Sunday, September 30, 2007

On This I Really Can't Be Firmer; That Country's Proper Name Is Burma

From today's paper: "The country -- the former Burma -- has roughly as many monks as soldiers."

I'd say that's part of the problem. But that's
beside the points, which are:

1. Why do the papers dutifully refer to that godforsaken place as Myanmar? You're not often going to often hear me in agreement with the White House, but I am this time. The name of the country is Burma. Myanmar is a label stuck on it in 1989 by the wack-job thugs who took over in the crazy military coup that still rules today. I don't care what the prissy style-books say, it's Burma.

2. On Sept. 25, 2007 (meaning, only last Tuesday), the Pacific Asia Travel Association put out a cheerful press release "Asia Pacific Tourism Continues to Break Records." True enough, and great! But without irony or footnote, the organization listed "Myanmar" as one of those happy go-to spots that "posted best-ever performances in 2006."

3. Well, you undoubtedly know this already, but if you have immediate Burma plans, cancel them!

In a warning issued last week, the State Department said that "U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel to Burma at this time." The warning went on:

"The scale of demonstrations by monks and Burmese citizen supporters in Rangoon, Mandalay, and other cities has grown and become more overtly political. Authorities have used gunfire and tear gas against demonstrators, have begun to restrict their movements, and have imposed a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. The government has banned gatherings of more than five people. The situation remains fluid and an even harsher military reaction could occur at any time, particularly if the protests continue.

"We wish to remind U.S. citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. U.S. citizens are therefore urged to avoid areas of demonstrations and to exercise caution within the vicinity of any demonstrations. U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel to Burma at this time. Given the fluidity of the current situation, the Department of State advises all U.S. citizens in Burma to monitor events closely, to exercise discretion when moving about, and to avoid any large public gatherings, any visible military presence, and any area cordoned off by security forces."

By the way, a reader insists the name of the country should be Myanmar, and I say it's Burma and the hell with it. The military thugs who changed the name from Burma don't get the benefit of a thumb-sucking copy desk colloquy in this space.



Cassandra_Moderna said...

You know, it felt pretty much the same way a few years back when I got my new National Geographic map of the world and could not find a trace of Tibet.

. said...

The official name of the country in the Burmese language, Myanma, was never changed. Within the Burmese language, Myanma is the written, literary name of the country, while Bama or Bamar (from which “Burma” derives) is the oral, colloquial name. In spoken Burmese, the distinction is less clear than the English transliteration suggests.