Khin Maung Saw – Burma or Myanmar? Burmese or Burman? Rangoon or Yangon?
In May 1989 the present ruling military junta called the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) reintroduced back the indigenous name “Myanmar” for Burma and requested the United Nations and other World Bodies to call their country “Myanmar”. Because of that some people became confused, some raised the following complaints:
- The military junta changed the name of the country from her original name “Burma” to the new name “Myanmar”.
- The name “Myanmar” does not represent the whole territory of Burma.
- It is a Burmanized word and therefore it is a violation of the rights of the indigenous minorities by Burmanization.
- The term “Myanmar” cannot represent all ethnic groups in Burma.
- The word “Burmese” represents all citizens of Burma, and the word “Burman” is only for the Bamas, the biggest ethnic group in Burma.
- The government is burmanizing the whole union by changing cities’ names.
These complaints were often discussed in the newspapers, internet discussion groups, e-mails, journals and books. In this paper the present author will try to find out whether these complaints will meet all available authentic historical facts or not and will carefully scrutinize the roots of the evolution of these complaints.
- Burmese or Burman?
Actually the words “Burmese” and “Burman” are the same. It represents only the most dominant ethnic group, the Bamas, about 65% to 70% of the total population of Burma. The present author sincerely believes that the names “Burmese” and “Burman” evolved because of the “Divide and Rule” policy of the British. The British authorities divided the territories of Burma into two major parts and invented the two different names by calling “Burma Proper” and “Frontier Hill Areas of Burma”. In the mean time they invented the two different names for the people of Burma. Instead of calling them the Burmese, the Karens, the Shans, the Chins etc., they introduced the term “the Burmans” for the Bamas , the majority ethnic group and named all other ethnic groups “the Burmese”. However, some American Baptists who stayed in Burma, especially in the “Frontier Hill Areas of Burma” for the Christianization of ethnic minorities, did not follow this definition. Instead they reversed the definition by 180 degrees by naming the Bamas, the ethnic majority, “the Burmese”, and their term “the Burmans” was for the people of Burma. From that time on the problem of “the Burmese” and “the Burman” evolved.
In fact, these British Colonial Authorities’ and American Baptist Missions’ definitions of “the Burmese” and “the Burman” were and are never accepted by the people of Burma. If one was to ask a Karen or a Shan or Chin or even a Tavoyan (an ethnic group in southern Burma speaking a Burmese dialect), “Are you a Burmese or a Burman?” his or her answer will no doubt be, “I’m neither a Burmese nor a Burman. I’m a Karen/Shan/Chin/Tavoyan, but I’m a citizen of Burma” etc. Even under colonial rule as well as in post-independent era these definitions were neither popular nor accepted by the people of Burma. But, anyway, because of those above mentioned fabricated definitions some people still confuse between those two words although they were and are identical.
III. Burma or Myanmar?
Actually, the words “Myanmar” and “Burma” are like “Deutschland” and “Germany”, “Suomi” and “Finland” or “Españia” and “Spain”. Throughout the successive periods of the pre-colonial era and even under the colonial rule the Burmese called their country, themselves and their language Myanmar. It is like the way the Japanese call themselves Nippon and the Hungarians call themselves Magyar.
The holiest River for the Hindus was and is Ganges. In the ancient times, the Hindu people of the Subcontinent named the place at the east of their another big river as “Brahma Desa” meaning “the Land of Brahma” and that big river as ‘Brahma Puttra” meaning ‘The son of Brahma”. That Brahma Desa was the place which is now Burma. Going far to the east inside Brahma Desa, there is another big river, even can be bigger than ‘Brahma Puttra’, it is the Irrawaddy, the biggest river of Burma nowadays. The name is the corruption of the Pali or Sanskrit word ‘Indra Vati’ which can roughly be translated as ‘the Ruling Place of God Indra.’
That Hindi word “Brahma Desa” was adapted by the Portuguese later in the 15th Century A.D and called that country “Birmania”. It was adopted by the French as “Birmanie” and became the German word ‘Birma’. The British called ‘Brahma’ with their own pronunciation ‘Burma’. On the other hand, the first ever recorded European who visited Burma, Marco Polo, mentioned the country as ‘the kingdom of Mien’. Marco Polo was in China before he visited Burma. The Burmese called their own land Myanmar and the Chinese named this country ”Mien Tien” and the people ‘Mien’.
The Burmese (Myanmars) traditionally believed that they were the descendants of the four superior gods, the four “Brahmas” who came down from the abode of “Brahmas“. Two of whom became women and the other two became men, and settled in the basin of the Irrawaddy River. Because of that traditional belief they themselves pronounced Bama in coloquial, the corruption of Brahma.
These Myanmars or Bamas established their empire with the capital city of Pagan (Bagan in Burmese pronunciation) in the central Burma plains. The word Pagan is believe to be corrupted form of the Pali word “Pyugarma” meaning the village of the Pyus. Some historains believe the word Pagan is the deviated from “Pyugarma– Pugarma– Pugam– Pagan”. This theory is very possible because the Burmese spelling of Pagan isပုဂံ (PUGAM). When the Burmese king Aniruda (Anawrahta) conquered the rival Mon kingdoms of Suvanna Bhummi (Thaton) and Hamsawadi (Pegu), almost all of the modern territories of Burma belonged to the Pagan (Bagan) Empire which was named “the first Burmese Empire” by some of the modern historians.
Starting from the 11th. Century the Burmese (Burman) who called themselves Myanmar became the most dominant ethnic group in Burma. Their predecessors in the Irrawaddy basin, the Pyus have already been assimilated into the Burmese society. That was the reason why old Myanmars were often named as “Pyus” by their cousins.
The Chinese called their southern neighbors, these Myanmars (Burmese or Burman) ”Mien” and their country “Mien Tien”. These Myanmars from Pagan area were called Pangatha (Bagantha) meaning the people of Pagan (Bagan) by the other Myanmar-dialect speaking people like Tavoyans (Daweitha) and Merguian (Beiktha). The Mons called these Myanmars Mirma. Later, these Myanmars in the central plains were named the “Bamas” by their cousins.
That’s why the country and people are called “Phama” by the Thais, “Phumea” by the Khmers and “Barama” by the Indians (the people from the Subcontinent). When the Portuguese came to Burma via India they called it in their own pronunciation “Birmania”, hence the French word “Birmanie”, the German word “Birma” and the English word “Burma”, all are derivations of that Indo-Portuguese version. The first European who wrote about Burma, Marco Polo, who came via China and not via India, on the other hand, recorded the country as “Mien”.
Here I would like to cite some sources:
(1) Yule, Henry , Colonel and Burnell, A. C., Hobson-Jobson, (First published 1886), Calcutta, reprinted 1990, p. 131.
Burma, Burmah (with Burmese &c.) n.p. The name by which we designate the ancient kingdom and nation occupying the central basin of the Irawaddi River. “British Burma” is constituted of the provinces conquered from that kingdom in the two wars of 1824-26 and 1852-53, viz. (in the first Arakan, Martaban and Tenasserim, and (in the second) Pegu. [ Upper Burma and the Shan States were annexed after the third war of 1885.]
The name is taken from Mran-ma, the national name of the Burmese People, which they themselves generally pronounce Bam-ma, unless when speaking formally and emphatically. Sir Arthur Phayre considers that this name was in all probability adopted by the Mongoloid tribes of the Upper Irrawadi, on the conversion to Buddhism by missionaries from Gangetic India, and is identical with that (Bram-ma) by which the first and holy inhabitants of the world are styled in the (Pali) Buddhist Scriptures. Brama-desa was the term applied to the country by a Singhalese monk returning thence to Ceylon, in conversation with one of the present writers. It is however the view of Bishop Bigandet and of Prof. Forchhammer, supported by considerable arguments, that Mran, Myan, or Myen was the original name of the Burmese people, and is traceable in the names given to them by their neighbors; e.g. by the Chinese Mien and (in Marco Polo); by the Kakhyens , Myen or Mren ; by Shans, Man ; by Sgaw Karens, Payo ; by Pgaw Karens, Payan ; by Paloungs, Paran, &c. (Forchhammer argues further that the original name was Ran or Yan, with m‘, ma, or pa as a pronominal accent). Prof. Forchhammer considers that Mran-ma (with this honorific suffix) does not date beyond the 14th century. [In J. R. A. Soc. 1894, p. 152 seqq.], Mr. St. John suggests that the word Myamma is derived from myan, ‘swift’, and ma, ‘strong’, and was taken as a soubriquet by the people at some early date, perhaps in the time of Anawrahta, A.D. 1150.]
(2) သိပၸံစိုးရင္၊ ျမန္မာ့ယၪ္ေက်းမႈသမိုင္း၊ ရန္ကုန္၊ ၁၉၆၈၊ စာမ်က္ႏွာ ၅၆ – ၅၉ (Theippan Soe Yin, History of the Burmese Culture, Rangoon, 1968, pp. 56-59)
ျမန္မာဟူေသာေဝါဟာရကို ပထမဦးစြာ အေစာဆံုး သကၠရာဇ္ ၄၅၂ (ေအဒီ ၁၁၉၀) ပုဂံၿမိဳ႕ ေတာင္ဂူနီ ေက်ာက္စာတြင္ စတင္ ေတြ႕ရပါသည္။ ထိုသကၠရာဇ္ထက္ အႏွစ္ ၉၀ ခန္႔ ေစာေသာ က်န္စစ္မင္းႀကီး၏ နန္းတည္မြန္ေက်ာက္စာ (၁၁၀၂ ေအဒီ) တြင္ မိရမာ ဟူ၍ေရးထိုးထားသည္ကိုေတြ႕ရ၏။ ေအဒီ ၁၃၄၂ တြင္ ေရးထိုးသည့္ ျမန္မာေက်ာက္စာတြင္ ၿမံမာ ဟူ၍ေရးထိုးထားသည္ကို အေစာဆံုး ေတြ႕ရ၏။ ထိုေနာက္ ေက်ာက္စာမ်ားႏွင့္မင္စာမ်ားတြင္ ျမန္မာ၊ ၿမံမာ၊ သို႕မဟုတ္ ျမမၼာ ဟူ၍ေရးထိုးလာၾကသည္ကို ေတြ႕ရွိရျပန္
Translation: “The Tounguni Inscription finished in B.E. 492 (A.D. 1190) in Pagan (Bagan) was the earliest inscription in which the word Myanmar was found. In Kyansittha’s Palace Inscription, which was approximately 90 years older than the above mentioned inscription and written in the Mon language (1102 A.D) the word Mirma was used. The orthography “Myamar” could be found in one stone inscription from A.D 1342 written in the Burmese language. In later inscriptions in the Burmese Language all three orthographic forms Myanmar, Myamar and Myammar were applied.
တရုတ္ရာဇဝင္မွတ္တမ္းမ်ားအလိုအားျဖင့္ ေရွးလြန္ေလၿပီးေသာအခါက ျမန္မာႏုိင္ငံကို ေစာပိုး ဟု ေခၚဆိုၾက ၍ တရုတ္ ဟန္မင္းမ်ားလက္ထက္ (ဘီစီ ၂၀၂ – ေအဒီ ၂၆၃) တြင္ ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံကို ဘန္ ဟု ေခၚဆိုလ်က္ တရုတ္ တန္မင္းမ်ားလက္ထက္ ( ေအဒီ ၆၁၈ – ၉၀၇) တြင္ ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံမွာ ပိေယာ (ပ်ဴ) ဟု ေခၚဆိုၾကသည္။ ဆြန္မင္းမ်ားလက္ထက္ ( ေအဒီ ၉၆၀ – ) တြင္ မိယင္ ဟု ေခၚဆိုသည္ ဟု သိရွိရပါသည္။ ထိုမင္းတို႔ လက္ထက္မွ မိယင္တို႔သည္ တရုတ္တို႔ ႏွင့္ ဆက္ဆံသြားလာမႈမ်ာစတင္ျပဳလုပ္ၾကသည္ဟုဆို၏။ မိယင္ဆို ေသာအမည္မွာ ျမန္မာဆို ေသာအမည္ကိုအဖ်ားဆြတ္၍ ေခၚဆိုေရးမွတ္ျခင္းျဖစ္လိမ့္မည္ဟု သုေတသီမ်ား ကယူဆၾက ပါသည္။ တနည္းအားျဖင့္ဆိုေသာ္ တရုတ္မင္းတို႔က ေအဒီ ၆၁၈ – ၉၀၇ အထိ ျမန္မာႏုိင္ငံတြင္ ပ်ဴ ဟူ၍သာ အသိအမွတ္ျပဳခဲ့သည္။ ျမန္မာဟူ၍ ထင္ေပၚျခင္းရွိဟန္မတူေသးေပ။ ျမန္မာတို႔ကို အသိအ မွတ္ျပဳလာသည္မွာ ေအဒီ ၉၆၀ ခုႏွစ္ခန္႔ကမွအစျပဳသည္ဟုယူဆရပါသည္။ ျမန္မာ့ေရွးေဟာင္းသမိုင္း အဆို အရလည္း ပုဂံကိုသကၠရာဇ္ ၂၁၁ (ေအဒီ ၈၄၉) ခုႏွစ္တြင္ တည္သည္ဆိုထားသျဖင့္ ယုတၱိရွိသည္ဟု ဆိုရေပ မည္။
Translation: According to the Chinese Chronicles, in the ancient times they used the term Chao Po for the country which is now Burma. During the “Han Dynasty” (B.C.202 – A.D. 263) the name used for “Burma” was Ban. “Burma” was mentioned as Piao (Pyu) during the “Tang Dynasty” (A.D. 618 – 907) . In the “Sung Dynasty” (established A.D 960) they applied the term Mien. According to those records the Miens had very good trade and other relationships with the Chinese. Some scholars believed that the word Mien must be the short form of Myanmar. In other words, the Chinese recorded only Pyus in Burma until A.D 907 which meant that the Myanmars or Burmese were unknown to them until that date. Only starting from A.D 960 the Chinese began recognizing the Myanmars or the Burmese. The Burmese Chronicles also stated that Pagan (Bagan) was established in B.E 211 (849 A.D.). Therefore, the statement of the Chinese Chronicles was very reasonable.
ပုဂံေခတ္၊ အင္းဝေခတ္၊ ကုန္းေဘာင္ေခတ္၌ ေရးထိုးၾကသည့္ ေက်ာက္စာအားလံုး၌ ပင္ ျမန္မာဟူေသာ အေရးအသားကို ေတြ႕ရၿပီး အင္းဝေခတ္ႏွင့္ကုန္းေဘာင္ေခတ္တြင္ ေရးထိုးၾက သည့္ အနည္းငယ္မွ်ေသာ ေက်ာက္စာမ်ား၌သာ ၿမံမာ၊ ျမမၼာ ဟူေသာ အေရးအသားမ်ားကို ေတြ႕ရွိရပါသည္။ သို႔ျဖစ္ေသာေၾကာင့္ ျမန္မာ ဟူေသာအေခၚအေဝၚသည္သာ ပုဒ္ရင္းျဖစ္ေပသည္။
Translation: In most of the stone inscriptions written during the Pagan, Ava and Konbaung Eras, the orthography Myanmar was mainly used. The application of the other orthographic versions of Myamar and Myammar was very rare and could be found only in very few inscriptions written during the Ava and Konbaung Dynasties. Therefore the orthographic form Myanmar is the original and correct one.
အခ်ိဳ႕ပညာရွင္မ်ားက ျမန္မာဆိုသည္တြင္ ျမန္ ပုဒ္ကို လ်င္ျမန္၊ ျမန္ဆန္သည္ ဆိုေသာအနက္ကိုယူၿပီး၊ မာ ပုဒ္ကို လြန္ကဲ၊ ႀကီးမားဆိုေသာအနက္ကိုေကာက္၍ ျမန္မာဟူသည္ လြန္စြာလ်င္ျမန္သူ ဟူ၍ အဓိပၸါယ္ ေပးေလသည္။ ေရွးကျမန္မာတို႔သည္ အလြန္လ်င္ျမန္စြာ လႈပ္ရွားသြားလာလုပ္ကိုင္ျပဳက်င့္သူေတြ ျဖစ္ၾက သည္။ ထိုေနာက္ အလြန္လ်င္ျမန္စြာပင္ တိုးတက္ႀကီးပြားခဲ့သည္ဟု အနက္အဓိပၸါယ္ဖြင့္ဆိုၾကပါသည္။
Translation: Some scholars interpreted that the word “Myanmar” came from the words “Myan” meaning: quick, fast and “Mar” meaning: extreme, huge, gigantic and therefore the word “Myanmar” means the extreme quick person. They verified their explanation by saying that the old “Myanmars” (Burmese) were fast and energetic. As a result, they became very quickly the most dominant ethnic group in the country which is now Burma.
အခ်ိဳ႕သုေတသီမ်ားကမူ ျမန္မာတို႔သည္ ေရွးအခါက အလြန္လ်င္ျမန္စြာ လႈပ္ရွားသြားလာလုပ္ကိုင္ေဆာင္ ရြက္ေလ့ရွိသည္မွာ ျမင္းကိုစီးေလ့ရွိျခင္း၊ ျမင္းစီးအတတ္၌ကြၽမ္းက်င္ျခင္း၊ ျမင္းစီး၍ လႈပ္ရွားသြားလာတိုက္ ခိုက္ေလ့ရွိျခင္းေၾကာင့္ ျမန္မာဟုေခၚသည္ ဟုယူဆၾကပါသည္။ ျမန္မာတြင္ ျမန္ ပုဒ္ကို ျမင္း ဟူ၍ အနက္ ယူဆလိုၾက၏။ မာ ပုဒ္ကို ႀကီးမားလြန္ကဲေသာဟုယူဆလ်က္ ျမန္မာ၏အနက္သည္ ျမင္းစီးႀကီး ဟု ေပၚထြက္ လာေလသည္။
Translation: Some scholars considered that the reason for the quick mobilizing of the old “Myanmars” was because of their expertise in horse riding and they were always together with their horses. In their opinion the origin of the word “Myan” was “Myin” meaning: horse, and “Ma” means “extreme” and therefore the term “Myanmar” should be interpreted as “good horse rider”.
(3) Myo Min, Old Burma, Rangoon, 1948, p. 2.
In writing about the Kingdom of Mien (i.e., Myan-ma) Marco Polo made no claim to have visited the country itself, though he seemed to have got as far south as the western part of Yun-nan. His description of the battle of Nga-Saung-gyan, which marked the beginning of the disruption of the Pagan Empire in the reign of King Narathihapate is wonderfully vivid and accurate. Marco Polo called it a memorable battle by which the Grand (Kublai) Khan effected the conquest of the Kingdom of Mien and Bengala, apparently because some outlying eastern parts of Bengal were parts of the Burmese Empire then.
Therefore, the statement of the present military government that the word “Myanmar” was the original name for “Burma” is correct. At the same time it is also not wrong when one accuses that it is an act of Burmanization.
- Does Myanmar represent all ethnic groups in Burma?
The definition or Statement: “Myanmar represents all citizens of Burma” is a new concept. The earliest sources I found was during the Burmese Socialists Programme Party’s Era (1974-88). The following are some sources:
(1) ျပည္ေထာင္စုဆိုရွယ္လစ္သမၼတ ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံေတာ္၊ ပညာေရးဝန္ႀကီးဌာန၊ ျမန္မာစာအဖြဲ႕၊ ျမန္မာအဘိ ဓာန္ အက်ၪ္းခ်ဳပ္၊ ရန္ကုန္၊ ၁၉၇၉၊ အတြဲ ၃၊ စာမ်က္ႏွာ ၁၉၈။ The Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma, the Ministry of Education, the Burmese Language Commission, the Burmese-Burmese Dictionary, Rangoon, 1979, vol. III, p.198.
ျမန္မာ – န / မ်န္မာ / ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံတြင္ ႏွစ္ကာလၾကာရွည္စြာ အစၪ္အဆက္ ပ်ံ႕ႏွံ႕စြာ အတူတကြ အေျခစိုက္ေနထိုင္ေသာ တိုင္းရင္းသားလူမ်ိဳး ။ (Rough translation: Myanmar –n /mjanmar/ All ethnic groups who were the natives of Burma.)
As a contradiction one can see also in page 99 of the same book, same volume:
ဗမာ – န / ဗမာ / ျမန္မာ ဟူေသာစကားလံုးကို ရြတ္ဆို ေခၚေဝၚရာ၌ ထြက္ေသာအသံ။ ျမန္မာ – န၊ လည္းရႈ။ (Rough translation: Bamar –n /Bama/ The colloquial usage of the word Myanmar. See also Myanmar n.)
(2) The Myanmar-English Dictionary, the Department of Myanmar Language Commission, Yangon,1993 , page 311
ဗမာ /bamar/ n 1 Bamar: Burmese; Burman. 2 Same as ျမန္မာ …..etc.
But in page 373 of that dictionary the new definition of “Myanmar” can also be seen: ျမန္မာ / mjanma / n 1 the people of Myanmar. 2 (a) Same as bma n; Bamar; (b) (no longer current) Burmese; Burman.
Apart of the above mentioned sources I failed to find any standard literature which provides an explanation of the word “Myanmar” as “People of Burma (Myanmar)”. On the other hand, there are enough literature and sources which state that the word Myanmar means the ethnic group, the Bama, or the “Burmese” and their language only. The following are some sources:
(1) ဗိုလ္္ဘရွင္၊ ျမန္မာ ႏိုင္ငံေတာ္သမိုင္း၊ ရန္ကုန္၊ ၁၉၅၀၊ စာမ်က္ႏွာ ၆၈။ (Bo Ba Shin, The History of the Union of Burma, Rangoon, 1950, p. 68)
က်န္စစ္သား၏စည္းလံုးေရးဝါဒ၊ ထိုအခါက ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံတြင္ အေရးပါအရာေရာက္ဆံုးေသာ အဓိကလူမ်ိဳးႀကီး ၂ မ်ိဳးမွာ ျမန္မာႏွင့္မြန္လူမ်ိဳးတို႔ ျဖစ္ၾကသည္။
Rough translation: The Organization Policy of King Kyansittha: At that time there were two most dominant ethnic groups in Burma namely the Myanmars and the Mons.
It was also written in page 49:
ျမန္မာတို႔ ေနထိုင္ရာေဒသ၏ ေျမာက္ယြန္းတြင္ တေကာင္းၿမိဳ႕ကို ဗဟိုျပဳေသာ သက္လူမ်ိဳးတို႕၏ နယ္ရွိ၏။ ျမန္မာ့ေဒသ၏ေတာင္ဘက္၌ စေကာ (ကရင္)တို႔ ႀကီးစိုးလ်က္ရွိ၏။ စစ္ေတာင္းျမစ္ဝွမ္း၌ကား မြန္လူမ်ိဳးမ်ား၊ ၎တို႔ႏွင့္အႏြယ္တူသူမ်ား ေနထိုင္လ်က္ရွိ၏။
Rough translation: At the north of the place where Myanmars lived there was the city of Tagaung, the centre of the Thets (Saks). At the south of the area of Myanmars it was overwhelmingly resided by the Sgaw (Karens). In the Sittaung River basin there were Mons and other ethnic groups related to them.
(2) ဦးေဖေမာင္တင္၊ ျမန္မာစာေပသမိုင္း၊ ရန္ကုန္၊ ၁၉၆၅၊ စာမ်က္ႏွာ ၁။ (U Pe Maung Tin, History of Burmese Literature, Rangoon, 1965, p. 1.)
ထို႔ေၾကာင့္ ထိုေခတ္က ပ်ဴဘာသာ၊ ပါဠိဘာသာႏွင့္မြန္ဘာသာတို႔ကို ျမန္မာဘာသာႏွင့္အတူသံုးခဲ့သည္မွာ ထင္ရွားေပသည္။
Rough translation: Therefore it is probably safe to say that at that time (during the Pagan Dynasty) the Pyu language, the Pali language and Mon languages were also used simultaneously with the Myanmar (Burmese) language.
(3) ေမၿမိဳ႕မိုးၾကည္၊ ျမန္မာစာေပသမိုင္းသစ္၊ ရန္ကုန္၊ ၁၉၆၈၊ စာမ်က္ႏွာ ၁၈။ (Maymyo Moe Kyi, A New History of the Burmese Literature, Rangoon, 1968, p. 18)
ျမန္မာတို႔သည္ ျမန္မာစာထြင္ၿပီးသည့္ ၁၁ ရာစုမတိုင္မီက မွတ္တမ္းတင္စရာရွိခဲ့လွ်င္ ပါဠိဘာသာ၊ မြန္ဘာသာ တို႔ျဖင့္ေရးသည္ဟု မွတ္ယူရမည္။
Rough translation: Before they have invented their own scripts in the 11th century, the Myanmars had recorded their inscriptions either in Pali or in Mon.
(4) ဦးသိန္းဟန္၊ ျပည္ေထာင္စုသမိုင္းမွတ္တိုင္မ်ား၊ ရန္ကုန္၊ ၁၉၅၇၊ စာမ်က္ႏွာ ၃၅။ (U Thein Han, A Brief History of the Union, Rangoon, 1957, p. 35
နန္ေခ်ာင္စစ္သည္တ႔ို ေၾကာင့္ ပ်ဴႏွင့္မြန္တို႔ ကစၪ့္ကလ်ားျဖစ္ေနၾကေသာအခိုက္တြင္ ျမန္မာဟုေခၚေသာ လူမ်ိဳးမ်ားႏွင့္ ျမန္မာအႏြယ္ဝင္တု႔ိသည္ သံလြင္ျမစ္ေၾကာင္းကိုလိုက္၍ ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံနယ္ေျမအတြင္းသို႔ ဝင္လာ ၾကသည္။
Rough translation: While the Mons and the Pyus became weak because of the invasion of the soldiers from the kingdom of Nan Chao, the ethnic group of Myanmars and the other ethnic groups related to the Myanmars emmigrated to Burma along the Salween River.
(5) ေမာင္ထင္၏အမွာစာ၊ ဦးတင္ျမင့္တည္းျဖတ္ေသာ ဦးပုည၏ လက္ေရြးစၪ္ စာမ်ား၊ (ေက်ာဖံုး)၊ ရန္ကုန္၊ ၁၉၆၈။ (Comments of Maung Htin, “Selected Works of U Ponnya” (back cover), edited by U Tin Myint, Rangoon 1968)
ဦးပုည၏စာတု႔ိသည္လူ႕ဘဝကို မွန္ေထာင္ျပသကဲ့သို႔ ျပႏိုင္ျခင္းေၾကာင့္ ဦးပုည၏စာသည္ ျမန္မာတ႔ို ႏွင့္သာ ဆိုင္သည္မဟုတ္။ ခ်င္း၊ ကခ်င္၊ ကရင္၊ ကယား၊ ရွမ္း၊ မြန္၊ ရခိုင္ တို႔ႏွင့္သာဆိုင္သည္မဟုတ္၊လူ႕ေလာက တရပ္လံုးႏွင့္လည္း ဆိုင္ေပသည္။
Rough translation: Since U Ponnya’s works are like the mirror of the life of human beings, his works do not belong only to the Myanmars, Chins, Kachins, Karens, Kayahs, Shans, Mons, Rakhines (Arakanese) etc. but also for all human beings.
In any case, the present author does not share the view of the definition “Myanmar represents all ethnic groups of Burma”. Here I am obligated to stress three important points:
(1) The traditional Burmese saying of the division of the 101 races or ethnic groups on the world stated ျမန္မာသတၱ၊ မြန္ေလးဝ ႏွင့္ ကုလား ၆၀၊ ရွမ္း ၃၀။ which can be roughly translated as “there are seven groups of Myanmars, four groups of Mons, 60 groups of Indians (or Westerners) and 30 groups of Shans”. So only the seven Myanmar-dialect speaking peoples like the Arakanese (Rakhines), the Tavoyans (Daweithas), Merguians (Beikthas), Inthas, Danus, Yaws etc., and not the other ethnic groups like the Karens, Shans, Mons, Kachins, Chins etc. belong to the main ethnic group of “Myanmar”.
(2) Not only the Burmese, but also the other Myanmar(Burmese)-dialects speaking peoples used the word “Myanmar or Mranmar” for themselves too. The Arakanese (Rakhines) used to call themselves မရမာ “Mramar” until the “Mrauk-U Dynasty (A.D. 1430-1784). Under these “Mramars” they are subdivided into (a) ရခိုင္သား “Rakhaing-tha” meaning the people of “Rakhaing” who were the people living in the capital city ရခိုင္ၿမိဳ႕ “Rakhaing-Mro” or ဓညဝတီ Dhanyawadi ( ေျမာက္ဦး Mrauk-U), (b) ရမ္းၿဗဲသား “Rambree-tha” meaning the people of ရမ္းၿဗဲ ကြၽန္း Ramree Island or ရာမာဝတီ Rammarwadi, (c) သံတြဲသား “Thandwe-tha” meaning people of သံတြဲ Thandwe (Sandoway) or ဒြါရာဝတီ Dwarawadi, the second city then and it’s province, (d) မန္ေအာင္သား “Man-Aung-tha meaning the people of မန္ေအာင္ကြၽန္း “Man-Aung” (Cheduba) Island, or ေမဃဝတီ Megawadi (e) အေနာက္သား “Anauk-tha” literal meaning Westerners or “our compatriots in the west” in which they mentioned the Rakhaing (Arakanese) who lived in the western part of the Arakanese Kingdom which now became Chittagong District in Bangladesh, (f) အေရွ႕သား Ashay-tha meaning the Easterners or “our compatriots in the east” which included the ဗမာ Bama or the Burmese and ထားဝယ္သား Dawei-tha (literally: the people of Tavoy, but here they mean for all people of Tenasserim Province). The ဗမာ Bama were sub-divided into ပုဂံသား Pagan-tha (the people of Pagan), အဝသား Awa-tha (the people of Ava), ျပည္သား Pre-tha (the people of Prome or Pyay), ေတာင္ငူသား Toungoo-tha (the people of Toungoo). Here are some sources:
(a) ရခိုင္ ဆရာေတာ္၊ ဓညဝတီအေရးေတာ္ပံု၊ ျမန္မာမင္းမ်ားအေရးေတာ္ပံု၊ ရန္ကုန္၊ ၁၉၆၇၊ စာမ်က္ႏွာ ၇၆။
(Rakhaing Sayadaw, Dhanyawadi A-yedaw-bon, in Myanmar Minmyar A-yedaw-bon, (Original writing in 18th century), Rangoon (reprinted 1967, p. 76)
အရွင္မင္းျမတ္၊ မရမာႏွင့္ကုလားသည္ လူျခင္းသာတူပါသည္၊ စိတ္ခ်င္းမတူပါ။ မရမာတို႔ မိရုိးဖလာ အယူ အက်င့္ မွာ ဘုရား တရား သံဃာ ဤသံုးပါးရတနာျမတ္ကို ေစာင့္ထိမ္းမွသာ သာသနာတည္သည္။ ယင္းသို႔ေသာတရားႏွင့္ ကုလားအယူမတူေခ်။ ဓာတ္ေတာ္ေမြေတာ္မ်ားကို အၪၥၥလီ လက္အုပ္ခ်ီမိျငားအံ့၊ လက္ကိုျဖတ္ပစ္ေစ၊ ယင္းသို႔ ကုလားဘုရားအမွာက်မ္းဂံရွိသည္ဆို၍အယူႏွင့္ေနသူမ်ား ျဖစ္ပါသည္။
Rough translation: “Your Majesty, we, the Mramars and they, the Kalas (here Bengali Muslims) are same only in one fact that both races are human beings but we are very different in mentality. We, Mramars traditionally believe in “the three gems” namely Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, but they don’t have this kind of faith. They said: It was written in their scriptures that if one worshiped the statues and relics, his (or her) hand should be cut off. It were the wish of their god”.
(b) မဟာပညာေက်ာ္ေလွ်ာက္ထံုး၊ ဟံသာဝတီပံုႏွိပ္တိုက္၊ ရန္ကုန္၊ ၁၉၆၄၊ စာမ်က္ႏွာ ၅၄။ (Maha Pyinyagyaw Shaukhton, Hanthawaddy Press, Rangoon, 1964, p. 54.)
ရုံမင္းကုိယ္တိုင္ လက္ေဆာင္ပဏၰာအမ်ား သေဘၤာ ၁၀၀ ႏွင့္လာေရာက္ဆက္သၿပီးေသာ္ မရမာဘာသာ စာမ်ားသင္၍ ေျခေတာ္ရင္းတြင္ ကြၽန္ေတာ္ခံပါမည္ေလွ်ာက္ၿပီး ရုံမင္းသားအလတ္ ရွာအလင္ကို ေစသံုးရန္ ကြၽန္ ၁၀၀၀ ေပးအပ္ထားခဲ့ၿပီးမွ ရုံမင္း ျပန္ေလသည္။ ျပည့္ရွင္မင္းႀကီးကလည္း ရုံမင္းသားရွာအလင္ကို စားေက်း ကုလားရြာ ေဂါေတာပလႅင္ကို ေပးေတာ္မူျပီးမွ အမတ္ႀကီးသို႔အပ္ေတာ္မူ၍ မရမာဘာသာအကၡရာ မ်ားကို သင္ေပးေစသည္။
Translation: The Sultan of Roang came personally with 100 ships, presented the tributes and promised to be loyal and to become a tributary state (of Arakan). He left his second son, Prince Shah Ali together with 1000 subjects to study Mramar language and its literature. The royal monarch (King Min Phalaung of Arakan) rewarded the Roang prince, Shah Ali with the Kala (Bengali) village called Gaw-taw-palin. The minister (Maha Pyinyagyaw) was assigned to teach them Mramar language.
(3) In the past the Mons, the Shans, the Karens etc. never used to mention themselves as “Myanmars” and one can’t make an illusion that they will mention it in the future. The Mons call the Burmese “Mirma” and the Shans (Tais) call the Burmese “Man” which are their versions of “Myanmar”. In other words, in the understanding of the other ethnic groups in Burma who do not use Myanmar-dialects, the terminology “Myanmar” means only for the “Burmese” and not even for the Rakhines and Tavoyans.
I believe that the former BSPP government as well as the present military government (SLORC) wanted to invent a new political definition, in imitation of the terms either “Thai” for all citizens of Thailand or “Indian” for all citizens of India regardless of their ethnic groups, and in this way they hoped to replace the terms “Myanmar” and “Bamar” for the confused terms the “Burmese” and the “Burmans”. It is too early to say whether this desire will be successful or not, we have to wait and see. In the past, the Burmese government during the Japanese occupation, the so-called independent government headed by Dr. Ba Maw, attempted to introduce the term “Maha-Bama” (Greater Burmese) for all ethnic groups of Burma but their attempt failed.
- Rangoon or Yangon?
According to the pagoda legend of the famous Shwe Dagon Pagoda the town was called “Okkalapa” during the time of lord Buddha. Since lower Burma was traditionally subjected to the Mon kings the town was, no doubt, a Mon town. The Mons called it “Tigum” and the Karens called it “Tergu”. The Burmese called the town with their own pronunciation “Dagon” until the conquest of the town by the Burmese king Alaung Phaya alias U Aung Zeya in 1754. Alaung Phaya changed the name toရန္ကုန္ “Yangon” meaning “all enemies are gone”. Since that time that habour town was known as “Yangon”. Though the literal pronunciation of the Burmese script ရ is “Ra” the Burmese normally do not enunciate the “Ra” but only the sound “Ya”, same as in the preceding script ယ “ya”, unless the script ရ was written in the original Pali texts where they do have to pronounce “Ra”. Therefore the town is always pronounced “Yangon” although it is written as “Rangon”. The Arakanese who really enunciate the script ရ “Ra”, on the other hand, always call the city “Ran-gon”. The British in India who used to have contact only with the Arakanese as “native speakers” of the Burmese language called the city “Rangoon” in their own version of the Arakanese pronunciation “Ran-gon”. Later when Burma was annexed by the British they made “Rangoon” the capital of Burma.
It is very funny that the Burmese (including the present author though he is an Arakanese) always pronounce their city “Yangon” whenever they speak in Burmese, however, they automatically switch to “Rangoon” whenever they speak in English.
Colonel Henry Yule wrote in “Hobson-Jobson” (first published 1886):
Rangoon, n.p. Burm. Ran-gun , said to mean ‘ War-end’; the chief town and port of Pegu. The great Pagoda in its immediate neighbourhood had long been famous under the name of Dagon (q.v.), but there was no town in modern times till Rangoon was founded by Alompra during his conquest of Pegu, in 1755. The name probably had some kind of international assonance to Da-gun, whilst it “proclaimed his forecast of the immediate destruction of his enemies”. Occupied by the British forces in May 1824, and again, taken by storm, in 1852, Rangoon has since the latter date been the capital, first of the British province of Pegu, and latterly of British Burma. It is now a flourishing port with a population of 134,176 (1881); [in 1891 180,324].
In the light of the above explanations we can see clearly that “Yangon” is not the Burmanization of “Rangoon” instead “Rangoon” was the Anglicized term based on the Arakanese pronunciation of the correct word “Yangon”.
Similarly, the transcription or transliteration of the Anglicized pronunciation of name of other towns are changed back to their original pronunciation. The following are some examples:
|Original name||Former transcription||New transcription|
In fact, not only the SLORC but also U Nu’s Government and even the “Independent Government” under the Japanese occupation headed by Dr. Ba Maw either changed or renamed back to the original name of some cities and streets which were either in foreign names or their original names were changed by the British Colonial Government to honour some British aristocrats and colonial officers. The only difference between the act of U Nu’s Government and the SLORC is: Although U Nu’s Government changed or renamed the cities and streets formally, that government was never strict in the usage either in colloquial or even in official media, so it was not so noticible like the changes done by the SLORC because the SLORC strickly reinforced the new names. Apart of that, U Nu’s Government was a democratically free-elected government, hence, nobody raised complaints. The following are two types of examples of the names which were changed or renamed under U Nu’s Era. Type A; the new names were totally accepted both in colloquial and official usages and type B; the names were officially changed, unfortunately, however, the colonial name remained either in colloquial usage or in the English language used in Burma.
က်ိဳကၡမီ (Kyaikhami) Mon
|ေျမထဲ (Mye-hte) Burmese||Alan||Aunglan|
|ေကာ့ေသာင္ (Kho Song) Thai||Victoria Point||Kaw Thaung|
|ပူတာအို (Puta-o) Kachin||Fort Hertz||Pu Ta O|
|ျပင္ဦးလြင္ (Pyin-u-lwin) Shan||May Myo (May City)||Pyin U Lwin|
|ပန္းဆိုးတန္းလမ္း(Pansodan Street) Burmese||Phayre Street||Pansodan Street|
|B.A.A Stadium||Aung San Stadium|
|U.B.A.A Stadium||Ba Htoo Stadium|
|Queen Victoria Park||Maha Bandoola Park|
Dufferin Hospital Central Women Hospital
|Dalhousie Street||Maha Bandoola Street|
|Montgomery Street||General Aung San Street|
|Fraser Street||Anawratha Street|
|Sparks Street||Bo Aung Gyaw Street|
|Colonial Name||New Name||Colloquial/Foreigners Slang|
|Scott Market||Bogyoke Aung San Market||Bogyoke Market/Scott Market|
|Godwin Road||Lanmadaw Road||Gawdwin-Lan/Godwin Road|
|Campbell Road||Ngatatkyi Pagoda Road||Kinbai-lan/Campbell Rd.|
|Moguhl Street||Shwebontha Street||Mago-lan/Moguhl Street|
Names changed by Dr. Ba Maw’s Govt: during Second World War:
(Source: Ludu U Hla သတင္းစာမ်ားေျပာျပတဲ့ စစ္အတြင္းဗမာျပည္ တတိယတြဲ၊ မႏၴေလး၊ ၁၉၆၈၊ စာမ်က္ႏွာ ၂၉၀ – ၂၉၃ ။ “Burma during the War, as written in news papers”, vol: 3, Mandalay, 1968, pp.290-293)
Group A. (Names also accepted by U Nu’s Govt: in 1948)
|Original name||Name under
က်ိဳကၡမီ (Kyaikhami) Mon
|ေျမထဲ (Mye-hte) Burmese||Alan||Mye-hte/Aunglan|
|ေကာ့ေသာင္ (Kho Song) Thai||Victoria Point||Kaw Thaung|
|သံတြဲ (Thandwe) Arakanese||Sandoway||Thandwe|
|ျပင္ဦးလြင္(Pyin-u-lwin) Shan||May Myo (May City)||Pyin U Lwin|
|ပန္းဆိုးတန္းလမ္း (Pansodan Street) Burmese||Phayre Street||Pansodan Street|
|Stockade Road||Theinbyu Road|
|Morton Road||Lanthit Street|
Campbell Road Ngahtatkyi Pagoda Rd.
|Dalhousie Street||Maha Bandoola Street|
|Thompson Road||Botahtaung Pagoda Rd.|
|Fraser Street||Anawratha Street|
|Golden Valley Road||Shwetaungyar Rd.|
Group B (Names not accepted by U Nu’s Govt: in 1948)
|British name||Changed name|
|Scott Market||Yan Naing Market|
|Montgomery Road||Yan Naing Road|
|Windermere Road||Bodigon Road|
|Goodliffe Road||Lutlatye Road|
- Analysis of the Complaints:
If we carefully scrutinize all available authentic historical facts we have to admit that “Burma” and “Myanmar” are identical, “Yangon” is the correct word and “Rangoon” is only the anglicized form. Even though some people are still complaining! How come? The answer is clear! This military junta (SLORC) had a very bad image and reputation in the internal as well as in the international media. They came to power through a blood shed “coup” and an image which worsened after the 1990 elections when they refused to surrender power to the winning party. International pressure, too, grew and became harsher and reached its peak because the opposition leader and the winner of 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of Burma’s national hero Gen. Aung San was put into house arrest since July1989. The SLORC stubbornly refused to release her from house arrest. Only in July 1995 they released her unexpectedly and unconditionally. It has been accused that there were military abuses and human rights violations of the SLORC against civilians and ethnic minorities. These news were vehemently denied by the SLORC. Anyway, international media maintains that these myths were true. As a result, many people became very antagonistic towards the SLORC. What ever the SLORC does, whether it is correct or not, is wrong for them. This is the destiny of the SLORC.
Had the free elected Burmese government under U Nu changed those names in 1948, just after independence, it would have been no problem for every one. Even the Revolutionary Council could have changed the names in 1962. Nobody would have argued against it because at that time Gen. Ne Win and his followers had a good reputation and were trusted by the people. However, both governments failed to do so. The SLORC changed the names at a very critical moment. No wonder those complaints evolved!!
When one compares between the two neighbors, Thailand and Burma, Thailand never became a colony unlike Burma. Though Thailand too, has many ethnic groups, and both countries share most of the ethnic minorities, in Thailand neither minority problems evolved clearly like in Burma nor those minorities’ rights issue was and is amplified and disseminated by the foreigners. Therefore, it can not be ruled out that the main cause of those problems can be either the “side effect” of the colonialism or one of the results of the “Divide and Rule” policy of the British .
Another possible reason is: Thailand has a ruling monarch. In Thailand everybody is supposed to be the subject of H. R. M the Thai king and everybody, including the ruling generals, has to obey his royal oders. Burma, unfortunately, has no longer a monarch, and therefore there is nobody “he who has a divine right and he who should be respected and obeyed”. Therefore some minor problems can be enlarged by some foreigners.
In the meantime the Burmanization of the SLORC is also going too far and sometimes it really violates the rights of the minorities. Actually, it is nothing wrong if they introduce the transcription for the correct Burmese pronunciation only to the pure Burmese towns. China had done similar action such as Peking to Beijing, India has changed Bombay to Mumbai etc. Unfortunately, however, the SLORC has also changed the transcription not only to the pure Burmese towns, but also for the name of the non-Burmese towns of the ethnic minorities into Burmanized pronunciation. The following are some examples:
|Name in Burmese||Former transcription||Original Pronunciation||New transcription|
|ပုသိန္ (Pathein)||Bassein||Passein Mon||Pathein|
|တီးတိန္ (Tee Dain)||Tiddim||Tiddim Chin||Tee Dain|
|က်ိဳင္းတံု (Kyaington)||Kengtung||Kentun Shan||Kyaington|
In the above mentioned cases the SLORC deserves to get critics.
In conclusion I like to point out the main parts of my paper:
(1) “Burma” and “Myanmar” are identical. It is like Deutschland and Germany. Therefore “Myanmar” represents the entire territory of “Burma”.
(2) The words “the Burmese” and “the Burman” both mean the majority ethnic group, the Bamas. Neither the word “the Burmese” nor “the Burman” represents other ethnic groups apart of Bamas. The words “the Burmese” and “the Burman” were created by the foreigners unnecessarily.
(3) The definition “the term Myanmar represents all citizens of Myanmar (Burma)” is a new definition created during the BSPP Era. Most probably it is an attempt to attain national unity. It is too early to say whether this “attempt” will be successful or not. One has to wait and see. However, the present author personally doubts whether this “attempt” will be successful.
(4) “Yangon” is the real word for the city and is the correct pronunciation in the Burmese language. “Rangoon” is only the British version of “Yangon” by adapting the pronunciation in the Rakhine (Arakanese) dialect. The Arakanese pronunciation of that city is “Ran-gon”.
(5) Any way, in this essay I took the liberty to use the word “Burma” instead of “Myanmar” for the country, the Burmese (Burman) for the Bamas, the biggest ethnic group, and “Burmese” for the language though Myanma is the real and correct words in the native language. Also other “anglicized” words like “Rangoon” instead of the correct word “Yangon” are used because these words are internationally known and established.
(6) The complaints and arguments evolved because the changes were done by the government whose reputation is very bad in the internal and international media.
(7) In the meantime the Burmanization of the SLORC is also going too far and sometimes it really violates the rights of the minorities and this kind of act should be condemned.
 See and compare Maung Win Shein, Economic, Social and Political Changes in Burma (1886-1940), Polish Academy of Science, Warsaw, 1987, p. 13, where it was written: “Burmese” or “Burmans” were used for the citizens of Burma. Before independence, generally the term “Burmese” was used in referring to the dominant ethnic group and “Burman” was used in referring to all citizens of Burma, but after independence, the practice was reversed. Therefore at present, oficially the term “Burmese” is used in referring to all citizens of Burma and the term “Burman” is used in referring to the ethnic group”.
The present author does not share this view because Sir James George Scott alias Shway Yoe used the term “Burman” in referring only to the largest ethnic group the Bamas in his famous book with the title “The Burman”(first published in 1882).
 Till now, the Karens called the Burmese “Pio”. In the early days the Arakanese used to call the Burmese “Pru” (Pyu). Later they named the Burmese “Ashay-tha” meaning the Easterners. The Arakanese Chronicles stated “The king of Prus (Pyus) came together with 90000 Pru (Pyu) soldiers “. In that way they recorded the Burmese king Aniruda’s (Anawrahta’s) invasion of the Northern Arakan. See also U Ba Than, History of Burma (in Burmese), reprinted 1966, p. 57.
 Po-Karens? Pegu-Karens?
 There are two variations of the spelling, namely Rakhaing or Rakhine. The Arakanese favour the spelling Rakhaing, however, the official spelling use by the Burmese Government is Rakhine. Therefore both terms are used in this paper.
 Till now the Arakanese or Rakhines living in Chittagong District in Bangladesh and Tripura in India are named Anauk-tha by the Arakanese or Rakhines living in the Rakhine State (Arakan) of Burma.
 Here the word “Mramars” means mainly the Arakanese (Rakhines).
 Either Arakanese pronunciation or literal pronunciation in Burmese.
 Either Arakanese pronunciation or literal pronunciation in Burmese of King Alaungphaya.
 During the era of the Burmese kings, though there weresome minority problems too, these were not as big as after the post-colonial era. Most princes and chieftains of the minorities had no objection to become the subject of the Burmese kings. The only two ethnic groups who were not subjected to the Burmese kings until the middle of the 18th century were the Mons and the Arakanese because they used to have their own kingdoms. Even the British who emphasizes the importance of the minority rights in Burma in the post-colonial era and especially in the post-independence era, never thought about the minority rights before they occupied Burma. There were documents that the British viceroy in India wanted to sign a border treaty with the Burmese king of Ava, Bodaw U Waing, at the beginning of the 19th century by recognizing all modern territories of Burma plus some tributary states of the then Burmese empire. The British crushed the Arakanese rebels who fought against the Burmese king and stationed on the British soil. The British authorities captured them and surrendered them to the then Burmese Royal Army. All of them were either killed or tortured!!
When the British occupied Burma they totally ignored the rights of the Mons and the Arakanese. Nor they took into consideration that these two peoples used to have their own kingdoms. Ironically, Mon and Arakanese territories were administered under “Burma Proper”. However, other territories ruled by princes and chieftains, who were subjected to the Burmese kings were put under “Frontier Areas of Burma”.