What’s the difference between Yangon and Rangoon and Myanmar and Burma?

Answers from Our Experts (1)

Natalie Bailey

Burma became Myanmar and Rangoon was changed to Yangon in 1989 when the country fell under the rule of a widely maligned military junta that stayed in power until 2011, when it was formally dissolved. The variations in spellings and pronunciations came out of the country’s years spent under British rule, so while you can use whichever ones you’d like, choosing one name over the other has historically been a political act. For example, the United States has regularly referred to the country as Burma instead of Myanmar as a way to call into question the junta’s authority.
Though a new government has been put into place, many officials from the previous junta are still in positions of power. Still, international relations are quickly changing – the U.S. recently lifted long-standing sanctions on the country – so it’s likely that nomenclature differences such as these may soon fade.

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