Secretary Clinton to Visit Myanmar (Burma)

November 18, 2011

The New York Times has reported that The National League for Democracy, headed by Burmese opposition politician Aung San Suu Kyi, is going to return to the political system in Myanmar after an absence of more than two decades.  Information on Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy can be found in Justin Wintle’s biography, Perfect Hostage: A Life of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's Prisoner of Conscience.  The announcement coincides with the news that Secretary Clinton would be visiting Myanmar, the first visit by a Secretary of State in over 50 years.

There are several books in the Foreign and International Law collection that deal with the political and transnational changes that have arisen in Myanmar in the last few years, including Free Burma: Transnational Legal Action and Corporate Accountability by John G. Dale  and a collection of essays entitled Myanmar/Burma: Inside Challenges, Outside Interests, including pieces that address the role of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which Myanmar will chair in 2014. Both catalog records contain links to the Google Books preview that provides access to the table of contents and images.

The essay collection's title "Myanmar/Burma" reveals an interesting debate as to which name should be used. The New York Times article previously mentioned clearly references “Myanmar” but President Obama is quoted using “Burma,” the colloquial word for Myanmar which has been used since British colonial rule of the country. Other news sources have similar disparity. BBC News refers to the country as Burma “because most of its audience is familiar with that name rather than Myanmar” but many speakers/writers choose Burma for political purposes: they do not accept the legitimacy of the Military Junta, which changed the name of the country to Myanmar in 1989. 

The name choice is relevant to scholars, as many items will be described using one term or the other.  A search for Myanmar as a keyword might yield far fewer titles or articles than are actually available.  The Library of Congress classification system, for example, still refers to the country as Burma, so use that term when searching subject headings. 

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