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What's so interesting about Burma?

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spark
61853.  Sat Mar 25, 2006 10:27 am Reply with quote

In the country of Burma, internet access is restricted due to anti-modem laws. Illegal possession of a modem can lead to a prison term.

 
grizzly
61861.  Sat Mar 25, 2006 12:25 pm Reply with quote

So there wont be any Burmese on the forum then?

 
Nileus
61864.  Sat Mar 25, 2006 12:33 pm Reply with quote

That makes sense when you look at the CIA's website.

Acoording to that, there are 3 internet hosts serving 28,000 users (2003 figures).

Sounds a fair number, until you realise that the total population (2005) is 42,909,464.

That's 0.06%

Imagine all the QI they're missing!

for the full low down on Burma see http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/bm.html

 
suze
61869.  Sat Mar 25, 2006 12:58 pm Reply with quote

Shouldn't we be calling it Myanmar anyway?

The USA persists in calling it Burma, which - depending who you listen to - is either political point making or American "we run the world and we call it what we damn well please"-ing. But most other governments, including the British one, use the name Myanmar, which is what that country prefers.

 
samivel
61888.  Sat Mar 25, 2006 4:48 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
Shouldn't we be calling it Myanmar anyway?

The USA persists in calling it Burma, which - depending who you listen to - is either political point making or American "we run the world and we call it what we damn well please"-ing. But most other governments, including the British one, use the name Myanmar, which is what that country prefers.



Is it the preference of most Burmese people, or just the ruling military dictatorship?

 
suze
61898.  Sat Mar 25, 2006 6:10 pm Reply with quote

*** WARNING - long and serious - attempt to explain the Burma / Myanmar issue ***

I certainly accept that the government of that land falls well below the Western idea of democracy, and I have no agenda for it. The people of the country probably don't particularly care either way what it's called, since the two names mean the same thing (explained below).

But I would say that one should normally call a country what it wants you to call it, and a distaste for its government shouldn't normally change that. We did not revert to referring to Iraq as Mesopotamia just because we didn't care for its dictator!

The two names are both from the Burman or Myanma language (i.e. the language of the Burman or Myanma people who are the largest ethnic group in the country), and mean the same thing ("Land of the Swift and Strong"). In the B/M language, many things have two names, one used in conversation and the other in writing - Bama is the colloquial form and Myanma the formal form. This may sound odd, until you think that most of us normally say "Britain" when we mean that which is formally "The United Kingdom".

So all their government did was request that the wider world use the formal rather than the colloquial name of the land, and I can't really see any problem with that. There were those who argued that one name was more representative than the other, but this argument has been made both ways and lacks validity. Both versions of the name imply that the B/M people are the important people in the country, and rather ignore the other ethnic groupings. Aung San Suu Kyi used to object to "Myanmar", but now uses it. (When she's not under arrest anyway.)

To be truly representative of the country, the name shouldn't be either thing, but there doesn't seem to be any international pressure to that end. (Only about 2/3 of the population are Burman / Myanma, so the name is somewhat as though the United Kingdom were called England.)

Finally, that "r" at the end. In the B/M language both the noun and the adjective are spelt "Myanma" - indeed the language doesn't have an /r/ sound at all. The spurious "r" at the end of the country name is supposed to indicate low tone, whereas the final syllable of the adjective is in creaky tone and doesn't get the "r". This "r" lacks linguistic validity, but as I said before, if that's what that land wants then it's what it should have - in the absence of any convincing reason not to.

 
samivel
61906.  Sat Mar 25, 2006 7:02 pm Reply with quote

Fair enough. :)

 
CulturalSnow
61915.  Sun Mar 26, 2006 5:11 am Reply with quote

I believe that Aun Sang Suu Kyi and her supporters (the NLD) favour the use of 'Burma', and since she was the rightful winner of the election in 1990, to use 'Burma' demonstrates that the speaker regards the ruling junta as being illegitimate. If you use 'Myanmar' you tolerate the status quo.

It's one of those areas where there's no neutral mode of language. A bit like deciding whether to call Northern Ireland's second city Londonderry or Derry.

 
suze
61919.  Sun Mar 26, 2006 6:11 am Reply with quote

CulturalSnow wrote:
I believe that Aun Sang Suu Kyi and her supporters (the NLD) favour the use of 'Burma', and since she was the rightful winner of the election in 1990, to use 'Burma' demonstrates that the speaker regards the ruling junta as being illegitimate. If you use 'Myanmar' you tolerate the status quo.


That certainly was Aung San Suu Kyi's position for some time, but in more recent years (from about 1999) she has been recorded as having used "Myanmar". We shouldn't second guess Mrs Aung, but this could be some kind of political concession, or it could be an acknowledgment that the name itself isn't especially significant.

It is true that her political movement would revert the name to "Burma" (or possibly "Bama") if they got the chance, but as far as I understand it that's more because it's associated with the current regime rather than because of any issue with the name itself.

As I said up there, both names are a little offensive to the third of the country's people who are not ethnically Burman / Myanma. But this seems not to be considered an issue, and of course the same is true in other lands (e.g. we don't hear the 15% Zulu population objecting to the word "Swaziland").

 
CulturalSnow
61921.  Sun Mar 26, 2006 6:28 am Reply with quote

Well, of course we could ask the minority people in [THE COUNTRY THAT IS CAUSING US SUCH LINGUISTIC DIFFICULTY] but they'd probably insist on calling it KAREN, which would no doubt give them a little comfort, but would cause international observers to snicker behind their Jermyn-Street-tooled cuffs and ask facetiously if they could call their own countries KYLIE or DEAN for a change.

 
samivel
61936.  Sun Mar 26, 2006 7:47 am Reply with quote

England should be called 'Reg'.

 
suze
61949.  Sun Mar 26, 2006 10:23 am Reply with quote

And why not!

In fact why not go further and name every country after a character from The Bill?

Australia obviously gets renamed "Don Beech", and so on. I'm not sure that too many countries would be queueing up to be "Gabriel Kent", but I want whatever country I belong to called "Sam Nixon" ...

 
Woodsman
62010.  Sun Mar 26, 2006 10:10 pm Reply with quote

Would you be so kind as to explain why the ethnic group is called both Burman and Myanma?

 
Woodsman
62011.  Sun Mar 26, 2006 10:26 pm Reply with quote

This clears it up:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Explanation_of_the_names_of_Burma/Myanmar

Quote:
In common English usage, the country is known as "Burma". In British usage, inhabitants of Burma, no matter what their ethnicity, are known as Burmese, while the dominant ethnicity (speaking Burmese) is known as "Burmans". The language of the Burmans, however, is known as the Burmese language, not as the Burman language, although confusingly enough the "Burmese" language is considered one of the Tibeto-"Burman" languages. In American usage, the meaning of Burmese and Burman are often the opposite of British usage: Burman refers to all the people of Myanmar, while Burmese refers specifically to the Burmese speaking ethnicity dominating the country.

 

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