Myanmar has protested against the US State Department’s continuing use of the country’s former name Burma, state-run media said on Saturday. “Myanmar strongly objects the usage of the words ‘Burma’, ‘Burmese Government’ and ‘Burmese Military’ in the US embassy’s press release not using the name recognised by the United Nations and the whole international community,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
On Thursday, the US embassy in Yangon criticised a military offensive against ethnic rebels despite a ceasefire announced by the “Burmese Government” on Jan 19.
The former ruling junta changed the name from Burma to Myanmar in 1989. Opponents of military rule such as Aung San Suu Kyi had made a political point of calling the country Burma.
Governments of many Western democracies, including the US, followed Suu Kyi’s lead.
But since an elected government replaced the junta in 2011 and initiated significant political reforms, the diplomatic name game has become more complex, as was evident during US President Barack Obama’s visit last year.
“During his visit to Myanmar on 19 November 2012 … President Obama addressed the Republic of the Union of Myanmar as ‘Myanmar’, said the Foreign Ministry.
Obama, however, reverted to “Burma” in his talks with Suu Kyi on the same day, leaving the embassy with a mixed message.