Changing Planet

“A country once know as ……”


Over the past several days the media has been reporting on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip to Myanmar. Some have prefaced their reports using the following verbiage: “Myanmar, a country once know as Burma ……”

In 1989 the largest nation on the Southeast Asian mainland changed its name from Burma to Myanmar―a change which has been contested for over 20 years. Burma is still recognized as the country’s formal name by various nations, including the United States; however, many more nations and organizations, such as the UN, recognize Myanmar as this country’s official name.

In keeping with our policy of portraying de facto situations―to portray to the best of our judgment a current reality―our maps show both Myanmar, the country’s official name, and Burma, its contested name,  labeled in parentheses. This same convention, where scale permits,  is used for all other place-names within the country where similar renaming has taken place as with Yangon (Rangoon), its legislative capital.


Juan José Valdés
The Geographer
Director of Editorial and Research
National Geographic Maps



Juan José Valdés is The Geographer and National Geographic Maps' Director of Editorial and Research. He guides and assists the Map Policy Committee in setting border representations, disputed territories, and naming conventions for National Geographic. As NG Map's Director of Editorial and Research, he is responsible for ensuring the accuracy and consistency of its maps and map products.
  • Ima Ryma

    Myanma is Burma’s real name,
    Given by the people from there.
    Burma was called by British claim,
    Taken from Birmania where
    Portuguese took from Barma that
    India had namedropped the place.
    Biruma when Japan was at.
    Occupied lots in time and space,
    By outsiders who came and went,
    And still don’t think Myanma is
    A name of which they are content,
    Even though it is not their biz.

    Wonder if name will be a fuss
    When China does take over us?

  • Sheileagh Leens

    Thank you Ima for setting the story straight. Having been born & raised in Burma, I can vouch for the fact that Myanmar has always been the Burmese word for Burma, for the reasons you stated, just like Yangon is the Burmese word for Rangoon. You’re right about it being a silly issue for people to focus on & right again to wonder what the fate of the US will be when China comes calling to collect on the horrendous financial debt we already owe them – which continues to grow under this administration!

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