Is it Burma or Myanmar?

Is it Burma or Myanmar?

Geplaatst op: Monday 01 January 2024

Burma, Birma, Myanmar. Those are the three names that you often see mixed up. First of all, we can be brief about the difference between Burma and Birma. Birma is Dutch for Burma. But should you say Burma or Myanmar? That mainly depends on your own preference and/or your nationality. Because in some countries Burma/Birma is consistently used in the media, in other countries you only hear Myanmar. And that in turn is determined by whether or not the name Myanmar is recognized by the government of that country.

The English introduced the name 'Burma' when they colonized the country. In Dutch that became Birma. The name 'Burma' was based on 'Bamar', the name of the country's largest ethnic group.

In 1988 there was an uprising in Burma. After crushing that uprising, the regime wanted to get rid of all references to the colonial era. And so they decided to change the name of the country to Myanmar.

Other name changes
But it didn't stop with the name change of the country alone. Cities and rivers were also given new names. Thus Rangoon was renamed Yangon, Pagan became Bagan, Pegu became Bago, Maymyo became Pyin U Lwin and the Irrawaddy River became Ayeyarwady River.

Burma or Myanmar? A matter of recognition!
However, the name changes were not recognized by all countries and international organizations. That's how the US and UK still talk about Burma. The UN, on the other hand, does recognize the name Myanmar, just like the Netherlands and Belgium. The EU, on the other hand, speaks of Burma/Myanmar and therefore keeps it in the middle.

When the capital moved from Rangoon/Yangon to Naypyidaw in 2005, even that change of capital was not recognized by all countries. For example, Belgium does not recognize the new capital, but the Netherlands does.

Burmese or Burmese?
And then another question for the language purists: is it Bamar or Burmese? Good news: both are possible. And when you talk about the people of Myanmar, you are talking about Myanmarese. But you will also encounter Bamar and Burmese.

You will see a lot of names mixed up in publications. Burma or Myanmar, Rangoon or Yangon. So know that it's all about the same thing. You will catch us here and there on our website with an inconsistency, but we ourselves use Myanmar as much as possible. In short: the name chosen by the country itself.