Many nationalist Buddhists reject the name Rohingya and call them Bengalis, implying that they are interlopers from Bangladesh, a position also taken by the former military government.
The United States Embassy recently drew criticism for using the word Rohingya in a statement expressing condolences for the deaths of at least 20 people whose boat capsized on April 19 off the coast of Rakhine.
Nationalist Buddhists challenged the new Myanmar government to protest the Americans’ use of the word and staged a demonstration outside the United States Embassy in Yangon.
At an April 28 news conference, Mr. Marciel responded by saying that it was standard practice around the world to let communities decide for themselves what to be called. “And normally, when that happens, we would call them what they want to be called,” he said. “It’s not a political decision; it’s just a normal practice.”
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s decision to raise the issue with Mr. Marciel the next day was an apparent concession to the extremists and was welcomed by the nationalist Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, also known as Ma Ba Tha.
“We don’t want that word because they are not our nationality,” said U Thaw Bar Ka, a leader of the group. “And now I read the news that the Foreign Ministry agrees with us. It’s really good. At first, I thought the new government would be useless on this issue.”
Rights advocates expressed disappointment that Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was not willing to go against popular opinion and support a dispossessed people.
“It’s dismaying that the new N.L.D.-led government is continuing this wrongheaded effort to police the language of Yangon-based diplomats about the Rohingya,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia at Human Rights Watch.
Mr. Kyaw Zay Ya said that Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi had not ordered the Americans to stop using the word or threatened consequences if they did.