Skip to main content
Monday, November 19, 2012 - 4:30am

U.S. Policy Is To Say 'Burma;' Obama Also Uses 'Myanmar'

Updated: 2 years ago.
President Obama and President Thein Sein of Myanmar (also known as Burma) earlier today in Yangon.

We've noted before that whether you call the Southeast Asian nation Burma or Myanmar has mattered to many for many years.

It's official U.S. policy, out of support for the opposition that has pressed for democratic reform in that country, to call it Burma. That's the name the nation was known by before a military regime took power in 1989 and started using Myanmar.

Today, President Obama used both names. During his visit to Myanmar/Burma the first ever by an American president he said that "a process of democratic reform and economic reform here in Myanmar that has been begun by [President Thein Sein] is one that can lead to incredible development opportunities."

According to The Associated Press, "Obama's deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, said the presidential phrasing was 'a diplomatic courtesy' " for Thein Sein. The wire service adds that:

"Myanmar presidential adviser Ko Ko Hlaing called the wording 'very positive' and said it was an 'acknowledgement of Myanmar's government,' which has taken major steps toward easing repression and transitioning to democratic rule since the military stepped aside last year."

NPR's Scott Horsley, who is traveling with the president, tells us that Obama "used Myanmar in his meeting with President Thein Sein. He used Burma in his speech and in his meeting with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi."

As All Things Considered reported last December, NPR "chooses to split the difference, using Myanmar on first reference, along with a reminder that the country is also known as Burma."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Related Articles