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Myanmar to Aung San Suu Kyi: Stop calling us Burma

Officials in Myanmar have instructed Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy to stop referring to the country by its former name, Burma.

Aung San Suu Kyi Myanmar 6 25 2012 Enlarge
Myanmar's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi talks to journalists following her return from a trip to the ancient city of Bagan, at her house in Yangon on July 11, 2011. (SOE THAN WIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters have been told to stop calling Myanmar Burma.

Suu Kyi habitually refers to her country by its old name; just eight days ago, for example, she told the UK parliament about "reforms which can bring better lives, greater opportunities, to the people of Burma, who have been for so long deprived of their rights and their place in the world."

The constitution, however, has since 1989 given the country's name as Myanmar – as the government pointedly reminded Suu Kyi.

More from GlobalPost: "Burma" or "Myanmar"? Does it matter?

In a statement appearing in newspapers this morning, Reuters reported, the country's election commission said it had instructed Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy to use the nation's official name, out of "respect" for the constitution.

"As it is prescribed in the constitution that 'the state shall be known as The Republic of the Union of Myanmar,' no one has the right to call [the country] Burma," the statement read, as quoted by the BBC.

NLD spokesman Nyan Win is cited by the Associated Press as saying that "referring to the country as Burma does not amount to disrespecting the constitution."

More from GlobalPost: Why we call it Myanmar

As GlobalPost's Asia editor Emily Lodish explained, which name to use can be a highly charged issue.

"It's a question that has become code for: Whose side are you on? 'Myanmar,'for so long, suggested junta. And 'Burma' meant you were against the repressive regime."

The name-change was originally presented as a move to shed the country's colonial past and represent other ethnicities besides the majority Burman group – but, as GlobalPost correspondent Patrick Winn wrote, military rulers made the switch without consulting the people, amid an urban revolt against their rule.

Some people, countries and institutions continued to say Burma for political reasons, therefore, though as the country gradually introduces reforms, others have proved more willing to accept its new identity.

GlobalPost switched to Myanmar in March.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/120629/aung-san-suu-kyi-stop-calling-myanmar-burma