Burma or Myanmar?

James Fallows (from The Atlantic) votes for Burma, and explains:

I’m watching CNN in Beijing, which keeps tut-tutting President Bush for saying “Burma,” rather than “Myanmar,” in his just-completed UN speech, as if this were merely another of his gaffes.

I’m with Bush. For nearly twenty years, … I’ve followed arguments about the twists and turns of what to call the country in Burmese. The complications mainly involve what the various names say about the relations between the Burmese people proper and other ethnic groups within the nation.

But when it comes to referring to the nation in English, there’s little debate. Myanmar is the name invented 18 years ago by the benighted junta …. When Westerners say “Myanmar,” they’re not being culturally respectful to the people of a beautiful but oppressed nation. (We don’t call China Zhongguo or Germany Deutschland just because the locals do.) They’re bowing to the whims of the generals who still imprison Aung San Suu Kyi….

My view: Both are linguistically proper, but I prefer Burma, both because it’s the long-established name with which I grew up, and for the political reasons that Fallows mentions. On the other hand, I can’t condemn those who don’t want to make a political stand on the name, and who prefer Myanmar because it’s the modern name, which they’ve now gotten used to.

Thanks to Instapundit for the pointer.

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