Myanmar or Burma

“Burma” is derived from the Burmese word “Bamar”, which in turn is the colloquial form of Myanmar (or Mranma in old Burmese), both of which historically referred to the majority Burmans (or the Bamar). Depending on the register used the pronunciation would be “Bama” (pronounced [b?mà]), or “Myamah” (pronounced [mj?mà]). The name “Burma” has been in use in English since the time of British colonial rule.

In 1989, the government officially changed the English translations of many colonial-era names, including the name of the country “Burma” to “Myanmar”.This prompted one scholar to coin the term “Myanmarification” to refer to the top-down programme of political and cultural reform in the context of which the renaming was done. The most of the name changes are closer to Burmese pronunciations. Various non-Burman ethnic groups choose not to recognise the name because the term Myanmar has historically been used as a label for the majority ethnic group, the Bamar, rather than for the country.

Various world entities have chosen to accept or reject the name change.  The United Nations, of which Burma (under the name Myanmar) is a member, endorsed the name change five days after its announcement by the junta. However, governments of many countries including Australia, Canada, France, the United Kingdom and the United States still refer to the country as “Burma”,  with varying levels of recognition of the validity of the name change itself.

Others, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the governments of Germany, India, Japan, Russia, Brazil and the People’s Republic of China recognize “Myanmar” as the official name.

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