34 Years ago, Burma Changed its Name to Myanmar. This is Why

34 Years ago, Burma Changed its Name to Myanmar. This is Why

The country was named Burma for centuries due to its dominant ethnic group; Burman.  However, in 1989, after a suppression of a pro-democracy uprising via the country’s military dictatorship, its leaders changed its name to Myanmar. 

At this time, the country was considered an outcast in the international community and desperately wanted to improve its image.

Curiously, the name change itself meant very little in the Burmese language. “Burma” is simply the more colloquial version of “Myanmar.”

Background on the name change

The name change from Burma to Myanmar was made by the military government that took control of the country in 1988. The government argued that the name Myanmar was a more inclusive name that reflected the country's diverse ethnic groups, whereas the name Burma was seen as a legacy of colonialism.

The name Burma had been used by the British colonial government, which ruled the country until its independence in 1948. However, the name Myanmar was also used by the colonial government, particularly in reference to the majority ethnic group, the Bamar.

The controversy over the name change

The name change from Burma to Myanmar has been controversial and divisive. Critics of the military government argue that the name change was made without consultation with the people of Burma/Myanmar and was part of the government's broader efforts to consolidate power and suppress dissent.

Some opposition groups and human rights organizations continue to use the name Burma, arguing that it is the name preferred by pro-democracy activists and is a reminder of the country's history of resistance against authoritarian rule.

Others argue that the name Myanmar is more inclusive and reflects the country's diversity of ethnic groups. The name change has been recognized by most countries and international organizations, including the United Nations, although some continue to use the name Burma.


The name change from Burma to Myanmar has been a contentious issue, reflecting broader debates over the country's history and identity. While the government argued that the name change was meant to be more inclusive, critics see it as a symbol of authoritarianism and a rejection of the country's history of resistance. Ultimately, the ongoing debates over the name reflect the complex and contested nature of the country's political and cultural identity.

Reference List:

  1. Charney, M. W. (2012). The politics of naming: Myanmar, Burma, and the struggle for national identity. Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, 31(3), 83-103.

  2. Steinberg, D. I. (2010). Burma/Myanmar: What's in a Name?. Journal of Democracy, 21(3), 143-157.

  3. Thant, M. (2003). Myanmar or Burma? The Struggle for National Identity. Southeast Asian Affairs, 221-236.

  4. United Nations (2021). United Nations Member States. Retrieved from on 22 March 2023.

Akhyari Hananto

I began my career in the banking industry in 1997, and stayed approx 6 years in it. This industry boost his knowledge about the economic condition in Indonesia, both macro and micro, and how to More understand it. My banking career continued in Yogyakarta when I joined in a program funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB),as the coordinator for a program aimed to help improve the quality of learning and teaching process in private universities in Yogyakarta. When the earthquake stroke Yogyakarta, I chose to join an international NGO working in the area of ?disaster response and management, which allows me to help rebuild the city, as well as other disaster-stricken area in Indonesia. I went on to become the coordinator for emergency response in the Asia Pacific region. Then I was assigned for 1 year in Cambodia, as a country coordinator mostly to deliver developmental programs (water and sanitation, education, livelihood). In 2009, he continued his career as a protocol and HR officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya, and two years later I joined the Political and Economic Section until now, where i have to deal with extensive range of people and government officials, as well as private and government institution troughout eastern Indonesia. I am the founder and Editor-in-Chief in Good News From Indonesia (GNFI), a growing and influential social media movement, and was selected as one of The Most Influential Netizen 2011 by The Marketeers magazine. I also wrote a book on "Fundamentals of Disaster Management in 2007"?, "Good News From Indonesia : Beragam Prestasi Anak Bangsa di dunia"? which was luanched in August 2013, and "Indonesia Bersyukur"? which is launched in Sept 2013. In 2014, 3 books were released in which i was one of the writer; "Indonesia Pelangi Dunia"?, "Indonesia The Untold Stories"? and "Growing! Meretas Jalan Kejayaan" I give lectures to students in lectures nationwide, sharing on full range of issues, from economy, to diplomacy Less
View all posts

Terima kasih telah membaca sampai di sini