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Topics Covered: India and its neighbourhood- relations.



  • The Myanmar military grabbed power in a recent coup – the third time in the nation’s history since its independence from British rule in 1948.
  • After the last such takeover in 1988, the armed forces went on to make a decision that would remain controversial for decades: changing the country’s name.

How Burma became Myanmar?

  • When British imperialists annexed what is today’s Myanmar during the 19th century, they called it Burma after the dominant Burman (Bamar) ethnic group, and administered it as a province of colonial India.
  • This arrangement continued until 1937, when Burma was separated from British India and made a separate colony.
  • Even after the country became independent in 1948, it retained the same name, becoming the ‘Union of Burma’.
  • In 1962, the military took over from a civilian government for the first time, and amended the official name in 1974 to the ‘Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma’.
  • Then in 1988, armed forces again took power in the country, after suppressing a popular uprising and reversed the official name to ‘Union of Burma’.
  • But a year later, the junta adopted a law that replaced Burma with Myanmar, making the country the ‘Union of Myanmar’.

Rationale behind the move and its implications:

While changing the country’s name, the military said that it was looking for a way to leave behind a name inherited from the colonial past, and adopt a new one which could unify all of its 135 officially recognised ethnic groups, and not just the Burman people.

  • However, critics decried the move, arguing that Myanmar and Burma mean the same thing in the Burmese language, only that the ‘Myanmar’ is a more formal way of saying ‘Burma’– a word used colloquially.


Prelims Link:

  1. India- Myanmar border.
  2. Trade.
  3. Joint operations and exercises.
  4. Kaladan Multimodal project.

Sources: Indian Express.