Re: Burma/Myanmar

From: Glen Perkins (
Date: Mon Oct 04 1999 - 21:36:41 EDT

Kenneth Whistler <> said:

> 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.

First, Ken, thanks for your answer, as usual. I understand (now) that WG2
makes the naming decisions, so the UTC isn't really on the hook here. As a
white libertarian with a very good conscience, though, I still have

As "bright, educated, and personable" as these representatives may have
been, I'm not very confident that the "official representatives" approved by
the brutal SLORC regime are going to stand up in a public forum and declare
their opposition to a policy that SLORC has been trying to actively promote
around the world, even if there's no uniformed thug in the room glaring at
them. They may, in fact, have genuinely approved of the name but, based on
this answer, I still don't have any reason for believing so (or believing
not, for that matter). I'm just wondering out loud, perhaps for the benefit
of those Burmese who aren't able to freely speak for themselves. If they had
opposed it, how would we know? Would they have been less bright, educated,
and personable?

> 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.

Actually, the part about it being a different transliteration of the same
word was something that I have been aware of for some time. So were Cambodia
and Kampuchea, yet the people of Cambodia wasted no time in eliminating all
use of the term "Kampuchea" as soon as they drove the hated Khmer Rouge from
power. Though the same in Khmer, the variant transliterations represented
different governments.

I don't know if Burma and Myanmar are the same or not, and I'm still

> 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),

It might be a good idea if the name is more than just a transliteration and
actually represents SLORC to educated Burmese.

> the people of Myanmar that WG2 heard from clearly *did* prefer
> "Myanmar".

Or so the official representatives of the people who made that name change
officially claimed for the official record.

> 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.

Or at least the opinions that they were able to express.

Of course, we can't read their minds, and I honestly don't know, so this
isn't a criticism of anyone, least of all of the UTC who didn't even create
the name. I just haven't yet seen any good evidence that the Burmese people
aren't being irrevocably tagged with a name that represents SLORC more than

Glen Perkins

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