Burma former nameMyanmar former name
Burma is Myanmar again | The Interpreter
No formal notice was made, but, as predicted last year on The Interpreter, the Abbott government seems to have chosen to return to Burma's old name. Former Foreign Minister Bob Carr said in 2012 that Australia would join the vast vast vast vast number of countries, as well as multinational organizations and local bodies that officially named Burma the Union of Myanmar, adopted by the country's army in 1989.
When Bob Carr visited Burma in June 2012, it was the right moment to say that Australia "went beyond coercion". Myanmar was chosen at the right moment when a new Myanmar administration was formed in 2011, Naypyidaw announced a comprehensive programme of reforms and Canberra's plan to strengthen relations.
After last September's parliamentary elections it was rumored that the coalition ruling coalition would alter this line and call the state" Burma" again outside the framework of formal exchange. The Prime Minister spoke openly of "Burma" and "the Burmese government" during the Israeli Prime Minister Aung San Suu Kyi's recent trip to Australia last November.
Requests to the Prime Minister's Bureau, the Foreign Minister's Bureau and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) did not lead to a clear answer. However, in December 2013 the official website of the German Football Association (DFAT) was overhauled. The' Myanmar Country Page' is now called' Burma Country Page'. Myanmar " still has a few places of the name, for example on the page that refers to the Australian embassy in Rangoon (Yangon), but the corresponding fact sheet of Myanmar is clearly marked "Burma".
In order to puzzle things, the Foreign Minister published a press conference on January 7 this year in which he welcomed the freeing of prisoner politicians in Myanmar. Whilst the Prime Minister's statements remained inexplicable last year, the blended statements from Canberra seem to mirror the Abbott government's desire to distinguish between the perceptions of "internal" and "external" uses of the country's name.
The old name is still used only by the USA and some EU states. It is largely a sign to Aung San Suu Kyi that the former army regimes had no right to rename the land without a national re-elect. However, these nations seem to feel more and more uneasy about this heritage of the past when they were much more critically opposed to the Burmese people.
To avoid believing that this is a trivial issue of diplomacy label, the US administration was recently required to publicly declare by John Kerry to uphold the use of the name "Myanmar". A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry rejected such use (also by President Obama) as "diplomatic courtesy" in a declaration that former UK embassador Derek Tonkin described as "completely unconvincing".
While this may please the Myanmar lobbies in the US and elsewhere, Naypyidaw finds the further use of "Burma" by West German government unnecessarily slanderous. Given the use of "Myanmar" in all of Burma's foreign affairs and a broad spectrum of other formal exchange, from visas to UN resolutions, this policy seems weakly laughable to many Myanmar civil servants.
This could just be a mirror image of the Foreign Minister's long-standing backing for Aung San Suu Kyi. It could also announce a more discerning stance on topics such as Burma's militarily prejudiced state and the tough handling of the Muslim Rohingyas. For whatever reasons, after the formal choice of Myanmar less than two years ago, it is odd that Canberra is deliberately - and some would say unnecessarily - hampering its relations with Naypyidaw and adopting a stance that is incompatible with all other states in the Asia-Pacific area, the Burmese ASEAN members included.
Screen shot from the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.