Re: Burma/Myanmar

From: Kenneth Whistler (
Date: Mon Oct 04 1999 - 18:00:13 EDT

Glen Perkins said,

> I don't consider anything SLORC says or does to be any more "official" than
> the proclamations of the Bloods or the Crips in Los Angeles, but my opinion
> isn't relevant when it comes to the naming of Unicode characters. If the
> people of Burma prefer the new name, there's no issue, and I'd like to know
> it so that I can call them by the name they prefer. If the name "Myanmar" is
> a SLORC logo, though, I would feel bad if the Burmese had to endure it
> forevermore as a descriptor of their writing system in the UCS. (As in
> Of course I realize that the UTC can't put itself in the position of
> deciding who is and who isn't a "legitimate" government, so it has to defer
> to some international body that will take the heat for that type of
> decision. The UTC has enough things to worry about without having to raise
> its own army. ;-)
> My question then comes down to:
> Do the people of Burma prefer the name "Myanmar"?

The UTC decides very few Unicode character names, except for those
originating in proposals coming from the UTC itself -- and even those
are subject to change during the international ballotting. WG2 is
the arena in which most character names are decided.

As regards Burmese/Myanmar, the changes were the results of the
unanimous, strongly held and expressed opinion of the 5 members of
the Myanmar Information Technology Standardization Committee who
attended the London WG2 meeting last year and the Fukuoka WG2
meeting last February. Those five people were bright, educated,
personable, and very excited about participating in the encoding
of their script in the international standard. There was not a
"SLORC thug" among them. And while it is conceivable that somebody
somewhere connected with an unsavory general is responsible for
the original insistence on "Myanmar" for the country, language,
and script names, and that the MITSC was bound by that general decision,
that is hardly sufficient reason for white liberals with bad
consciences to object to a polite consensus decision taken by
an international committee responsible for the character names.

In any case, as John Cowan pointed out, this is a matter of
transliterations of what is ultimately the same name in either
case--not even your typical example of a local group objecting
to an English name for themselves that is not the name *they*
use for themselves.

And while it may not currently be possible to conduct a
nationwide public opinion poll in Myanmar to ask the general
populace what they think about use of the term "Myanmar" (and
ask yourself anyway about the premises for considering that such
a mechanism should be used for determining the "answer" anyway),
the people of Myanmar that WG2 heard from clearly *did* prefer
"Myanmar". And since they were also very knowledgeable about
character encoding, computers, and software implementations,
and since they were engaged in the process, their opinions
weighed heavily in the decision that WG2 made.


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