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Myanmar or Burma? Burma or Myanmar? Yangon or Rangoon?

By on April 3, 2015 in Myanmar/Burma

That is a good question… Which is it? Burma or Myanmar? Yangon or Rangoon?

In terms of the Internet it can be any one of them, and that can make life difficult when searching for information. What do you type in? Yangon or Rangoon? Burma or Myanmar? In Yangon (Rangoon) the airport goes by the three letter code RGN (as in Rangoon) and not YGN, which is in fact a small airport in Canada. And this can add the confusion. (To get round the problem of names and Internet searches I have used all the names in these posts.)

So, how did this all come about? Why the different names? And why is Myanmar called Myanmar in some countries and Burma in others?

Burma, or Myanmar (officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar)? Well, the name was changed from Burma to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar 1989 by the ruling military junta by the use of the ‘The Adaptation of Expression Law’, which they brought in. This law also introduced English language names for towns across the country, some of which were not ethnically Burmese. The aim, as far as I can tell, was to correct the English spelling of towns to a Burmese phonetic spelling using English, and to also try to force a break from the country’s colonial past.

The UN, and a lot of countries around the world, recognise Myanmar as Myanmar, but counties such as the UK, France and the US, which did not recognise the military junta, still call the country Burma. The EU, as far as I can tell, calls it Myanmar/Burma.

There is a good, but slightly dated, piece covering this over at the BBC, which is worth a read.

So, which is it? Burma or Myanmar? Well, it depends where your sympathies lie, and whether or not you (or your country) recognise the legitimacy of the military junta in the 1980s. The choice is yours…. When I was in Myanmar/Burma I pretty much heard both names used inter-changeably. So if the citizens think that is OK, I guess the rest of the world can also adopt that approach.

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