Posted by: Gideon | September 2, 2011

Myanmar / Burma with Kids. Myanmar or Burma? What’s in a name?

The Myanmar alphabet. Or should we say the Burmese alphabet?

So here we were in Myanmar, or was it Burma? And were we in Yangon, or was it Rangoon?

Depending on where you are, it’s either or both. We needed to find out what was going on. It seems to be as follows:

The largest ethnic group in Myanmar are the Bamar people. Apparently, they referred to the country as Myanmar is olden times. When the British took over, they decided to call the country Burma. The British also named the capital Rangoon.  In 1989 the military government decided to change the names in the country to more “authentic” local names hence they changed Burma to Myanmar, Rangoon to Yangon, and a host of other names changed as well. Obviously the government was also trying to do away with these remnants of colonial rule as well. A similar process has been seen in many other countries.

The military has ruled Myanmar since the early 1960’s and they have a very poor record of human rights. As a result, many governments around the world have chosen to continue to refer to the country as Burma as a way of expressing opposition to government policies. Other countries as well as the UN have gone along with the name change. We asked our guides and they told us that they call the country Myanmar. As a result, while  I use the names interchangeably, I do believe that in general, much of the population is quite ok with the name changes.

How to pronounce Myanmar – consider the My as a single sound – not “my” as in mine, but “my” as in “myacaroni” ! I hope this makes sense!

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