Metrication in Myanmar

We are pleased to draw our readers’ attention to a recent article on conversion plans in Myanmar.

During the Second World War, Myanmar aka Burma was occupied by the Japanese, first fighting with them against its former colonial administrators, and then later against the Japanese in support of the British. In 1948 it became a republic outside the Commonwealth and began six decades of  comparative isolation under a succession of civilian and military governments. Only during the last few years has this policy of isolation been relaxed.

An unexpected feature of the post-colonial period, which distinguishes Myanmar from most of the countries of the former British Empire, is that no attempt was made to ditch colonial weights and measures. Imperial gallons and statute miles continued to rule. While the rest of the world moved steadily towards to adoption of the metric system, Imperial and customary units lingered on in Myanmar in splendid isolation. Readers may wish to speculate why this was so. By the turn of the century, Myanmar found itself surrounded by metric countries, being just one of only three in the world not committed to metric as its primary system of measures.

With the end of isolation, Myanmar is metricating, and this recent article provides an interesting commentary on attitudes, plans and progress:

We draw readers’ attention to two points in the article.

1. Myanmar has turned to Germany for technical advice. This may to be due to antipathy towards the former colonial power, or it may be that it does not believe that Britain is up to the job, not being fully metric – visitors to the UK can not help but notice the Imperial measures on our road signs.

2. It is clear that metrication is seen as a way, not only of reducing confusion , not to say downright cheating, at home but also as a means of modernisation and re-integrating the country into the rest of the world. The article ends:

“We’ve been left behind by other countries all over the world. … That’s why we’re trying to catch up.”


5 thoughts on “Metrication in Myanmar”

  1. Unfortunately, it’s not just a glance at road signs in the UK that leaves one wondering just how metric the UK is.

    Today’s BBC News web site has an article where all of the estimated gas reserves in Cuardrilla (northwest of England) are given in trillions of cubic feet (tcf). Even the British Geological Survey is quoted as giving an estimate in tcf.

    This sort of the thing (and it’s from the BBC, no less!) can’t help but make other countries doubt that the UK is “up to snuff” when it comes to handling the metric system. 😦


  2. A great decision by Myanmar, and they have made a great decision to consult Germany on units of measure too (Germany also have really good road signs too, with measures clearly marked in the correct units). As long as Myanmar complete the process fully, they will overtake the UK, catch up with the rest of the world and reap the benefits. I wonder if the mainstream British media will even report this.

    I hope the fact that Myanmar is going metric will shame the British Government, quite frankly all the political parties in the UK and especially the Department for Transport into finishing our own metrication job. I won’t be holding my breath though, not yet at least.


  3. The planned 5 year changeover is more ambitious than the 10 year target announced in the UK back in 1965.

    Let us hope they achieve it and don’t make the same mistakes that we did.


  4. Congratulations, Myanmar! This leaves only one third world country in the northern hemisphere floundering in antiquity.


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