WASHINGTON — The White House on Thursday declared a war of words on Myanmar’s military rulers, declaring that it would keep calling that country “Burma” in a show of support for pro-democracy activists there.
Spokesman Tony Fratto said Washington’s refusal to use the junta’s term for their country was “intentional” because “we choose not to use the language of a totalitarian dictatorial regime that oppresses its people.”
“And we have freedom of speech here, maybe they don’t,” Fratto said amid mounting global pressure for the regime to end a deadly crackdown on anti-government protests.
His comments were in line with the U.S. State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency, which pointedly note that the 1989 name change never won approval from the country’s legislators.
“The democratically elected but never convened Parliament of 1990 does not recognize the name change, and the democratic opposition continues to use the name ‘Burma.’ Due to consistent support for the democratically elected leaders, the U.S. government likewise uses ‘Burma,’” the State Department Web site says.
The CIA “World Fact Book” notes that the new name is a derivative of the Burmese short-form name Myanma Naingngandaw.