Symbolising the difficulties and subtleties of travel in Burma, even the name of the country is a political and cultural minefield
. Myanmar is in fact the correct name, and it has been recognised by the UN since the military junta changed the name in 1989. However, as resentment towards the government continues, not everyone chooses to call it “Myanmar”.
Burma is used more commonly – including by tour companies and organisations such as the BBC – quite simply because it is still the most recognised and understood name. Aung San Suu Kyi herself says she prefers Burma
, “because the name was changed [by the government] without any reference to the will of the people.”
For others, though, “Burma” has colonial undertones as the name was created by the British, who named the country after its biggest tribe, the Bamar. This means that, technically, “Burma” only refers to a portion of its people – much like referring to the UK as “England”. Some even claim the language should be called “Myanmar”, as Burmese is spoken by the Bamar.