Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Myanmar or Burma? Burma or Myanmar?

Referring to the Land of Golden Pagodas as Burma or Myanmar may be the hardest things about travelling there at the moment.

The name was changed from the Union of Burma to the Union of Myanmar in 1989, as the martial law was introduced, and the General of the State Law and Order Restoration Council declared that the name 'Burma' was English colonialist.

Of course, the name Myanmar goes back to the 13th Century and was changed to Burma when the English took Mandalay in 1885, and turned in into a part of British India. It is indeed part of the British rule of this nation.

But Aung San Suu Kyi calls her home 'Burma', and will reportedly continue to do so despite being ordered not to, until the people of her country can decide for themselves - when democracy is allowed, and respected.

And that's good enough for me. She is the symbol of freedom and hope in Burma, and the end to the oppressive and fearful ruling is something that this most amazing country so desperately needs.

I actually expected to see her likeness everywhere as I travelled through Burma, but posters of her and her National Democratic Party were in fact few and far between. A little more in Yangon, but rarely in the rest of the areas we visited.

These three photos were one of the only ones I saw - at the top with her father, assassinated at such a young age, in a cafe on the side of a pagoda in outer Mandalay. The next placed above a room of working women, showing their wares and craft in the Inle Lake area, and the last in a hillside village near Kalaw. The calender on display here features photos of a visit Aung San Suu Kyi made to the area, and featured in a few stores and homes in this rural area.

I didn't speak to many about her and her likeness until I come across a picture of her like the one here in a store when I could ask about it - mostly her face is not displayed so openly out of fear of the military rule.

This is a country that needs it's freedom from it's oppressive rule, and in the last year there has been reports of political shifts and hope. The world is watching, Burma, with fingers crossed and breath held for you...

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