Naypyidaw Tells Suu Kyi Not to Call Country ‘Burma’

Opposition leader Aung San San Suu Kyi should watch what she says, according to Burma’s Election Commission. (PHOTO: THE IRRAWADDY)

RANGOON—Burma has undergone dramatic change over the last year, but one thing won’t be changing anytime soon—the country’s name.

Authorities in the Southeast Asian nation issued a stern warning to opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday, telling the political prisoner-turned parliamentarian to stop calling the country “Burma.” Instead, they said, she should use the constitutionally decreed title, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.

The country’s former military rulers changed the name in English from Burma to Myanmar in 1989, ostensibly to better reflect the country’s ethnic diversity. The term Burma connotes Burman, the dominant ethnic group in the country, to the exclusion of ethnic minorities. But regime opponents and exile groups from a range of ethnic groups—as well as foreign governments including the United States—have persisted in using the word Burma as a sign of protest and defiance against an undemocratic regime they long saw as illegitimate.

The country’s Election Commission, which supervises laws dealing with political parties, issued the complaint in the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper. The statement cited Suu Kyi’s repeated reference to the country as Burma during her landmark trips in recent weeks to Thailand and Europe, and said she and her National League for Democracy Party must “respect the constitution” and use the proper name.

It’s not clear whether there are any legal consequences for not doing so.

Suu Kyi became a lawmaker after her party won dozens of parliament seats in April by-elections, a vote that was symbolic of the post-junta changes that have swept the country under the leadership of President Thein Sein. Weeks later, she and her opposition colleagues took the oath of office, which includes an official vow to uphold the constitution.

Suu Kyi’s party spokesman Nyan Win said the Election Commission’s complaint was a non-issue. “Referring to the country as Burma does not amount to disrespecting the constitution,” he said.

30 Responses to Naypyidaw Tells Suu Kyi Not to Call Country ‘Burma’

  1. Were the citizens of the country consulted, was a referendum held before tthe name was changed?

  2. The government stated that ASSK is on her private visit to Europe, hence they do not publish about her trip in the state media. As such she has the right to call Burma or Myanmar whatever she sees fit. The government should eat their own words!

  3. What is the Election Commission trying to do?To challenge the people’s decision?who are they?

  4. To cover the whole long length of history of our country both Burma and Myanmar shall be used in the same way as Holland and Netherlands.

    Both Burma and Myanmar represent the same territory on earth whereas Holland is a part in the west of the Netherlands. It is frequently used abroad to refer to the country as a whole and even some Dutch people use it even most don’t like it. Some countries have more than two names like England, Britain or UK. No one would complain if any of them is used to refer to the same country.

    We type Myanmar (Burma) at the end of the Myanmar addresses on the envelopes in order not the letters be missent, otherwise it would go round round elsewhere.

  5. I have always said that NLD should start calling our country “Myanmar”. This is another similar case of stalling to take the parliamentary oath.
    Our country has been called Myanmar (Myanmar Nainggan) since independence in 1948, and the country should have been called internationally (in English) as such from that time in 1948, just as nobody called anymore now Ceylon for Sri Lanka or Siam for Thailand or The Thirteen Colonies for the USA. Its not that the military junta changed the country’s name in 1989 as the media hype says. The time to use this as a political activity tool is passed now and NLD should adjust to this.

  6. Further more Nyan Win should not side step the complaint as a non-issue: this has been a big symbol of defiance by the democracy forces in the past. By saying this he is responding like what a USDP spokesman have done many times, talking without due thought and consideration to the issue.
    I would like to respect NLD more than that.

  7. A rose is a rose is a rose by any other name. Can she call it RUM to be strictly official? It’s a rum deal for the people alright.

  8. Before 18th of August, 2011, Thein Sein and Co. were in wilderness and pariahs.

    Aung San Suu Kyi loudly and fully endorsed the dead duck (and continues to do so)or as the Burmese proverb says “Put the life back in the dead tiger”.

    Tiger now wants the first food!!! Good luck, bad move.

  9. Where is the freedom of speech for the government proclaiming to be headed towards democracy? The country’s name was changed without the consent of the general public from the get-go. What’s wrong with calling Burma as it is? Classical act from the Burmese dictatorship @ its best.

  10. For too long it has been ‘politically correct’ in the West to refer to the country as ‘Burma’. Ethnics of my acquaintance do not like this term as it tends to imply that they are ‘Burmese’. It is, I believe, important to differentiate between the entity which in the colonial era was known as ‘Burma’ and the present day State. Between 1885 and 4 January 1948, colonial ‘Burma’ was very different to the ‘Union of Burma’ which followed. Indeed one might argue that, since between 1885 and 1937 the country was effectively a province of India, colonial ‘Burma’ only existed between 1937 and 1948. (It was separated from India by the Government of Burma Act 1935.)

    The use of ‘The Republic of the Union of Myanmar’ is going too far as it seeks to give recognition to the discredited and unacceptable constitution of 2008. The titles ‘The Union of Myanmar’ or the ‘The Union of Burma’ afford a recognition of the changes that took place in 1948, negotiated by Aung San at Panglong.

  11. The country is moving forward with its name and so do Cambodia and Thailand changed their name with a good meaning. But in the case of Lady Aung San Su Kyi is different. She has a taste of British eccent and pronunciation I think. Please let her do as long as she wish to call it as “BURMA” and “RANGOON” as British do.
    Then we’ll realize that who is the leader and where her heart is.


  12. Naypyidaw has a point. DAASK needs to start calling the country Myanmar. Myanmar reflects the entire ethnic nationalities rather than just Bamar ethnic. Other people will start using Myanmar if DAASK starts using it.

  13. Burma or the Union of Myanmar , whatever is the name , it doesn’t matter. What matter is rotten-fish bad people’s dogs eat dogs mentality. Do you know what’s going on in the Parliament? some uneducated classless Kyant Phonts are now defaming some pro-reform government officials high rankers who favor on NLD and Daw Su as black sheep and demanding to PHP elected provincial authorities to remove them from their positions. What a shamed! With these unchanging mentality, our country will never go forward no matter what. We’ve got our intelligent leader now. What we need is intelligent policy makers in the parliament.

  14. The Burmese military regime can’t change the name of country in English because the Burmese regime does not own English language.
    I never use Myanmar when I meet with foreigners and they don’t use Myanmar either.
    We call our country Myanmar in our Language but English language is not our language. So English language can’t change the word Burma which referring to Myanmar.
    If we speak in Myanmar language and then we call our country “Myanmar Nainggai”or “Bamar Pyi”. Chinese language references to Myanmar as “Myantent”. English language references to Myanmar as “Burma”. Thai language references to Myanmar as “Phama”. Japanese language references to Myanmar as “Biruma”.
    The Election Commission’s officials should learn foreign languages and usage.
    Why these the Election Commission’s officials are fussy about the words Burma and Myanmar?

  15. I never understood this discussion. Deutschland is Germany in English, Allemagne in French. Hellas is Greece in English. Zhong Guo is China in English, Tayoke in Burmese, so why shouldn’t English speaking people use Burma, independent of what Burmese people say.
    It’s actually written Mran-Ma (rakauk not yapelek) but the “r” got lost because most people in Burma have trouble pronouncing it. The “r” sound is still used in Buddhist prayers and by the Rakhaing. Most westerners cannot pronounce “Myanmar” correctly anyway, since Myan is like my + an for them. The Chinese version is Mian Dian. Mian sounds actually closer to the modern burmese way of saying mran.

  16. We called Burma or Myanmar are like a usually saying as Ahyargyi and Barbugyi. No different to degrading,We enjoy calling both,Myanmar and Burma are same degrees.

  17. Yeah! Idiots. Japan or Nippon. Siam or Thailand. May Myo or Pin Oo Lwin. Shu Maung or Ne Win. Kyet Pye or Nay Pyi Daw. Who care? Burma or Myanmar? Burmese or Myanmarese? Who care?

  18. A lot of people round the world don’t know that the country is called now Myanmar. Everybody tells from Birma or Burma. This is the land what they know. Rudyiard Kipling sad: Burma is the land ……
    It is not easy to accept it. The people are interestet, know the name, but the most can’t say where you find the country on the globe.

  19. Yes, she deserved it.
    I took oath under Myanmar constitution to get in power.. but this english lady still saying BURMA and RANGOON.
    Better she stays in UK forever with her Masters.

  20. Don’t be ridiculous ‘Naypyidaw’! You forget that The Lady WON a free and fair election- you did not! The current Constitution was forced onto starving, homeless people after a cyclone, and that is the ONLY reason you are in power. You won the 2010 election by cheating! You are currently trying to shore up investor wealth and family safety- little evidence yet of true governance (ie schools, hospitals etc.)

    It will take a long time before the words ‘Naypyidaw’ or ‘Tatmadaw’ are respected.

    Burma is moving towards global credibility, it is not there yet. Any bullying is just a nonsense. If The Lady called her nation ‘Bogyoke’ many would follow!

    Meanwhile many still need basic rights and safety. Forget the window dressing…

    Unity. Education. Freedom. Rule of law, and true good governance are still to emerge, much less be proven.

  21. SLORC or SPDC or USDP claims that the name MYANMAR is inclusive to all ethnics. However, we the ethnics do not feel like that. If asked, all of us will deny their claim flatly on the spot.

  22. Why is EC so sensitive about this non-issue?
    Is this EC’s domain? Is EC such a dictatorial part of the President’s government? Is it charged with supervising the elected parliamentarians?
    Does it have any legal authority over the choice of a citizen’s right?
    Is there an article of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar’s law that forbids calling our country “Burma”?
    I am just ashamed. Kindly make me proud of our country.
    Call a rose by any name: a rose is always a rose.

  23. Dear sir,
    Allow me tell you my view on this Burma or Myanmar issue.There are always two different people in this world and one is highly educated and the one who was grown up just listening orders.Amay Su is our nation’s hero with high ambitions for her people and the other one is just the ex-officers who know only how to kill without any vision and he will always try to find any mistakes or trivial things without praising her as our country’s leader and will sue or warn or arrest at last on her.When I meet Amay Su I will say”how are you?,mother but for him he would say when will u die?When will give me your home like this.This explains how they are very jealous and hate on her.

  24. I think it is about time the duties and functions of election commissions in Myanmar were precisely defined.
    As it is, it does not represent the people, the President, or either Hluttaw.
    So, it has no mandate over and above elected representatives of a lawful assembly.
    In fact it is about time a new election commission was instituted, and its duties and functions precisely defined.
    The credibility of the current EC is dubious. I would not like to accuse it of any particular wrong doing, but It is certainly not credible, judging from its non-mandated actions or threat of actions.
    And future ECs should perform its duties either independently or directly under the auspices of hluttaws, preferably the former if it has been instituted by the President with the approval of both Hluttaws.
    But its institution, duties and functions must be defined by an Act of Law promulgated by the Hluttaws, duly agreed upon and signed by the President.

  25. Well guys ! The stupidity of ruling elite lies in this stuff (Burma Vs Myanmar); see how screw up these guys are !

    You guys (ruling elite) must fix up your mindset first & foremost, Hm !

  26. The Ordinary People of Burma

    Our Lady Aung Suu Kyi sacrificed selflessly for 2 decades in house arrest for the sake of our country Burma but had gained international respect and standing. She is well received and honoured everywhere she went and stood tall among international dignitaries and politicians and highly revered for the principals she stood and fought for for decent human rights and democracy in Burma.

    On the other hand, there is nothing the Burmese government did for Burma except brought sufferings and humiliation to its peoples and has to beg for forgiveness of the country’s debt and economic aid everywhere the Burmese government went. The Burmese government have practically done nothing for the people of Burma except brought shame for their years of mismanagement of our country and deserve no right to even stop anyone from calling our country Burma.

    Whereas our Lady has stood up tall and brought hope and dignity to the people of Burma, she is indeed our role model icon for Burma democracy.

  27. Who says “Myanmar” represents all the ethnic groups of the country? Pure madness!!!
    Myanmar is Burma, and Burma is Myanmar: it covers the whole territory of Myanmar Pyi, as is on the map, inclusive of all ethnic groups. In our language Myanmar is written word for Bama; Burma is easier for the Englishmen to say than the way we pronounce Bama. Myanmar is derived from Mrama, name for an older sub-group of our race in which Bamas are dominant. As rightly pointed our by friends writing in this column, we are known by different names by different other people.
    It is no issue at all. And our brethren make no complaints about the name of the country whether it be Myanmar or Burma. Their complaint is not about the name. It is about atrocities and brutalities committed on them by some armed members of our race.
    I have also said much in two places earlier. These men in the EC should be chucked out, and a new institution set up with better educated, more intelligent and braver men of nobler outlooks, for the next by-elections (if any) and the main 2015 showdown. The present EC is not trust-worthy at all.

  28. Interestingly, the United Nations, which fails to grant refugee status to those forced by the tatmadaw to flee their homes, uses ‘The Union of Myanmar’, and Amnesty International uses ‘Myanmar’.

  29. Support Ms Suu Kyi who represents the people of Burma,those Generals who have indeed reformed in words and deeds please kindly consider her points.

  30. Burma no more. It is Myanmar whether you like or not.
    Be a master of your destiny not a slave or a serf.
    We must show the international powers that we now know that we have been brainwashed into beleiving that they will come to our aid.
    No profit no help policy.
    Come on people of Myanmar show them that we are not fools.
    British Burma that’s what it is.
    No longer should we put up with this humiliation.
    They called the Thatmadaw, the junta. Burma the pariah nation.
    This injustice had to be endured. There would be a lot of people in Myanmar who would know the true story.
    Shake off the yoke. Divide and rule has always worked.
    Don’t fall for it again.
    Unite and let’s build our nation in the way we want it.

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