‘Myanmar’ or ‘Burma’ usage welcomes Suu Kyi home
Crowds at Yangon International Airport greeted Aung San Suu Kyi’s return home on Saturday, capping a non-stop, triumphant tour of five European cites, where she spread the word, encouraging responsible development in Burma.
Crowds also lined the roads, waiting to catch a glimpse of her return, before she will soon be plunged into her newest role as the most prominent member of the Burmese Parliament, which will reconvene on Wednesday.
During her two-week trip, Aung San Suu Kyi met political leaders in Switzerland, Norway, Ireland, England and France.
The trip’s highlight was a moving recollection of her house arrest when she accepted her long-deferred Nobel Peace Prize, delayed because of her 15-year detention by the former military regime.
Upon her return, Suu Kyi was greeted by a semantic kerfuffle on Friday when governmental authorities for the second time suggested – or tried to order – her to use the word "Myanmar" instead of "Burma" when referring to her country. The colonial name of the country was Burma. The military regime changed the name to Myanmar 20 years ago, which some linguists say more closely reflects the national heritage. Many countries – and the U.N. – use Myanmar; others –such as the U.S. and Britain – prefer Burma, at least for now. The military regime said the term Burma is a legacy of British colonialism.
“It is announced that the commission ... has again informed the NLD to write/address the name of the state as prescribed in the constitution ... and respect the constitution,” the state election commission said, in an article in the state-run New Light of Myanmar.
“Again, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi called Myanmar 'Burma' in her speeches during her Europe tour,” it said.
NLD spokesman Nyan Win said the National League for Democracy (NLD) has received warnings from the government, in an interview with Southeast Asia Real Time, about using the name Burma. “For centuries we have called the country Burma in English. It is not against the law,” he said.
Win Tin told Radio Free Asia in an interview that the party objected to the warning, saying that it was important to use the term foreign countries had always been familiar with when referring to the country in English.
“We at the NLD don't accept this, because when we say it in Burmese we say ‘Myanmar,’ and in English, we use the term ‘Burma’ as it is known to the world,” he said. He noted that people use the word Japan, but Japanese within the country use Nippon.
Suu Kyi and her NLD party have opposed the name change.
The flap began after her first tour abroad to Thailand in May, when the election commission released a statement, saying, “As it is prescribed in the Constitution that ‘The state shall be known as The Republic of the Union of Myanmar,' no one has the right to call [the country] Burma.”
“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi called Myanmar 'Burma' in her speech to the World Economic Forum in Thailand on 1 June, 2012,” the statement noted.
It’s not clear, at this point, how the NLD will handle the issue, which could become a point of contention during parliamentary sessions if NLD lawmakers continue to use Burma as their preferred name.
Meanwhile, Nyan Win said Suu Kyi, 67, has asked for a leave of absence from Parliament which convenes on Wednesday because she needs to rest after her 17-day European tour. “She plans to attend on Monday, July 9,” he said.