Kshetra, near present day Prome, was enclosed in a massive wall and was possibly even bigger than the later Burmese cities of Pagan and Mandalay. When the Pyu capital was captured and the people enslaved by the neighboring power in Yunnan, the Burmese moved into the power vacuum in the Irrawaddy area. The Burmese came to dominate both the Ryu and the Mon.
The Mons settled in the lower Irrawaddy delta region around Thaton and were the first people to establish Buddhism in Burma. Little is known about the earliest phases of Mon art - although their artistic and architectural skills were obviously coveted and their works have been unearthed not just in Burma, but also in Thailand and Cambodia. The great King Anawrahta brought Mon craftsmen to Pagan where their temple and stupa designs characterized the first recognizable architectural 'period' - the Mon Period. The last group to migrate from China were the Tai, who fled the Mongul invasions from the 9th-11th centuries and settled in the hills on the present Thai-Burma border.

Hope that clears things up !!
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Old Apr 17th, 2007, 06:06 AM
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Burma or Myanmar as it is known today, pre British colonisation, was a collection of Kingdoms very much like what Thailand or Siam used to be. The biggest Kingdom was under the rule of King Bayinnaung in the 15th or 16th century and I believe the kingdom was known as Toungoo. At that time the biggest Kindom in Thailand was Ayutthaya.

Funny nobody blames the Brits for the problems in Myanmar! To me they were the one who caused it in the beginning.
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