Suu Kyi Defends Use of ‘Burma’

Aung San Suu Kyi speaks at a press conference at the NLD headquarters in Rangoon on July 3. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

Aung San Suu Kyi speaks at a press conference at the NLD headquarters in Rangoon on July 3. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Tuesday that how she chooses to refer to the country of her birth is directly related to one the basic principles of democracy: freedom of expression.

“I call my country ‘Burma’ as we did a long time ago. I’m not insulting other people. Because I believe in democracy, I’m sure that I can call it as I like,” said the Nobel laureate at a press conference held at the Rangoon headquarters of her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD).

It was Suu Kyi’s first press conference since her return to Burma from a 17-day tour of Europe that ended on June 29.

A few days before her return, the country’s Union Election Commission (UEC), which enforces laws dealing with political parties, issued a warning to Suu Kyi to stop using the word “Burma.” Instead, it 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, saying that the latter better represented the country’s ethnic diversity.

“The State Law and Order Restoration Council changed the name without a public consensus,” said Suu Kyi, referring to the military junta that seized power in 1988. “They didn’t bother to consider what the public opinion about the new name was. They didn’t show any respect to the people.”

In taking Suu Kyi to task for her choice of words, the UEC said that her repeated reference to the country as Burma during her trips to Thailand and Europe contravened the military-drafted 2008 Constitution. It warned her and her party to “respect the Constitution” and use the proper name.

Nyan Win, the spokesperson of the NLD, said at the press conference that legally, there should be no problem with using “Burma” as the name of the country.

“There’s no provision in the Constitution that says ‘Myanmar’ shouldn’t be called ‘Burma.’ It only says we have to respect the Constitution. Using ‘Burma’ has nothing to do with having respect for the Constitution. So we can’t accept the commission’s warning from a legal point of view,” he said.

Since her release from house arrest in 2010, the political prisoner-turned-MP has used the word “Burma” whenever speaking in English. The word is also commonly used by other Burmese opposition politicians and exiles, as well by as some foreign governments and international media, usually to indicate the illegitimacy of the regime that changed the official name of the country.

At Tuesday’s press conference, which was held a day before Parliament is due to reconvene in Naypyidaw, Suu Kyi also stressed the need for a transparent legislative process.

“Currently, we can learn the contents of a law only when it has been passed. If there’s transparency, every person concerned will have a chance to study, discuss and make suggestions as to what should be in the provision. By doing so, I think, they will do their best for the benefit of people before passing a law,” said the 67-year old MP.

Suu Kyi also said she felt very encouraged by the support for Burmese democracy demonstrated by the leaders and people she met in Europe.

“Many people all over the world are tremendously good to Burma. If our country is on its way to democracy, it’s very evident that there are people who want to help us. How much we benefit from this depends ultimately on us and on how we make the best use of this goodwill,” she said.

Asked about the differences between the Parliament in Naypyidaw and those in the European countries she visited, she said, “Ours is quite big.”

“I’ve been to the Parliament only a very short time so it’s difficult for me to say how our legislature is functioning. As far as I’m aware, people in our Parliament seem stiff, and there is no hum of activity.”


30 Responses to Suu Kyi Defends Use of ‘Burma’

  1. The old habit is hard to get rid of.
    Slowly we will get used to Myanmar.
    Burma is the English way of saying Myanmar.
    Different ears that’s all it is. No big deal.
    Let’s all get togethe and say Myanmar instead of Burma.
    But don’t ger angry over slip of tongue.
    Just apologize and get on with it.

  2. Be understand that often question for me when we got Japan several times . I reply that name is floating and no issue for us . We need to get to the good living standard . Japan also provide two cities. Myanmar also has two cities.
    However we need unit to forecast to one target .What we think we do it .It is baby mind.We do not interested any party .We interested to higher living class or rich country .
    Amy set back or any movement as of single line shall be failed finally.

    We have a look neighbourhood how happen .

  3. A rose is a rose, no matter how it is called by any other name.
    UEC did not much care, and take initiative, about alleged violations or discrepancies in the 2010 general elections. Now it takes its own initiative to warn about calling Myanmar Burma. The two words had meant one and the same thing a long, long time before SLORC dictated the naming of Burma (Myanmar) as Myanmar, as if it can delete the word Burma from world geography and dictionaries, and wipe it out from the national and world stages. Popular calling is one thing while officialdom is another. Why must citizens of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar be so officialese, stiff and call the country by the full name given by a dictatorial regeme. Listen to Bogyoke Aung San’s talks: he referred to his country as Bama Pyi- no offense to our ethnic brethren please.
    DASSK is showing the way of a proper democracy here in this country.
    Can the UEC do that?

  4. I agree with Daw Su on her statement that people (ordinary) should be allowed to called their country whatever name they want.
    However, I believe that as a parliamentary member (when a person holds a higher position and represents the country), she should always respect the legal name and address the country properly in any press conferences.

  5. UEC said that “respect the Constitution”???? before this Do we have Constitution too, No problem with using Burma or Myanmar.Under 2008 Constitution,How come calling name with respect? We Myanmar people are always speak with respect to anyone.Why UEC not understand our own culture? Something wrong???

  6. Hlutdaws in Burma still look like communist style. We still do not see debates which is the way to get the best answer/result. As long as USDP the leper and its stooges(unelected soldiers) remain on the floor, Burmese Hlutdaws always look so ugly.

  7. if su kyi said saying burma is ok , it should be also ok to say slave country also , what difference it make british used to say salve and burma , it is sad to see , she make our country slave again what her father fight for .
    if we call su kyi amay su then we should call english father then .

  8. she is bagging the eu , but after 20 yrs in house arrest , she lost touch and knowledge of current politics ,EU is bankrupt and different from b4 she came to Myanmar 1988, she even dont know how to use face book , which lead to ARAB spring and change the face of ME, simple thinking she can think is America love only american and will only care American ,
    and German to German , nobody will care about Myanmar ( Aunty we are not slave anymore but the way Ur are heading will make us once again by ur stupid thinking ), she lost touch for Myanmar citizen and enjoying private jet that cost 30000 usd per hour to fly when Rahine is burning in flame .

  9. Calling Burma is no harm, because the were no peoples willingness and support to change Burma into Myanmar. Why these peoples are so much eager to change the name to call Myanmar? This is charactoristic of dictators. This country does not belong to them alone, it’s belong to 60 million peoples of Burma so please do not mind us to call Burma or if you have gut could show the peoples legitimacy to call Myanmar. There should have transperency in democracy and give rights to peoples. Every body in parliament should take democratic training by now so that they will undersatnd what is democracy.

  10. The Chins do not call themselves as Chin. The Kachins do not call themselves as Kachin. Kayins or Karens do not call themselves as Kayins or Karens. However, they are known by others that way. Burma and Myanmar? Let USDP members use this term. It is fine. But we will keep using the name BURMA. Do not say anything to us. It is our choice.

  11. I only am proud to hold our beloved original national flag (five stars surrounding the union star) which was whole-heartedly accepted and established by all nationals of Burma. This current military flag was established by the Burmese military junta without the consent by general public including the ethnic nationals. We all Burmese nationalities are peace loving people. Let’s remove this symbol of militarism representing current notorious Burmese military murdering our own people and cowardly kissing asses of China, Bangladesh, etc. Same goes for keeping our original Burmese national anthem.

  12. I for one am 100% supportive of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi when she said that it is her freedom of expression how she called the name of her country. It is a mistake on the part of the Union Election Commission to issue a warning to her to stop using the word “Burma”. As a Burmese saying, they are making a tortoise out of a bedbug. Because the generals and their sidekicks are hysterical about it, people in the opposition adamantly insist to use that old English name of the country.

    When I visited Singapore and Malaysia, not only officials there, but even taxi drivers call our country “Myanmar.” However, to my amazement, Chinese people still use the name “Burma” when they speak English, as people in the west. With the encouragement of anti-regime activists, Western governments use “Burma” with the excuse like Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said: “The State Law and Order Restoration Council changed the name without a public consensus.” In retrospect, we didn’t hear a beep when Ceylon became Sri Lanka, Peking was renamed Beijing, India changed Bombay to Mumbai and many other instances.

    There are indeed tons of things to do while the country is transitioning into a democratic system from a half-a-century dictatorship. Instead of bickering over trivial things, leaders of the country should concentrate in the freedom, security and development of the populace.

    At the same time, we would all be grateful if Daw Aung San Suu Kyi were graciously a little more cooperative once in a while for the sake of unity.

  13. Where are the much more important news and information?
    In stead of this unproductive, problem-cooking, self-dividing, and single person promotion article shall we spend our precious time on more important issues for that impoverished country?

    Right now the country is undergoing complex change. Foreigners are coming to grab whatever portion they can to take part in the transformation.

    What transformation these poor peoples are going? Beautiful names without details are flying all over. What are the goals and are their actions and events actually taking them to their proper goals? Who are setting and defining those goals? Who are the players, how many of them are playing, under what influences, what are the lurking dangers?

    Do you guys study from various and diverse sources? How many thousands of Myanmar peoples who have hands-on experiences in various lives and situations given the roles in making their country progress? Are you really planning and actually acting to improve the public education of all knowledge and thinking skills? What kinds of knowledge you are giving to the young stars of your country? Are they diverse enough? Do you study from multiple sources?

    There are multitudes of problems when a country with such a low education and health suddenly open to take in foreign investment, foreign ideas and so-called foreign assistance.

    When the two groups of peoples with very different cultures and education/health levels meet there are problems and eventually one group with much higher knowledge and experience tend to take charge and control.

    Do you know what is going on in certain business sectors right now in Myanmar? Do you know that foreign businesses are using their various advantages and reaping benefits for themselves while local peoples, local businesses are being treated unfairly? Monopoly, unfair and multiple pricing and multiple level treatment, etc. have been already taking place in many business sectors such as tourism.

    You know that the education level in Myanmar is one of the poorest. But do you know the details? Are you doing enough to raise the level of knowledge, skills to help themselves progress to become educated and healthy citizens? Or are you doing more than enough to let yourself go under the boots of foreign controls?

    Do you notice that unhealthy stuff and things that will eventually destroy your cultures, unity, happiness, self ownership, and environment have been coming into your country in high speed and large volume? Do you know that some countries and foreign companies are using one of the human weakest instinct called “desire” for their profit. There are billions more..

    You need a lot of skilled workers, deep and wide thinkers, real actors, professionals, peoples of diverse knowledge, peoples of diverse life experience, open minds, healthy peoples – and opportunities given to them.
    Otherwise the transformation to next higher level will be quite impossible. Foreign investors need skilled workers and capable managers. If you only offer your last remaining natural resources plus unskilled, mouth-closing, yes-saying-peoples workers to them then they will only take advantage of the huge differences to reap all benefits they can. You would not even know what you are losing. Cultural damages, social conflicts, even larger gaps between rich and poor – to name a few – will get bigger and closer to the danger points.

    You guys need enough knowledge, skills, and experiences and openness to be able to “see” these things through the thick clouds of influences. Are you trying to open your world of knowledge? Are you still attached to some stuff, are you still emotional, are you still not able to see the things with really open mind?

    Every country in this world try hard to protect themselves. But your country seems to let foreigners take charge directly and indirectly. Please help make proper laws and regulations to improve the lives of your citizens physically and mentally. Use the proper, suitable definitions of the words and terms.

    Education, thinking, science, technology, hard working peoples, openness, adventure minds, creativity, love of your peoples and nature, and so many things must be promoted among all your citizens.

    There are billions of billions of important things and news to report.
    Both peoples inside and out of Myanmar need to be given important news on what is going on in diverse context. We want to know not only about one single people but about more peoples and what they are saying. We do not want to help create a society with another even more dangerous (because invisible in your cloud-covered minds) dictator. We do not want to see a new society emerging under the control of world’s super power. We do not want to see another slave country.

    We do not want to see the human society where flow of love, respect, trust, opportunities, etc. flow dangerously unbalanced. In fact the flow is already hugely unbalanced among the peoples of the world. Our duty right now is to reduce the unbalance (of course equality is not our goal and it is impossible) and let the flow reciprocal, distributive, and away from the danger points.

  14. Aung San Su Kyi should know that people believe in her and she shouldn’t bow in front of the dictators.
    Don’t be afraid that you will lose your sit in parliament. Be strong for the people.

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

  16. “Republic of the Union of Myanmar”. “RUM” for short? I think the name “Burma” is still going to be popular for a while. A rose by any other name is still a rose.

  17. Cheer DASSK
    If you use Myanmar, instead of Burma, it means that Burma is only owned by Myanmar or bama, not other Burmese ethnics. We all do not care about the 2008, nargis constitution, enjoyed and created by than shwe and dirty bama military thugs in unfair implementation. Burmese were dying but than shwe military thugs are celebrating their dirty tricks on those days. Than shwe and his bama military are not human.

  18. When she talks Myanmar language she refers the country as Myanmar Naingan. So it is senseless why she cannot call it the same name Myanmar in talking English. Burma is the name created by English colonial rulers.

  19. With all due respect to DASSK and for all her wisdom and insight, I view her continued refusal to use ” Myanmar” as poor judgement. Hope she will turn around soon..

  20. What’s in a name? A rose by any other name will be as sweet.(Shakespeare) Burma is Myanmar in Burmese and Myanmar is Burma in English. It is as simple as that. China in Englsh is Tayoke in Burmese and Chunggoa in Chinese.
    Likewise France in English is Pyinthit in Burmese. In any case, there was decency in being Burmese in the world half a century ago but Myanmarese(?) are now being looked down like stray dogs as a result of abuse of power and ignorant policies of the military junta of Myanmar.

  21. “There’s no provision in the Constitution that says ‘Myanmar’ shouldn’t be called ‘Burma.’ It only says we have to respect the Constitution. Using ‘Burma’ has nothing to do with having respect for the Constitution. So we can’t accept the commission’s warning from a legal point of view,” he said.

    Yeah, that’s all well and good except that the ‘legal point of view is whatever General Moneybags had for breakfast that day.

  22. The important process must be the establishment of Rule of Law in Burma. The military regimes had unlawfully ruled Burma for half a centuriy to bring the country and people into poverty. They had issued numerous rules and regulations to oppress the people.
    How can the change of name be accepted by people?
    Wearing the traditional attire with military boots and shot guns on the generals` waist at the pagoda is very ugly scenes. The same people wearing the attire and attending the rubber-stamped parliament, issuing the legislations without considering public opinions and insult to all of us.
    Rangoon, Mandalay, Burma are the word here to use. It is simply not to submit to the military masters. This is a kind of public upheaval.
    When we get the full democracy by winning land-slide victory in 2015 general election, all the problems of illegalities will go to history.
    In the mean time, we we make a soft protest. We will use BURMA.

  23. Teaky, many wrongs are done in the world by people who seem to ‘reasonably’ appeal for ‘unity’ as we all know.

    India would have rioted if there had been a problem. Chinese would be shot or imprisoned if they objectedfake-looking (to anything) and even today their leadership is very fake looking, wealthy and corrupt.
    Singapore (like Dubai) catered for the military and families… banks and shopping.

    Daw Suu is never ‘trivial’ and subtle undermining of the people’s will comes from many quarters. If the ‘leaders’ (most of whom are there after a sham election) were concentrating on the freedom, security and development of the populace (words also used by China when murdering Tibetans for example) they would let the people decide, and encourage peace, education, health and real democracy.

    At present one could not call Burma’s Parliament ‘real’ – as it is stacked with military in lungyis.

    Isn’t it time for a few more real democracies in Asia?

    I agree the generals and sidekicks are still somewhat rigid and hysterical- we laugh at the nonsense! Why do they pretend to know how to run a country?

  24. Come-on mann! they(UEC or government’s mouth)should not issue on country name,this is the time to work hard together on country and people of Burma.They should focus unity and running the country right way.U Thein Sein & Co need to get out of old funny peoples from the his reform government.We want to see Burma United.

  25. Daw Suu’s remark on our Hluttaw “Our’s is quite big”, I really don’t understand what she means. May be she mentioned the size and the area of the parliament hall proportionate to the number of where PM seated as compared to the others or the point that’s not appropriate with the poverty of the country, One can quite certain she is’nt emphasize on the meaninful dialogue and activity of the Hluttaw.
    Once Cambodia under the communist rule changed the name to Khmer and then to Kampuchea and finally back to Cambodia after brutal genocides and cynical campaigns that costs more than 2 million educated lives .These leaders Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Son Sen and Khieu Sampham who claimed to be the great patriots of Cambodia at that time. They had played the greatest inhumane act in the history of mankind and now reality is evident by the International Court of Justice.
    Burma in French will be Birmanie not Myanmar as another new vocabulary so as Burma also with her glory and beauty in English Dictionary. Only the majority could change the name of the country but not with the vote of people but only with the consent of a group of people who tried to cover up all the brutal scenarios and massacres occur under their regime.

  26. we need a leader but not stupid leader , who believe west is the best , see india and china, i will prefer much much more develop china then the world biggest democracy india , if u been to much of china and india you will know what i am saying , ask aunty su how she handle and run away from conflict of kontway yae building in 88 , plus current religious tension issue , avoiding issue in leadership is not leader , she should accept honeymoon in politics is over , now serious to work , not just talk the talk

  27. OK..you say what is the problem with a name “Burma” or “Myanmar”. So let us then amend the 2008 Constitution to change the name to the “Union of Federated States of Asia” to show that the country is multi-ethnic, not Burman. Will ASSK & NLD consider this as we move toward federalization? Somehow I doubt it..

  28. then she should also start using the old Burma/myanmar flag since it was not approved by a ‘public consensus’ and it is not disrespectful to the constitution.

  29. I ask myself if I have to use the name “Myanmar from Burma”, do I know the word of origin “Myanmar” differ from “Burma”? When was Burmese people started to believe the word “Myanmar” is more appropriate than the word “Burma”? Since the day that British arrived at India until colonizing Burma, our country was known as Burma. British government recognize that there were many different ethnic groups within the territory of Burma and even more so, British respected ethnic people rights more than today Burmese military regime or “Once Military, Now Civillian in Dress Regime”. So, why was the name Burma did not have a problem for more than 100 years and suddenly in last 20 years it has becomming a taboo name?

    Sometime, I look at my fellow Burmese people as more simple than one need to be and it is becomming plain dumb. We always take the bate of the big brother words game and big bother know all attitude. If there is different word is to describe just one substance, why don’t we find the legitimate source of the language rather than devisive attck and useless debate? Where did the word “Myanmar” came from and where did the word “Burma” came from? If there is enough proof that “Myanmar” is more legitimate than “Burma”, I will start to use that word.

    To me, the word “Myanmar” is use to fulfill the political goal of the illigitimate regime and demand people for absolute obedience without any debate. I will never yield the usage of the word “Burma” although I belong to a minor ethnic group inside Burma rather than Burman. To me “Myanmar” word is more illigitimate than “Burma”.

  30. We talk about freedom of speech, that’s is OK. But on an International forum we need to use the country name as “Myanmar” with pride. Will it sound nice if I were to call and address her as Mrs. Aris. She incline to be very confrontational.

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