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Talk:Burma

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In 1989 the government officially changed the name of the country to "Myanmar", which is also the offical name used by and within the UN. I think that accordingly the country should be listed as Myanmar or Myanmar (Burma).

We use the most common English name for a country, not its official name. "Burma" is still more common than "Myanmar". --Evan 02:32, 10 Apr 2004 (EDT)
I disagree. "Myanmar" is the name of the country. "Burma" is the old name and for many has colonial associations. We do not refer to Sri Lanka as "Ceylon", for example. Is it fair to call a country by the wrong name because some people think that the name Burma is more commonly used? More commonly used amongst whom? Professorbiscuit
The name "Burma" is more commonly used amongst Burmese who wish to convey a political statement. They don't often do this publicly, as it can have negative consequences such as imprisonment. But I believe Burma is preferable to Myanmar for several reasons; 1- this is an english language encyclopedia, and no english language country recognizes the name of "myanmar" as such. 2-the name was not changed as a result of decolonization according to the wishes of a newly "freed" populace, but on the personal whim of a dictator, Ne Win, and does not enjoy general support of the populace; at least not when the government is out of earshot. Justiceiro (Jan 2006)
Consensus was reached on this naming over a year ago. Myanmar was chosen over Burma as the primary article because the changed name appeared more common from the results of recent Google searches. It doesn't matter that political entities do not recognise that Myanmar is the name of the country. Wikitravel:Article naming conventions dictate that the most common English name is used. We are merely reflecting common English usage If you can show, scientifically, that Burma is more commonly used publically then we will switch it back. However, if the Burmese do not wish to publically make a political statement aqbout their own country and do not wish to promote the use of Burma then we have to use Myanmar, however distastefully politically correct that may seem to you.
I don't have any strong opinion about this. But I would note that, living in California in the US, I no longer hear newscasters use the term "Burma." Secondly, several countries have had their names changed in this fashion (Ceylon, Rhodesia, Formosa, etc) and it seems to me in each case that English speakers quickly began to use the newly chosen name. I can't think of any case where English speakers didn't switch to the new name. --Colin 13:36, 10 Apr 2004 (EDT)
So, there's two things to disagree with, here. One is that we use the most common English name for a place; if you disagree with that, please take the discussion to Wikitravel talk:article naming conventions.
If you disagree that "Burma" is more commonly used than "Myanmar", please give some cites. Akubra did a quick analysis and found about 4-5 times as many citations for "Burma" as for "Myanmar". It's on talk pages somewhere... I'll try to track it down and copy it here. --Evan 14:03, 10 Apr 2004 (EDT)
Well, as for a cite, Google has 6,240,000 hits for "Myanmar" as opposed to 3,470,000 for "Burma". And even in the example below, the English speaking publications have 1963 mentions of "Myanmar" to 1888 for "Burma". I don't see how Burma is the more commonly used word. -- Professorbiscuit
Whichever way you look at that result somewhere between a third and a half of the articles on the web know the country as Burma rather than Myanmar. Seems to me that both names should be used in the article. However, countries in south-east asia that are under revolutionary government have a habit of changing their names with a change of government. (Does Kampuchea still exist?) I also understand that those who are not currently in power may still call the country Burma. Burma may be the older name but I also cannot see a Burmese cat being called a Myanmarese cat any time soon. Burma has too many other associations in English for it to disappear and not be associated with the country. I plug for Burma as being the article title because that is where it is now, have a redirect from Myanmar and explain the two names. Remember that the traveller comes first and political correctness is a poor second - sorry dictators this is how democractic anarchy works. -- Huttite 20:08, 10 Apr 2004 (EDT)
Okay, I understand now. Democratic anarchy is the principle by where a country is referred to by its old name if a famous breed of cat comes from there. So we better change Thailand to Siam and Ethiopia back to Abyssinia pretty quickly so as to not confuse the Siamese and Abyssinian cats. We don't really want to upset the Persian cats either, so we should change Iran back to Persia pretty sharpish.
Sorry to be sarcastic, but it would appear that in face of evidence that Myanmar is the most commonly used word as outlined in the Wikitravel talk:article naming conventions, the argument is slapped down with an illogical argument about "democratic anarchy" and "political correctness". To an outsider who is just getting into wikitravel (like me), it appears that decisions that were made in the past about even the most trivial points are binding upon all future users. If anyone who voices a dissenting opinion is just going to have their democratic anarchical principles disrespected, it's not going to motivate people to plunge forward and write articles. Professorbiscuit
100% absolutely definitely not. Every single policy and guideline on Wikitravel is up for discussion and renegotiation. As time goes by, major changes get harder to make, and so they need to factored into any decision to change a policy, but I think we should always remain open. If there's a better way to do it, and it gets us closer to our goals, and it's worth the effort to change things, we should change them.
I think us "old hands", after having answered the same questions a few times, tend to get a little flip about them. "The answer is here" is shorthand for, "We have a policy on this, and here's what it is and the explanation for why it is." It may sound a bit like "We already figured this out and your input doesn't matter." If what I said before sounded like that, I'm sorry.
To specifics: we use the most common English name for a place for a few reasons. One is that that's what travellers are going to be looking for. Another is that that's what contributors are going to be looking for. Another (which we haven't stated here) is that we want "accidental linking" to work. When I am writing about Greece the link should go to the right page. We want to minimize having to write Ellyna (Mediterranean European country). (We should also make reasonable redirects for less-used names for the same reason.)
The big problem with the "most common English name" policy is that it's so dang subjective. Most of the time this just seems so obvious we don't even think about it. We hardly ever have a problem with using Germany versus using Deutschland or Japan versus Nihon. But there are some places where the choice isn't 100% crystal clear. Often this is because there is an official name that hasn't been entirely accepted.
We don't have an official policy on how to call the shots in these cases (and I think there's just a handful that have come up: cities in India and Burma). I think the Google test and the media test are good ones (although contradictory in the example of Burma); it might also be useful to compare against other guidebooks and travel resources.
Anyways, I gotta say: thanks for your input. Analyzing and critiquing the "rules" of Wikitravel is a great way to help other contributors and thus also help travellers. --Evan 21:25, 10 Apr 2004 (EDT)
Okay, I've done it now! - While this discussion was going on , I have defactbooked the original aricle, (slightly), and put a template in as well as a stub message. Feel free to spend some energy adjusting my work so that it looks respectable, rather than just arguing over the name. The Wikipedia link to Burma goes to Myanmar as a redirect while wikitravel does the reverse. Please also be aware that there are a lot more Wikitravel pages that talk about Burma than Myanmar. Feel free to change or put the alternative name along side those as well. One final word, it is quite acceptable for a countru to have two names Burma is the British name while Myanmar is the name that the country wants to be known by, and is also being adopted into English but is not fully there yet as it has not displaced Burma. I still think both names need to point to the same article - they do and it is currently called Burma - but that can be changed like anything else on the wiki. -- Huttite 22:35, 10 Apr 2004 (EDT)

This is the discussion. (for newcomers: I was Dhum Dhum before changing to Akubra) Akubra 16:02, 10 Apr 2004 (EDT)


Elided to just Burma stuff by Evan

  1. How do we decide what exactly is the most common English name? The article naming conventions give a few examples, one of which says we prefer Burma over Myanmar. A quick search on Google (English sites only) give 3,300,000 hits for Myanmar and 1,630,000 for Burma. The May 1997 National Geographic map South Asia already shows the country as Myanmar (Burma). I can give other examples, but I think my point is clear enough. (BTW, while reading this article for the first time I thought: Oh boy, are they still using Burma? This site must be really out of date. ;-)

(...) Percentages below added by User:Evan

Evan, I took your contention that the Western press mostly referred to "Myanmar" as "Burma", and did some research on it. I was pretty sure that I would find that "Myanmar" would come out on top. These are the results:

  • The New York Times (USA, since 1996): 728 hits for Burma / 864 hits for Myanmar

(45% - 55%)

  • Time (USA, past 30 days): 5-Burma / 1-Myanmar (83% - 7%)
  • The Times (UK, unspecified period): 22-Burma / 3-Myanmar (88% - 12%)
  • BBC (UK, unspecified period): 237-Burma / 802-Myanmar (23% - 77%)
  • The Economist (UK, unspecified period): 38-Burma / 180-Myanmar (17% - 83%)
  • The Australian (Australia, unspecified period): Burma-858 / Myanmar-113 (88% - 12%)
  • Le Monde (France, past year): Birmanie-64 / Myanmar-0 (100% - 0%)
  • Der Spiegel (Germany, past year): 19-Burma / Myanmar-9 (67% - 33%)
  • El Pais (Spain, past 5 years): 174-Birmania / 67-Myanmar (72% - 18%)

As you can see (and to my horror), only in the New York Times, the BBC and The Economist did "Myanmar" come out on top.

I did the same tests for Madras vs. Chennai and Bombay vs. Mumbai. Both Madras and Bombay are still much more used than Chennai and Mumbai (except in The Economist).

Well, uhm, I guess you're right... You know, this is funny and interesting at the same time, because it shows that the way we see the world is rooted in our environment. I was convinced that "Myanmar" was used more then "Burma" nowadays because many sources I have access to use the name "Myanmar".

I propose to do the following: the main articles come under Burma, Madras and Bombay, with redirects from Myanmar, Chennai and Mumbai (at least until I do another test in 2008 or so ;-) Agreed? DhDh 14:51, 10 Nov 2003 (PST)

(...)


More searches on Google News as of 10-4-2004. (A former leader died recently, so there's probably more hits than usual.)

I searched on "Burma -shave" and "Myanmar" for all countries then for each of these locations:

Country Burma Myanmar
All 998 (40%) 1530 (60%)
United States 455 (41%) 639 (59%)
United Kingdom 98 (61%) 61 (39%)
Canada 22 (38%) 35 (62%)
Australia 110 (83%) 22 (17%)
New Zealand 7 (28%) 18 (72%)

Note that the fact that Google is a US company probably skews the results. They probably have more deals with US media outlets than with non-US ones.

I'm starting to lean towards Myanmar. --Evan 22:29, 10 Apr 2004 (EDT)


I think Akubra's method of looking at actual statistics is the way to go with this discussion. Before I go out and gather stats though, I think there are some pitfals that one needs to avoid.

First, in the stats already gathered

  • The stats include Le Monde and El Pais. Doesn't France have strict language laws? Is it possible that Le Monde is merely forbidden by law to use a new name until the Academy accepts the new name? Aren't there similar rules (but without the legal aspects) in Spanish? (Hi, I'm an ignorant American and really don't know for sure any of this)
  • Also, I thought the rule was to use American English. So are the stats from British English websites relevant? (Or does this apply only to spellings?)
  • I think one has to be careful to use recent data since one would expect the usage of Myanmar to be increasing with time.

I looked at the New York Times a bit. I found that articles containing the word Burma could be categorized as follows

  • Articles containing the word Myanmar too.
  • History articles refering to pre-renaming times
  • Biographies (particularly obituaries) refering to pre-renaming times
  • Burma Shave (DOH!)
  • Some articles about Burma. Dwarfed by the number of articles that are about Myanmar in the modern context which do not include the word Burma. But definitely non-zero.
Here's some raw data from the Times. I used the search term -died -dies to try to weed out obituaries and -"Burma Shave" too. I also searched only articles since 2000 because I'm trying to find the trend.
  1. In the Internation Section of the NY Times, there is an 8:1 preference for Myanmar.
    1. 173 articles with both Myanmar and Burma
    2. 97 articles with only Myanmar
    3. 12 articles with only Burma
  2. In the Travel Section, there is a 1:0 preference for Myanmar
    1. 26 articles with both Myanmar and Burma
    2. 15 articles with only Myanmar
    3. 6 articles with only Burma of which:
      1. 1 is the name of a person
      2. 1 is the name of a band
      3. 1 is a historical reference
      4. 1 is an act in a circus
      5. 1 is a direct quote from a traveler
      6. 1 is a road name
A broader search of the Times since 2000, filtering only for "Burma Shave" gets you:
  1. 583 articles with both Myanmar and Burma
  2. 268 articles with just Myanmar
  3. 171 articles with just Burma (this is the search that taught me that historical/obits articles use Burma a lot)

I also looked at Yahoo! news a bit, which gets news from tons of different sources. From this, I can also tell you

  • British English news sources (BBC, ABC, Sydney News, NZ) use Burma.
  • Reuters clearly has a no-Burma policy.

But before I really get into this, I have some fears that I may be biasing the data!

  • My searches so far are either very broad (Yahoo) or are relatively liberal news sources (CNN, NYTimes). Does anyone have any suggestions for a US Conservative source that I can check? (Foxnews has very few articles about Myanmar/Burma).
  • Maybe using the search terms -dies -died to avoid obituaries is biasing my search against human rights articles which might include more anti-governement (and pro-Burma) views.
  • Is this even the right track?

--Colin 22:40, 10 Apr 2004 (EDT)

I think that simply looking at the news articles does not tell you how people think of the country. The fact that there are so many article with both name being used indicates that neither name has a clear predominance at present. The use of one name over another may also be affected by political influence, with Reuters, for example, perhaps wanting to be able to report in the country meaning they are only using the official name. This may completely bias any assessment of which word is more popular. I suggest we wait a few years and see how many time people try and change the name of the article. After all it sat around for 6 months before I edited the factbook import. I think people can use their time better than dredging up obscure reason to justify using one name over another, especially when anyone can come along and change it. How about letting the article have the title Burma, but explain the current official name is Myanmar and see what happens. -- Huttite 22:58, 10 Apr 2004 (EDT)
I like your criticisms of this and your suggestion too! After doing this research, I had an uncontrollable urge to go and edit the Eastern Sierra article to make sure that I'm being useful :-) Colin 23:27, 10 Apr 2004 (EDT)
Wikipedia almost had an edit war over this naming. Their discussion about using Myanmar makes interesting reading. - Huttite 00:14, 11 Apr 2004 (EDT)

Both (moot point)[edit]

I think the main point of having a wikitravel article for Myanmar/Burma should be to point out that one should not go there unless invited. Period.

Of course I will encourage folks I know who have been to Myanmar/Burma to write some stuff, but mainly what they told me is "Don't go unless the gov. invites you. Don't bother to try to get invited, because unless you want real trouble you will be pretty much under hotel-arrest.". This from people who have hung out in Iraq within the last year.

Thus, my vote in this debate is to have both names somehow get to the country page, as well as adding a travel topic page Places to Avoid, and linking one or the other (or both) names from there. -- Mark 07:17, 11 Apr 2004 (EDT)

Be careful with this. I'd even say: be extremely careful.
  1. I have never been to Myanmar/Burma. But from what I've read about it, and from a cultural point of view, it must be a very interesting country to visit. Of course, this is said without taking the political situation there into account.
  2. Places to avoid? I think that, for a considerable number of people (including me), the USA will be part of such a list. Why? Because, among other things, they view the USA not as the archetypical democracy it so much likes to be viewed as. I, for one, do not want to let my fingerprints or a mugshot be taken like an ordinary criminal when entering the country. I speak from experience when I say that the only time immigration hassled me during my trips when entering a country was when I entered the USA.
  3. Against what criterion are you going to say that such or such a country should not be visited? The level of democracy? In the world of today democracy is generally worshipped as the only way to govern a country. I am convinced that democracy as we know it will work for some, but not for others. Don't misunderstand me, I am not saying that torturing and killing regime opponents is the way to go. I am utterly against it. But chances are high that there are other (and maybe better) ways to govern a country. So, what criterion?
  4. In a certain way, a travel guide should "educate" travellers. Again from experience, I have seen people (I do not want to call them travellers) act as ignorant pigs towards the culture in which they were guests. And yes, I have made my share of mistakes too. We all do. Travelling is something you have to learn. So, if your goal is to state in the most objective way possible what is happening in Myanmar/Burma, I am all for it. But I think travellers should have enough responsibility to make up their own minds if they want to go there or not.
Akubra 10:09, 11 Apr 2004 (EDT)
For what it's worth, I also avoid going to the US, unless I absolutely have to. I agree that the fingerprinting is stupid and a big hassel, and that travelers should be warned about it. My point though was that the government of Burma/Myanmar wants you to stay away. You ask "Against what criterion are you going to say that such or such a country should not be visited?", well, that's the criteria. If the gov. of that country says "do not come here" that's pretty much it.
Actually I think Myanmar/Burma would be a great place to visit, if we were welcome there. We are not. My criteria for calling it a place not to visit is that the government there does not want us to come. One must have a visa to visit Myanmar, and these are only granted to those whom that very government has invited. The government invited a couple of thousand foreign citizens last year including a couple from the organization for which I work. I know one of them, who was there mainly to work on a vacination survey. She does describe a lovely country, what she was allowed to see of it, which wasn't very much. I intend to ask her if she'd be willing to write something up for Wikitravel, but really I don't expect it to amount to much since one "get's in" according to the itinerary they give you, "Does" whatever the invitation specifies, "Eats" and "Sleeps" where they tell you to, and "Gets out" again as soon as the specific work is done, or as soon as the government gets tired of the work you are doing.
The only other way to go to Myanmar is to try to sneak in, which will get the traveler either jailed or killed outright. This is mentioned in the article, but I'm thinking about moving it to the top of the page.
Sorry if I've offended you by pointing this out, but travellers are do not have the responsibility to make up their own minds about whether or not to go to Myanmar. The Myanmar governement reserves that right. -- Mark 15:32, 11 Apr 2004 (EDT)
So, kind of a side point, but this is one type of destination that I think Wikitravel could totally shine. Commercial guidebooks don't cover Burma (uh... I mean...), based on the tourism ban and direct requests by the government there.
But 'traveller' != 'tourist'. Some people do have to go to Burma; for example, aid workers from international and non-governmental organizations. My understanding is that the travel information on Burma is extremely sparse; I heard somewhere that there's like a 1973 Lonely Planet guide that's the most current source of info.
I have no idea what information is available to aid workers or other invited visitors, but I would bet that having some additional free information from Wikitravel would be useful. --Evan 16:02, 11 Apr 2004 (EDT)
Mark, in no way you have offended me with what you say :-) I do not dispute the facts you mention. After reading your last edit it seems to me that the only differences in opinion we have is how to present them in Wikitravel and where the responsibility lies. If I would enter Myanmar illegally and I get jailed or killed, well... I'd find it hard to maintain that at least part of the responsibility wouldn't be mine (if I still could, that is...). The same as if I'd take drugs into Malaysia and get hanged, or walk into the minefields of Cambodia or Mozambique and lose my legs.
Evan, I completely agree with you that having an article on Myanmar would distinguish us from the classic guidebooks and give us added value. There is a Lonely Planet Myanmar guidebook, but I think it is much more recent than 1973. I found this, so it must be 1990 or later. BTW, they say something different about the possibilities to visit the country, but I have no idea if this reflects the truth or not. -- Akubra 17:02, 11 Apr 2004 (EDT)

Can I respectfully suggest that it is virtually impossible to truly understand the situation in a country if you've never been there. I won't say that I understand completely, but having been to Myanmar in November (as a "tourist" - what tourist ban? Aung San Suu Kyi is just one woman - not everyone in her party supports this idea of a tourist ban), I can safely say that I now take everything written about the country with a grain of salt. Although I was on a "tour" (not an official government tour company, by the way, but a private company - we did make sure of that), I was able to talk to a wide range of people, including members of the NLD. I should also point out that you do not need to be invited and I got a visa quite easily from the Consulate in London. They did need me to submit an itinerary, but did not ask where I was staying every night and I was quite free to travel independantly. The military was not obviously in attendance anywhere and in fact the only soldiers I saw were in the Embassy areas of Yangon. I felt very safe, very welcome and never threatened in any way, shape or form.

Without getting into the details of the political situation, it is a beautiful country well-worth visiting and you will not find a nicer, more welcoming people anywhere in the world. Yolise 14:09, 12 Apr 2004 (GMT)

Name change[edit]

I'd like to start summing up.

From my personal point of view, I find the idea of complying with the official "Myanmar" to be loathesome. The military dictatorship in Burma has slaughtered thousands, crushed democracy, and are eschewed by governments and organizations that normally don't scruple to deal with really bad folks. Representatives of the democratically elected government there continue to use "Burma". Using "Myanmar" feels like siding with evil.

But Wikitravel isn't about my personal point of view. Following the above stats, it's starting to become clear that although it's not a 100% definite thing, at least from comparing media citations available online "Myanmar" seems to be the most common English name. Even in places where the military government isn't recognized, like the USA, Myanmar seems to come up more often.

For this reason, I propose that we move this article to Myanmar and make Burma a redirect. I'll do this tomorrow unless we get some overwhelming objections. --Evan 16:53, 11 Apr 2004 (EDT)

I object. Though it is more of a pragmatic one. If there is regime change in the country formerly known as Burma it is highly likely that the name will change back. As I see it, Burma is the geographical region that the country of Myanmar politically sits in. Our hierachy is geographical, thus Burma should be the article name, even if we have Myanmar prominantly in the title. Also Wikitraveller have better things to do than to pander to political correctness. If the Myanmar government wants to change the name let them do it - they can come here like everyone else - we shouldn't waste our time on such trivial things, there are better things to do. -- Huttite 18:28, 11 Apr 2004 (EDT)
And I would like to say one more time in case this was lost in the wrangling above that it just simply doesn't matter. There is little need for a travel guide to Burma, since the govenerment of Myanmar will not let you go or do anything which is outside of the script which your organization will have aggreed with them on before you are invited. -- Mark 18:44, 11 Apr 2004 (EDT)

A few things to clear up. The most recent guidebook to Myanmar certainly isn't from 1973. The most recent Lonely Planet guide to Myanmar was published in 2002, and I myself have a copy of the 1996 edition. On the subject of the name (Myanmar v. Burma) it has this to say; "'Myanmar' has been the official name [of the country] since the time of Marco Polo's 13-th century writings... In Burmese literary contexts , 'Myanmar' is used to the refer to the entire country, 'Bamar' (from whence the English got 'Burma') to refer to the Burman ethnicity or the Burman language." Amnesty International and wikipedia call the place Myanmar. The people of the country (generally) call it Myanmar.

Secondly, Myanmar is not a closed country like North Korea. The democratic leader of the country, Aung San Suu Kyi (under house arrest), has called for a boycott on tourism to the country. However independent travel is possible, either with a Foreign Independent Travel (FIT) visa, which lasts 28 days extendable to 42, or 1-3 day permits available at the Thai/Myanmar border. There is very much a need for a wikitravel guide to Myanmar. The idea that trying to enter the country without a package holiday will get you killed is quite frankly nonsense. Professorbiscuit

Professorbiscuit has now redirected Burma to Myanmar and added to the new text there. - Huttite 00:35, 12 Apr 2004 (EDT)
Oh wow. I'm completely wrong... shows what I get by going on hear-say, and not doing my fact-checking. I would like to formally apologise for my mistake to all present, and both the democratically elected government of Myanmar and the Military Junta. -- Mark 07:51, 12 Apr 2004 (EDT)

Restored the old Burma page[edit]

There seems to have been a bit of a coup by Professorbiscuit in redirecting the Burma page to Myanmar. Although travel information is appropriate for Wikipedia, a proper encyclopedic entry for Burma (Myanmar) should contain a lot more information about the country's history, politics, and geography.

I'm not quite sure I understand what you mean. -- Mark 09:53, 15 Nov 2004 (EST)
I suppose we could always reopen the discussion about what name to use for this country... but I've reverted the change since, no matter what we name it, there should only be one article for this country. If a discussion obtains consensus to move this back to Burma, we should move the article and make Myanmar a redirect. -- Colin 10:29, 15 Nov 2004 (EST)

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