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Burma is Actually Myanmar

In 1989, the ruling military junta officially changed the nation of Burma’s name to Myanmar. Though the United Nations and many European countries began using the name Myanmar after the change, the United States and the United Kingdom continued to use the name Burma.  On the other hand, the World Bank, at least informally, refers to the nation as Myanmar in their documents. There are two main reasons people today continue to use the country’s original name –

  1. Burma’s name was changed by an unelected, oppressive military regime, making it illegitimate. People, furthermore, often refuse to use the name Myanmar in solidarity for the Burmese people.
  2. The media continues to use the name Burma since their audience recognizes it, thus reinforcing the public’s usage of Burma as the nation’s name.

Burma is one of the poorest countries in the world

Poverty can be measured using various indicators and measures but a widely respected tool is the multi-dimensional poverty index, which ranks Burma as 14th from the bottom out of 109 countries. Burma is rich in natural resources; they supply 80% of the world teak and were once the greatest exporter of rice. However, power imbalances and repression have left Burma in poverty.

They are also one of the most repressed countries

Burma has been under a repressive military regime since 1962 while sanctions against this regime have been in place for the past decade. As it stands, many blame the poverty in Burma on the political unrest in the region. For example in the 2011 budget, 23.6% ($2 billion) was allocated to military spending and a mere 1.3% ($110 million) was spent on health. It is not surprising then that the average life expectancy in Burma is only 65.

Burmese women struggle for rights

Human rights are grossly insufficient in Burma, especially for women. Burmese women are often raped by the military, a crime that usually goes unpunished. There are deep rooted gender stereotypes held about women in Burma which has silenced women and forbidden them from participating in the political arena for a very long time. Though human rights organizations are fighting to help women earn the rights they deserve, progress has been slow.

The UNDP is investing in Burma

Last year the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) signed a 3 year Country-Programme Action plan outlining the support and engagement the UNDP will give to Burma. The UNDP’s Administrator Helen Clark believes that Burma (Myanmar) has great potential for economic growth. However, in order for Burma to grow, the UNDP must help eradicate extreme poverty and build a peaceful and inclusive population.    As such, the UNDP’s Country-Programme will pour $150 million U.S. dollars into the Burma from 2013-2015 to strengthen democratic and local governance, support the environment and disaster management as well as to aid in poverty reduction.

Elizabeth Brown

Sources: Significane Magazine, CIA, BBC, UNDP, World Bank, Women’s League of Burma
Photo: Socwall