Ethnic leader in Myanmar suggests changing name of the country to bolster peace

In one of the more interesting ideas to come out of the peace talks going on in Naypyitaw right now, one ethnic Mon leader suggested in a statement released today that changing the name of the country from Myanmar to, well, something else could create a more inclusive nation.

The country was called Burma after independence until the military changed it to Myanmar in 1989, with one of the junta’s arguments being that “Myanmar” wasn’t specific to the dominant ethnic group, the Bamar, or Burmese.

But in reality there isn’t much of a difference between the two names.

“This name just represents only one ethnic group,” Nai Hong Sar, the vice chairman of the New Mon State Party and an experience peace negotiator, told reporters after speaking on the third day of the five-day 21st century Panglong conference in the capital. “A real union should have a name that can represent every ethnicity or that can represent a region.” 

Several representatives from ethnic groups, the government, the military and political parties, among others, read statements today at the conference.  

It seems unlikely that Myanmar would change its name again, just as many in the world have adapted to it, and Aung San Suu Kyi, who stuck with Burma for political reasons as she opposed the junta, has not made it an issue. 

Government officials did not seem so excited about the idea, but were open to discussion.

“There will be diversity as everyone is discussing their own opinion,” said Zaw Htay, spokesman for the president’s office.

U Nyan Win, a central executive committee member of Suu Kyi’s party, said the issue could be brought before historians.

“But, the important thing is the spirit, not the word. The name of the country is not that important,” he said.

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