Myanmar (Burma) — Myanmar or Burma? Burma or Myanmar? Yangon or Rangoon?

Which one is it?

March 2015

Photo by Author - the Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar (Burma)
Photo by Author - the Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar (Burma)

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

It can be any of them on the Internet, making 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 to the confusion.

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 was changed to Myanmar, or officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar) in 1989 by the ruling military junta using the’ The Adaptation of Expression Law’.

'The Adaptation of Expression 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 try to force a break from the country’s colonial past.

The UN and many countries recognised 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 dated piece covering this over at the BBC, which is worth a read.

So, which is it? Burma or Myanmar? Well, it depends on where your sympathies lie and whether you (or your country) recognise the legitimacy of the military junta in the 1980s or not. The choice is yours.

I heard both names used when I was in Myanmar/Burma.

So, if the citizens think that is OK, I guess the rest of the world can also adopt that approach.

Now you know why I write about Burma and Myanmar, and Yangon and Rangoon.