Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Burma: In Need Of Understanding

I wish someone other than Michael Sullivan was reporting from Burma right now. I don't trust his mechanical statements. It's too bad that Doualy Xaykaothao isn't there. She's a much more perceptive and understanding reporter, but I'm sure Big Mike got the gig for a wide variety of reasons. (Maybe because he's a guy. Never mind that for centuries in Burmese society, women have had nearly equal status as men.)

I've said this before, but I have a pet peeve about the media choosing 'Myanmar' or 'Burma'. The US and other governments, as well as the BBC have wisely stuck with 'Burma', while the rest of the media, fearful that they'll be accused of cultural imperialism or something, goes with the name chosen by an utterly corrupt and paranoid military junta. To me, this is similar to the Pol Pot regime's changing 'Cambodia' to 'Kampuchea'. Both 'Myanmar' and 'Kampuchea' are historically valid names, but it is their appropriation by repressive governments that makes the usage spurious. Besides, western media people don't even agree on how to pronounce 'Myanmar'. Is it 'MEE-anmar', 'M-YANmar', or some other poppycock? Pronounced correctly, 'Burma' and 'Myanmar' sound closely alike, thus the original anglicizing of the name.

When they start calling China Chung guo, India Bharat, Greece Hellas, and Italy Italia, then maybe I'll take them seriously in their attempts at accuracy. Just stick with Burma, folks. Believe it or not, it's the politically correct thing to do.

As for the paranoia of the Burmese junta, the only bit of background that I've heard on NPR as to WHY they're so paranoid has been from Doualy Xaykaothao, who took the time in one of her reports to investigate the matter (i.e. the junta is paranoid about western attempts to overthrow their regime, etc.).

1 comment:

  1. Um. Not sure I agree here. There are repressive regimes everywhere. Isn't Burma a colonial name? I don't know, I'm just asking, honestly. The fact that the US "officially" chooses to apply its preferred name, Burma, makes me automatically inclined to go with the name the country chooses, even if by corrupt leaders. But I could be wrong.