Both names mean exactly the same and suffer the same insufficiency as both assign the name of the ruling ethnic group (namely the ‘Bamar’, or ‘Burmans’, or ‘Myanmar’) to the whole country, thus repeating a pattern of discrimination or complacency towards minorities. ‘Burma’ and ‘Myanmar’ are derived from Burmese words (more precisely, from the language of the ‘Bamar’, or ‘Burmans’), which differ only on a stylistic level.
The name ‘Myanmar’ was adopted by the regime in 1989 without any democratic legitimization. While we don’t actually mind using ‘Myanmar’, we would definitely prefer if this change would retrospectively be confirmed by a genuinely democratic decision.
While there have been considerable changes in the political landscape, the present constellation is still based on the junta-made constitution and on the generals’ idea of a “disciplined democracy”. Censorship and discrimination persist and people in most parts of the country, in particular where civilians are targeted by armed groups, have not noticed any tangible improvement in their daily lives. Even many opposition groups still exercise democracy mostly in a top-down approach.
Stories (true stories or rumors) carry enormous power. They can change the way we see things.
A large part of the problems in Burma is related to knowledge and attitudes: How ethnic groups view each other. Patterns of behavior that survived from colonial times. Awareness of the impact of foreigners going to Burma for business or holidays. Whether we see Burma as a token in a strategic map exercise, or as a home to millions of people in their own right.
While numerous efforts have been made to formulate rules of good behavior for tourist business, it is very difficult to obtain reliable information about every firm or even enforce rules. Key are free media and working conditions for independent and qualified local NGOs at the destination.