Myanmar tells Suu Kyi to stop calling nation 'Burma'

AFP , Friday 29 Jun 2012

Myanmar's authorities calls opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to stop calling the country 'Burma', a term that represents a legacy of British colonialism

Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during a meeting with members of the Myanmar community at the Royal Festival Hall in central London June 22, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

Myanmar's authorities have ordered opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to stop calling the country "Burma", state media reported Friday, its colonial-era name widely used to defy the former junta.

The old regime changed the country's official name two decades ago to Myanmar, saying the term Burma was a legacy of British colonialism and implied the ethnically diverse land belonged only to the Burman majority.

Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party vigorously opposed the change, decrying it as a symbolic step by the generals towards creating a new country.

Berating her for using the name "Burma" during landmark recent visits to Thailand and Europe, the Election Commission accused Suu Kyi and party members of flouting a constitution they have vowed to uphold.

"As it is prescribed in the constitution that 'The state shall be known as The Republic of the Union of Myanmar', no one has the right to call (the country) Burma," it said in a statement, published in state mouthpiece The New Light of Myanmar.

"Daw Aung San Suu Kyi called Myanmar 'Burma' in her speech to the World Economic Forum in Thailand on 1 June, 2012," it noted. "Again, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi called Myanmar 'Burma' in her speeches during her Europe tour."

"Daw" is a term of respect in Myanmar.

Global leaders also face a dilemma of what to call the country, which is emerging from decades of army rule under the guidance of reform-minded Prime Minister Thein Sein.

Britain's David Cameron calls it "Burma" while recent speeches by US President Barack Obama also referred to its colonial name.

But his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chose a more diplomatic path on a trip to the nation in December, employing the term Burma but saying it sparingly, generally preferring to dodge controversy by saying "this country."

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