The Political Tourist in Myanmar: Totalitarian Nostalgia and How to Get Travel All Wrong

I arrived in Burma calling the country by its old name and left calling it by its official name, Myanmar. In seventeen days I was convinced that the name given to the country by a military dictatorship was indeed the correct one. Perhaps I’d inhaled propaganda like second-hand smoke in my conversations with ‘Myanmar people’, as they call themselves. They told me over and over again that the name better represented all the minority nationalities in the country. Burma, they said, was only for the Burmese – the dominant ethnic group. Critics of the government have argued that the name change to Myanmar was something of a ‘unite and conquer strategy’ by the military, and it did seem something of a flawed logic that Burmese (the language) is also now referred to as ‘Myanmar language’.

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