Myanmar to Burma

Myanmar article renamed to Burma after unrest

In a rare action, the English Wikipedia article about a country was moved to a different name last week — the article "Myanmar" became Burma. After an active debate, the requested move was carried out Tuesday, 2 October; as usual, the impact is more symbolic than real, since a redirect from one location would still always take you to the intended destination.

The immediate impetus for the move came from a surge in international attention being paid to events in Burma beginning last month. (The Signpost will follow the current convention and refer to the country as Burma in this article.) In response, Husond requested the move on 26 September, arguing that Burma is the most common English-language name, and that the Burmese opposition and many other countries do not recognize the name Myanmar. An extensive discussion followed, and after the requisite five days passed, Duja performed the move, concluding that "a significant majority of editors prefer Burma" while conceding that both sides had valid arguments.

Several themes provided the focal points for debate: whether it was appropriate to defer to an "official" name, either the Burmese government's choice of Myanmar or the English-speaking countries that use Burma; if the English Wikipedia should use a foreign-language name when an English one exists (an oft-debated similar situation exists for Côte d'Ivoire); and what the accepted standard is among professional news or academic sources. Even the question of what is the most common name, usually a critical inquiry for naming conventions, led people toward confusing and sometimes contradictory evidence. Many of the attempts to answer this question involved different forms of Google searches, with varying degrees of sophistication.

Burma's prominence in the news developed from mounting protests against the military government, whose legitimacy is not recognized by many Western countries. As the debate over the Wikipedia article was ongoing, coincidentally the media coverage turned to the cutoff of internet access in Burma, as the regime apparently sought to crack down on the circulation of news and images of the protests. Several reports in the press noted that Wikipedia also figured in the strategy of the protesters, with people constantly updating information on articles such as 2007 Burmese anti-government protests.

The country, like many others, is the focus of a WikiProject, where the name also was the focus of a dispute that produced a request for mediation in January. The process resulted in a change from using the name "WikiProject Burma/Myanmar" (also awkward because in the project namespace, it overlaps with subpage syntax) to "WikiProject Myanmar (Burma)". The accompanying category was not changed.

Scanning the interlanguage links shows that in other languages, the name of the corresponding article may use either form (with varying orthography). Myanmar appears to be more prevalent overall, but neither is consistently preferred. Curiously, the Norwegian Wikipedia has Burma in the Bokmål edition and Myanmar in its Nynorsk version (the two written standards for the Norwegian language).

Also this week:
  • From the editor
  • Vandalism study
  • Myanmar to Burma
  • WikiWorld
  • News and notes
  • In the news
  • WikiProject report
  • Features and admins
  • Technology report
  • Arbitration report

  • Signpost archives

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    Do we change Iran to Persia and Thailand to Siam now? And Istanbul to Constantinople and New York City to New Amsterdam? *Dan T.* 14:16, 9 October 2007 (UTC)[reply]
    No doubt you're welcome to request a move for any of those articles if you care to do so. The extent of acceptance for those name transitions isn't decisive as to how accepted this one has become, though. --Michael Snow 16:14, 9 October 2007 (UTC)[reply]


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