Myanmar: Has the former pariah state crossed the diplomatic Rubicon?

The Yangon International Airport: gateway to the "Golden Land"
The Yangon International Airport: gateway to the “Golden Land”

Possibly the last significant “frontier economy” in Asia, Myanmar’s choice to slide down the totem pole of tyranny has led to rekindled economic relations with the West, most recently the US, which now allows businesses to invest in the country after a 15-year hiatus.

Today I wrote a blog post for, the news portal of my new job, Inside Investor, an economic news publication, detailing how curious US businesses coupled with the vast economic potential of a coming-of-age country will set the stage for an era of unprecedented partnerships.

Turning back will only become harder as more and more foreign business interests take a stake in the “Golden Land”.

Below is an excerpt:

By any other name, it seems, Myanmar would be just as captivating. Whether you chose to call it Burma or Myanmar, now that the once-isolated Southeast Asian nation has officially become approachable by US investors for the first time in 15 years, it must be agreed that the presence of foreign businessmen plying name cards across Yangon and Naypyidaw bodes well for the success of reforms.

That agreement on the country’s name lacks international consensus stirs curiosity further, as well as confusion over how to interpret this coming-of-age nation. Indeed, international media consumers scouring for news of the country effectively operate a politically charged switchboard, toggling between identities the industry uses to define the patchwork of ethnic groups that comprise the vast nation whose shape oddly mirrors Thailand to the west.

For the BBC, the choice to call the nation “Burma” is one done so out of a desire to maintain consistency and efficiently communicate with their audience, seen as a way to continue the legacy of coverage started by the BBC Burmese Service in 1940. For others, such as the New York Times and the UN, the name Myanmar was accepted and etched into style guides in 1989 when the military government officially announced the change — a move hotly contested by the NLD whose election win was revoked a year later.

This publication has chosen to call the nation Myanmar, which we believe reflects the societal preference within the country, as well as what local experts and international corporations are interpreting as a crossing of the diplomatic Rubicon with the US.

2 thoughts on “Myanmar: Has the former pariah state crossed the diplomatic Rubicon?

  1. Daniel Ho

    What do the Burmese / Myanma think of the name?

    Pushed to the logical extremes, “China” should be “Zhongguo,” Korea should be Hanguk, Japan should be Nippon, India should be Bharat/Hindustan

  2. There doesnt seem to be consensus yet with what to call the people, let alone the country. Myanmar/Burma is a patchwork of ethnic groups, which includes the majority Bamar population in the central lowlands, the Shan people to the hilly east, the Kachin to the north, etc. The Bamar would be the only people that would fit the demonym Burmese.

    Al Jazeera, The Nation and the Jakarta Post have taken to calling residents of the country Myanmarese. It seems that a sole identity in this newly opened nation has never and will never exist. That is why is it officially called the Union of Myanmar.

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