PHNOM PENH, July 12 (Reuters) - U.S. praise for Myanmar grows by the day, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton still cannot bring herself to use the name of the country in the presence of officials from the former Burma.

Addressing a regional forum in the Cambodian capital, Clinton studiously avoided using either Myanmar or Burma during a speech in which she lauded the reforms there that "few dared ... would come".

It appears Clinton did not wish to offend Myanmar's government and its diplomats in Phnom Penh by referring to the country by the name officially used in Washington, Burma - two short syllables that rile the former generals who now lead its nascent democracy.

The dilemma dates back to 1989, a year after thousands were killed in the suppression of a popular uprising, when the army changed the name to Myanmar, a name the United States never accepted because it would have conferred legitimacy on the former generals.

Many of those generals swapped their military fatigues for civilian clothes in a rigged 2010 election that cleared the way for a surprisingly reformist parliament that took office last year, ending 49 years of unbroken military rule.

Britain, Myanmar's former colonial ruler, also still uses Burma.

The two words mean largely the same thing. Burmah, as it was spelled in the 19th century, is a local corruption of the word Myanmar.

Clinton is scheduled to meet Myanmar's President Thein Sein at a meeting of business leaders in Siem Reap on Friday, two days after the United States eased sanctions against the country to allow U.S. companies to invest there.

As the rapprochement between the two grows stronger, the real test may not be how far sanctions are rolled back but whether Washington swaps two syllables for three. (Reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Jason Szep; Writing by Jeremy Laurence)

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  • US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, center, and other ministers during the ASEAN Gala Dinner at City Hall in Phnom Penh on July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)

  • U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a press conference at Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Brendon Smialowski, Pool)

  • U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at a press conference during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

  • U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, and Singapore's Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam shake hands before a bilateral meeting at Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Brendon Smialowski, Pool)

  • U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, center, and Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba shake hands before their trilateral meeting at the ASEAN Regional forum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Brendon Smialowski, Pool)

  • U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, center, and Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba shake hands before their trilateral meeting during the ASEAN Regional forum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Brendon Smialowski, Pool)

  • U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton listens to a speech delivered by a delegation member during the ASEAN Regional forum at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Brendon Smialowski, Pool)

  • U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi arrive for their meeting on the sideline of the ASEAN regional forum at Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Brendon Smialowski, Pool)

  • U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, not in the photo, during their meeting at the ASEAN regional forum at Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Brendon Smialowski, Pool)

  • U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, center, shakes hands with Vietnam's Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, left, of Vietnam, and Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul while posing for a group photo at an East Asia Summit Ministerial Meeting at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations regional forum at Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

  • Front from left to right: K. Shanmugam of Singapore, Surapong Tovichakchaikul of Thailand, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Pham Binh Minh of Vietnam, Hor Namhong of Cambodia, Mohammed Bolkiah of Brunei, Bob Carr of Australia, Yang Jiechi of China, S.M. Krishna of India, and second row from left to right, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov, Albert del Rosario of the Philippines, Murray McCully of New Zealand, Wunna Maung Lwin of Myanmar, Anifah Aman of Malaysia, Thongloun Sisoulith of Laos , Kim Sung-hwan of South Korea, Koichiro Gemba of Japan, and Marty Natalegawa of Indonesia join hands as they pose for a group photo at the 2nd East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Meeting at the 45th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)



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