“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



Changing Planet

Meet the Author
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.