The Story of the Constitution
Part. I. THE STORY OF THE CONSTITUTION
I. ANNEXATION AND BRITISH RULE
I. Death of a Dynasty
2. Pacification 3
3. Education and Ideas 7
4. YMBA enters Politics 10
5. The GCBA 15
6. Dyarchy 17
7. The ‘Saya San, Rebellion 21
8. Separation from India 26
9. The Government of Burma Act 30
10. Young Heralds of a New Age 34
II. The ‘Year of Revolution’ 38
12. The Coming of War 42
II. WAR AND JAPANESE OCCUPATION
1. Burma independence Army 48
2. Military Administration 54
3. Independence 58
4. Resistance 62
Ill. LIBERATION AND FULFILMENT
t. Return to Rangoon 68
2. Aung San and the AFPFL 73
3. The Rise of Hope 78
4. Drafting the Constitution 79
Part. II. THE CONSTITUTION AT WORK
I. FORM OF STATE
The Choice of Democracy 91
II. FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS
1. Citizenship 94
2. Equality and Freedom 97
3. Religious Freedom 98
4. Economic Rights 99
5. Constitutional Remedies 100
III. PEASANTS AND WORKERS
x. Land Nationalization 107
IV. DIRECTIVE PRINCIPLES OF STATE POLICY
1. ‘Pyidawtha’ 111
2. Economic Planning 113
3. Science and Culture 114
V. THE PRESIDENT
1. The First Citizen 116
2. Powers and Privileges 118
r. The Popular Will 122
2. Law-making 124
3. Powers and Privileges
VII. THE UNION GOVERNMENT
1. Political Parties 129
2. Legal Structure 134
3. The Attorney-General 135
4. The Auditor-General 137
5. The Services 137
6. The Defence Services 142
VIII. THE UNION JUDICIARY
1. Independence of the Judiciary 148
2. Organization and Functions 157
IX. THE STATES
1. The Choice of Federation 169
2. The Shan State 176
3. The Kachin State 179
4. The Karen State 181
~. The Kayah State 187
6. The Chin Special Division 188
7. New States 190
8. Secession 193
X. AMENDMENT OF THE CONSTITUTION 195
XI. INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. The Ideal 197
2. The Law 197
3. The Practice 199
XII. GENERAL PROVISION S
1. The National Flag 206
2. Official Language 206
3. Foreign Capital 208
4. The Public Service Commission 209
5. Interpretation 209
XIII. TRANSITORY PROVISIONS
x. State Succession 211
2. Provisional Matters 212
I. Opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown on Annexation of Burma 221
II. The constitution of Burma under Japanese occupation 223
III. The Panglong Agreement. 1947 229
IV. Draft constitution approved by the AFPFL convention, May,1947 231
V. Members of the constitution drafting committees, and staff, Constituent Assembly 251
VI. Prime Minister U Nu’s motion in the Constituent Assembly to 254
adopt the constitution September 24, 1947
VII. The Constitution of the Union of Burma, with amendments 258
VIII. The Constitution Amendment Act, 1951 309
IX. Chronology of Events 312
THE STORY OF THE CONSTITUTION
ANNEXATION AND BRITISH RULE
I. DEATH OF A DYNASTY
Rivalry with the French and fear of the expanding power of America in China drove the British to annex the remaining territories of the Kingdom of Burma in November 1885. The immediate causes were the needed excuses. The real reason was that the businessmen in London and the commercial and industrial centres of Britain and in Rangoon were lured by the faraway and fabled treasures of China which they thought they would reach by overland routes through Burma. If the French established their influence on the Burmese court at Mandalay and ousted the British, then the treasures would be wrested beyond British reach forever. Or the Americans, fast-goers, might get there first. Thus compelled, the British armies marched into Mandalay and King Thibaw and his Queens were taken into exile in India and Burma became entirely British. The British had made their declarations of lofty motives to save the Burmese from their despotic King and give the people a good government, but they did not find their reception by the people in Mandalay enthusiastic.
There was not much organized military opposition, true enough, but the Burmese armies did not surrender: they melted away or scattered in small defiant groups which roamed the country and fought as guerrilla bands. When the news broke in the city that Thibaw and his entourage (N.1) were to be carted away like common criminals to the waiting ship, Thooriah (‘The Sun’), and then exiled to alien lands, people lined the streets and wept. The Sawbwa of Yawnghwe with five hundred men, all armed with words, gathered in the Mahamyatmuni Pagoda to lay an ambush and rescue the royal captives. (N.2) But the British got wind of this and took a different route to the ship, and on that day of doom, December 3, 1885, King Thibaw, deprived of throne, was taken away from his people and his land. In Rangoon he and his family and entourage were transferred to H.M.S. Canning which sailed for Madras on December 15. Thus the Burmese dynasty that Alaungpaya built gave an agonised gasp and died.
For the first few months after taking Mandalay, the British toyed with several alternatives for the future administration of upper Burma. There was an idea of continuing the Kingdom under an amenable prince, but the British could not find a prince who would have the stature to command the confidence of the people and yet be weak enough to play to British tunes. Another alternative was to rule through the Hluttczw, which was the Privy Council to the King as well as the Supreme Court. But the Hluttaw, after Thibaw’s departure. was neither co-operative nor effective. Under Thibaw there were three senior Ministers on that Council, six A twin Wuns — Secretaries or junior Ministers — and sixteen Wundauks or officials. The Kinwunmingyi U Gaung, who had led missions to Europe, was the Prime Minister. His knowledge of the world and his own wisdom had convinced him that fighting the British would be futile. But the Queen Supayalat and the Taingda Mingyi were for war. ‘Popo (grandfather),’ she was reported to have rebuked the Kinwunmingyi on the eve of the war, ‘you may wear a hiamein (woman’s skirt) and take a kyaukp yin (a circular piece of stone on which Burmese ladies make their cosmetic called thanaka).’ The other Minister was the Taungdwin Mingyi who was in charge of finance. After the collapse of the Kingdom, the Hluttaw also collapsed.(N.3)
The British, in considering the alternatives for the future of upper Burma, had one problem: the treaties which King Thibaw had contracted with France and some European powers. Those with France were substantial; the others expressed sentiments of friendship only. The question was what effect the annexation would have on the treaties and what should be done with the administration of upper Burma to avoid complications. The Law Officers of the Crown in London were asked to advise, and in an opinion dated December x8, 1885. (N.4) they reported that the annexation had given the Crown the right to extinguish the independent existence of the State of Upper Burma; that if the Crown thought fit to exercise the right, all treaties which King Thibaw or his predecessors might have made with foreign powers would cease to exist; that Her Majesty’s Government should inform the foreign powers concerned that the treaties had ceased to exist; that the territories acquired by annexation could be administered during the pleasure of Her Majesty by officers under her immediate orders, and if the Viceroy of India was to perform this duty he should be furnished with special authority and instructions in that behalf; that a special notification should be published by Her Majesty’s Government that Upper Burma had now, by conquest, become part of Her Majesty’s dominions, in order to prevent foreign powers from contending that the annexation was a mere military occupation and
not a conquest, and that the sovereignty of King Thibaw was suspended rather than extinguished and treaties likewise.
The conquest was accordingly proclaimed by Lord Dufferin, the Viceroy of India on January 1, 1886:
‘By Command of the Queen-Emperor, it is hereby notified that the territories governed by King Thibaw will no longer be under his rule, but have become part of Her Majesty’s Dominions, and will during Her Majesty’s pleasure be administered by such officers as the Viceroy and Governor-General of India may from time to time appoint.’
Thus all Burma came under British rule and, for convenience of administration, was made an appendage to India. Half a century was to pass before the British rulers discovered that ‘Burma was not India’ and that perhaps she should have her own separate identity.
Most of Lower Burma had fallen under the British in the two Anglo-Burmese Wars fought in 1824 and 1852. The administration of the annexed territories was placed at first under the Commissioners for Pegu, Arakan, and Tenasserim, who were responsible, separately, to the Governor-General in India. The laws were made in India and applied in British Burma with suitable adaptations. The genius of district officers who kept the peace, collected revenue, and administered justice as well, often made the application of the laws into adventures in adaptation and improvisation. The personal laws of the people were preserved and used in questions of succession,(N.5) inheritance, marriage or caste, or any religious usage or institution.’ To ascertain what the laws were on a certain question was the problem, for there were no codes and the ancient customs and usages were to be found in legal treatises and chronicles which differed much on essential points, or in the memories of learned men which could be neither fully accurate nor ever indelible.
In 1862, a Chief Commissioner was appointed for British Burma under whose charge the Commissioners’ divisions were consolidated. After the proclamation of January 1, 1886, Upper Burma together with the Shari states, was incorporated in British Burma. Four Commissioners’ divisions were made out of Upper Burma, with seventeen administrative districts in all. Lower Burma too was reorganized into four divisions and twenty districts. Each district was placed under an Assistant Commissioner, later called Deputy Commissioner; the Divisions were under the charge of Commissioners. With the addition in the district set-up of the police and a few basic requirements of government, the administrative pattern was complete.The hierarchy quickly took shape and life: in the village, the headman; in the township, the township officer or Myo-ok; a few townships form a subdivision under a subdivisional officer; then the district, the division, and the centre of gravity of government in British Burma which was the Chief Commissioner and his Secretariat in Rangoon. The British officers formed a cadre known as the ‘Burma Commission’ which drew two-thirds of its recruits from the Indian Civil Service, and the remaining one-third from nominees from other services such as the Army, Police, or non-officials. The Burma Commission functioned till 1922 when the whole cadre was reserved for the Indian Civil Service. (N.6) Except for the substitution of Burmans for British officials, the administrative pattern — even the territorial division into districts and divisions — has remained practically unaltered till the present time. Accusations have been made, most persistently immediately after Burma’s attainment of independence, that the government machinery is bureaucratic, and the entire system is ‘colonial’, but no constructive and far-reaching reforms have yet been introduced.
The British brought law and order and the liberal ideas which were then stirring in Europe. Government was certain and centralized. ‘The British are earnest and truthful; their ‘yes’ is a ‘yes’ and their ‘no’ a ‘no.’ In this respect, the British Government presents a wide contrast to the late Government of Thibaw. An old Burmese lady tells us that when he was on the throne, there was a regular confusion of authority. In the first instance the Hluttaw would pass a certain decree. On appeal through the Taingda or Yanaung, this decree would be upset by the King, but only to be upheld by the Chief Queen. But now, she adds, people can rely on the word of their new Government.’ Thus did an official observe in Mandalay soon after the annexation.(N.7)
The British officials made diligent research into the customary laws of the peoples and their ways of life: the Notes on Burmese Buddhist Law, prepared and published in 1882 by Sir John Jardine, the Judicial Commissioner of British Burma; the translation of the Laws of Menoo made by Dr. D. Richardson, Principal Assistant to the Commissioner of Tenasserim, and published in 1896; a study on the Sources and Development of Burmese Buddhist Law, by Dr. F. Forchhammer. which won the Jardine prize in 1885; and the Digest of Burmese Buddhist Law prepared by Kinwunmingyi U Gaung at the instance of Sir G. D. Burgess, the Judicial Commissioner for Upper Burma, and published in two volumes in 1908, are some of the important results.
The officials also kept their diaries and wrote their reports and Gazetteers which are today valuable mines of information on practically all aspects of life in the different parts of Burma of those times. Some British officials saw things in a rosy hue: thus Fielding-Hall’s books,(N.8) for example, describing the Burman at home, and Buddhism, were tender and loving and a little romantic. Coming in the next few decades were men of the Indian Civil Service, like Maurice Collis who served and observed and wrote his stories of Burma with an understanding that won Burmese hearts.(N.9) Like Bernard Winthorp Swinthinbank, a great democrat who was fond of the Burmese and worked among and mixed with them naturally — and is still remembered, fondly as ‘Uncle’ by Burmese intellectuals who, as young men, were inspired by him — ‘highly sympathetic to Burmese aspirations for a national government,’ while at the same time being a ‘loyal, obedient and extremely capable servant of the government which held the people in political subjection.’(N.10) Or J. S. Furnivall who, as a retired I. C. S. official, helped to start the Burma Book Club, the Burma Research Society and the World of Books magazine, and helped young Burmans to learn and think and express themselves; Furnivall came back to Rangoon after the Second World War from Cambridge, and has since been adviser and guide to the young men he had trained who now lead the country. Or the poet Gordon Luce, professor, lover of art, and inspirer of young Burmese artists.’(N.11)
The British bureaucracy was not, therefore, completely devoid of human warmth. Many of the officials gave more to the country than their official duties demanded; they were perhaps romantics or eccentrics, but they were not a \vhittle less British for loving Burma, for they did not forsake Britain for Burma, never went native, but shared with the Burmese the joys and benefits of the wisdom and art and new thinking of old Britain.
There were, of course, the bureaucrats who stood majestically aloof from the people they ruled; the men of the business houses who were still the power behind the bureaucrats, and whose main concern was to have a peaceful country in which they could do their business and reap the profits. But even that bureaucracy which was so aloof from the people and so impersonal in its rule, had, inherent in itself, the seeds of Burma’s freedom. There was the guilt complex that always lurked in the mind of the British official. He had been taught the minimum standards of social behaviour as a boy in his Sunday School; he must not steal, he must not rob, he must not tell lies; and his being a ruler in Burma which only recently had belonged to the Burmese, did not quite satisfy the social standards that had become part of his being. The justice and the rule of law that he helped to establish in Burma were not, therefore, mere systems and methods, but a tradition built with the dedication of atonement.
The rule of law and liberalism had become habits with the British by the time they came to rule Burma. Thus while for the first five years after annexation military force was used liberally to stamp out nationalist resistance and lawlessness, the policy was from the start to establish a liberal government and conditions in which trade could flourish. Military operations were expensive, so were unsettled conditions in which trade withered. And the British Government at home, and in India, were financed by businessmen who had a sharp sense of profit and loss. Thus, the British military expeditions, while displaying force to suppress and strike fear on the one hand, always tried to persuade and win cooperation on the other.
There still lives an old chief named Khup Lian in Lopei village in the Northern Chin Hills’ Siyin Valley, so old that he does not remember anymore how old he is, but whose memory is fresh and clear of the resistance that the Chins offered to the British after annexation.(N.12) He was a very young man then, and he took part in fighting the British who came up in their hordes, led by an able soldier, General, later Field-Marshal, Sir George White. He took part in a guerrilla raid on a British fortress and captured a rifle — and that exploit is written up in a memorial stone which stands on the road which enters his village: for in the Chin Hills these stones are raised to those who still live, or those who are gone, provided someone pays for the stone and the feast which must go with the ceremony of raising it. The old chief still remembers how the British, coming up stockade after stubbornly held stockade, at last broke the resistance. The chief and some young hot-bloods were rounded up and taken down to Kalemyo in the Chindwin valley where demonstrations were given for their benefit of the might of British arms —cannon and rifles which could blast targets at great distances, terrible weapons in those days. Then they were taken to Rangoon where they were shown round the city to see the power of the British and the benefits it brought; then they were loaded with gifts, such as cooking utensils and clothing, and sent borne to tell their stories and spread the unspoken message.
Elsewhere in Upper Burma too persuasion and military force went hand in hand to woo and win peace. The villagers at last gave in, for in the final analysis the change meant only that there were new masters in the land instead of King Thibaw and his Queens and their Ministers and Court hangers-on, and the noticeable difference was that the new masters had fair skin and blue eyes. The sons and grandsons of the King and the royal relatives were soon forgotten, though they continued to keep up their old dignities on miserable pensions granted by the British, or no pensions and no visible incomes, unbending relics of an age that was passed. Many who served the King and the Court lost their employment, but they were only a handful compared with the common people who could carry on as before. The people always classified the King and Government among the ‘five enemies’(N.13) and prayed that the enemy would stay away. If the King or his officers came to conscript men for the levies, the men in the villages hid themselves or offered bribes. Similarly when the officers came to collect taxes. Government was a fearful and evil thing to be shunned, to hide from if possible, to fall down on one’s knees and shikoe (N.14) if confronted unavoidably with, and to discreetly offer bribes to. With that basic philosophy it did not really matter much to the villagers that Thibaw had departed from the scene and the British come. They found that the British did not kill and plunder at random, and they liked the skikoe as much as the King and his official did. Life, therefore, went on as usual and the villagers skikoed authority as usual.
3. EDUCATION AND IDEAS
The government was certain, the rule of law gave the people a new confidence, and peace and the opening up of communications and trade provided a good living for all. It was modern education and the ideas it gave which set the minds moving again.(N.15)
At the start the educated and thinking Burmans, looking for outlet, organized Buddhist associations. Thus there was the Buddha Sasana Noggaha association organized in Mandalay in 1897 to preserve and promote Buddhism which, people feared, might fade under foreign rule. The association later started a modern high school which turned out many nationalist leaders and professionel men. A similar organization, the Asoka Society, was started in 1902 in Bassein, deriving its name from the Bikkhu Asoka, a European who had been converted to Buddhism.
Then came the Young Men’s Buddhist Association in Rangoon in 1906. The beginnings were modest, and the model was the Young Men’s Christian Association, the aims being to promote Buddhism and education, to preserve Burmese culture, and to render social service. Leadership came from the Rangoon College, which was started in 1885 as an affiliated College of the Calcutta University and later went, from 1904 to 1920, by the name of Government College. U Maung Gyee, U Ba Pe, U Ba Yin, U Sein Hla Aung, and a few other of their contemporaries were the organizers of the YMBA (N.16) Public support was lacking, and the Association had, at first, no proper address, meetings having to be held at the homes of members by turns.
The College, a small affair in itself, was a breeding ground of ideas. Four years of work went into a degree course. The compulsory subjects were English. Science and Mathematics; choice in optional subjects was severely limited to History and Pali. There was the Principal, Mr. E. D. Marshall, and a Lecturer in each subject and a few Burmese as Assistant Lecturers. The Mathematics Lecturer was Mr. Arthur Eggar who later went back to London to get called to the Bar, and returned to Rangoon to practise law and become the first Advocate-General.(N.17) It was a small staff and a small group of students— about 20 in each class — 8o or zoo in all. Every year four or five students won their degrees and would seek and receive appointments in the civil service, generally starting as Myo-Ok or Township officer. Those who did not receive their degrees could also expect to get reasonable jobs in the service, as police or excise inspectors, or clerks of the higher grade. Even clerks in government service occupied higher social status than teachers or businessmen, and few College students ever dreamed of going into those professions except as a last resort. Students who could afford would go to London, the centre of the universe for them, to be called to the Bar; the Inns of Court were the finishing school for those who shone, as well as those who could not pass their examinations in Rangoon.
The senior students of the College, embryo government officials, wore gaungbaung(N.18) and behaved as young gentlemen of standing, and they led men’s fashions of the day. They were also the leaders of thought. They debated public affairs either at the College Debating Society or in letters and articles in the press. The Rangoon Times, The Rangoon Gazette, The Burma Critic, and Fair Play (published in Moulsnein) were the better known English language newspapers. The Burma Herald, The Friend of Burma, The Hant hawaddy (published bi-weekly), and the weekly Mahabodhi were the Burmese newspapers. The Thooriah (‘The Sun’), Burmese newspapers, came up a little later, and edited and managed by nationalist leaders like U Ba Pe, it gave vital support to the YMBA and the movement for freedom. The times were, however, tranquil. There were no great, burning issues at first. College students wanted good jobs after their graduation, and if they held debates and wrote to the press it was to spend their idle hours and train themselves in the art of self-expression. The training was, however, useful for those who landed later in politics.
The Burma Research Sociefy, founded in 1910, was another forum for the meeting of minds. Mr. J. S. Furnivall, one of the founders of the Society, remembers how, in 1908 ‘U Tun Nyein, the Government Translator, lent me a copy of the Journal of the Siam Society which gave me the idea of creating a similar society in Burma that should bring together Burmans and Europeans with a common interest in the welfare of the country.’(N.19) The Society started in a small way but attracted important scholars and thinkers who read papers at its meetings or wrote for its journal. C. 0. Blagden, Professor C. Duroiselle, R. Halliday, G. H. Luce, J. A. Stewart, and other European civil servants and professional men joined with Burman scholars and intellectuals, young and old, searching in the country’s history and culture, and sharing the joy 3f discovery. The Society did not indulge in politics directly, but its pursuits could not but promote a pride among Burman students and scholars in their national heritage.
The Y.M.B.A. gradually grew and sprang up in the district towns also. By 1908, U May Oung, and U Pu and their contemporaries had arrived back from London after being called to the English Bar, and they were free to give leadership to the Association. Young Barristers were gentlemen of leisure. Setting up a practice took a little time and struggle for there were European firms of lawyers in Rangoon which handled much of the important and lucrative work, and Indian firms and Indian lawyers who could overwhelm by numbers or undersell their services. However, the Bar was still an honoured and profitable profession. Even young Barristers could begin to earn a few months after they had set up chambers, and fees were paid in real gold sovereigns. The young Barristers would wear European clothes, winged collar and bowler hat and all complete, and they could be easily identified by the admiring people. They fetched good fees in the profession and good prices in the marriage market, for prospective parents-in-law, with daughter and dowry ready, were on the lookout and preferred Banisters best. Some young Banisters were thus able to make a gesture of practising while waiting for the highest bidder in matrimony, then marry money and retire to a comfortable life of leisure. Those of their brothers who were more energetic and restless, practised law and dabbled in politics, joined literary or welfare societies, published journals or wrote their essays and articles, or stood for election and served as pagoda trustees. Those were the men who served as conduit pipes for ideas to flow in from the West. Those were the men who had seen the world and mixed with the British in their homes and enjoyed the fine things of Western civilization, and been excited by the new ideas. Back in Burma they quickly attained the prestige and the comfortable life reserved for Britain-returned men, and they could afford to go round and spread the ideas.
4. YMBA ENTERS POLITICS
‘In 1897 Upper and Lower Burma were constituted as a single Lieutenant-Governorship, with a Provincial Government and a Legislative Council, which originally comprised nine nominated members (including four officials), and was gradually expanded until in 1920 it contained thirty members, two elected by the European Chamber of Commerce and the Rangoon Trades Association, and twenty-eight (including twelve officials) nominated by the Lieutenant-Governor.' (N.20)
There was, thus, no semblance, nor indeed any pretence, of representative government. The ‘Morley-Minto Reforms’ of 1909 had only enlarged the Council to fifteen of which fourteen were appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor and the solitary remaining one was elected by the Chamber of Commerce (European). Nor was there any vigorous demand for representative government by the Burmese people.
The only organization of any importance which existed was the YMBA, and it was a religious and social organization, with no political ambitions at first. It held meetings and discussed public affairs, and later, when its organization spread in the towns and villages, it held conferences, nearly every year, at the principal cities by turns.
There were Government officers and staff among its leaders and members, (N.21) barristers, journalists and businessmen too. Prominent among the young and active leaders were: U Ba Pe who started The Sun, Burmese language newspaper, on July 4, 1911, together with a colleague, U Hla Pe; the newspaper played its vital role in the nationalist movement, as did U Ba Pe who rose to hold, at one time or another, almost all the senior Cabinet positions except the premiership. U Maung Gyee, M.A., (populary known, later on, as ‘M. A. Maung Gyi’ to distinguish him from another political leader, J. A. Maun~ Gyee), barrister; he too rose high, and became the first Burmese Counsellor to the Governor on Defence, a knight, and, after Burma’s independence, the first Burma’s ambassador to the Court of St. James’s. J. A. Maung Gyi, barrister, who was later Home Member, then Judge of the High Court, then Home Member again, and later, the first Burmese to officiate as Governor in 1930.(N.22) Dr. Ba Yin who also became a Minister. U Pu, banister, who became a Minister, then Prime Minister in 1939, and after the Second World War, a Member of the Governor’s Executive Council. U Them Maung, banister, who rose in politics to be a Minister, then became the first Burmese Advocate-General in 1938, Chief Justice of the High Court, after Burma’s independence, and Chief Justice of the Union, finally, from which top judicial position he has now retired.(N.23)
Political kadership then seemed to have been the monopoly of banisters, for U Su, U Ba Si, U Sein Hla Aung, and other prominent leaders of the YMBA were also barristers. U Kin and U May Oung also, both eminent jurists who rose to the Bench of the High Court, and ended their brilliant careers in death as Member for Home Affairs. U Chit Hlaing, another barrister, was to become hero of the wunthanu nationalist movement, and later, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and, after the Second World War, President of the Legislative Council nominated by the Governor. He was nominated, though not successfully, for the Presidency of the new independent Union of Burma; in 1952 he was elected as a Member of Parliament, and died soon after, in harness. (N.24) U Maung Maung Ohn Ghine, an educationist, U Ba Hlaing, a social worker and a leader of labour, both living in semiretirement today, were also among the active organizers of the YMBA.’(N.25)
The YMBA annual conferences were mild affairs. They opened with ‘God Save the King’ and closed with prayers for the glorious health and long reign of Their Majesties. A daring innovation was a slight change of the anthem to Buddha Save the King’, a change of which Their Majesties were not known to disapprove. The resolutions were couched in the form of prayers for favours, or in expression of loyalty and gratitude. The annual conference held at Henzada in 1916, for example, under the chairmanship of U May Oung, passed by acclaim a resolution moved by the chairman and seconded by another barrister, U Shwe Zan Aung, which expressed the profound satisfaction faction of the conference and deep gratitude to His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor for the opportunity so graciously granted to one hundred Burmese troops to serve on the western fronts.
The conference held at Pyinmana in 1917 had more serious resolutions to pass. One expressed disapproval of special carriages on railway trains for ‘Europeans only’ which somehow smacked, it said, of racial discrimination. Another resolution vigorously protested against Europeans entering Buddhist pagoda precincts with their shoes on. Yet another resolution urged the Government to pass laws to prevent the passing of land into the hands of foreigners. Several other resolutions were of social import, such as the one which called upon members to refrain from alcohol, the people from excessive merry-making and night-long pwe and performances, and Burmese women from marrying foreigners.
Political resolutions came up too in 1917, which was a crucial year. President Wilson’s celebrated Fourteen Points had gained currency among the people or at least the literate and the alert, and the dream of self-determination had started to disturb and delight the sleeping minds. In London, the heart of the Empire, the Secretary of State for India had, on August 20, announced the policy of His Majesty’s Government which set responsible self-government in India as the final goal of that country.’(N.26) The statement was carefully worded. The goal was distant, no doubt, but at least it had been set. The steps towards it were to be gradual, no doubt, but they were to be preferred to no steps at all.
Thus, at Pyinmana in 1917, the YMBA began to hope and dream. One of its resolutions, moved by U Mya U, banister, and seconded by U Kyaw Yan of Mandalay, to send a delegation to India to meet Mr. Montagu, the Secretary of State, and his mission, and make Burma’s case, was passed with enthusiasm. Another resolution called on the Government to remove U Po Tha, U Ba Tu and U Nyunt, nominated members, from the Legislative Council,
and entertain only the true elected representatives of the people. The YMBA resolutions, while retaining their customary polite language, thus
began to shift in substance from supplication for favours to demand for rights. U Pe, President of the YMBA, U Ba Pe, U May Oung, and U Su went to
India in December 1917, to meet the Montagu mission. The Cooperative Societies, representing the conservative Burmese business interests, sent U Ba Tu, U Po Tha and U Thin, which trio became notorious later as the TuTha-Thin rightist group, and U San Win and J. S. Pillay, banisters from’ Mandalay. Dr. San C. Po and Sydney Loo Nee went to speak for the Karen minority. The delegations interviewed the Montagu mission in Calcutta, and returned to Rangoon satisfied that Burma would not be left out of the new reforms.
When in 1919 the Government of India Act was passed incorporating the ‘Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms’, and Burma was left out, the YMBA and the people were greatly agitated. Burmese opinion was hurt that Burma should be left out and therefore by implication slighted, and the suspicion was that a lesser scheme was being prepared for her. The Lieutenant-Governor of Burma at the time, Sir Reginald Craddock, had been openly unsympathetic to the very idea of self-government’ (N.27) and the schemes which he proposed involving devolution of local government powers on circle boards and district councils and the conduct of provincial government in part by a complicated system of executive boards, provoked the people to anger and action. Only the Tu-TJza-Thin group remained calm and lent its support to the Craddock Schemes.
Sir Reginald Craddock had provoked public opinion before. In June 1917 a severe earthquake brought down the ancient Shwesnawdaw pagoda in Pegu, and Sir Reginald went to inspect the disaster. He would not take off his shoes in the pagoda and the offended trustees reported to the YMBA in Rangoon. U Them Maung, Secretary of the Association, had moved to Rangoon from Prome to establish a legal practice in the capital, and when the YMBA convened a mass meeting in Jubilee Hall to protest and to demand that in future Europeans who entered Buddhist pagodas and temples must take off their shoes, it fell upon him, when the older leaders shunned the honour, to preside. The meeting heard eloquent, and vehement, speeches, and firmly resolved that the shoe controversy must be resolved by the Europeans yielding, or staying out of pagodas. The occasion was one of the early ones when the people united to express their will and draw strength and confidence from their unity. The resolution was heard and heeded. Europeans began to take off their shoes when entering pagodas, or stayed away. For the people it was an intoxicating experience which proved that the popular will could win.
The YMBA sent a delegation to London in May, 1919, composed of U Ba Pe, U Pu and U Tun Sham who was headmaster of the Buddha Sasana Noggalla (B.T.N) high school in Mandalay. The delegation was charged with presenting Burma's case in Whitehall and Westminster, and to the people of England. The delegation was in London for seven months, making camp at’ Hotel Russell in Russell Square, and actively sought friends and support. The YMBA at home also tried to lend moral support to its mission, holding meetings all over the country and sending a memorial signed by 15,000 people headed by U Chit Hlaing. But His Majesty’s Government had its problems after the War, and the people and Parliament were too tired to be bothered with the cause of Burma which was so far away, almost in another world.
The delegation came home and reported to the people, and it was sent back again to London in May, 1920, with U Them Maung taking the place of U Tun Sham who had died. Once again there were interviews and lobbying in Parliament. Some sections of the British press were helpful, and friends were also found among the people and Members of Parliament. Questions on Burma were even put on the lists in the House of Commons, though they all died on the lists for lack of quorum in the House. The endeavours of the delegation were not, however, vain. The delegates met people, officials, politicians, journalists and others, and awakened their conscience and their interest in Burma. That was a good beginning, and a wise investment in the future.
In Rangoon, Sir Reginald Craddock, constantly under fire, was hit hardest by the cry of ‘Craddock, Go Home!’ raised by a young Buddhist monk, U Ottama. The cry burst like an explosion whose echoes went rumbling through the land. U Ottama had studied in Calcutta and participated in the movement of the Indian National Congress. In 1918 he had returned to Rangoon to whip up enthusiasm for the nationalist cause. He lectured, wrote for the press, in fact bombarded it, and organized. The orthodox Buddhist monks rejected him at first for a political monk was a new and undesired phenomenon. But U Ottama was undefeated. He gave his support to the YMBA, and toured the country, making fiery political speeches. The Government prosecuted him for sedition and sent him to jail several times but when he emerged he went back again to political agitation.’ (N.28) His cry, ‘Craddock, Go Home!’ was taken up by all in the country, and its boldness injected new courage into the movement. Sir Reginald Craddock was the first representative of the British Crown to be called upon to pack up and go home, and he could not have found the command pleasing. His successors, however, got used to it.
5. THE GCBA
In September 1920, the YMBA, meeting in annual conference at Prome, resolved to convert itself into the ‘General Council of Burmese Associations the GCBA, which could be the alliance of all organizations, parties, and individuals in the common nationalist cause. U Chit Hlaing was elected President of the new Council and U Ba Pe as the Vice-President.’ (N.29) Enthusiasm ran high at the conference. Delegates converged on Prome from all over Burma, and special railway trains had to be run to cope with the traffic. The resolutions which were passed by the conference were mainly political. Craddock Schemes were denounced; a boycott of foreign goods by the people was called for, and they were urged to wear home-spun native clothes; the Government was asked to take back the land which had fallen into the hands of the Indian moneylenders and distribute them among the peasants.
For the next few years the wave of nationalism which was set free at Prome swept the country, growing only stronger as it rolled on. The wunthanu nationalist movement was high fashion. The women joined and the Buddhist monks. People took pride in wearing coarse, home-spun clothes, and the membership ticket of the GCBA was accepted as evidence of patriotism. Even the shops in the markets called themselves ‘Wunthanu Teashop’, Wunthanu Stores’ and soon.
U Chit Hlaing, the leader of it all, was a national hero. He still wore European clothes at times, but that was all right with the people, for he was no ordinary leader but an England-returned one. He was rich and handsome, and he did not accept office for a long time. He was a prince in politics, and people worshipped him because they needed someone to worship and being simple people they preferred that someone to be a prince. People called him the Thamada or President, or uncrowned King. A small circle of followers and hangers-on followed him everywhere, holding the golden umbrella over him at meetings and ceremonial functions to shelter him from the colonial sun. Wherever he went people welcomed him with warmth and emotion. Women would throw themselves on his path and spread their long hair to make for him a carpet of hair to tread on; but then women have been doing that through the ages in all countries for saints and returning soldiers, for politicians and for assorted quacks alike.
The press lent support to the GCBA movement, The Sun of course, shone bright, joined by the New Light of Burma, the Liberty, the Modern Burma, the Bandoola journal, and a few others in Burmese; the Observer, the New Burma, the Free Burma, and the Rangoon Mail in the English language. In the early wunthanu years, the press was one for the common cause, and journalists, like barristers, stood in the vanguard of the movement. The newspapers were numerous and poor, and editors had to be a little of everything on their papers, but they were inspired and dedicated. Only when politics became a profession with political jobs to grab and spoils to distribute did some newspapers sink to the level of personal or party organs.
An important incident which happened at the end of 1920 was the students’ strike. The Government had drafted the University Bill for the inauguration of the University of Rangoon, and the draughtsmen had modelled it on the small, select, residential university of the Oxford or Cambridge type. Students of the University considered the residential qualification restrictive and undesirable. They demanded that the University should be open to as many students as possible, and should be a ‘teaching’, and not a residential, university. Political leaders joined in the demand, and when the Government stood adamant, the students declared a strike, on December 5, and trooped out to the Shwedagon pagoda to establish their camp in the monasteries at the foot of the pagoda hill. The strike quickly spread, drawing students from the Judson Mission College and schools in Rangoon alike. In a few days it had spread to the districts. Public support for the strike was enthusiastic, and people contributed food and money to keep the students in their camps. The GCBA also gave students its blessing and soon the strike was a national movement bigger than a mere protest against the University Bill. The demands were ultimately met and students returned to their classrooms and examinations. A great national victory was thus won, and the GCBA at its ninth conference held in Mandalay in 1921 decided that the day of the strike should be observed as a National Day.’ (N.30)
The victory led some leaders of the strike to hope that ‘national’ schools and colleges could be started and education could be emancipated from the influence of British rule. A Council of National Education was formed, with U Maung Gyee as chairman, and a national college was started in the Shwegyintaik, a monastery at the foot of the Shwedagon. Intellectuals like ‘Mister Maung Hmaing’(N.31) who served the college as professor of Burmese literature and history, joined the staff. National schools also sprang up in the districts. But ‘national’ education was premature. The people were not ready to reject the British Government so drastically. It was one thing to label the education imparted at Government schools and colleges as ‘slave education’, but quite another to reject it altogether. The national schools were not well run, nor were they well off. Parents sent their boys and girls back to the Government schools to obtain the diplomas and certificates which were essential passports to good jobs in the Government service. The national college withered away, as did the national schools. The Myoma National High’ School in Rangoon carried on valiantly, though, to the credit of the British, it must be said that it was the British military authorities which granted lease of cantonment land to the school at nominal rent. The School today is proud to have raised a young man who was destined to be Prime Minister U Nu. In Mandalay, the National High School served as a breeding ground of young politicians, and the B.T.N. High School also carried on by the sheer capacity of its teachers to survive on poor salaries irregularly paid. In Pantanaw also a National High School persevered, and had among its idealistic teachers people like U Nu and his friend U Thant.’(N.32)A few such schools, which served as monuments to a hopeless cause, carried on, but otherwise the movement fizzled out. The gesture was great, though, and defiant, and perhaps it. was worth it, if only for its dramatic effect.
Intoxicated with victory, the GCBA at its conference in Mandalay openly came out against the dyarchical system of constitutional reforms which it was demanding a year ago. The conference called upon the people to ‘boycott’ the commission of enquiry led by Sir A. F. Whyte which had arrived in Burma to measure the people’s political aspirations and fitness. The GCBA also called for a boycott of the Prince of Wales who visited the country in December, 1921. Anxious to prevent any embarrassment being caused to His Royal Highness by overzealous nationalist leaders, the Government sent off U Chit Hlaing, U Ba Si, U Ba Hlaing and a few others to holiday in pleasant resorts in the hills for the period of the royal visit. The Prince of Wales played polo and charmed people with his friendly informality, while the GCBA leaders also thrived on the fresh mountain air and the generous hospitality which they enjoyed as guests of the Lieutenant-Governor.
The boycott became a habit with the GCBA. The Craddock Schemes, foreign goods, the Whyte Mission, the Prince of Wales, and finally Dyarchy itself, all were vigorously boycotted. It had been ‘Craddock, Go Home’, and ‘Whyte, Go Back’, and finally it was ‘Down with Dyarchy.’
The Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms, or Dyarchy, was inaugurated in Burma on January 2, 1923. Burma became on that day a Governor’s Province with a Legislative Council of 103 seats of which 8o were filled by election, 8 by nomination of non-officials, 13 by nomination of officials and the remaining a by the Members of the Governor’s Executive Council ex-officio. The 8o elective seats were allotted as follows: 22 to urban constituencies in 8 towns, 8 of them being Indian community seats; 49 to rural constituencies in 31 districts, 5 being given to the Karens; and the remaining to European and Anglo-Indian communities and special constituencies such as the Rangoon University and the various Chambers of Commerce.(N.33) Elections to the first Legislative Council were held on November 21, 1922. The GCBA had declared a boycott of the elections, and there was also the usual apathy, so that of 1,767,227 voters only xi percent went to the polls. The percentage rose, at the second elections in 1926, to 24. (N.34)
The first Governor, Sir Harcourt Butler, addressing the first meeting of the Legislative Council on February 3, 1923, was optimistic about the reforms. ‘We start with favouring breezes,’ he said, and he thought that in one year of working dyarchy should prove itself. (N.35)
The important new feature of the reforms was the division of executive government into two parts.
In Sir Harcourt’s own words, ‘the one consists of Members of the Executive Council dealing with reserved subjects and the other consists of Ministers dealing with transferred subjects. The reserved subjects of which the principal are justice, police, prisons, and revenue are administered by the Governor and the Members of the Council, under the control of the Government of India and the Secretary of State. The transferred subjects, of which the principal are education, public works (other than railways and irrigation), public health, forests, excise, agriculture and local self-government, are under Ministers appointed from members of the Legislative Council and responsible to that body. The Governor and the Executive Council are appointed for five years. The Ministers hold office so long as they can command the confidence of the Legislative Council. They cannot in any case hold office for more than three years, which is the life of the Legislative Council. The Finance Department is common to the reserved and the transferred subjects and has certain necessary powers peculiar to itself which are not given to other Departments. That is the constitutional position. In the reserved subjects the Governor and his Council decide questions. In the transferred subjects the Governor and his Ministers decide questions. The Governor has power to overrule both the Members of Council and the Ministers in their respective spheres, but this is a power very rarely exercised. In His Majesty the King-Emperor’s instructions to the Governor of Burma it is laid down that he should encourage the habit of joint deliberation between Members of Council and Ministers in order that the experience of the former might be at the disposal of the latter and that the knowledge of the latter as to the wishes of the people might be at the disposal of the former.’(N.36)
Dyarchy split the ranks of.theGCBA. While U Chit Hlaing, with the blessing of the Buddhist Sangha Council, stood stubbornly by the boycott, many of his associates could not stand so firm. Some of them were tempted by the prospect of office and rewards.(N.37) Some were genuinely convinced that to keep on boycotting everything was too drastic, and hopeless like crying in the wilderness, and that strategy must adjust itself to changing circumstances. On June 17, 1922, a special assembly of the GCBA met at the Jubilee Hall, Rangoon, to consider the vital question as to whether the elections should be contested or boycotted. Twenty-one leaders who favoured participation in the new constitutional schemes issued a statement, and when the GCBA voted for boycott, they broke away and set themselves up as the ‘Nationalist Party. The ‘first seceders’, U Chit Hlaing called them,(N.38)but the more zealous of the GCBA followers gave them more violent names, ‘traitors’, ‘constitutionalists’, ‘the dy- men’, being some of them. The Twenty-one leaders, known more kindly and correctly thenceforth as the ‘Twenty-One Party’, won 28 seats in the first Council. The core of leadership in the GCBA which remained loyal to the boycott was made up of U Chit Hlaing, U Pu (Tharawaddy), and U Tun Gyaw, which trio came to be known as the Hlaing-PuGyaw. U Pu himself could not stay out of the Council too long. It was perhaps painful for him to see the Twenty-One Party enjoying all the plums of office by itself, for in 1926, when the second elections were held, he led a party called the ‘Home Rule Party’ and got himself, and some xo men, in. The ‘Home Rulers’ took oath to abstain from any salaried office during the life of the Council. They kept the oath; being a minority which would not, in normal circumstances, attract an invitation to accept office certainly helped them to do so.’(N.39)
There were further secessions from The GCBA. In 1925 U Soe Thein formed the'SoeThein GCBA’, and in 1929, when U Soe Thein was showing an inclination towards violence and ‘direct action’ and even the enthusiastic Buddhist monks were becoming a little shy of him, U Su formed the ‘U Su GCBA’. Between the three GCBA’s, U Chit Hlaing thought, they commanded a membership of 1½ to 2 millions.(N.40) The number probably included the Buddhist monks and people in the villages over whom they had influence —which would be practically all the villagers.
Sir William Keith and Sir Maung Kin were the first Members of the Governor’s Executive Council; the first Ministers were Sir J. A. Maung ‘Gyi, and U Maung Gyee. On the death of Sir Maung Kin on 22nd. October, 1924, U May Oung, Judge of the High Court of Judicature at Rangoon, was appointed to succeed him. Sir J. A. Maung Gyi was then appointed Judge, and U Pu, barrister, became Minister in his place; the two Ministerships were then in the hands of the Nationalist Party which had the majority in the Legislative Council.(N.41)
U Ba Pe, the leader of the Twenty-One Party did not take high office, but contented himself with being elected Deputy President of the Legislative Council, with a salary of Rs. 5ooo per year.(N.42) The first President was Sir Frank McCarthy, a barrister. On his death he was succeeded by Sir Robert Giles, followed by Sir Oscar de Glanville. In the third Council, U Pu was elected President. All the Presidents were banisters; so were U (later Sir) Paw Tun, and U Ni, who followed U Ba Pe as Deputy President.
The Legislative Councils were orderly affairs. Questions were asked, and budgets were ‘discussed’. ‘Burmanization’ of the services was asked for. Removal of the British arsenal from the precincts of the Shwedagon Pagoda was a subject which came up often at question time.’ (N.43)There was active manoeuvring for office, or for survival in office, for the Ministers and the Members, like all politicians in all countries at all times, quickly persuaded themselves that they were essential in office for the good of the country.
But dyarchy was not popular in the country. ‘It has almost become a term of abuse,’ Sir Harcourt Butler found in 1926, three years after the inauguration of the system. ‘I have heard one man saying to another, ‘You are a dyarchy’. (N.44)
Dyarchy failed because it only fed a few, and the appetites of the few grew bigger with feeding. The many who were not fed were disgruntled; the people, in whose name the government was conducted, at least in part, were remembered only at the time of elections.
7. THE ‘SAYA SAN’ REBELLION
The scramble for office absorbed a considerable amount of the energy of the GCBA, for, one by one, its leaders broke away to - forsake the Boycott and try their fortunes in the Legislative Council. But what remained, and the factions into which it broke, carried on the struggle. There were the conferences and the resolutions, the protests and the demonstrations. The Sangha Associations were massively behind the GCBA still. U Ottama still roamed the country making his fiery speeches, courting, and getting, jail sentences. Another Buddhist monk, U Wisara, also became prominent as a vehement antagonist of dyarchy. In his last jail term, U Wisara fasted to the death in protest against the treatment that was given to him as a common prisoner. When the fast passed the first week, anxiety mounted in the country, and people and organizations sent desperate telegrams to the Government daily urging that U Wisara’s demands — which were that he should be allowed to wear the monk’s yellow robes, instead of the prisoner’s loin, and observe sabbath — be met. It was a contest between the popular will and that of the Government, a contest in which a life was sacrificed and the popular will rose stronger from defeat.
His Majesty’s Government in London sent a Commission of Enquiry, with Sir John Simon as its chairman, to find out how dyarchy was working. The ‘Simon Commission’ visited India in 1928, a year before such a commission was due under the Government of India Act of 1919 which promised a review of the working of dyarchy 10 years after the Act came into force. The Commission came to Burma in January 1929, and visited Mandalay and the principal cities where the GCBA greeted it with its stock slogan, ‘Go Back!’
An important discovery made by the Simon Commission was that Burma was not India. The Government of Burma had prepared a memorandum which, in the words of the Government, ‘did not purport to do more than examine in a detached and impartial spirit the arguments for and against separation’ of Burma from India. The Legislative Council had passed, on February i8, 1929, ‘without a division a motion in favour of separation,’ and on the 9th. August, 1930, the Council passed, ‘again without a division, a motion thanking ‘the Members of the Statutory Commission for having in accordance with the wishes of the people of Burma recommended immediate separation of Burma from India”.(N.45) The GCBA, having asked the Simon Commission to go back, found itself unable to support the Commission s findings and recommendation, and placed in the rather anomalous position of demanding continued association with India. For the next few years the separation issue dominated the political scene; the wordy battles that were waged up and down the country were long and learned and confused; the British looked on.
The peasants, who formed over So percent of the population, were, however, getting poorer. The economic depression which swept over the wotld arrived in Burma too, though a year or two later than in the West. The peasants were unable to pay their taxes, and demanded remissions. The ‘Soe Them GCBA’ put forward a simple remedy for the situation: let the peasants refuse to pay. The remedy was attractive; its only defect was that it did not work, but worsened the situation. Even the drastic sangha found the remedy too simple, and yet too drastic, and many of their associations hastily disowned the ‘Shoe Them GCBA’. In their difficulties, the peasants turned to false hopes and superstitions, to rumours of a ‘king’ who was rising to throw the alien ruler out into the sea and to restore national honour and prosperity. Occasional ‘kings’ had risen before, but they came and made their promises in the remote villages, collected money and tributes of material and village maidens, and then discreetly faded away. There were serious risings too, like that of the Bandaka holy man in Shwebo district, the generous womb of most contenders and pretenders. Bandaka declared his mission in 1928, collected men and money and rose. The rising became a serious affair, and the Government had to call in troops to suppress it. The Bandaka and 25 followers were rounded up and tried and sentenced to transportation for life.
The Saya San rebellion which broke out in Tharawaddy district in December 1930 was a serious incident indeed. ‘The first outbreak occurred on the night of the 22nd. December in villages in the south-east corner of Tharrawaddy district, a few miles from Tharrawaddy town, 75 miles north of Rangoon. In recent years the district had become the favourite sport of political agitators. Numerous athins, or village societies have been formed in the district. Many speeches have been delivered, all preaching disaffection against the Government. Many of these speeches were particularly directed against the capitation tax. This tax is the mainstay of the revenue in the neighbouring Kingdom of Siam, but in recent years it has been the target of political attack in Burma. The result of the campaign was a general refusal to pay the tax in part of this district in the cold weather of 1927—28, and strong measures had to be taken to put down this movement.’ So began the report on the rebellion published by His Majesty’s Government in London.’(N.46)The Irony of it was that the rebellion broke out at a time when a Burman was for the first, and last, time officiating as Governor. Sir Charles Innes, proceeding on leave, had handed over to Sir J. A. Maung Gyi, and peasants in Tharrawaddy had pleaded with ‘J. A.’, when he went on tour, for remission of the taxes. ‘J. A.’, a blunt and stubborn man who owed less for his rise to high office to the popular vote than to his good fortunes, refused, and ordered that stern measures be taken to collect.
The rebellion, however, was more than a general protest against tax collection. The leader, Saya San, at one time a district leader of the ‘Soe Thein GCBA’, declared himself to be the Gaiuna Raja, King of the Galon, a mythical bird which was believed to be conqueror of the Naga dragon.’(N.47) Followers of Saya San tattooed themselves with the galon emblem which was also considered to bestow immunity from bullets, styled themselves the ‘Galon Army’ and marched out, brandishing swords and sticks. They raided railway stations and cut up telegraph lines, they attacked outposts, and won initial successes. In the open fields, when Government forces came upon them, the men of the Galon Army would paint large white circles on their naked behinds, and bending down backwards invite the forces to shoot and discover their immunity from bullets. Often the sight of the wierd, wriggling circles was sufficient to frighten off the Government forces. Sometimes the invitation to shoot was taken up seriously with unfortunate results. The rebellion was a strange blend of faith and superstition, nationalism and madness, of courage and folly. But it was a daring gesture of defiance: even the white circles on the behinds were a symbol in themselves of the new mood that was astir in the country.
The Government rushed the Military Police from Rangoon, then the regular troops, the 2/15th. Punjab Rifles were called down from their station in Maymyo. Later, as the rebellion spread to the Insein, Yamethin, Pyapon and Henzada districts, more Military Police and more companies of the 2/15th. Punjabis were throw in, and Major-General Coningham, commanding the Burma Independent District, and Brigadier C. F. Watson, commanding Rangoon Brigade area, took charge of operations. No martial law was declared, for the rising quickly broke and scattered over hill and jungle over an area covering nearly half the country, and the military commanders decided that regular troops should wait on the alert at chosen stations, flinging a cordon round the long shoulder of the Pegu Yomas. Government forces raided Saya San’s camps often, always to find that the bird had flown. Sympathy of the villagers was with Saya San and his men. The Government used force on the one hand to suppress the rising, and on the other it tried to appease with offer of amnesty and rewards. For long months the guerrilla war continued, but in the end Saya San fell into the hands of the police while retreating into the Shan State where he hoped to get rest and recuperation from his illness with malaria, resources to rebuild his army, and, if ~possible, contacts in China which might supply modern arms.
The rebellion gave heart to nationalist leaders everywhere. In the Legislative Council, members were careful to disown any association with the rebellion, but they pressed the Government hard for a grant of general amnesty, and severely took it to task when its cruel and excessive measures —such as the beheading of the Galon dead and the exhibition of the heads at police stations in the affected areas — were exposed. When the Government moved the Burma Rebellion (Trials) Bill which sought authority to set up a Special Tribunal to try Saya San and the leaders, members, in heated debate rejected the motion, on the ground that the need did not exist to invent a special tribunal when the ordinary courts and procedure could adequately conduct the trials.’(N.48)
Sympathy for the Burmese nationalist cause was widespread even in India. When the Government of Burma took to repressive measures to meet Saya San rebellion and its grave aftermath, protests were made also in the Central Legislative Assembly in Delhi. Under dyarchy Burma sent three representatives, chosen by countrywide elections, to the Legislative Assembly and one to the Council of State. Normally Members from Burma were lost in the Assembly; they took their seats and listened; they went to the many social functions to which they were automatically invited; they drew their allowances and returned. After Saya San, however, Burma gained prominence in the Assembly. The Government of Burma had banned the ‘Soe Them GCBA’ early in 1931 alleging the association’s complicity in the rebellion. A Burmese Member, U Tun Aung, (N.49) reading reports of the ban in the Indian press tabled a motion for adjournment in the Assembly to discuss ‘the declaration by the Government of Burma that the General Council of Burmese Associations are unlawful under the Criminal Law Amendment Act.’ The motion received the required support from not less than 25 members, and a debate ensued in which prominent Indian members such as Sir Han Singh Gour gave their support to Burma’s cause. ‘Repression, Sir,’ U Tun Aung said, ‘begets only resentment and reaction and no good results can be expected from repression.’ There was applause. When the vote was taken there was an exciting tie of 42 against 42, and the President of the Assembly, ‘following the well-recognized practice of status quo ante’ voted against and declared the motion lost. (N.50)
U Kyaw Myint, another Burmese Member, making his maiden speech in the Legislative Assembly, also denounced the repressive measures taken by the Government of Burma. ‘I do not know what would happen to me if I said in Burma today what I am saying here now,’ he said, after a forceful indictment against the Government. An Indian Member interrupted: ‘Don’t. go back to Burma!,’ and U Kyaw Myint replied: ‘An Hon’ble Member has been pleased to ask me not to go back to Burma. But I must tell him that it is my duty to go back to Burma and face whatever awaits me.’ There was prolonged applause.(N.51)
In Burma, the trials of Saya San and the leaders conducted inTharrawaddy, Pyapon, and other towns of the affected districts, drew great public interest. A Judge of the High Court, Justice J. Cunliffe. was appointed President of the Special Tribunal, and U Ba U and A. J. Dawood members. Young lawyers sprang to the defence of the rebel leaders. The brothers Dr. Ba Han and Dr. Ba Maw, and other young banisters such as Kyaw Din, Htoon Aung Gyaw, Kyaw Myint, Ba Si, Them Maung, Ze Ya, Po Aye, Chan Tun Aung and Tun Aung appeared at the trials or took the appeals to the High Court after the convictions were entered. A young, ambitious, and publicity-seeking third grade pleader, Maung Saw, also volunteered his services for the defence at the trial. Maung Saw admired Saya San, and himself, so much that he called himself Galon Saw, wrote a spirited pamphlet about the rebellion which promptly got proscribed, won fame and fortunes for himself in politics, wrested the premiership of Burma for a brief and dazzling moment of glory, and finally ended, even as Saya San did, on the gallows, though dying as a despised felon and not as the national hero that Saya San came to be recognized as.
The trials were conducted in open court under the eyes of the press and interested audiences. Sir Arthur Eggar, the Government Advocate, led the prosecution team. An impish and irrepressible man, Sir Arthur had advised Dr. Ba Maw and other defenders that they might perhaps succeed to change the charge from that of waging war against the Crown to that of rioting against tax-collectors. When that obvious line of defence was followed, Sir Arthur was delighted, and he had the accused brought into court every morning chained and ironed and heavily escorted to impress deeply upon the Tribunal that they were trying not mere light-hearted rioters but dangerous and ruthless rebels. ‘Purely a piece of brilliant stage management,’ Sir Arthur said about his tactic.(N.52)
Saya San, U Aung Hla, and other rebel leaders were hanged on November 16, 1931, but the nationalism that they helped to further quicken refused to be buried with their bodies.
8. SEPARATION FROM INDIA
For the next few years after the rebellion the great debate which engaged the political mind of the country was whether to separate from India or not. The Simon Commission had recommended separation, and the Government of Burma desired it, nor was London averse. The GCBA, having boycotted everything, found itself rejecting separation too. Political parties and groups sprang up, for separation or against, or against separation for the time being but for separation later. The debate drew forth new young leaders, like Dr. Ba Maw, with the old ambition for office. There were new alliances and new adjustments in the political world.
His Majesty’s Government resorted to the practice of having round table conferences with leaders from India and Burma to plan the future of the two countries. The Indian Round Table Conference which took place in London from November 12, 1930 to January 19, 1931, was attended by 73 leaders from ‘India’ who included U Ba Pe, U Aung Thin, U Ohn Gaing, and Sir Oscar de Glanville from Burma. ‘Four gentlemen were chosen as delegates from Burma,’ U Kyaw Myint said, opposing the principle of separation, in the Central Legislative Assembly, ‘and no invitations were issued to anyone else. Of the selections made by Sir Charles Innes, one was a European gentlemen who has throughout been the foremost advocate of separation at any cost, and another a gentleman who represented nobody. (Laughter). The remaining two, Sir, were members of the People’s Party. These two gentleman actually protested against the unrepresentative character of the delegation. Their protest was overruled, and rightly or wrongly, these two gentlemen attended the Round Table Conference under protest.” (N.53)
The Round Table Conference, however, accepted separation on principle, and decided to convene a separate Burma Round Table Conference to discuss and draft a new constitution for Burma which would be in no way inferior to that which was being drafted for India. The Conference took place from November 27, 1931, to January 12, 1932. The inaugural session took place in the King’s Robing Room in the House of Lords and the Prince of Wales, delivering the welcome address, remembered his visit to Burma, and ‘its romantic scenery, its great river, its hills and forests, its wonderful pagodas, and, above all, the friendliness of its people.” (N.54) He asked the delegates to bear it in mind that those whose duty ‘is to build up a new framework of government or to adapt old one to new conditions, must be wise and careful architects, remembering that their building will have at once to bear the strains and stresses of a very difficult and restless phase of human history’ and wished them ‘God-speed’ in their labours.
The interesting feature of the Conference was that some of those Burmese political leaders whom the Prince of Wales had missed on his visit to Burma were there. U Chit Hlaing, the leader of the GCBA, and U Ba Si, who were among those who were sent off by the Lieutenant-Governor into temporary exile during the visit of His Royal Highness were there at the Conference. U Chit Hlaing had at first refused to go to London, but he was at last l)ersuaded, and went carrying the mandate of the Sangha associations to demand ‘full and immediate responsible self-government’ for Burma. There were 24 members on the delegation from Burma and two advisors to the delegates from the Shan States.(N.55) Lord Peel was elected chairman of the Conference, and members of the British delegation included Sir Samuel Hoare, M. P., the Marquess of Lothian, C. H., Mr. Isaac Foot, M. P., Mr. G. H. Hall, M. P., the Viscount Mersey, Major D. Graham Pole, Mr. J.S. Wardlaw-Milne, M. P., and the Earl Winterton, M.P..
It was a representative delegation. The Burmans were there representing several political parties and groups. Miss May Oung, ably representing the women of Burma, demanded equal rights for them, because Burmese women have from time immemorial, ‘taken part as law-givers, as judges, as writers,
ii as administrators, and as great philosophers.(N.56) The gallant gentlemen of Britain had nothing but sympathy and admiration for the sentiments and the charms of Miss May Oung. There were the different communities of Burma at the Conference including the Indians and the Anglo-Indians and the British and the Karens. All their representatives spoke forcefully for their rights in the new constitution. The Shans were there, represented by the Sawbwa of Hsipaw and the young Sawbwa of Yaunghwe, (N.57) to make eloquent plea for their preservation as a separate entity, the Federated Shan States in the direct charge of the Governor.
In the first plenary sessions the delegates from Burma made their speeches and told their stories about their parties, defined their policies and their aspirations for the future of the country. There was some debate over the question as to whether the Conference should proceed on the assumption that separation of Burma from India would be sealed in the constitution, but the chairman ruled that the debate on that question must rest in view of the stated view of His Majesty’s Government in favour of separation.(N.58) The chairman also wanted to avoid such ‘general phrases’ as ‘full responsible government on the lines of Dominion constitutions’ which the delegates had pressed should be the declared goal, because, he said, ‘general phrases’ would ‘lead to misunderstandings.’ He would prefer to say that the purpose of the Conference was to devise ‘a constitution which will have in it the means of growth towards the declared goal of complete responsible government, but will contain provisions necessary to safeguard certain obligations and interests.(N.59) U Chit Hlaing, U Pu and U Tun Aung Gyaw, considering that the chairman’s promise of a constitution with the ‘means of growth’ for responsible government fell short of the aspirations of the people of Burma, boycotted the Conference from its sixth meeting of the committee of the whole conference. They walked out of the conference hail and stayed away for the day in token of their protest, and at subsequent meetings they ‘remained present’ without ‘actively participating therein’.
The sessions and the sub-committees went thoroughly into the details of the new constitution, and at the end of their labours the constitution was in the shape and form in which it was embodied in the Government of Burma Act which was passed in 1935 and came into operation on April, 1937.
The prospect of a new constitution stirred up a frenzy of political activity in Burma. New parties and new personalities emerged, new alliances were made, and new directions too. The GCBA which had so consistently stayed out of the Legislature, contested the elections in November 1932 which were fought on the major issue of separation. Their pledge to the people ~vas to fight the new constitution ‘from within’. There was a joining of forces between the Chit Hlaing GCBA and the Su GCBA, an alliance which was popularly called the ‘Hlaing-Myat-Paw’ after the leaders U Chit Hlaing, U Myat Tha Dun and U (later Sir) Paw Tun. This alliance was against separation. Another group of young leaders also took up the anti-separation cause: the Maw-Myint-Bye group, named after the leaders Dr. Ba Maw, U Kyaw Myint and ‘Ramree’ (or Yan-Bye, in the Burmese pronunciation) U Maung Maung. Dr. Ba Maw had looked about for a party to join, but later decided that the quicker way to top leadership was to form a party and give it a name and appoint himself leader. Dr. Ba Maw, with his good looks, his special cut of clothes, his musical voice and his well-trained gestures, was an immediate hit with the villagers to whom his mystical message was:
‘Separate! But do not let go of the association with India!’
For separation were the People’s Party, the former ‘Twenty-One Party’, led by U Ba Pe, U Pu and U Them Maung, and the Independent Party (or the ‘Golden Valley Party’ named alter the aristocratic suburbs where the leaders of the party lived) led by Sir J. A. Maung Gyi. The Independent Party was already discredited by then as the ‘stooges of the British’, and ‘J. A.’ with his Saya San rebellion fame was not a man to lead a party to electoral victory.
The ‘anti-separationists’ won, but in the Legislative Council there was indecision. On December 22, 1932, two rival motions were sponsored. U Tun Pe, representing the special constituency of the Rangoon University, moved a resolution that the Council accepted separation and the new constitution drafted by His Majesty’s Government. The rival motion, sponsored by Rainree U Maung Maung. was to the effect that the Council rejected separation but favoured continued association with India with the right of secession reserved for Burma. U Chit Hlaing, who had been elected President of the Council, allowed U Tun Pe to move, and ignored the rival mover, and this led to an uproar in the Council. and a no-confidence motion against its President. Accusations were flung by Dr. Ba Maw and his group at the President that he was playing politics, and his design in disallowing U Maung Maung’s motion was to put U Tun Pe’s to the Council with the certainty of its rejection. When the separation motion was thrown out, the anti-separation decision, total and unqualified, would stand. That, it was accused, was U Chit Hlaing’s design, and a President with designs was not an impartial umpire who must hold the Council together. The no-confidence motion brought down U Chit Hlaing, alter a brief few months of office, and put Sir Oscar de Glanville in his place. After all the heat and uproar, the Council adopted the resolution to stay with India with the unreserved right to leave at any convenient time in the future.
The separation issue did not end there. His Majesty’s Government decided that the resolution of the Legislative Council was equivocal. It must be, it said, separation now, or association with India for ever alter. No secession could be allowed at a future date. Once again the Legislative Council debated. From April 25, 1933, to May 6 when the Council was prorogued, the members debated brilliantly, long-windedly. some speakers like U Ba Pe totalling a handsome 40 hours of speech-making during the period. The weight of opinion was against separation, and members who were against teamed up and sent cables to London and New Delhi conveying their decision that if it must be for or against separation and nothing in-between they were against. His Majesty’s Government in London, bothered by the goings on in the Council in Rangoon, once more invited leaders to come over and talk round the table. Twelve members made the Burmese delegation which discussed with the Joint Select Committee of the Lords and the Commons between November 29, 1933 and December 20, 1933 before the final decision was made.(N.60) ‘We have satisfied ourselves,’ the Committee reported, ‘by discussion with the Delegates from Burma representing the anti-separationist parties that they have no real desire to see Burma included in an Indian Federation; and indeed they frankly admit that on their own terms they would unhesitatingly prefer separation.’(N.61)
Thus at last the die was cast: separation it was to be. The Government of Burma Act was then passed giving the blessing of the British Parliament to Burma’s new constitution. Fifty years after the annexation of Upper Burma, thus, Burma, regained her separate identity.
9. THE GOVERNMENT OF BURMA ACT
The new constitution gave a liberal dose of democracy. The Legislature, and the elective element, were enlarged. The Governor, representing His Majesty, and the Legislature in its two chambers, made the law-making authority. The House of Representatives, the popular chamber, had 132 seats of which 92 were filled on a non-communal territorial constituency basis, while the rest were reserved for Karens, Indians, Anglo-Burmans, Europeans, and special interests such as labour, commerce, and the Rangoon University. The Senate had 36 seats of which half were filled by the Governor by nomination, and the remainder by election from the House of Representatives on proportional representation.
Wider play was given also to the principle of responsibility to the Legislature. The Council of Ministers, the Instrument of Instructions issued by His Majesty to the Governor said, should be appointed ‘in consultation with the person who, in his judgment, is most likely to command a stable majority in the Legislature, those persons who will best be in a position collectively to command the confidence of the Legislature. In so acting, he shall bear constantly in mind the need for fostering a sense of joint responsibility among his Ministers.’
Law and order and several other departments were placed under the charge of Ministers who were, technically, advisers of the Governor, appointed to hold office at his pleasure, but in fact enjoyed the powers and privileges which were invested in the Cabinet of a self-governing Dominion. The Burmese, quick with a name, soon began to call the new constitution the ‘91-Departments Scheme’ because by their calculation there were 91 departments which were placed under the charge of Ministers. The rest of the subjects were either the ‘special responsibilities’ of the Governor those in which he exercised his ‘individual judgment’ but might consult his Ministers, or reserved subjects’ in which he used his own ‘discretion’ though he could appoint Counsellors to assist him in the exercise of the discretion. The prevention of any grave menace to the peace or tranquillity of Burma or any party thereof’ was a special responsibility, while ‘defence’ was a reserved subject. The ‘safeguarding of the financial stability and credit of the Government of Burma’ was a special responsibility, while the control of monetary policy, currency and coinage was a reserved subject. The ‘safeguarding of the legitimate interests of minorities’, the protection of the legitimate rights and interests of public servants, the prevention of discriminatory treatment against members of the communities, or against imported goods of the United Kingdom and Indian origin, were some of the special responsibilities. The Governor was enjoined, however, in the Instrument of Instructions, to use his powers in such a way as to give his Ministers full scope for the discharge of responsibilities which were properly their own.
Reserved subjects also included ‘ecclesiastical affairs’ which meant the established Church and not the Buddhist order as people in Burma, and the Sangha, feared. Chaplains in the Army, and the administration of the Church were the main items in the subject for which expenditure was limited under the act to Rs. 2,84,000 per year.(N.62) ‘External affairs’; the administration of the ‘Excluded Area’ or the areas specified in Part (I) of Schedule II annexed to the Act, viz, the Federated Shan States, the Arakan Hill Tracts, the Chin Hill Tracts, the Kachin Hill Tracts, the Somra Tract, the ‘area known as the Triangle’, the Hukawng Valley lying to the north of the Upper Chindwin District, the Salween District, and ‘all tribal territories which at the date of the Coming into operation of this Act are unadministered’; these are also subjects reserved for the discretion of the Governor. In the subject of ‘defence’, the Governor was instructed to ‘bear in mind the desirability of ascertaining the views of his Ministers when he shall have occasion to consider matters relating to the general policy of appointing persons of Burmese domicile as officers in Our Burma forces or the employment of Our Burma forces on service outside Burma.’
The new constitution was an important experiment with democratic form of government on the Dominion pattern. The power of veto was with the Governor both in the executive and the legislative functions in the performance of which he was guided by the Instructions from His Majesty and occasional directions from the Secretary of State for Burma. But, the Instructions reminded him, he ‘should so exercise the trust which We have reposed in him that the partnership between Burma and the United Kingdom within Our Empire maybe furthered, to the end that Burma may attain its due place among Our Dominions.’ Another democratic feature of the constitution was the independence of the Judiciary. The functions conferred on any court or judge by any existing law were declared by the Act to be separate from the executive authority of Burma. The High Court of Judicature and the courts under its supervision were independent of the Governor, and even in the event of a grave emergency when the constitution could be suspended under section 139 and the Governor resume all powers, the High Court would still stand independent.
The new constitution worked from April I, 1937, for nearly five years until the entry of Japan into the Second World War and the evacuation of Burma by the British. In the first elections for the Legislature under the new constitution, held in November 1936, the contest was keen. The Ngahwint-saing (the cluster of ‘Five Flowers’) or the ‘United GCBA’ was led by U Ba Pe, and it declared for a unity of parties to fight for national welfare and freedom within the constitution, now that the differences of opinion over participation or boycott, separation with India or otherwise, had been removed or rendered irrelevant. Leaders of the Twenty-One Party, the Separation Party led by U Maung Gyee, the Central Sangha Association led by the Ye-U Sayadaw with its adherent U Su GCBA, the Yadanabon Association of Mandalay, and the Twenty-One Party of Mandalay were the five flowers that decided, in an assembly held before the elections at Mandalay, to blossom together. The GCBA led by U Chit Hlaing also fought the elections. Among other contenders were the Komin Kochin Party (Our King, Our Kind) of young men who called themselves thakins (Our Own Masters), and the Fabian Party, led by U Ba Choe, publisher of the Deedok political weekly journal. Dr. Ba Maw, the brilliant inventor, had invented the ‘Sin yetha Party’ or the ‘Proletariats’ and even drafted a manisfestoe outlining his principles and his programme. Thoughtfully, the Sinyetha Party directed its main attention to the villagers — who also happened to be the big majority of the electorate — and promised democratic village administration, we]fare schemes and free and compulsory primary education, the distribution of land to the landless, the use of taxes collected from villages on the welfare of the villages instead of appropriating them to the funds of the central government, and many other attractive reforms.
In the elections the ‘Five Flowers’ ~von 45 seats, the Prolctariats r6, U Chit Hlaing and his GCBA won 12, the Komin Kochin Party 3, the Fabians r, and ‘Independents’ of sorts collected the remaining 17 of the elective seats.
No one party enjoyed a clear majority over the others combined, and it w just a situation which challenged and pleased Burmese genius for political manoeuvre. The Governor, Sir Archibald Douglas Cochrane, D.S.O., a former naval officer, felt a little at sea in Burma’s politics or perhaps it should be said, noting his former regular profession, a little on dry land, but he did a thorough and honest job in his term of office. He invited U Ba Pe to form a government, and after several days of desparate trying U Ba Pe failed. It was then Dr. Ba Maw who could readily submit his list of names for the first Coalition Cabinet under the new constitution, having won over U Pu from the ‘Five Flowers’ and other leaders and ‘independents’. Dr. Ba Maw became Prime Minister, and members of the Coalition Cabinet were Sir Paw Tun, Home Affairs; U (Thai-rawaddy) Maung Maung, Education; Saw Pe Tha, Forests; U Htoon Aung Gyaw, Finance; Dr. Thein Maung, Commerce; U Ba U, Finance and Revenue. U Chit Hlaing was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, and thus redeemed for the humiliation of his fall from the position in the last Legislative Council.
In the House politics promptly became a fast and furious scramble for the marginal majority that was required to seize office. No-confidence motions became the regular feature of sessions. There was intrigue and manoeuvre, in which the uncommitted ‘independent’ member was highly priced. The Europeans in the House, forming a small but decisive Moc, also became the arbiters of the destiny of every Cabinet. The quality of debate in the House was goad, and a vigilant opposition always kept the Government on its alert. ‘Burmanization’ of the services was pressed for in the House and by the Cabinet also, with greater success, so that the higher-paid posts and the ‘Secretary of State services’ such as the Burma Civil Service Class I, the Burma Police Service Class I were opened to more and more Burmese recruits. Those prized jobs usually went to the sons of Ministers or sans of friends and supporters of Ministers, or the prospective sons-in-law, but deserving young men were also able to force their way in by sheer merits.
While in the House politics tended to become primarily a scramble for office and power, outside in the country new nationalist forces were gathering. There was a great restlessness sweeping the land, a big yearning in the hearts of the people for the things that they were always promised but never really given, for escape from poverty and the low life to the vast heights of freedom and fulfilment. More and more, on the Burmese political scene, it was the people who came to matter, and not the well-dressed, well-fed politician in the House of Representatives or the Senate with his fine words and phrases and the plans which seemed to spend themselves in the planning.
10. YOUNG HERALDS OF A NEW AGE
On May 26, 1930, riots broke out in Rangoon between Indians and the Burmese. The cause was economic. Dockyard labourers, traditionally Indians, had struck for higher wages and for two weeks the unloading of cargo ships was at a standstill. Burmese labourers were brought in, and this led to the explosion. The riots, starting from the dockyards and between labourers, spread quickly through the city, and racial feelings were roused, and all who wanted a little excitement joined in the free-for-all. The riots were at last put down, but the deep restlessness and frustration that led to them remained.
On June 24, the prisoners in Rangoon jail tried to stage a break-out. A group of conspirators fell upon the warders and sentries, took charge of a few rifles, and tried to force out. Military Police opened fire, and a brief, brisk battle followed in which 28 prisoners, and several Military Police and jail sentries were killed, and 55 prisoners seriously injured. The jail-break that was attempted had no political significance, but it served to heighten the tension that gripped the country.
Later, there were riots again between the Chinese and the Burmese in Rangoon. A small quarrel at a road-side chop-stay shop began a widespread series of fighting in the streets, ambushes in the shadows of the city’s nights, stonings and stabbings executed by solitary adventurers or by angry organized masses.
At year’s end, the biggest explosion of all, the Saya San rebellion, burst upon the nervous scene.
Thus, the 1930’s began, and the mood of anger and frustration which seized the people caught the young intellectual even more firmly than it caught the others. Even as, in the days of the YMBA, the England-returned barristers, brought back with them from abroad, the liberal ideas of politics and society, now in the 1930’s it was the senior students of the Rangoon University, and the young writers who went out from it into the uneasy world of the country who began to dream and, being young and eager and energetic, dare to strive for the fulfilment of those haunting dreams.
Around 1930, the Dohbama Asiyone (Our Burma Association) began to take form and shape. First, it was a few young men meeting to exchange their views and dream together. Thakin Ba Thoung and Thakin Lay Maung, two of the prominent founders, had left the University to begin their careers in life, the former as a writer, and the latter as a politician. They found they could not get into the Class I services, for which they needed ‘backing’ by influential people. They could not stoop, after the college education, to be clerks. The only freedom they had was the freedom to dream, and their dreams came out in statements and essays, manifestoes and songs. When the riots with the Indians broke out, the Asiyone issued a statement calling on the Burmese to unite and protect national honour. ‘Comrades,’ read the call, ‘is Burma not our mother country? Love her, we exhort you!’ Burma is our land, the Asiyone slogans went, Burmese is our language; love our land, respect our language and letters. Even those simple slogans sent a wave of thrill through the country.
The Dohbama song composed by the young leaders of the Asiyone, who called themselves Thakin’s (Our Own Masters), also caught on quickly. The song remembered the ancient days of Burmese glory when the armies of the Kings marched as conquerors into neighbouring countries, and the name of Burma commanded respect everywhere; now it was the sacred task of the young generation to recapture that glory, to wipe out the national humiliation of being under an alien ruler. The young £hahins grew in numbers and their enthusiasm rose. They wore the pinni, coarse, home-spun clothes, they wore wooden slippers, shunning the imported leather shoes (which symbolised the West, and subservience to it), and the clatter of their thakin feet on the streets became a familiar sound. Their enthusiasm gushed into odd channels. Reading somewhere that political freedom alone was not enough but there must be economic freedom as well, the young schoolboys and thakins preached boycott of foreign goods, organized small shops themselves or sold things in the streets. Over-enthusiastic young leaders even organized secret societies and pledged themselves to ambush and beat up one Indian, symbol of economic exploitation by foreigners, per night.(N.63) But they soon found that it was not enough to beat up the poor Indian shop-keeper who saved some money by working hard, harder than the Burmese, and living cheaper; the ills of the country could not be cured by giving an Indian shop-keeper a broken nose. Like the riots, the nocturnal adventures of the young schoolboy leaders and thakins were meaningless. But they reflected the mood of the times, the impatience and the enthusiasm to try everything once, stopping at nothing.
In the Rangoon University too, about this time, a small group of senior students was forming which wanted to change the old order and quickly bring in the new. In the 1934—35 session, U Nu, ncw Prime Minister, had returned to the University to read for the post-graduate degree in laws, after spending a few years as a teacher at the National High School, Pantanaw. There he met U Ohn, a senior student, who introduced him to ‘three figures in the College who would make history’, Aung San, Kyaw Nyein and Thein Pe.(N.64) They discovered they were like minds. In the following session, 1935—36, they all contested the elections to the Executive Committee of the Rangoon University Students’ Union. Elections were quiet affairs before. The Union was a statutory institution which had the blessing and support of the University authorities and its Principal D. J. Sloss, and it had kept clear from politics, even in the most restrictive sense. The 1935—36 elections changed everything. U Nu offered himself as a candidate for the presidency of the Union, and Kyaw Nyein, Them Pe, Aung San, and M. A. Raschid, contested for membership in the Executive. They all won, and under their leadership the Union became more lively, and took a keener interest in contemporary affairs. They took strict care to keep clear of party politics, but invited political leaders of opposite views to come to the Union Hall and debate publicly on subjects of national interest. They promoted art and culture, .exhibitions, and social events, encouraged sports and competitions.
The year 1936, however, had a bigger destiny in store for the Students’ Union than that of a social and literary club. Early in the year, U Nu as president of the Union, made a speech criticizing the administration of the Union by its Council and the authorities. Principal Sloss became angry and served Nu with the expulsion order. Soon afterwards, another expulsion order was issued, this time against Aung San who, as editor of the Oway annual magazine, organ of the Union, had published an article entitled ‘Hell Hound at Large’ in which a member of the University staff, easily recognizable by the description, was severely attacked. Aung San was first asked to reveal the author of the offending article(N.65) and when he refused he was ordered to leave. The final examinations were round the corner then, and the Principal probably thought that the students would be too engrossed in their studies for the examinations to worry about the expulsions.
The contrary was the case. The Union convened a mass meeting of students, and reported what had happened and invited suggestions for action. The Executive Committee of the Union, in private discussions, had been inclined towards cafling on a strike, but they could not be sure about how the students would respond. The meeting, however, dispelled all doubts. Raschid presided, and fiery speeches were heard from Khin Maung Gale, Kyaw Nyein, and others. U Nu eloquently appealed that students should consider the issue on principle, and not be swayed by any sentiments for him. Students in India were on strike, he pointed out, and returning their degrees to the Universities as a gesture of contempt for the slave education. Not degrees only were they giving up, but their lives. The rich in India were giving up their wealth and taking up the nationalist struggle, They should serve as an example. U Nu’s call was answered with enthusiasm and emotion. When Raschid rose to speak and find out the mind of the meeting, his voice was drowned in shouts of, ‘Let’s go out, go out!’ and ‘Down with the Principal!’ Outside the Hall, thoughtful buses were already waiting, and students stepped onto the buses and drove round on the campus, shouting they had gone on strike, and asking their friends, and the girls in the women’s halls, to come out and join. Thus, on February 25, 1936, with carefully organized spontaniety, some 700 men students of the University College, and some 25 woman students, went to establish their striker’s camp at the Shwedagon Pagoda.
At the camp there had to be hasty consultation among the leaders as to what they should say their grievances and demands were. The expulsions were good cause but not entirely adequate to be the sole subject of demands. The University Act itself must be challenged, and, of course, ‘slave education’, and looking beyond, the evil colonialism that held the country enslaved. Thus, at night while the students slept at the camp, or talked or sang or played cards in their little dusters, Raschid who was legally minded, and U Nu who was not attracted at all to matters of detail but was always ready to soar into airy heights of dream and eloquence, and the other leaders, got down to reading the University Act for the first time to discover how it could be criticized.(N.66)
The demands, however, were unimportant. What was of historical significance was that the strike released a massive wave of nationalist movement that was to sweep people through vital years to ultimate independence. The expulsions of U Nu and Aung San from College quickly paled and faded from sight as the strike became an expression of national defiance against alien authority. The press and the people gave the students their whole-hearted support. Food parcels and funds flowed in, and students lived well in their camp. The young leaders were national heroes. Their speeches were reported under prominent headlines; their pictures were carried by the newspapers into every home. The publicity pleased the young leaders. Some of them admired Adolf Hitler whose rising star they had watched on the western sky. Some admired Mussolini, and practised the fascist salute, and posed to cameramen. U Nu practised his gestures in public and in the privacy of the small group of his colleagues; he perfected the admonishing finger which he still uses today with some effect. Aung San was the emotional one, swinging between steel resolve and soft tears. Raschid was the organizer, the calm rock of strength; students depended on him. Kyaw Nyein, who had given up his finals in the English honours degree to join in the leadership of the strike, was the brains, and in charge of public relations, with the help of friend Nyo Mya, author of the famous and fateful ‘Hell Hound at Large’ article. There were others too who worked hard to keep the strike going, who collected the funds and the food parcels and kept the morale up: Khin Maung Gale, U Ohn, Tun Win, Tun On, Thi Han, and a host of others. The young bodies helped too, and their very presence at the camp was a big tonic for the morale of their male comrades: Ma Ah Mar, Ma Khin Mya, Yi Yi and others are among the remembered names.(N.67) U Kyaw Myint, the barrister, headed a committee of elders who took upon themselves the task of keeping the camp provided and of guiding the young leaders in their campaign.
The strike spread all over the country. The Government, with Dr. Ba Maw in charge of the Education Ministry in the last dyarchical set-up, negotiated and came to terms with the students. ‘What are your minimum demands,’ Dr. Ba Maw would ask Nu, Raschid and the student leaders in private discussion, ‘eight annas in the rupee? Then ask for twelve, and I shall see that you get our eight.’ Then the discussions would proceed between the Government, with its dominant British element, and the students, and the students got their eight annas in the rupee. It was a great victory, and the strike was called off, and students returned to their examinations. It was, for the young leaders, their first big test, and their first real coming together. Destiny was to throw them together more for they, the young heralds of the new age, had only just arrived.
II. THE ‘YEAR OF REVOLUTION’
U Nu drifted into politics, after returning his B. A. degree to the University. He joined the Dohbama Asiyone and became Thakin Nu, the Asiyone’s principal dreamer and fund-raiser. Kyaw Nyein went back to take his Lonours degree, then took a job in the customs department to earn enough to keep himself and his political friends while he worked for his law degree. Raschid went back to lead the University Students Union, collect his law degree and start his practice. Aung San also went back to take his B.A. degree and venture into a little law, to preside over the Union and the All Burma Students Union which grew out of the strike; in October, 1938, he too left the University to join the Dohbama Asiyone and become Thakin Aung San.(N.68)
The young thakins opposed the new constitution brought in by the Government of Burma Act. Though three of their comrades won their way into the House of Representatives, their vow was to wreck, rather than work the constitution, and to proclaim their disinterest in any profit for themselves they refused to draw their salary as members. On April I, 1937, the day that the constitution came into life, Thakin Nu and some fellow thakins stood solemnly in front of the High Court buildings and burnt the Union Jack and a copy of the Government of Burma Act in a gesture of contempt. The deed was reported in the Sun and the New Light of Burma newspapers, and it was thought that the Government would take severe action against the offenders. But Dr. Ba Maw, newly installed as Prime Minister, refrained; the young leaders’ bravado was much after hi~ own heart, and though separated by a considerable gap in years from them there was some affinity between the young thakins and himself and considerable, if grudging, mutual admiration.(N.69)
1938, or the year 1300 of the Burmese Era, was the ‘year of revolution’. There were riots in July in which, once more, the Indians in Rangoon and the Burmese went mad, killing and wrecking at random. The origin was religious. One Saya Shwe Phi, a Muslim teacher, of Myedu, a village in Shwebo township, had, in 1931, brought out a pamphlet of religious discussion, in which Buddhism was somewhat scathingly criticized. The first edition of the pamphlet went unnoticed. A new edition was brought out in 1936 by a Rangoon publisher, and this time, with nationalist feelings at a high pitch, the comments on Buddhism were taken up by the few Burmese who read the pamphlet as an insult delivered to the people. The pamphlet was reviewed in the Sun, the New Light, and New Burma newspapers, and it was thus that in July 1938 the pamphlet, and Saya Shwe Phi drew upon themselves the anger of the Burmese. The Sangha convened an assembly at the Shwedagon on July 26, and denounced the pamphlet, and demanded a Government order to ban it. The young Sangha then marched through the streets of the city, and their anger and enthusiasm mounted as they marched. A solitary and ill-fated Indian milkman who crossed their path was stoned, and excitement seized the demonstrators. When they reached the Thaingyizay market in the city, they were already a mob, and Indian Muslims who caught their eyes received the treatment. The riots had begun. For several days the riots ran wild, and it was only towards the end of August that the Government could pronounce the situation normal. A Riots Enquiry Commission was formed, and it reported in due course,(N.70) but the riots had left their deep and ugly mark on the uneasy scene, and that mark could not be erased by the Commission.
Soon after the riots came the troubles in the oilfields of Yenangyaung.(N.71) Workers there had made their demands for better conditions, but the employers, the British-owned Burma Oil Company, did not respond. For some months the workers waited, and then they decided to go on strike and march down to Rangoon, 400 miles away, to lay their grievances at the very door of the Government. The march became an epic. It caught the imagination of the people, particularly the students, and won the enthusiastic support of the nationalist press. Dr. Ba Maw sent one of his Ministers, Dr. Them Maung, to Yenangyaung on a mission of conciliation, but the mission was fruitless for the B.O.C. refused to yield. Some 2000 workers joined the march, and they were fed and encouraged by villagers all along the way. The All Burma Students Union sent out from Rangoon its president, Ba Hem, and its secretary Ba Swe, to meet the marchers and bolster their morale. At Magwe, the march was stopped by Government order, and Ba Hem, Ba Swe, and Thakin Soe were placed under arrest. (N.72)
There was uproar in Rangoon. Students protested against the arrests. The Rangoon University Students Union passed resolutions and held demonstrations. On December 20 they marched in a mighty procession through the streets and surrounded the Secretariat offices, planting pickets at the gates. A tense morning slowly passed, and in the afternoon the students withdrew their pickets and assembled to march away. Their leader, Hla Shwe (N.73) president of the Union, addressed the assembly, and there was confusion as students scrambled to hear him. In that confusion stones were thrown and the mounted police charged, beating with their batons and trampling students under their horses. Many were hurt, and one Aung Gyaw, a 22 year old student from Henzada township, was struck on the head several times by heavy baton blows. He was admitted into hospital where he died. Aung Gyaw Immediately became a martyr; his funeral became a huge rally of silent protest, and it was filmed and shown all over the country to people who mourned the death as if it was that of a son. A Secretariat Incident Enquiry Committee was appointed by the Government, but Committees could not cope with the situation. (N.74)
The peasants also marched, organized by the All Burma Peasants Organization, a wing of the Dohbama Asiyone. They caine out from Tharawaddy, from Pyu, and from Pegu, in sympathy with the oilfield workers. There were also strikes of workers in Rangoon factories; even-the girls who rolled cheroots at Ma Sein Nyunt’s shop in Rangoon went on strike. Like contagion the strike spread through the country, and more people were striking or marching in 1938 than working at their jobs. Early in 1939, the students went on strike again to lend support to the nationalist movement, and partly to evade their on-coming examinations. Their strike was purely political now. Aung San and others who had left the University for politics wanted the students to take more active part, in fact to be fully active, in politics, on the argument that it was time for struggle, not for study. There was restlessness everywhere. In Mandalay, the strike was led by senior students of the Intermediate College, and Khin Maung Gale and other teachers of the National High School. The strikers camped in the Aindawya pagoda, and the Young Sangha Associations actively supported them. Feelings were so high after the Aung Gyaw incident, that young Buddhist monks went about the town persuading the young men to let them shave off their heads to rid them of the western-style hair-cut, the badge of servitude.(N.75) The monks also went about in the Zegyo main market in the city, persuading young women to give up wearing their imported foreign voile; the monks carried scissors which they generously employed to cut up the jacket of any unresponding young woman.
On February 10, 1939, a giant demonstration was staged by students and the sangha through the streets of Mandalay. The Government in Rangoon issued instructions to the officers in Mandalay to stop the procession. A clash was expected, and the hand of fate seemed to lay heavy on the assembly which started from the Aindawya Pagoda. The procession was over a mile long. In fact when its head reached south-west corner of the moat which surrounds the palace of King Thibaw, the tail-end was still wagging impatiently in the Pagoda, itching to leave. The district officials stopped the procession and warned that if there was no dispersal the police would be ordered to open fire. Elaborate precautions had been taken by the officials. There were layers of police, and the military, taking command of tactical points all along the road, and armed with rifles and machine-guns. The sangha who carried banners at the van ignored the warning and marched firmly on, and the police opened fire, and seven sangha sagged with mortal wounds, hugging the banners that they carried. More volleys were fired, and in a matter of few minutes seventeen were mown down. Seven were Buddhist monks, the rest were students and civilians, of whom one boy, Tin Aung was of tender years, being aged 12.
The funeral of the martyrs of Mandalay was a huge and emotional affair, followed by demonstrations in Rangoon and the appearance of ‘suicide squads’ of volunteers who led the demonstrations daring the fate that befell the martyrs. In Rangoon and the district towns, thakins and student leaders expressed their disapproval of the Ba Maw Government by burning the effigy of Dr. Ba Maw or staging mock funerals. ‘Down with the Coalition Cabinet,’ was the ringing cry, ‘Ba Maw and Ba U with their repressive laws are such a nuisance,’ sang the songs. In the House of Representatives the j intrigues and shifting alliances moved in tempo with the times. The British bloc was getting tired of the uncertainties and the unrest which were bad for business; also they were getting tired of being ordered about by Dr. Ba Maw. ‘Galon’ Saw with his energy and ruthlessness was also pushing his way up. There were few loyal followers, hardly any consistent policy or ideology; the whole thing was a game which went to the quick and the sharp.
In February, after the funeral of the martyrs and the many mock funerals of himself. Dr. Ba Maw fell in one of the regular seasonal no-confidence motions. It was said that when the House met to consider the motion, the leader of the British bloc had two speeches in his pocket, one in support of the existing Government, one against, so that he might watch where the wind blew, and make up his mind and read out the relevant speech. The wind blew against Dr. Ba Maw, and the British member made the speech which denounced the Government in frank and forceful terms, and it was time for Dr. Ba Maw to go. U Pu, who was Minister in the Ba Maw Cabinet, became Prime Minister, and ‘Galon’ Saw, leader of the ‘Myochit’ (Patriot) Party joined as Minister for Forests. Saw Po Chit, a Karen leader, joined the Cabinet as Education Minister, and U Htun of the ‘Five Flowers’ as Commerce Minister. Sir Paw Tun remained, with U Htoon Aung Gyaw, in the new Cabinet.
12. THE COMING OF WAR
As War in Europe became obviously imminent, in the House of Representatives members pressed their demands for building an adequate defence for Burma. There was not much of a Burma Army,(N.76) and few Burmans in what was there of it. The Government had raised a Sappers and Miners battalion, and a few Rifles battalions admitting Burmans with great hesistance. It hoped that war would not come to Burma, and if at all it came, the natural barriers such as the massive mountains would keep the invader out; those few of the enemy who might trickle into the country would then be adequately met with the support of the forces of India.
Outside the House, the young thakins rather hoped that war would come soon for then ‘Britain’s difficulty would be Burma’s opportunity.’ More and more they began to feel that freedom could not be won by strikes and slogans, that it must be fought for, with foreign military assistance if that could be procured. The Nagani (Red Dragon) Left Book Club, started in December 1937 by Thakin Nu, U Ohn Khin, and Thakin Than Tun(N.77) published translations of stories of the Irish fight for freedom, and other leftist and revolutionary booklets which thousands of eager readers hungrily consumed. The Nagani journal also breathed fire and sedition with Saya Tun Shwe working as its devoted editor, and Saya Ham, and several other enthusiasts helping out in various capacities.(N.78) The Sun, the New Light, the Deedok journal, the Kyipwayay (Progress) magazine, and the New Burma English tri-weekly newspaper, were among those which helped to keep nationalism aflame.
Dr. Ba Maw resigned from the House of Representatives in 1940 declaring that the centre of gravity of political struggle had shifted outside it. A ‘Freedom Bloc’ was formed by Dr. Ba Maw, as leader, styling himself the ‘Dictator’ or ‘Anarshin’. Thakins gave the bloc its backbone and Aung San was its secretary. Up and down the country the leaders went uttering sedition and Courting arrest. Thakin Nu was arrested in that year, shortly after his return from a goodwill visit to China,(N.79) prosecuted for sedition and sentenced to a year’s imprisonment. Thenceforth he proceeded from jail to jail till the Japanese invasion. Dr. Ba Maw too was prosecuted in Mandalay, and with majestic scorn he left the courtroom where his trial was proceeding and gave a political speech to the audience which had gathered outside. He too got a year in jail.
Thakin Aung San visited India in Mrach that year to attend the Ramgarh session of the Indian National Congress. With him were Thakin Than Tun who was destined to become the top Communist in Burma and his bitter political enemy. The delegation visited places and met several leaders, and Aung San came back more impressed with Subhas Chandra Bose than with Mahatma Gandhi. Aung San too soon earned a warrant of arrest with a five rupee reward attached to it. A year or so in jail was not, however, what he wanted.
He and a small group of close associates who called themselves the ‘Burma Revolutionary Party’ had been doing some hard thinking about how to get military aid from outside. It was all rather vague and romantic. Aung San, himself had at first suggested that ‘mass action’ could be organized and aroused in the country without foreign help. Strikes, and militant propaganda could be intensely carried out, and when war approached the British administration would be paralysed, and troops would come over to ‘our side’, and if Japanese invasion came, then a National Government of Burma could negotiate with the Japanese, or even fight and repel the invasion. That was the grand plan of my own’ which his comrades could not feel enthusiastic about because they were ‘hesitant before any decisive action even though we might think and talk bravely’ and ‘though we might talk about mass action and mass struggle we were not so convinced about its efficacy.(N.80) ‘Thus, the BRP decided that foreign aid was essential, and Aung San, after hiding from the police and his warrant of arrest for a little while, slipped out of the country to search for foreign contacts.
In the House of Representatives, ‘Galon’ Saw had risen. He brought down the U Pu Cabinet, of which he himself was a member, and formed his own Government on September 9, 1940.(N.81) Galon Saw was a ruthless and ambitious man, and he stamped out opposition with thoroughness; his ‘Galon Army' which carried bamboo staves would break up meetings of thakins in district ~towns by force. U Saw was also fond of the spectacular, and performed the ploughing ceremony’ which the early kings used to do to invoke the blessing of the spirits for good crops. He would wear his ‘Galon General’s’ uniform at such occasions, looking a little plump and puckish with his dark shining ~skin and his square face in which a flat nose seemed to have been stuck lather at random. He would go up in his private aeroplane and pay his respects to the Shwedagon from the air, a thing that the orthodox Buddhists considered to be quite disrespectful.
When the Second World War started in Europe, and Burma was declared by the Governor to be automatically at war with the Axis Powers, there was :dissatisfaction among the people because they had been dragged in without being consulted. In the House there were questionings and grumblings. The Atlantic Charter raised hopes of getting from His Majesty’s Government at least a pledge of Dominion status for Burma after the war, but that pledge did not come. U Saw, desperate because a hero’s place in history was evading him, decided to visit London and see Mr. Winston Churchill about it. Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith, who had arrived as successor to Sir Archibald Cochrane, reported to Mr. L. S. Amery, the Secretary of State for India and Burma, recommending that U Saw should be invited to London for general talks. Churchill agreed. ‘Certainly let an invitation be sent,’ he wrote in a minute to Amery. and added in a wry sort of humour a proviso that in general you see U Saw.'(N.82)
U Saw went, taking with him U Tin Tut, the seniormost Burman of the Indian Civil Service. People in Burma were a little intrigued but unimpressed with what U Saw later called his ‘Journey Perilous.” (N.83)An anonymous playwright wrote a play called ‘U Saw’s London Diary’ and the New Light serialised the satire for several weeks much to the delight of the readers.3 In London U Saw saw Amery and Herbert Morrison and other Ministers. He visited military establishments and gave his attention to civil defence measures. He wrote letters to the Times commenting on special articles published in the newspaper on Burma, or on letters from its readers.(N.84)Commenting on an article published on October 14, 1941, he asked ‘what status is to be given to Burma in the British Commonwealth when the war is ended. What Burma wants to know is whether, in fighting with many other countries for the freedom of the world, she is also fighting for her own freedom.. The demand for complete self-government is a unanimous demand of the Burmese people and it was made incessantly long before the Atlantic Charter.’ In his letter he made a strong case for Burma, dealing ably with the suggestions that Burma was yet to gain maturity to govern herself, and ended with a plea to the ‘British people to put us to the only true and real test of our ability to govern ourselves, and that of allowing us to do so as in the case of the Dominions.’ He signed the letter ‘Saw’ at the Dorchester Hotel where he and U Tin Tut stayed.(N.85) ‘There will always be some Englishman who will never be satisfied that Burma is fit for self-government,’ U Saw wrote to the Times on another occasion in reply to certain ‘disparaging remarks’ of a correspondent, ‘and I acknowledge that they may hold that view in all sincerity. But present conditions in Europe might on the same line of reasoning well suggest to the Burmese people that, viewed by results, no country in Europe is at present fit for full self-government.’ (N.86)
On October 22, U Saw spoke to Members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons in a Committee room of the Commons on ‘Burma after Separation.” (N.87)He met Churchill and was rejected in his demand for an assurance that immediately after the war, His Majesty’s Government would establish Burma as a self-governing Dominion. He expressed his disappointment at this ‘rather sharply’, as an editorial of the Times commented in its November5th. issue. On November 4,
U Saw was guest speaker at the luncheon given by the East India Association and the Royal Empire Society. Mr. Amery presided, and said that the Government could not bind itself to definite dates until it could see at least the outline of the problems which would face it at war’s end. But the Government would stand by the declared aim of promoting Burma’s attainment of Dominion status as the ‘goal and objective of constitutional progress’.(N.88) On November 27, Mr. Maxton, Member for Glasgow, Bridgeton (Independent Labour Party), raised a question in the House as to whether ‘any immediate steps are to be taken to establish sell-government in Burma.’ Mr. Amery, in reply, said that the visit of U Saw had’ provided for the establishment of personal contacts which are always most valuable and for an exchange of information and views between him and Ministers here on a number of matters of interest to Burma and His Majesty’s Government.’ But, admitted Mr. Amery, when pressed with a supplementary question, it was ‘not practicable to give the kind of definite assurance that he (U Saw) came over here to seek’ and U Saw did ‘not altogether’ agree with that view.(N.89) In fact U Saw differed violently and said so. ‘The result I have achieved is not satisfactory,’ he wrote in his statement to the press, ‘and is not commensurate with the amount of risk I have undertaken in coming to England.’ It was his desire ‘to see that both Burma and Britain pull well together’ and ‘people of the Empire should be quite united as members of the same family.’ The British Government had given an assurance that self-government would be bestowed on Burma one day, but no one knows when Burma will get self-government.’(N.90)
With that, U Saw flew to the United States where he received a polite but cool reception, and, with Japan’s entry into the war, he turned back to fly home via Europe. He never got home for the war. The British Government, on receipt of intelligence reports that U Saw had turned to Japan, decided that he should be interned for the duration of the war. U Saw was therefore stopped on the way and taken to Uganda. His arrest did not cause any excitement in Rangoon. Sir Paw Tun who had become a permanent fixture in every Cabinet, took over as Prime Minister. The constitution was suspended, and the Governor invoked section 139 of the Government of Burma Act to take over the legislative and executive powers in the emergency.(N.91) Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith was ill-fated as a Governor. He was a charming politician, a Member of the House of Commons and a Minister before he became Governor. He came flashing his winning smile. But the situation in Burma, the ugly mood that prevailed among the people, and then the war, were more than smiles could adequately deal with.
WAR AND JAPANESE OCCUPATION
I. THE BURMA INDEPENDENCE ARMY
The Burma Revolutionary Party had felt the need for getting arms and assistance from some friendly foreign power, but they could not be sure about who that power would be. In fact the ‘BRP’ itself was a vague and formless body of young thakins who met in secret places or on a secluded corner on the University campus at dark nights and dreamed their dreams aloud. Thakin Mya was the oldest among them. A leader of the first students strike of 1920, Thakin Mya practised law in Tharrawaddy and drifted into politics, winning a seat in the House of Representatives on the ‘Komin Kochin’ ticket. He was the unemotional, unflustered kind, and the younger ihakins learned to look to him for counsel in crisis. There was also Thakin Chit, or Saya Chit, the schoolmaster, who was also looked upon by the younger set as teacher and guide.(N.92) There was Thakin Kyaw Nyein, intellectual as well as energetic, working in the customs department by day, to earn enough to feed himself and his friends and the BR?, the provider and the brains. Ba Swe who was a student leader in the Tavoy high school, had also been specially brought over by the Rangoon University Students Union, to organize the student body and the BRP. Aung San, of course, a thakin leader now, and Secretary of the Dohbama Asiyone, after having ousted Thakin Ba Sein and Thakin Tun Ok who went and formed their own Asiyone, Secretary of the Freedom Bloc.
Those were the leaders of the BRP. Their headquarters was the Dohbama Asiyone, or the Students Union Hall. Their associates were the thakins, and the students, the youth associations such as the ‘Steel Corpse and the ‘Let yon Tat’, where young men wore uniform and drilled with bamboo staves. Hla Maung, a law student, and president of the All Burma Students Union, keeper of house and conscience for Kyaw Nyein, was the liaison man of the BRP, a diplomat even then who could search in the high or the low places for ‘contacts’ and meet the police hunting parties with an innocent smile. Hla Maung and Thakin Hla Pe crossed into Thailand once on a search mission, and the police intelligence in Rangoon came to know about it when they had gone and come back. An alibi was convincingly made, with U Myint, lecturer in the law faculty giving the advice, and U Tin, owner of the New Light of Burma, aiding in the conspiracy by publishing false reports about Hla Maung’s activities in Rangoon when, in fact, he was away.(N.93)
The conference of the Dohbama Asiyone, held in Tharrawaddy late in 1939, had resolved non-cooperation with the British and, indeed, resistance with arms. That was the declaration of war, and the Government started rounding up prominent thakin leaders and putting them away in jails. That was the time, therefore, that the BRP frantically sought ‘contacts’ and arms. Both were hard to come by. Ba Swe was put in charge of ‘military operations’ and for his gigantic task he had one revolver which did not fire, but that did not matter for there was no ammunition anyway. But a dead revolver could be used at least for waylaying people at night and collecting their money and jewels. Ba Swe and his boys did just that, one night, using the deadly looking revolver to hold up a man, but unfortunately for the revolution the man -happened to be poor and had nothing to offer but his sweaty shirt, and the revolutionaries had to let him go with apologies.(N.94) Two young men were keen enthusiasts in the conspiracy. One was Maung Maung, a medical student and secretary of the University Students Union. He had got hold of a few British army training manuals, and having read them, he appointed himself chief of military training, and went about the city in his small old Ford, training the cadres in the use of firearms. Another was Aung Gyi, an intense student leader who having passed out from high school in Paungde. had come to Rangoon t3 take a job in a Government office and collect ‘vital information’ and work for the BRP at nights. (N.95)There were several others like them who were making war on the British with no funds, no firearms but an endless supply of fury and fanciful ideas and keenness. Revolutions in history are made by such men.
There was at first a glimmer of hope that Japan would lend the support that the BRP sought. In Rangoon, the Japanese Consulate passed word through Dr. Ba Maw and Dr. Them Maung that they were willing to discuss, but when the BR? eagerly went after, they turned cool, because, Aung San later discovered, ‘they thought we were Bolsheviks!’ There was also a section in the BRP which was suspicious of Japan and her known ambitions. The result was that Aung San, with Thakin Hla Myaing, smuggled out by boat to Amoy on the China coast. His mind was open. If he could make his way Into China and contact the Communist Eighth Route Army, whose exploits they had heard of and admired, he would decide for China. Otherwise it could be Japan. And Japan it was, for the earlier contacts made in Rangoon started working, and while Aung San and his colleague were spending their tune in the international settlement of Kulangsu island in Amoy, a Japanese major of the military police came looking for him, armed with a copy of his photograph which had been sent out from Rangoon. On 12th. November, 1940 Aung San and his friend flew into Tokyo. ‘After two or three days stay m Tokyo,’ Aung San wrote, ‘we were taken to a country hotel.’ Colonel Suzuki who had met them at the Tokyo airport, introducing himself as Mr. Minami Chief Secretary, Japan-Burma Society, then ‘asked us at the hotel if we would like to take any woman. (I was up to that time a hundred percent bachelor.) We were abashed to hear it and we replied, No.' (N.96)
Thus began the adventure, without women, without wine, in all the seriousness that the 27-year old Aung San, and the much older and more sophisticated Suzuki could jointly muster. Keji Suzuki was the professional soldier. After graduating from the Japanese Military Academy, he had been assigned to the Phillippines where he acquired interest and information in island warfare in particular and South-east Asia in general. Later he served at General Headquarters as ‘Chief of the Vessel Department’. He was a free-lance at heart, however, and his dream was that ‘instead of presenting a special kind of fruit to the Emperor he would present a country.' (N.97)But his ambition was tempered with ideal. He wanted a country for a special fruit for the Emperor but a fruit not to be eaten up but prized and preserved and protected. Aung San’s patriotism impressed him. The young man’s honesty, which was also one hundred percent, commanded respect. Together, then, the young man from Burma with the mission of his country’s liberation from foreign yoke, and the older adventurer whose ambition was to engineer Japan’s expansion into further shores, worked on their plans for Burma, each in his way feeling that the destiny of that country lay in his hands.
Japan was not at war yet in November, 1940, and Suzuki could not get full official support for his conspiracy, having to collect money and men from where he could. Aung San and his colleague were moved about and passed off as Japanese students. Aung San’s Japanese name was Omoda Monji’, Hla Myaing was ‘Itoda Sadaichi’. November, when they arrived, and the following months were cold, and they had only their shabby summer clothes, and ‘Col. Suzuki purchased overcoats for them out of his own pocket-money and Mr. Sugii sold his camera and bought mats, pillows, food.' (N.98)Gradually, however, more support became available for the mission, and the Japanese Imperial Army, to which Suzuki belonged, and the Imperial Navy which had given more attention to the South-east Asian region and had at first looked upon Suzuki and his band as amateurs and interlopers, decided to join hands and establish the ‘Minami Kikan’ for the concentration and coordination of their efforts on the region.
In February, 1941, Aung San went back to Rangoon, disguised as an officer on the ‘Shun Tein Maru’, with one of the leaders of the Kikan, Mr. Mitsuru Sugii, disguised as purser of the ship. Their mission was to contact the Burma Revolutionary Party, smuggle out ‘thakin members’ to Japan for military training, and ‘to collect all information regarding Burma.’ The ship harboured at Bassein, and Aung San and ‘two members of the crew donned their crew’s clothes, and left by the front gate on the pretext of wanting to purchase bananas. Entering a nearby village Aung San changed into Burmese clothes. Putting on false teeth as a disguise, he entered Bassein town. Travelling by way of Henzada he arrived in Rangoon.’ The BRP was met, in Rangoon, and the young thakins marshalled for the Japan journey. Earlier on the faction of the Dohbama Asiyone led by Thakin Ba Sein had tried independently to get Japanese contacts and lay their own plans for the war. Now in the heat and hurry of the moment, faction was forgotten. Young thakins were smuggled out in batches by sea. ‘From February to June, eight voyages were undertaken,’ noted Sugii in his diary, and during this time almost all the ‘thirty comrades’ were smuggled out of Burma. The ‘Varsity-Co-operative Stores’ which Tun On, of the 1936 students strike, was managing, was the convenient hiding place and assembly point for the young volunteers. When the day came for them to embark, they would dress as crew of a Japanese vessel, hold a bunch of bananas in the hand as a signal, mingle with the real crew and pass through the police barrier at the wharf, and hide in the engine room of the boat till Rangoon was left safely behind. Sometimes it was in the engine room only that the ‘Ba Sein thakins’ and the ‘Aung San lhakins’ discovered each other and found they were launched on the same mission. They quickley welded together into a force. (N.99)
The ‘thirty comrades’ as they later came to be celebrated, trained in Japan for several months specialising, in selected groups, in sabotage and fifth column work, in administration, in general staff duties, or general warfare. Aung San was marked out for command of the ‘Burma Independence Army’ which was to be launched into Burma, and Thakin Tun Ok, the co-leader of the Ba Sein-Tun Ok faction of the Dohbama Asiyone, was prepared for administrative duties. The comrades also changed their names, partly for disguise, and partly to render their mission auspicious. Thus Aung San became ‘General Teza (the Powerful)’; Hla Myaing was ‘Bo Yan Aung (Conquerer of all Foes)’; Hla Pe was ‘Bo Let Ya (the Right Hand man)’; Shu Maung was ‘Bo Ne Win (Brilliant like the Sun)’, and so on. Suzuki himself also took on an auspicious Burmese name, and became ‘Bo Moe Gyo (General Lightning)’.(N.100) Everything was ready now: the training was done, the plans were made, and even the assumed names had been found. Soon the time came to march.
In Rangoon, the BRP leaders waited. War was declared. Japan swooped on Pearl Harbour. Rangoon was bombed, first on December 23rd., then repeatedly later, and soon the city was deserted. The Governor withdrew, and the military which had promised to hold Rangoon at all costs, also began, one morning, its slow northward trek. From the radio, a sweet female voice cooed daily about the beauty of the Fuji Yama and the cherry blossoms, and the imminent arrival in Burma of the Nippon liberation army. Thakin Tun Ok took a more angry tone, and exhorted the Burmese people to fall upon the British and hurl them out of the land. Kyaw Nyein, Ba Swe and their BRP comrades impatiently waited in deserted Rangoon for news, and arms to hurl the British out with. The houses were empty now, and there was no shortage of headquarters and camping accomodation. They rode about on bycycles, and when the Japanese aeroplanes dropped leaflets, they would ride out and snatch copies, eagerly reading between the lines for any messages. At last the first group of the ‘BIA’ led by Bo Ne Win arrived in Rangoon to muster the men who had been training with bamboo staves, and to work behind the lines. In a few weeks, the BIA came up from Moulmein and Mergui, gathering numbers as it came. The Burmese who had settled in Thailand had provided volunteers, and the villages all along the routes which it took had offered eager recruits. The men came, wearing assorted uniform, carrying assorted arm, flying the BIA banner of the dancing peacock, the national bird, in a background of red, green and yellow. Enthusiasm ran high. Students and teachers, politicians and professional men, bad hats and dacoits, all joined, some to serve the country, some to serve themselves and settle old scores.
Victory came easily. Here and there skirmishes broke out as the invading forces and the retreating British army collided. At Shwedaung on the way from Rangoon to Prome, the British made a stand, and the BIA, under its young commander, Bo Yan Naing, had its first real taste of battle. With dash and daring the BIA fought, hurling itself, often with disastrous results, on tanks and machine-guns. The British troops at last withdrew, and the Shwedaung victory and its hero, Yan Naing, became the subject of songs.
The Japanese had promised, before the battle for Burma, to equip and launch the BIA into the country and stay out themselves, to support the country’s independence as a friend from afar. It was a promise which was lightly given and, in the face of easy victory, quickly forgotten. Thus, after Rangoon, the growing BIA became a growling force of discontent against the Japanese. There was also the usual jealousy of arms on the field, the anxiety to get there first. To prevent clashes, the commanders decided that the armies should march separately, the Imperial Army by road from Rangoon to Toungoo and north to Mandalay and beyond, and also over the mountains through the Shan State northward, while the BIA took to the Irrawaddy river and passed through the Delta region and proceeded to Mandalay and Bhamo. Aung San commanded the BIA in the field, with Bo Let Ya as chief of staff. The army split in two main columns with Bo Zeya (N.101) and Bo Ne Win in command of each. (N.102)Bo Moe Gyo acted as commander-in-chief, the father of the BIA; he had come to believe in his legendary role as the ‘lightning’ which ‘.vas to strike and destroy British power in Burma; he went about wearing Burmese dress, complete with gaungbaung, and feeling very Burmese.
What was important about the BIA was not its victories which were few. Its real service was in bringing Burmese nationalism to full stature. The British had not trusted the Burmese to defend themselves; in crisis they had appointed a Burmese Counsellor of Defence (N.103)and raised a small militia, a small naval reserve force, and a small air force.(N.104) Those emergency measures did neither touch nor tap the vast masses of the people. The BIA, on the other hand, touched every home, and drew forth the father and the son into its open arms. For the first time since Bandoola (N.105)the Burmese could form themselves into a patriotic army and march under the national banner.
On its march, the BIA committed atrocities and excesses, but served generally to bolster national morale, and keep law and order. In the Delta it clashed with the Karens who, believing the British word that there would be no retreat but only some adjustments of positions. resisted with arms. In the towns, the BIA adopted drastic measures to restore and maintain law and order; they would try and sentence thieves and dacoits and take them out into the open grounds to put them to the bayonet under the eyes of the people.
There were opportunists too among the thakins, many of whom wanted to be put in charge of the ‘peace preservation committees’ which administered the towns and villages in the interregnum, for that gave them power and chances to get rich. Aung San, marching with his men to Mandalay, wore his one set of uniform all through with no change, no bath, and was gloomy and morose. He wanted the thakins to march with the BIA, and learn to fight, for the fight had just begun.
2. MILITARY ADMINISTRATION
In April and May 1942 General Bo Moe Gyo issued several orders, first appointing Thakin Tun Ok, alias Ishihara, the chief administrator of Burma, and instructing the people to give their full support to him. Thakin Tun Ok was also authorised to collect funds for the central administration and the BIA. Then there were directives issued by Thakin Tun Ok. Directive number 1. mapped out administration policy. The territorial divisions into village, township, subdivision, etc., were to continue, and at each level there was to be a committee with a president, a secretary, and members for finance, justice, health, education, defence, transport, BIA recruitment, supplies, and propaganda. Directive number 2. prohibited forcible recruitment for the BIA, and forcible collection of funds. All British currency notes were put out of use, and those who were found using it were to be severely punished. Administration committee members who had come into funds, currency or coins, must not keep them, but render accounts to the central administration and surrender the money.
The committees were, however, short-lived. By May almost all the country, with the exception of the Chin hills and the remote hill areas in the north, had come under the occupation, and the Japanese Military Administration took over, dissolving, and often brusquely dismissing the committees. Japanese Military Administration was thorough and total, tolerating no rival authority. The BLA which had grown to 5o,ooo was also gradually restricted. First the army was regrouped in Bhamo, and later at Amarapura, an ancient capital of the kings, outside Mandalay. General Aung San issued an order to his men to keep away from politics in general and from participation in committees in particular.
Thakin Nu, transported from jail to jail, found deliverance when the Mandalay jail was broken. His jailmates, Thakin Soe, Thakin Kyaw Sein and Thakin Ba Hein, also found freedom, and tried to make their way into China to carry on their fight against the Japanese. (N.106)Thakin Than Tun was in jail in Monywa, and round about in the area were scattered ‘Deedok’ U Ba Choe, and others. Kyaw Nyein and Them Pe had also moved up from Rangoon, and Khin Maung Gale had joined the BIA and was now an earnest officer carrying a big sword. People from Rangoon, and officials, had also arrived in the area after running all the way from the war. Soon, the exodus began again as politicians made their way to the capital, and officials and government staff too to find employment and build a life under the occupation.
Dr. Ba Maw, in Mogok jail, waited for the call he knew would come. Kyaw Nyein and Thakin Thein Pe had journeyed through the fighting to Mogok to persuade him to escape and come away with them.’ But Ba Maw refused. With an unerring sense of drama and history, he knew that the Japanese would come looking for him, and offer him the crown. He took his time to have his dramatic ‘escape’ from the jail, and Japanese officers, specially charged with finding him, found him at last in a Shan village, waiting calmly for his hour. (N.107)
The BIA was disbanded by the Japanese, and a small ‘Burma Defence Army’, 3 battalions strong, was built out of its more reliable elements. Aung San was appointed commander of the new Army with the rank of colonel. Bo Moe Gyo was packed away to Japan. Dr. Ba Maw was given the task of rebuilding the government machinery, and on August I, 1942, Lieutenant-General Shojiro Iida, commanding the Imperial Army in Burma, inaugurated the Burmese Administration with Dr. Ba Maw as its head. (N.108) Government staff were reappointed in their jobs, and the British administrative and judicial systems were revived. By Military Ordinance Number 6, issued on July 7 1942. General Iida had reopened the courts and the ‘business of public prosecution and the conduct of ‘judicial administration’ holding that ‘judiciary is essential for the preservation of the right and enforcement of duty of the people and also for keeping public peace and order.’ The courts were ‘taken over’ by the Burmese Administration. The Supreme Court, invested with the appellate jurisdiction of the former High Court, was started on 10th. March, 1943, and Sir Mya Bu, one of the senior judges of the High Court, was appointed Chief Justice. Sir Ba U, Sir Maung Gyee, and U Myint who was Law officer on Special Duty to Dr. Ba Maw, were appointed puisne judges. The original civil and criminal jurisdiction of the High Court was given to the Rangoon City Court, and U Chan Tun Aung, an able barrister, was made Chief Justice. The same laws were administered. (N.109)
The Administration quickly got into working order. There was enthusiasm and energy. Conditions were hard, and it wasevident everywhere that a war was on Imported goods, raided from the big stores during the campaign, flooded the markets at first, but they quickly disappeared to be stored away by blackmarketeers, or were consumed. Prices kept shooting up till, towards the end of the war, a substantial meal was costing Rs. 100. Commissioners of divisions and Secretaries to the Government, the top-ranking officials, drew monthly salaries from Rs. 6oo to 8oo; Directors of the various bureaux received Rs. 400 to 6oo; District Superintendents of Police drew Rs.500 and Subdivisional Officers Rs. 350 to 300; Township Officers received Rs. 200 Ministers received Rs. 1,200, and Judges of the Supreme Court Rs. 1000. Due to the ‘roaring prices of foodstuffs’ the Salaries Revision Board recommended, in 1944, the grant of a small ‘war allowance’ for those whose salaries were Rs. 300 per month or less.(N.120)
The Government staff were, therefore, poor, and became poorer as the war went on. Their morale, however, was good. Most of the high officials wore pinni homespun clothes, and walked to work, being unable to afford a motor car. The trading people, the labourers, and the drivers of pony-carts or trishaws - the main forms of transport in the towns — earned enough to live comfortably by wartime standards. Business was simple, and profitable. A man would carry a bag of rice with him by railway train or motor bus from Rangoon to Mandalay; the journey was slow and a little uncertain, but when he reached his destination the bag of rice could be sold easily and for a handsome profit. One or two such trips a month would keep his earnings higher than those of a Minister — the regular salary of a Minister, that is. Many high officials chose to leave the services, or keep from entering, and went into trading.(N.121) In politics, there was a merger of the ‘Sinyetha’ proletarian party which Dr. Ba Maw had led, and the Dohbama Asiyone. The new ‘Dohbama Sinyetha Asiyone’ was served, at its early stages, by Thakin Nu as its secretary-general. There were no other political parties. Thakin Soe who was a confirmed communist and ‘anti-fascist’, finding his way out into China blocked by the war, roamed ‘underground’ in the Delta, preaching resistance. Thein Pe had tried to push the Japanese out of Burma with pamphlets, and when he found that the Japanese did not succumb to his ideological barrage he escaped into India, leaving his namesake Thakin Thein Pe of Mandalay to the wrath of the Japanese military police. (N.122) Others had been absorbed into the Army or the Government services. Thakin Kyaw Nyein was Secretary to the Prime Minister. Thakin Ba Hein, the communist, was also in the services, and later to go to the Foreign Office.
Dr. Ba Maw was supreme- except for the Japanese. It was a situation he enjoyed and thrived in. Democracy had dealt with him badly. His downfall by no-confidence motion in 1939, particularly the voting of the British bloc against him, had left an ugly scar on his memory. Even in the Freedom Bloc he had styled himself ‘Dictator’. Now the war made him one. He owed his power to no vote. The nightmare of no-confidence motions could not disturb his sleep now. The power to do good or ill was in him, and he felt good and alive. He threw himself into the task with dedication and ability. ‘The basic value,’ Dr. Ba Maw wrote in his ‘New Order Plan’, ‘is human energy, human labour and its values. It is radically different from the old democratic plan which was based on vote-value instead of labour-value. A real plan, that is a57 revolutionary plan, must be built on labour-value whether it gets votes or not — the votes must wait till the work is done and the peril is averted, when people may go back to their old political play-acting if they should still want to be amused that way.” (N.123)
On January 28, 1943, during the 8oth. session of the Imperial Diet, the Japanese Prime Minister General Hideki Tojo announced the intention of his Government to recognize Burma as an independent state within the year. In March Dr. Ba Maw, Dr. Them Maung, Thakin Mya and Aung San, promoted to be Major-General, visited Tokyo for talks. They were received by General Tojo on March 22, and by His Imperial Majesty the Emperor on March 23 when they were decorated with the Order of the Rising Sun. ‘I am profoundly touched and overawed by the boundless magnitude of His Imperial Graciousness,’ Tojo said at the closing session of the 8ist. Imperial Diet. ‘In connection with the independence of Burma, I stated as an earnest hope of Nippon that New Burma would, through her own incentive and responsibility, speedily substantiate her status as a fully independent State, at the same time to co-operate closely with Nippon as a new State founded upon ethical principles as a member of Dai Tooa Kyoeiken (The Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere) thus contributing to the creation of the New World Order, and especially that Nippon expected New Burma would speedily complete her national structure consonant with the requirements of the successful prosecution of war.’
‘With regard to territorial composition of the New State of Burma,’ Tojo continued, ‘it is to include the whole territory of Burma with the exception of the Shan and Karenni areas. Furthermore, I expressed the desire that the nation be determined in accordance with the aim harmoniously embracing various peoples within her territory. Political organization is naturally a matter to be determined by Burma herself, but Nippon desires the administration of State to be made simple but effective. Also as regards the economic affairs, I expressed my earnest desire that New Burma should promote her economic development by just and unhampered activities under her own authority as a unit in the general economic construction of Greater East Asia.” (N.124)
The pledge was written on solemn document and given to Dr. Ba Maw and his party in Tokyo. The Burmese, however, did not hug the document to their heart and carry it home. ‘Escorted’ by Major-General Isomura, deputy chief of staff of the Japanese Army in Burma, the party flew back, stopping in Manila for one day. Isomura who ‘made his presence felt all the time to u as if we were all his children,’ wrote Aung San, ‘asked us not to go out as the Fillippinos were not reliable and so forth.’ The crisis, however, rose only at Saigon, the next stop. ‘When we arrived there, Dr. Ba Maw remembered that he had left General Tojo’s document in the Manila Hotel. At once the fact was intimated to Isomura who then talked as if he would have to commit suicide. When a suggestion was made to him to wire to Japanese Army headquarters in Manila, he said that it would not be enough, he and Dr. Ba Maw would have to go back; but actually Thakin Mya who was Dr. Ba Maw’s deputy then and Colonel Uyeda had to go back to Manila to search for it.(N.125)
Back in Rangoon, an Independence Preparatory Commission was appointed consisting of Dr. Ba Maw and his Cabinet; Major-General Aung San; Thakin Kodaw Hmaing, executive member of the Dohbama Sinyetha Asiyone; Thakin Nu; U Chit Hlaing; U Aye, formerly Home Minister; U Mya; U Aye Maung; U Tun Pe; Dr. San C. Po; U Thwin; Sir Mya. Bu, Chief Justice; U Them Maung. formerly Advocate-General; U Set; U Khin Maung Dwe of Mandalay; and U Kyaw. The Commission was asked to draft a constitution for ‘New Burma’, ‘simple but effective’, as General Tojo had suggested, and very quickly. A deputy of the Japanese commander-in-chief would come to every meeting of the Commission and wait for results, listening to the learned deliberations which he could not understand. The older members were impish. They took delight, knowing the Japanese were impatient, in rambling endlessly over technicalities. Was the new state to be a republic, a democracy or a dictatorship? How were the main organs of the state to be constructed? The younger men, Aung San, Thakin Nu, and others, were uninterested, and wanted the whole affair to be over and done with quickly. (N.126) U Chit Hlaing moved that the Commission should not proceed with its work until the Japanese gave an undertaking to include the Shan and the Karenni states in the new constitution. ‘Dr. Ba Maw said that he could not do so (demand the undertaking from the Japanese), but I said ‘please convey to the Japanese that you will not proceed any further with the constitution until the Shan states and the Karenni states are included.’ A few days later our demand was granted and we included the states within Burma.' (N.127) When, after several weeks, the discussions were yielding no results, the Japanese commander-in-chief invited the Commission to meet him, and gave them a good scolding. The Commission came away quietly laughing, and produced the constitution in time. (N.128)
On August I, 1943, Burma was declared to be an independent sovereign state, and a co-equal member of the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere. The state was to be ‘ruled over by the Head of the State who shall have full sovereign status and powers.’ Dr. Ba Maw became the Head of the State, or Adipadi, and Prime Minister as well. On the recommendation of Dr. Ba Maw, the Prime Minister, Ministers of the Cabinet were appointed by Dr. Ba Maw, the Adipati. The Ministers were responsible, ‘both collectively and individually’ to the Head of the State who was also the ‘Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Burmese Armed Forces.’ Certain fundamental rights were guaranteed to ‘Burma nationals’ such as freedom of religious belief, and inviolability of person, property and dwelling, and freedom ‘within the limits of law and morality’ of expression and peaceable assembly. No means, however, were laid down in the constitution for the enforcement of those fundamental freedoms in the event of violation.
The Supreme Court was to continue as the highest Court of Record, and the ‘administration of law and constitution of law courts shall be in accordance with the existing laws.’ The Chief Justice was appointed by the Adipati after consultation with the Prime Minister or Minister concerned. Other Judges were appointed by the Adipati after consultation with either the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice or with the Minister concerned and the Chief Justice. All Judges were declared to be independent in their judicial functions.
Major-General Aung San joined the Cabinet as War Minister, and Colonel Ne Win took over as commander of the Army which was re-named the ‘Burma National Army’. Thakin Nu became Foreign Minister. Thakin Than Tun, the Communist leader, became Minister for Forests and Agriculture, and grow to like being a minister, and the power and pomp that went with the office, so much that he easily forgot his communism for a considerable length of time. Thakin Tun Ok, whom General Moe Gyo had made Chief Administrator of Burma, was banished to Singapore for the period of the war, and Thakin Ba Sein to Java.
The in dependence was ushered in with due ceremony. At the auspicious hour, the Ministers, the Commanding General of the Japanese Imperial Army, officials, and guests, assembled at the Adipati’s House where, a little over a year ago Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith had resided and conducted the affairs of state. At the auspicious moment, the Adipati entered the hall, and the master of ceremony cried, ‘Silence! The Adipati approaches!’ And everyone stood, and remained silent, and the Adipati mounted the steps and stood on the dais, looked round and smiled and nodded graciously, then sat himself on the golden throne. The Japanese General read the announcement of the end of military administration. The Burmese prophets blew their shell-horns to announce the arrival of independence. Thakin Kodaw Hmaing, misty-eyed with the joy of seeing Burmese glory restored, gave Dr. Ba Maw the oath of office. ‘Adipa~i Ashinmingyi, 0 King!, dost thou promise to rule this land with justice and mercy? 0 King, dost thou solemnly pledge to rule as your forefathers ruled, upholding the laws of time immemorial?’ The Adipati graciously pledged himself. Then the Ministers received from his gracious hands their certificates of appointment, and the assembly dispersed for the morning. Later, there were the ceremonies of fixing the signatures of Dr. Ba Maw and the Japanese Ambassador Renzo Sawada to the Treaty of Alliance;(N.129) and the declaration of war by the new state against the Allied Powers, for which ceremony Dr. Ba Maw got into his specially made urn-form of supreme commander to broadcast the declaration from the radio. Thus August 1 passed, a busy day of colour and ceremony, and Dr. Ba Maw and his colleagues went back to the task of holding the nation together in the midst of a relentless war. (N.130)
‘Independence’ did not bring large material gains. The Japanese lived mainly off the land and their appetites were huge. Cattle were slaughtered for food, so that less and less were available to pull the plough in the paddy fields. When, with the daily bombings, rail transport became fitful and risky, the Japanese army comandeered cattle and men for transportation. Their demands only increased, and Minister for Agriculture, Thakin Than Tun, and Minister for War Co-operation U Tun Aung had a whole-time job bargaining with the Japanese commanders to cut down their demands, and then trying hard to delay the supply. The basic needs of life went out of the market; medicine, foodstuff, clothes, all disappeared, and the people were reduced to near-primitive conditions. The majority were undernourished and covered with various skin diseases; sellers of crude sulphur ointments did brisk trade shouting in the markets and the streets: ‘Do not delay, do not despair !
Buy this ointment and rub it in well, and you will scratch no more in public!’But ‘independence’ was a great psychological tonic. People could see that they had their own national Government, their Courts, and more heartening 5till, their National Army. It was a dream come true. Also, overbearing behaviour of some Japanese soldiers, the promptness of their infamous Kempetai or military police to arrest and torture people on the flimsiest reports, and the peril of war-time drew the people together. They were united and resolved. New values emerged. The social distinctions which were so important before the war crumbled. Town-dweller who used to look down on the peasant with contempt, could no longer do so when he had to seek refuge from the war in the village. The war threw the rich and the poor together; the son and the daughter of the rich man drew water from the well in the village, and cut wood for fuel, and manual labour, so essential for survival, was no longer a despicable thing. The war and independence changed the very basic structure of society and its values, and in many ways the change worked good.
In October, 1943, Subhas Chandra Bose and his ‘Indian National Army moved into Rangoon to set up their ‘Provisional Government of India’ and begin their ‘march on Delhi.’ The Burmese Government and people made them welcome. They were comrades in a common cause, sharers of the same perils and vicissitudes. Indians in Burma rallied to the call of Bose who was their Netaji, their Leader.
In November, a conference of the leaders of the Co-prosperity Sphere nations was held in Tokyo, and Dr. Ba Maw went,resplendent in his field-marshal’s uniform. It was the first meeting of Asian leaders from the region as free men and gave a great boost to morale.But the fortunes of war were turning, and morale alone, or magic words, could not arrest their ebb and flow. In Burma, the anti-Japanese feelings slowly mounted. The Army was restless. The senior commanders, some of whom had been of the ‘thirty comrades’, smarted under what they considered to be Japanese insults.. They remembered the dismissal of the Burma Independence Army, and their earlier hopes of immediate independence which were shattered. The impetuous among the young officers had wanted to fall upon the Japanese even before the dispersal of the BIA, but calmer and wiser counsels had prevailed.
In the Delta, Thakin Soe, the communist leader, had not lain low. He roamed and prowled, organizing the village cadre, and bombarding with letters his comrades in Rangoon, Thakin Than Tim, Aung San and others, accusing them of betrayal. Thakin Than Tun, the confirmed communist, was wearing European clothes and touring the country as Minister; a ‘Japanese puppet’, Thakin Soe called him. General Aung San, who had been associated with a Marxist study group in his thakin days, could not be so accused for he was leading the national army, and fast becoming a national hero; Thakin Soe used milder words with him therefore and only appealed for action. Thein Pe who had escaped into India had made his contacts with the British headquarters and was helping the Special Force 136 and Psychological Warfare planners. He soon elevated himself to be representative of the anti-fascist forces in Burma and later when the forces did gather and organize it was convenient for the leaders in Burma to call him their representative.
In the Burma National Army, the hot-blooded young officers started crying for a showdown soon after the independence which made it possible for the Army to expand free of Japanese restraints. They began to read up literature about revolutionary struggles and resistance movements, to translate treatises on guerrilla warfare, to draft their plans and their programme, and print leaflets for circulation in the Army and the villages. Aung San at first waited. He ignored the messages from Thakin Soe, and the urgency of the young officers’ appeals. He worked first to build Karen-Burmese understanding and unity. The Karens were hurt and suspicious, after their clash with the BIA in the Delta, and Aung San tried to get their two leaders Kya Doe and San Po Thin to join the Army and raise Karen battalions in it. Kya Doe, the brilliant Sandhurst man, and San Po Thin the exuberant musician, were at first suspicious, but Aung San convinced them of his sincerity, and they came in. Soon Karen young men were serving in the National Army, and San Po Thin’s military band was playing at parades. This success was carried by Aung San and Thakin Nu into the civilian front as well, and their visits to the Karen villages in the Delta were highly successful. (N.131)
The people too were looking more and more to Aung San to provide leadership in the national cause. Unassuming and truthful, forthright and frank, Gen. Aung San was a shining example and a sharp contrast from the more colourful Dr. Ba Maw. The Adipati had fine words for every occasion; Aung San would keep his silence like a vow, and break only to utter words of terrible moment and truth. Even his silences, people began to see, were pregnant with momentous message. When every leader was praising Nippon to the skies for granting Burma’s independence, it was Aung San who dared to warn, at the first anniversary of independence, that the thing was not the genuine material which the people must fight and struggle yet to attain. His utterances, fortunately few and far between, disturbed the Japanese high command, and his own colleagues in the Cabinet alike, but they pleased the people no end. Dr. Ba Maw was smooth and silken, ‘a picture of suavity swathed in silks’ was the description of him by an admiring profile-writer; (N.132) but Aung San, in his dark-green tunic which obviously needed pressing and mending, was the hero of the common man.
By the beginning of 1944, the young officers were openly organizing for resistance. Prominent among them were Aung Gyi, Tin Pe, Chit Khine, Aye Maung. and Ye Htut who were serving with units in the field. At the War Office, Bo Khin Maung Gale, Bo Win, Maung Maung and others were using Colonel Ne Win’s office as the headquarters of the widening conspiracy. The ‘Burma Revolutionary Party’ revived again, and Thakin Kyaw Nyein, Ba Swe, Thakin Chit and Thakin Mya were once more holding their secret sessions to mastermind the imminent movement. The All-Burma Youth League, led by U Ba Gyan, T. K. Boon and others who had served as leaders of the University Students’ Union and helped in getting the ‘thirty comrades’ off to Japan, was the ‘second-line’ Burma Army and, with its network of branches, an ideal agency for district organization. (N.133) Thakin Than Tun and Thakin Ba Hein, the communists, lent their ideology, and indoctrinated the men in the Army; but fortunately, the men were intensely nationalistic and wanted to fight for freedom and not for Marx or Stalin, and few of them were converted. ‘The Communists nearly split the Army, though,’ General Ne Win recalled when he inaugurated a course of training for psychological warfare officers of the Burma Army recently, (N.134) ‘and if the resistance had not been started their mischief-making could have been disastrous.’
In September Ba Swe who was then chief of the Keibotai civil defence corps, Thakin Chit, Kyaw Nyein, Bo Khin Maung Gale, Bo Aung Gyi, Bo Maung Maung, and Ba Swe Glay, went out to meet Thakin Soe at Dedaye in the Delta to discuss terms for a united force of resistance. Thakin Soe, communist to the core, promised everything. He would place the resistance first, he pledged, and forget ideology in the common struggle. He would agree to having one front under one leader. Lastly he pledged continued struggle even after the Japanese had been driven off and the Allied Forces had arrived, until Burma’s independence was made real. That Dedaye meeting was the beginning of the ‘Anti-Fascist Organization’, the forerunner of the ‘AntiFascist People’s Freedom League’ (the AFPFL) which became the vanguard of the national movement after liberation, and has been the party in power since independence.
Thakin Soe went to Rangoon to meet Aung San. He went disguised as a Burma National Army officer, and moved about freely in Rangoon and among the troops. From months of hiding and prowling he emerged into a wider world to do larger planning. Thakin Than Tun also joined in now for he would not be left out of what he saw would be the making of an important chapter of the country’s history. Thakin Soe, Thakin Than Tim and Thakin Ba Hem worked on the Army, forging, they thought, a weapon out of it, for them to use in hacking their way to a communist state in Burma. The trio were different from each other in every way except in their fierce ambition. Thakin Soe was called the ‘sayagyi’, the teacher, the prophet, who was supposed to be the one man in the whole country who could fathom the fathomless Marx. He was uncouth in his behaviour and uninhibited. But he was realistic, for when, later on contacts with the Allied Forces in India were established, and requests for arms and supplies could be transmitted by wireless, the first requisition he made was for lipstick and nylon for his woman disciples for he knew that it needed more than Marxism to keep them happy. Thakin Than Tun was the able, designing organizer, cool and dear and infinitely patient. He had married the sister of Aung San’s wife (N.135) and that probably sharpened his jealousy of the young general who was growing under his very eyes into a national hero. Thakin Ba Hein was the artist and the poet. He was soft as a sigh, and smooth, but his belief in communism was unshakeable. The three communists agreed only in the grand design of using the Army and borrowing Aung San’s prestige till such time as they could do without them, and then they would, or the war would, destroy Aung San and the Army.
The Anti-Fascist Organization formally came into being at the residence of Thakin Nu one day soon after the Dedaye meeting. It was an alliance of the Army, the Burma Revolutionary Party, and the Communist Party. Aung San was the natural choice as leader, and members of the supreme council were Bo Ne Win, Bo Let Ya, Saw Kya Doe, Thakin Than Tun, Thakin Soe, Thakin Chit, U Kyaw Nyein and U Ba Swe. The military operations council was composed of Bo Ne Win, Bo Zeya, Saw Kya Doe, Bo Yan Aung, Bo Ye Htut, Bo Aung Gyi and Bo Maung Maung. Thakin Nu, The man of peace, preferred to stay out. Dr. Ba Maw was also informed of the movement by Thakin Nu, Thakin Than Tun, and later by General Aung San, and persuaded with persistence to join in. But Dr. Ba Maw had his interpretation of historical forces, as he liked to describe situations, and, giving his younger friends loyal protection where he could, would not
his lot with them.
Meanwhile the Allied Forces began their thrust into northern Burma. Feeble contacts between the A-F.O. and the Allies grew into firm agreements, and soon Burmese agents were slipping across the borders into India and dropping back by parachute at appointed rendezvous to begin operations. Force 136 also sent its teams out to establish centres of activity in the Karen and with the Burma Army. (N.136) In Mandalay, the Burma Army garrison under Major Ba Htu could wait no longer for the signal to strike. In February as the Allies pounded at the gates of Shwebo, then rolled on into Sagaing, the garrison fell upon the Japanese, who were then in force in Mandalay and around, and after inflicting severe damage, withdrew into the Shan hills to wage long and bitter guerrilla war. In Rangoon, the Japanese were suspicious, and of divided mind about Aung San and the Army. On the one hand there was suspicion which Major Ba Htu and his men certainly did not lay to rest. On the other, however, there was the need, at that desperate hour, of using every available hand to stay, if not stop, the inrushing Allies. While the Japanese high command wavered, Aung San produced his plan for sending ~it the Army to positions along the Irrawaddy river where it could meet and fight the Allies, he said. The Japanese approved eagerly, and supplied the army with arms. On a fine morning in March, 1945, the Army gathered on the open grounds west of the Shwedagon Pagoda, and in ceremonial parade pledged to fight the ‘foe’ to the death.
Dr. Ba Maw in his field-marshal’s uniform, Ministers of the Cabinet, and the General Staff of the Japanese Imperial Army, attended the parade to say fare-well and God-speed. A few Japanese aeroplanes, the few which still flew the sky, flew overhead and swooped in salute. But of those who came to say good-bye, the people of Rangoon, the old who were bent with age and the burden of war, and the young who were still unbowed and full of hope, the men and the women, the girls and the children, they were those who impressed deeply on the young men of the Army the aim and purpose of their mission. The women wept as they gave the soldiers leaves of eugenia for good luck.
The Army then melted away quickly as small units hastened to their allotted positions and assigned duties. On March 27 the resistance began all over the country.(N.137)
LIBERATION AND FULFILMENT
I. RETURN TO RANGOON
When it became obvious to the Burmese Government that the Japanese Army could not withstand the weight of Allied numbers and armour under the daily carpet-bombings, it sent delegations to plead with the commander-in-chief to spare Rangoon. especially the Shwedagon Pagoda. The delegations, made up on most trips of U Tun Aung and UThein Maung, started going to the Japanese headquarters from October, 1944, when the writing on the wall was already visible to all, and it was apparent that the Japanese Army must either roll back from Burma in retreat or make a bitter stubborn stand to the death.
The Japanese commanders were not sympathetic towards Burmese sentiments at first. The Shwedagon, they said, was dispensable. Rangoon was dispensable. In fact there was nothing that was indispensable in a total war, not lives, however precious, nor property, nor temples, however treasured or sacred. But not Rangoon alone, Tokyo itself, came under dire peril then. War began to hit the very heart of Japan. and in the desperate months that dragged before the end, Japan was having to resort to desperate methods. Youths of tenders years were recruited into the ‘Kamikaze’ suicide squadrons, taught to fly and die on their missions of death. Young men volunteered in their thousands, willing, indeed anxious, to die for their Emperor and their country. The Japanese Government wanted some foreign leader of stature to visit Japan and meet the boys and inspire them, and others like them to join. Dr. Ba Maw was the excellent choice. He spoke well ; Burma was at the frontline of the war even as Tokyo itself was now. So the invitation went to Dr. Ba Maw, and he donned his field-marshal’s uniform again, and with friend U Tun Aung and a small staff. flew out to Tokyo in the month of November. Their aeroplane crashed after leaving Saigon, and they were badly shaken though unhurt. Dr. Ba Maw’s sword was twisted, and the entry into Tokyo was thus a dramatic scene: the field marshal from the battlefield arriving, through many dangers, with torn uniform and twisted sword.
The visit to Tokyo and the repeated visits to the Japanese headquarters in Rangoon at last resulted in a settlement of terms. Rangoon would be spared, and the Shwedagon would stand. The Japanese Army would fall back on Moulmein. then retire into Thailand. The Burmese Government was, however, to go along with the Army, to work together, it was said, for the word ‘hostage’ was a little harsh.
The retreat began on April 23, 1945, nearly a month after the resistance began. On April 25, Subhas Chandra Bose, leader of the Provisional Government of India, flew out of Rangoon by a last aeroplane, leaving behind a message to the people of Burma in which he thanked them for the hospitality, and promised that he would return one day soon and organize the ‘march on Delhi’ again. (N.138) The city grew silent for several days: some lootings went on in the streets. Later, the Burmese guerrillas emerged under the leadership of U Kyaw Nyein, U Ba Swe, Bo Khin Nyo and others. Kyaw Nyein was to have gone out with the Burma Army to Toungoo where Thakin Than Tun had already gone underground. Ba Swe was to have been in charge in the Rangoon area. But the Japanese Kempetai arrested him just before the retreat, and Kyaw Nyein stayed behind to try and get him out; Ba Swe was saved, and so was Kyaw Nyein for, it later came to light, the communists had made arrangements to get rid of him in the Toungoo camps.(N.139)
In the hills and jungle the guerrilla war of the resistance raged. There was heavy fighting in the Delta where Bo Ne Win commanded the troops and Thakin Soe strived to capture ‘their minds, and the Japanese in division strength tried to break through it all to the regrouping points east of the Sittang river. There was heavy fighting along the Toungoo-Rangoon road, and all along the Sittang which was, for the Japanese, the last river to cross before they reached safety. After the fighting was done and the final surrender came, General Slim commanding the XIIth. Army sent a message to General Aung San to congratulate ‘you and all ranks on the part which the Patriot Burmese Forces has played in the final stages of the liberation of your country. Your co-operation with the regular forces has contributed effectively to the heavy casualties that have been recently inflicted on the Japanese. I trust that the spirit of patriotism which has inspired all ranks to help their country against the aggressor will be further exemplified by their desire to safeguard it in the future as members of the Burma Army. (N.140)‘Patriot Burmese Forces’ was a proud name well-earned.
Buns were soon silent on the battlefields: beginning in the farthest north where the Chins and the Kachins, hardy warriors by tradition, had risen in their levies and their guerrilla organizations, right down to Rangoon, the Patriot Burmese Forces and the Allies fighting side by side. The PBF were given every recognition by the Allied Forces, under the direct orders of Earl Mountbatten of Burma, the Supreme Commander, South East Asia, and they were paid and disbanded prior to their absorption into the regular re-formed Burma Army. (N.141)
The shift was now from the battlefield to the political arena. Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith, in exile in Simla, was keen to come back to Rangoon. While Burma remained under military administration, Sir Reginald could not appropriately go back. It was therefore decided between Mountbatten and the Governor that the latter should fly out to Rangoon and hold a meeting with leaders of political parties in Burma ‘on board a British warship in the Rangoon river, an expedient which would avoid H. E. the Governor’s setting foot on Burmese territory before he had resumed responsibility for Government. (N.142) The meeting took place on June 20, 1945, on board H.M.S. Cumberland. The AFPFL and the PBF, along with other parties and groups, were invited to send their representatives to meet Sir Reginald in the middle of Rangoon river. Both Mountbatten and Sir Reginald realized that the AFPFL under Aung San’s leadership was the predominant political organization, but took great caution to appear not to recognize this fact, for to do so would take them a step nearer to recognizing the AFPFL’s claim that it was not a party, nor even a coalition merely, but a ‘National Government’.
Sir Reginald brought back to Rangoon the White Paper stating the policy of His Majesty’s Government on the future of Burma, and his own famous smile. ‘Let us get on with the job,’ he said cheerily on the Cumberland, for Burma’s fight for freedom was over. The White Paper envisaged an extension of the personal rule of the country by the Governor, under section 139 of the Government of Burma Act, for three more years, ie. till December, 1948. Within that period, general elections would be held, and the parliamentary government restored, ‘with the same degree of authority over the same range of matters as it enjoyed before the Japanese invasion.’ A second phase would then follow during which ‘the ground will be prepared for the attainment of full self-government.’ Chosen representatives of the people should then draw up a constitution, and after discussions and agreements with His Majesty’s Government, ‘full self-government within the British Commonwealth can thereupon be established in Burma proper.’ The Scheduled Areas were, however, to be ‘subject to a special regime under the Governor until such time as their inhabitants signify their desire for some suitable form of amalgamation of their territories with Burma proper. (N.143)
While the regime of the Governor’s personal rule lasted he could have an ‘Executive Council so as to give Burmans a share in the administrative task of restoring the economy of their country, subject to the retention of the Governor’s powers of supervision and control.’ He could also have a ‘small Legislative Council’, as an interim body. And on the Cumberland Sir Reginald promised: ‘During the caretaker period, I will try to make the Executive Council and the Legislative Council as representative as I can, after consultation with representatives of the principal political groups. (N.144) With that promise, and the invitation extended to parties to cooperate in ‘getting on with the job’ of rebuilding Burma, Sir Reginald flew back to Simla.
Life soon flowed back to Rangoon. Aung San and the leaders of the AFPFL and the PBF arrived back to forge their united front. On August 19, the AFPFL leaders and the commanders of the PBF who still had the mud of the fields on their boots, reported to a huge rally of people at the ‘Naythuyain theatre’ in Rangoon on the successes of the resistance. Resolutions were also passed to urge the British authorities to absorb the PBF as it stood as the nucleus of a new Burma Army for independent Burma, and to take early steps for the return of civil government to the country. The conference also called on the ‘anti-fascist fighters and all those who want to take their share in the rehabilitation of their own country’ to immediately form a ‘Provisional Government’ because ‘it is clear in the course of history that a Provisional Government should follow an armed insurrection before the convention of a Constituent Assembly.’ Then the elections to the Constituent Assembly must be held, it was resolved, to draft the constitution of a ‘free Burma’ and the necessary agreements with Britain, to send ‘Burma’s representatives to foreign countries, if necessary’ and to the Peace Conference’ of the Powers also. (N.145)
Aung San, Thakin Than Tun, U Ba Pe, Ba Kyaw Winn, Bo Maung Maung, and other staff officers went to Kandy in Ceylon to meet Mountbatten, General Slim and commanders of the SEAC to discuss the future of the PBF. It was there agreed that 200 commissions in the new Burma Army would be granted to officers and suitable personnel of the PBF, and other ranks also would be open to those PBF personnel who were fit and willing to serve. Mountbatten invited Aung San to lead the new Army, starting first as one of the two Deputy Inspector-Generals to be appointed with the rank of brigadier. It was an attractive proposition, for never before had any Burman attained the rank of brigadier in the Army and never before, needless to say, was a Burman given the opportunity of building the Burma Army. Aung San. however, refused. He saw that his destiny lay elsewhere. The leadership of the AFPFL was more urgent and vital, for now the climax to the national movement for freedom was coming.
In October, Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith returned to Rangoon to take over administration from the military and its Civil Affairs Staff (Burma). more he promised that Burma’s fight for freedom was over, and by gradual steps and controlled stages the forward march to self-government d now be made. Sir Paw Tun, Sir Htoon Aung Gyaw and other Ministers staff who had evacuated to Simla, also returned to Rangoon, all full of will and good intentions, glad to be home and back in power, but out of e with the mood and temper of the peoples of Burma.
Dr. Ba Maw also came back after a few months in Sugermo jail in Japan. He had evacuated with the Japanese troops from Rangoon in April, and after t hardship, had found his way to Japan where he was interned by the Allies after the surrender. His friends and associates went and pleaded with Reginald to secure his release and return, and at last, early in 1946 he arrived back in Rangoon by a Royal Air Force ‘plane, wearing a jungle green-shirt, and sporting a Hitler-moustache.
Thakin Ba Sein and Thakin Tun Ok also returned from exile to seek their fortunes in politics. U Saw returned from Uganda, older but still undaunted, ‘Galon’ Saw at heart. A reader of minds in Uganda was reported to have U Saw and studied him and said that everyone he had known who had Saw’s features and skull had ended on the gallows, and U Saw was the remarkable exception who achieved not the gallows but the premiership of his country. Little did he know that U Saw, patriot though he undoubtedly was, was destined to make his way along uncertain paths of politics to that tragic end.
By the beginning of 1946, thus, all were back in Rangoon. Aung San and the leaders of the PBF; Thakin Mya, Thakin Nu and others who followed Dr. Ba Maw on the retreat; Thakin Than Tun, Thakin Soe, and other Communist leaders; Sir Reginald and his loyal Ministers; Dr. Ba Maw, complete with moustache, still the Adipati; U Saw, Thakin Ba Sein and Thakin Tun Ok, back from their sojourns abroad, Thakin Thein Pe, the wanderer, back from his travels in India. (N.146)
2. AUNG SAN AND THE AFPFL
In January 1946, the AFPFL convened its first great assembly of peoples on the slopes of the Shwedagon Pagoda. People came from all over the country and from all walks of life. It was a great upsurge. The general mood was a peculiar and unique amalgam of war-weariness and the great relief that was felt at war’s end, nationalism and the pride of having emerged from the war as an ‘independent’ nation which was much battered and bruised but still whole and functioning, and hero-worship for Aung San and the joy and relief felt in having found in him a man to whom the future could be entrusted. Aung San was the hero of the hour, the Bogyoke —the Supremo. People needed someone whom they could trust without reservation, and blindly follow, and Aung San was that someone. He had led the Burma Independence Army, he had led the resistance. He was without selfishness; he was as poor as the people themselves, having acquired nothing during the war — when people in his position were gathering fortunes — except a loving family, and a solid reputation with the people
It was a situation of a kind that rises but rarely in a country’s history, when a people who are looking for a hero and a man who is looking for his mission meet, and there is happy union and the two merge into one. Aung San was not the attractive personality that could charm or bewitch. Nor was he a good speaker. He spoke for several hours at the AFPFL convention, touching on endless subjects, mostly in a dull academic manner. People drifted in and out while he spoke, or unrolled their mats and went to sleep. They accepted what he said even though they did not hear or understand him. What the Bogyoke said or did was right. When he asked for funds, girls took off their gold and gave them to him. When he asked the people to act, they did without questioning. It was a unique situation, and it would be unkind to compare any later leader with Aung San, for that situation could not be made to order.
The AFPFL, by acclaim, elected Aung San its leader. The Communists tried to seize the leadership but failed, and Thakin Than Tim contented himself with the Secretary-Generalship of the League. They had started organizing their Party immediately after their return to Rangoon in 1945, thereby breaking the war-time pledge to work together in a united front until the struggle for freedom was over. They were everywhere. They preached complete co-operation with the British and the surrender of arms; almost like an echo of Sir Reginald they said that the fight for freedom was over. They gave courses of indoctrination at their Party headquarters in Rangoon, and men from the PBF, disbanded and at loose ends, drifted to them in the hundreds. At the Party young men and women boarded together, discussed politics and sex openly, heard their hero Thein Pe recount his adventures and exploits in India, their prophet Thakin Soe preach Marxism, and their cool-headed teacher Thakin Than Tun analyse the world situation in dialectical terms. The Communists went far in capturing young minds then; but within the AFPFL they remained the seeming followers of Aung San.
Dr Ba Maw could not dazzle the people anymore. At a civic reception in Rangoon on his return from Sugermo he said he was out of party politics now, but he was available if the nation as a whole called to him. With that he sat aside and waited, but the call never came. He could not work with the younger man, Aung San; people did not work with Dr. Ba Maw, they worked for him.
U Saw too saw Aung San several times, but could not bring himself to work with the younger man. ‘He’s only a boy,’ U Saw said as he finally broke the talks for joining the AFPFL. He went back to form his ‘Myochit Party’, got together a handful of men, and made his demands to His Majesty’s Government in London to grant self-government to Burma immediately, or he would look elsewhere for aid. HMG did not seem to have been disturbed.
What disturbed HMG and Sir Reginald in Rangoon was the opposition offered by the AFPFL. Sir Reginald had invited the AFPFL to participate in his Executive Council, and the League had put forward eleven candidates for appointment. Sir Reginald could accept only seven, having objections in particular to Thakin Thein Pe, and also could not accept an AFPFL nominee as Councillor for Home Affairs which position he had reserved for Sir Paw Tun. (N.147) There was deadlock and accusations, Sir Reginald hinting that the AFPFL was ‘fascist’, and the AFPFL retorting pithily. The League thenceforth refused to co-operate with the Governor, and the Executive Council and the Legislative Council became empty affairs. The Governor’s writ soon ceased to run in the country. The ‘People’s Volunteer Organization’ (PVO) which was originally a welfare organization for ex-PBF men, now expanded fast, taking in young men and women who wore uniform and drilled in the open grounds in Rangoon and the district towns. Aung San’s prestige rose and the Governor’s fell every day. The rift between the League and the Governor was tragic, for it could have been avoided. The contest of wills was bad for the country. Lawlessness stalked the land. Weapons discarded by the British and the Japanese armies had fallen into the hands of villagers and bad hats and armed dacoities became rampant. ‘We came down far from our original stand for the formation of a National Government which must consist of all Burmans and which must have all powers.' So spoke Aung San (N.148) ‘We agree to the reservation of important subjects like Defence, External Affairs and Scheduled Areas in the hands of the Governor and we agree to accept the Governor’s nominees both Burman and British. We even do not grudge a very important portfolio like Finance being held by one of his nominees, The only thing we ask of the Governor is that though legally he has the sole responsibility for administering the country, he should as by convention democratise his rule. To that we attach one condition that one of our nominees should be given the Home portfolio.’
The Governor himself was not in an enviable position. Loyalty to the older politicians who had followed him into exile in India, and for those who waited for him through the war in Burma, lack of a correct appraisal of the strange and fluid situation — which appraisal would escape even the shrewdest political analyst, unless he knew the Burmese moods and mind — and the need to take instructions from London, which was still much further away from the heart of affairs, on matters of policy, made his task and position extremely difficult, (N.149) He went ahead and appointed an Executive Council, trying to get in as many representatives of the younger set, the thakins ,and other parties as possible (N.150) and nominated a Legislative Council with U Chit Hlaing as its President. The Legislative Council went through the gestures of law-making and debate on important public issues; the Executive Council tendered advice to the Governor in the exercise of his personal rule. But the gestures were empty and sad. The Councillors meant well, and did their best to serve, but they enjoyed no powers but what the Governor granted them, and the Governor had no real powers in the country, for the people did not obey his writs anymore, but followed Aung San and the AFPFL.
The Legislative Council debated, and made their demands. ‘Let us get the British Parliament to agree,' urged its President U Chit Hlaing, ‘to our elections being held in November, 1947 with franchise at 18 or 21. The whole House is agreed that there should be elections in November. Therefore, we must try and have elections by means of a resolution in this House.(N.151) Let us demand, Thakin Kyaw Sein, a Member, moved, that Burmans be given responsibility in the administration of reserved subjects, now that Burma was on the eve of full self-government. (N.152) Such motions were passed, and passed on to the Governor who, presumably, passed them on to London where, presumably, they got lost or mislaid, as things do get lost or mislaid in travelling through the long and tortuous official channels. The result was frustration. ‘Say no more,’ Thakin Lu Tun, a Member, cried in anguish, when U E Maung, Advocate-General, explained that it was not within the competence of the House to make laws, ‘shame us no more! We are already ashamed because the people and the press are saying that we have no power, and we are useless!" (N.153) Sometimes the frustration made some Members sour. Thakin Tun Ok who became an Executive Counsellor, would bitterly attack Aung San and the AFPFL. ‘U Aung San, president of the AFPFL committed a crime,’ he burst out, ‘and I could give the details, the place and the time. During the British retreat, those who were suspected of being British agents were put to the death.” (N.154) This, however, did not help Thakin Tun Ok very much when he himself, in a war-time book called ‘My Adventure’ had proudly told how he had cut off the heads of several dead British soldiers. The AFPFL, with Thakin Than Tun as Secretary-General, was quick and sharp, and supplied its friends in the House of Commons with the information, and questions were asked if Thakin Tun Ok would be dismissed from the Governor’s Executive Council for what he had done.(N.155) This bitter political strife did not help at all in the rebuilding of the country.
In London. the new Labour Government, enjoying for the vital post-F war years a massive majority, slowly got round to reconsidering the policy towards Burma. In Parliament questions on Burma frequently came up. Labour Members Tom Driberg, who had covered the war in Burma as a newspaper correspondent and become a friend of Aung San and Thakin was one of the most vocal spokesman for the AFPFL and its cause. He likened Aung San to Tito in Yugoslavia, against the cry of the Conservative Members that Aung San's Army had been disloyal to the Crown and had come over only when the Japanese were losing. The debates in the House and the reports in the press served Burma’s cause well. Now it was not matter of royal commissions and round-table conferences to find out the situation in Burma or measure her fitness to govern herself. The world had grown small, Rangoon was better heard in London, for people were speaking to people across the oceans.
Aung San and the League grew stronger in Rangoon, drawing into their arms not the young PVO alone, but the older politicians and senior officials such as U Them Maung, the first Advocate-General, Sir Mating Gyee, U Ba Pe, U Tin Tut who retired as the top Burman officer in the civil service to join the AFPFL and work with Aung San in politics and Dr. Set who was also a senior official and a financial expert. All the mass organizations joined the League: the peasants, the youth, the workers, the service unions, the Muslim League, the women’s associations. Rival parties were reduced in their followings to their leaders. Dr. Ba Maw, with his ‘Greater Burma’ organization, stood or sat, mightily alone waiting for the call from the nation to lead. U Saw and his ‘Myochit Party’ were reduced to a handful as prominent leaders such as U Mya, the big businessman of Henzada, left and joined Aung San. Thakin Tun Ok was in office, and Thakin Ba Sein was trying to get into office; they had, however, no following; their Party had little more to show than big signboards.
It was the tragedy of Burma that in those crucial years after the war, energy could not be channeled entirely into creative purposes. It was tragic that available talent and leadership and resources could not be marshalled into nation-building and the winning together, without anger or bitterness, of self-government for Burma. They meant well, and they served; the Governor, his loyal politicians, the revolutionary AFPFL, U Saw, Dr. Ba Maw, the men in the Executive Council and the Legislative Council, but fate and circumstances tore them apart, arid as they were torn, the country’s rehabilitation was hampered and delayed. As the bitterness in politics increased, so did lawlessness in the country, and restlessness. Standards of behaviour declined: the means were unimportant, if the end was achieved.
The strife between the AFPFL and the Governor also probably swayed the minds of Aung San and his associates towards Burma’s complete independence outside the British Commonwealth. The pre-war demand of all Burmese nationalist politicians had been for self-government or dominion status. Even as late as 29th. August, 1945, when speaking an the resistance movement at a meeting of the East and West Association in Rangoon, Aung San had hoped that ‘in the interim period before Dominion Status’ the Burmese would be ‘actively associated in the measures taken for the defence of the country.’ But, editing his speech in the middle of 1946, when the struggle was being whirled along to its climax, Aung San found it necessary to add as a footnote to the speech, in his Burma’s Challenge: ‘When I made this reference, I made it on the basis of the declared British policy, without arguing yet about the pros and cons of ‘Dominion Status’. Now after further clarification of the policy of AFPFL in the due course of events, this reference should be construed merely as a reference, without meaning to imply the acceptance of ‘Dominion Status’ by me or the AFPFL.’
3. THE RISE OF HOPE
There were incidents and eruptions all over the country after the negotiations between the Governor and the AFPFL were broken off. The tension only grew with time. In May peasants held demonstrations at Tantabin, a town ~s few miles north of Rangoon, and the police opened fire — using 68 rounds of ammunition in all — and three were killed and several injured. There was uproar, and Aung San attended the funeral, and the dead became martyrs. (N.156) There were risings in Insein jail. There were hunger marches by villagers. In Rangoon the AFPFL rallies grew larger, louder and angrier. The climax came at last when the Government staff went on strike. Quickly the strike spread They went on strike — all of them — and it is interesting to note that the main demand of the strike was freedom for Burma, and a Provisional Government that was suggested by the ‘Naythuyain Meeting.’ The police did not strike for more wages or less hours of work. The Ministerial Services Union joined the police, the Postal Services stopped, the Railways stopped, the factories stopped, the offices stopped — everywhere everything started stopping.' (N.157)
Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith went back to London, and in August, 1946. Major-General Sir Hubert E. Rance who had been in charge of the Civil Affairs Organization (Burma) under SEAC, was appointed Governor in his place. Sir Hubert came, promising the Burmese that he was not a soldier who had come brandishing a mailed fist but a friend to help and work together with. The Governor took an early opportunity to call on Aung San, who was ~ laid up with illness at his home in Rangoon’s Tower Lane, and the two soldiers who had served together in the liberation of Burma had frank and friendly talks and an exchange of memories. In September the Governor announced the dissolution of the old Executive Council and the formation of a new one with Aung San as Deputy Chairman or its de facto leader. (N.158) The entry of the AFPFL into the Executive Council ushered in a new and happy climate of goodwill and co-operation all round. ‘Independence within one year, which was Aung San’s pledge to the people, became something more than a slogan: a pledge which promised fulfilment.
In December His Majesty’s Government led by Mr. Clement Attlee invited Aung San and Burmese leaders to visit London for talks on Burma’s future. The AFPFL had asked, early in the year, for facilities to send a delegation to London, and HMG had not been prepared ‘to receive deputations from any individual party or organization but nevertheless that should two of their members wish to visit the U.K. in an entirely private capacity to make informal contacts, endeavours would be made to help them to obtain sea passages to the U.K. once the present extreme pressure on accomodations was eased.'(N.159)Now in December, the AFPFL was in the Government, and going to London as guests of HMG. The long and bitter night of 1946 thus drew to a close with the bright and cheerful sun of hope rising on the horizon.(N.160)
4. DRAFTING THE CONSTITUTION
The talks in London between Mr. Attlee and his Labour Government, and Aung San and the Burmese delegation led to satisfactory conclusions.(N.161) There was some suspicion at first among the Burmese leaders, Mr. Attlee later recalled, and they ‘could not believe that we were prepared to abide by the choice of the Burmese people. They had, unfortunately, committed themselves to their followers in favour of complete independence and a Republic. They had also to face the Communist Party. As the talks proceeded, their distrust disappeared and I think that some of them — particularly their leader, Aung San, a strong character, began to realise the desirability of remaining in the Commonwealth, though it may be that, like India, they would have opted for a Republic.(N.162)
There were also moments of suspense in the meetings. On the night of Sunday, the 26th. January, ‘the meeting which began at six in the afternoon had ended in a deadlock at eight in the evening, when the conference broke up temporarily to enable each side to think over the points at issue during the dinner interval and to meet again at ten o’clock that same night in their last effort to reach agreement.’ So wrote U Tin Tut, a member of the Burmese delegation, and one of the principal advisers to Aung San.(N.163) ‘We pondered long, and just before the time for resuming the conference at 10 p.m. we had come to a decision. We sorted out from the points remaining in dispute those we considered vital from the point of view of Burmese aspirations.
We would adhere to these points and refuse to enter into any agreement which did not concede these points to Burma. We would do this and face the consequences, whatever they might be. The points of lesser importance we would agree to waive.’
In that spirit of give-and-take, the final agreement was drafted, and signed on Monday, January 27th. ‘It was a historic moment,’ U Tin Tut noted, ‘and there was tense silence. Mr. Attlee and U Aung San inscribed their signatures with firm hands to both copies. We had made history; a new era of Anglo-Burmese friendship and co-operation had begun.' U Saw and Thakin Ba Sein refused to associate themselves with the agreement, but Mr. Attlee, swell informed in regard to the relative strength of the political organizations in Burma’, decided to proceed without them.(N.164) Back in Rangoon the two dissenting leaders went about saying that Burma had been sold, and Aung San had signed the agreement under pressure, and that his hand had trembled at the moment of signature. The AFPFL and the people, however, accepted
the agreement, which has come to be popularly known as the ‘Aung San-Attlee Agreement’ as a big step forward towards the goal of independence ‘within one year’. ‘We did not get 100 percent of what we wanted,’ Aung San admitted at a civic reception given to him by the city of Rangoon,’ but we now have a Government which is, by convention though not in law, a popular one. Soon the Constituent Assembly will meet to draft the constitution of independent Burma. We are free to stay in the Commonwealth or leave. The choice is ours. The way is open for us to march to freedom.(N.165)
The Agreement called for general elections to the Constituent Assembly in April 1947 using the electoral machinery prescribed under the Government of Burma Act, 1935. It was also agreed that the Executive Council would be the ‘Interim Government of Burma’ to be conducted ‘generally in the same manner as the Interim Government of India at the present time’ and to be treated ‘with the same close consultation and consideration as a Dominion Government’ enjoying the ‘greatest possible freedom in the exercise of the day-to-day administration of the country.’ The Interim Government was also to have financial autonomy, and full association with the disposal of business in defence and external affairs. It was agreed that a High Com- missioner for Burma should be appointed to represent the country in London, and that His Majesty’s Government would request Governments of the countries with which Burma wished to exchange diplomatic representatives to agree to such exchange. HMG also agreed to support Burma’s application for admission to the United Nations Organization, and other international bodies. The Government of Burma was to get control, forthwith, of all Burmese forces, while, in accordance with settled practice all British forces stationed in Burma were to remain under the ultimate control of HMG. In regard to frontier areas, the agreed objective was declared to be ‘the early unification of the Frontier Areas and Ministerial Burma with the free consent of the inhabitants of those areas. The leaders of the peoples of the areas were to be asked at the Panglong conference to be held in February, or a special conference to be convened for the purpose, to express their views on their future relations with Burma.(N.166)
The Panglong conference, attended by Aung San and the AFPFL leaders, all the Saophas of the Shan States, and leaders of the Chins and the Kachins and representatives of the Supreme Council of the United Hill Peoples (SCOUHP), started early in February and reached agreement on February 12, celebrated today as Union Day and a national holiday to commemorate the coming together of the peoples. It was a unique occasion. Never before had the leaders of the peoples met in conferences: the ‘scheduled areas’ were shut off from ‘Burma proper’, and it had been the assumption that the two could not, or would not, come together. The saophas of the Shan States, princes and princelings, depended on the British, and all along their inclinations had been towards some vague federation with Burma while enjoying the continued protection of His Majesty’s Government. In the Kachin hills, there were the chieftains who were similarly placed as the saophas. and who fondled similar hopes and dreams. The chiefs in the Chin hills who owed their appointments to the British commissioners, after the age-old system of elective chieftainship had been abolished by them, also could not think of their future except in association with British rule and protection.
In February, 1947, however, the situation had changed. The hill peoples had seen the war, and fought it on their own. They had tasted victory and freedom, and the wider world beckoned them from their solitary hills. Their delegations to Panglong in 1946, were made up mainly of the chiefs, and Thakin Nu, for the AFPFL, and U Saw, and other leaders, had visited them at their SCOUHP conference, and urged them to join a Union of Burma. In 1947, the delegations became more representative, being composed of com moners and chiefs, soldiers who had led in the resistance, and younger leaders who wanted bolder, nobler things than foreign protection. It was these delegates that Aung San met and impressed with his and the Burmese sincerity to work together and build a future for the Union. Fears and suspicions, which were unallayed by the intrigues of some of the die-hard British officers of the exclusive ‘Frontier Service’, were put to rest by the honesty and earnestness of Aung San. He spoke a language which the hill pies could understand and appreciate. He promised them equal democratic rights, and every assistance in building their backward areas; but his promises were sincere and not offered as bribes. The Kachins asked for an autonomous state within the Union, and the issue was debated hard and long, for the Kachins only had their snow-capped mountains which would be inadequate resources for a separate state. The Chins, led by their young leader Vum Ko Hau, asked Aung San if he would take care that the Chin hills got good roads and schools; he promised, and they decided to join the Union not even bothering for a separate State. The unreserved acceptance of Union by the Chins paved the way for agreement. The Shan saophas threw their lot, and the Kachins who were promised that the question ‘of demarcating and establishing a separate Kachin State within a Unified Burma’ would be studied with consideration.(N.167)
The Panglong Agreement laid the foundation for the Union of Burma, d the Frontier Areas Committee of Enquiry, led by Lt.-Col. D. R. Rees Williams, (N.168) after conducting the necessary investigations on the spot under the terms of the Aung San-Attlee Agreement, could report favourably for the Union concept on April 24, 1947. ‘The views of the witnesses from the Federated Shan States and from the Kachin Hills are strongly in favour of a federated Burma in which the Federated Shan States will form a State or unit and the Kachin Hills another,’ noted the Committee, while ‘representatives from the Chin Hills do not desire to federate.. but prefer an amalgamation of their area with Ministerial Burma, stipulating only that there should be no interference with their tribal customs and traditions and that their chieftains should be allowed to administer their tracts as at present.' (N.169) The Committee thought that there should be a Federal Council ‘somewhat on the lines of a Legislature’ with such subjects as may be allocated to the federal sphere. The SCOUHP, it thought, had scope for playing an important part in the development of the Federation. External affairs, defence, posts and telegraphs and communications, currency and coinage, customs, and titles and honours, were considered to be the common subjects which should be dealt with by the federal organ. Representatives of the ‘frontier peoples also asked for the right of secession and the Committee warned that ‘if any such right is to be contained in the federal constitution of Burma, it will have to be carefully limited and regulated.' (N.170)
In April there were country-wide elections for the Constituent Assembly. Aung San and the AFPFL canvassed energetically. ‘Elect the candidates that we name,’ Aung San said at public meetings, ‘for they are trusted and true. The Constituent Assembly may yet turn into a Revolutionary Council. We may have to fight for freedom still. We do not need ‘educated’ men. We want revolutionaries.’ In that vein he spoke up and down the country, and everywhere, at the elections, young PVO leaders, men of the resistance, and men who were picked by the AFPFL headquarters as the true revolutionaries won with landslide majorities, and in many places uncontested.(N.171)The elections went off without any untoward incident. The Communist Party, which had been ousted from the AFPFL by that time, contested, and won 7 out of 255 seats in the Assembly. The racial groups were also represented: the Karens, though their one great leader Saw Ba U Gyi chose to stay out; the Shans; the Kachins, the Chins, the Karenni; the Anglo-Burmans.
The members of the Constituent Assembly were energetic and keen. They came from different walks of life. Most of them wore their khaki uniform, as members of the PVO, or ex-PBF men. Members of the Socialist Party invented a uniform of their own, consisting of khaki two-piece suit and red neck-tie. Those who did not wear uniform, wore pitwzi jacket and Burmese longyi, bamboo topee, and Burmese slippers, and slung their shoulder bags in which they carried papers and books and assorted things. They went to work without delay or ceremony. In May the AFPFL held its first ‘small Constituent Assembly’ at Jubilee Hall in Rangoon where a ‘III-member committee’ was appointed to draw the first draft of the constitution. The committee worked night and day, and on the last day of the conference, May, 23, 1947, the draft was produced and adopted. Aung San enunciated the several basic points which must form the heart of the constitution: that Burma must rise as a sovereign independent Republic in which the democratic rights of the citizen, irrespective of race, birth, religion and sex, shall safeguarded; a Union in which democracy and socialism are forever brined.(N.172) On 9th June, the Constituent Assembly met. Thakin Nu was elected President of the Assembly on IIth June. Bogyoke Aung San moved his basic points on 16th. June, and on the 18th. a resolution was adopted to point a Constitution Committee of not less than 75 members to study and use the draft. The Committee also had several Sub-Committees for special subjects such as’ Union and State Powers’, ‘The Judiciary’, ‘Constitutions of States’, and ‘Fundamental Rights’. There were several other special Committees to select the state seal, the Union flag and the national anthem. committees, the sub-committees, and the special committees worked d while U Chan Htoon, constitutional adviser, and a small selected staff (N.173) t feeding them with drafts and memoranda. On 29th July the Constituent assembly began its second session to consider the constitution clause by clause. The draft was then given to the Drafting Committee which worked r it and had the final draft ready for the third session which began on 15th September.
Several drafts were thus prepared, and in the drafting the principles which were adopted at the AFPFL conference formed the basis while a draft pared by U Chan Htoon, referred to by the committees as the ‘pink book’ because it had pink covers, gave guidance on matters of form and ail. The constitution of the Republic of Ireland was also frequently consulted for inspiration and guidance. So was the constitution of the Republic of Yugoslavia, perhaps because there was some sentimental regard Marshal Tito, whose exploits had been likened to those of Aung San, and resistance men. India also helped in the drafting. U Chan Htoon and staff visited New Delhi to gather ideas and techniques, and the Constitutional Adviser to the Government of India, Sir B. N. Rau (N.174) also visited Rangoon to advice on the final draft of the Burmese constitution.
he third session of the Constituent Assembly, at which the Karenni State gates were present for the first time thus making the Assembly fully ‘esentative, adopted the constitution on September 24. The constitution, kin Nu said in moving adoption, contained seeds of freedom for all, and only for a favoured few. ‘Keeping at heart the good of the masses who at present sunk in the depths of poverty I urge the members to lavish all the care and attention that seedling of Burma’s freedom immanent in the constitution, and make it sprout and grow into a great and flourishing tree of magnificent foliage.’ Thus did Thakin Nu urge, and by acclaim the Assembly adopted the constitution of the Union of Burma.
And fulfilment of Burma’s aspirations came at last. In October Thakin Nu and his associates went to London to conclude the final treaty with the British Labour Government before the announcement of Burma’s independence. What is popularly known in Burma as the ‘Nu-Attlee Agreement’ was signed on 17th. October in which the British Government agreed to recognise the Republic of the Union of Burma as a fully independent sovereign State.’ Matters of detail were provided for in the Agreement and in the exchange of notes. A Defence Agreement and a Financial Agreement were also signed in Rangoon by the Burmese Government and visiting British missions. In December the Burma Independence Act was passed by the British Parliament providing that on the appointed day ‘Burma shall become an independent country, neither forming part of His Majesty’s dominions nor entitled to His Majesty’s protection.' (N.175)
The appointed day, according to Burmese astrologers, should be January 4, 1948, and the time 4.20 a.m.. Thus 4.20 a.m. on January 4 it was when Burma’s independence was proclaimed. Sao Shwe Thaike, elected President of the new Republic, and Sir Hubert Rance, the last British Governor, presiding over the ceremony of transfer of power, and that same morning Sir Hubert and Lady Rance and their staff embarked on the ‘H.M.S. Birmingham’ which was waiting in the Rangoon river and left Burma’s shores as good friends. (N.176) History thus completed a full circle from that day December 1885 when King Thibaw and his Queens were taken by the conquering British to exile in India on the ‘H.M.S. Canning’.
Fulfihncnt had not come easily. There had been struggle over the decades since the loss of freedom. There were sacrifices all along the way: the YMBA and the GCBA and the Sangha, keen and eager in their own ways, heroes in their own times; U Ottama who gave new vigour and new boldness to politics, and who died obsessed; U Wisara whose last words in jail before he died in hunger strike was ‘Be Wise’; Saya San and his ‘Galon’ Army marching on guns and cannon with drawn swords; the older politicians and their liberal ideas and constitutional methods; the younger thakins with their impatience and their white-hot zeal; the student strikers of 1920, 1936; Aung Gyaw died with skull crushed by police batons; the martyrs of Mandalay, the ~jba and the students; the Burma Independence Army that marched on 1j~y roads and became a shining symbol of defiance and victory; the rece in the jungles with boys dying with one last wish on their lips: ‘Keep prayers for me until Burma is free’; the AFPFL and the united front, great upsurge on the crest of which rode that unique young man, Aung San. uifilment had not come easily, for at the last hour before victory Aung San, the hero, the idol, was struck down and physically des.Aung San had presided over the constitution drafting committees, his decision and his very presence had brought harmony and unanimity the proceedings. Leaders of the Shans, the Kachins, the Karens, the and the Karenni peoples trusted him and accepted his final word and e. Difficult or delicate points were overcome by a small word, or a ed joke, or a solemn promise from Aung San. Even he was sacrificed the independence struggle. On 19th. July, 1947, Aung San was having his
tive Council meeting, when a group of gunmen burst into the chambers ying bullets all round. In a few confused minutes Aung San and several his colleagues lay on the bloody floor dead or dying. this home in the suburbs of Rangoon, U Saw waited for his gunmen to .When they arrived back and reported success of their mission, he ‘Victory!’ and waited confidently by the telephone for the call from Government House which he expected. With Aung San and seniorAFPFL rs removed, the Governor would call upon him, U Saw was certain, to a Government. Once more he would return to power, ‘Galon’ Saw the ul, conqueror of all foes. The telephone call did not come, however. its stead the police arrived. U Saw and the gunmen, some of whom had unwilling but helpless under his spell, were tried by a Special Tribunal open hearings, and finally sentenced to death. (N.177) “I regarded him (U Saw),” Clement Attlee wrote recalling the London visit of Aung San, U Saw the Burmese delegation, “as a man who would ‘smile and smile and be a ‘.We had the whole party down to Chequers for lunch and my wife thought that she was entertaining a prospective murderer and his victims. " (N.178)
Thus independence came to Burma after decades of struggle and many sacrifices. ‘Does this statement mean,’ Mr. Winston Churchill hnanded leading the Conservative Opposition in the House of Commons, ‘that we pay and we go, or only that we go?’ when Mr. Attlee, the Prime Minister, announced the coming of Burma’s independence.’ (N.179) In an earlier debate in which Mr. Attlee stated that ‘HIS Majesty’s Government do not regard the White Paper Plan as unchangeable in the light of developing circumstances,’ Mr. Churchill had also complained that the ‘British Empire seems to be running off almost as fast as the American loan.” (N.180)
But history had been kind to Burma, The British might not ‘pay and go’ but at least they went in a friendly way. In the light of drastic events which are happening in the world today, one can think of other colonial powers who would have, in similar circumstances, neither paid nor gone, but stayed and established their power by force and slaughter. Thus it was fortunate that Burma had finally to deal with the British and no other. It was also fortunate that before the final phase of struggle against British rule, Japan came to Burma and brought ‘independence’ if only in the ‘Coprosperity Sphere’. It is now fashionable to condemn Japan of the war as ‘fascist’ and to ridicule Burma’s independence under the occupation as the cheap ‘Tokyo-made’ variety. But the war, and the Japanese, with their ‘Asia for Asians’ slogan, lifted the hearts and hopes of the Burmese, the Indians, and Asians under colonial rule everywhere. Their victory over the Allied Powers gave potent and vivid proof that Asians could be the equals of other peoples the world over. In Burma the independence gave the peoples their national army, their government and their courts; returned to them their pride and their confidence. The face-slapping Japanese soldier tarnished the shining sheet, no doubt, and the trials and tribulations of the total war that was being fought over Burma took much of the joy of independence away. But three years of the war, and of independence, made the Burmese peoples new, and the tragedy of the early liberation years rose from the discord between the old ideas and the old formulae of London and Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith and his old Minirters, and the new ideas and moods of these new Burmese peoples.
‘We need harbour no resentment,’ said Prime Minister Thakin Nu, about the intrusion of the West into Burma’s history. ‘We could not forever develop our own culture and maintain our old ways of life without reference to the outside world, a world which was even then growing smaller by the development of the steamship and the railway. The dash with the West was bound to come and if in that clash we lost for a time our independence we have gained in knowledge of the world and have had time and opportunity to align our civilization and our way of life to what the world demands though we have been careful not to lose in that process our national individuality and the principles which we hold dear,’ (N.181)
(N.1) Thibaw’s family included his two queens and two daughters; his staff consisted of six officers and seventeen attendants (‘An Episode of Burma’s History in India,’ an article by U Hla in the Ludu daily newspaper, in Burmese, January 4, 1958) (Back)
(N.2) Premier U Nu is fond of remembering this incident in his speeches for national unity, e.g. his speech in the Provisional Parliament, congratulating the election of the Sawbwa of Yawnghwe (the son of the Sawbwa in the incident) as Speaker. Parliamentary Proceedings, vol. III. No. 9, page 389. (Back)
(N.3) Burmese Sketches, Taw Sein Ko, Rangoon, 1913, pp. 46—47. (Back)
(N.4) See appendix I.(Back)
(N.5) Burma Laws Act (1898), s. 13.(Back)
(N.6) Public Administration in Burma, F.S.V. Donnidion, Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1953(Back)
(N.7) Burmese Sketches. Taw Scin Ko, pp. 49—50.(Back)
(N.8) eg. The Passing of Empire, London. 1913 The Inward Light, MacMillan, 1917.(Back)
(N.9) eg. Trials in Burma, Faber & Faber, 1937; The Journey Outward, Faber & Faber. 1952.(Back)
(N.10) Into Hidden Burma, Calls. Faber & Faber, 5953, p. 35.(Back)
(N.11) Prof. C. H. Luce is now special professor in oriental history at the University of Rangoon, and his monumental study of ‘Pagan’ is to be published soon by the Burma Historical Commission. His Burmese wife, Daw Tee Tee Luce, runs a ‘boys home’.(Back)
(N.12) The author met Khup Lian at his village in April, 1957. He was then old and bent double, but he still climbed the mountains easily, and his memory was clear.(Back)
(N.13) The five enemies’ are: floods: fire: Government or Ruler; thieves; those who hate one.(Back)
(N.14) Shihoe is the posture and gesture of great respect: one sits on the knee or prostrate, with hands clasped as in prayer.(Back)
(N.15) ‘The Minds begin to Move’ was the theme of ‘K’, the popular pen-name of U Khin Zaw, describing these times in his ‘Burma in My Life-time,’ which was seria]ised iu the Guardian magazine from February, 1956.(Back)
(N.16) Reliable accounts of the YMBA—GCBA period in Burma’s Political History, a book in Burmese, written by U Ba Khine, a leader of the Fabian party, and published in 1g37 in a series of articles under the same title, written by U Lay Maung. politician and journalist, now Assistant Director of Religious Affairs, and published by the Bamahhit Burmese language daily newspaper between iôth. June, and 29th. September, 1956; in Encyclopaedia Burmanica, vol. 2, and World Affairs-Half-a-Century. 3 volumes, published by the Burma Translation Society in Burmese, sg~6: Political Memoirs, by Them Pe Myint, published by Shwepyidan Publishers, Rangoon. in Burmese. 1956; ‘The Development of Political Parties in Burma’, by ‘Deedok’ U Ba Choe, published in a series of articles in the English-language Rangoon Review in its first and last year, 1945—46.(Back)
(N.17) Sir Arthur Eggar was also Professor of Law at the University of Rangoon till his retirement lfl 1938. He was awarded the LL. D. degree honoris causa, and came to receive the diploma from Premier U Nu, Chancellor of the University of Rangoon, at the Convocation ceremony held in December, 1957. He wrote and published a series of volumes on the Laws of India and Burma, and also compiled the ‘Burma Code’ of laws.(Back)
(N.18) Gaungbaung is the headgear of Burmese males worn indoors and out, a mark of rank and respect and formality.
“T is skull-cap shaped, though slightly high ‘t is unique. it hits the eye.
Just above the rounded brim
Peeps a loose end small and trim.
With a waft of sudden breeze
It licks the nose and one may sneeze...’
is the humorous description of the gaungbaung by ‘M.M.T.’ in his uproarously popular ‘libellous lyrics' of Burmese life in the Guardian magazine (April, 1957 — ‘Burmese Attire’).(Back)
(N.19) In the ‘Dawn of Nationalism in Burma’. an article in the Joiirno.1 of the Burma Research Society, April. sg~o, by J. S. Furnivall, reproducing extracts of a lecture by U May Oung in the early YMBA days.(Back)
(N.20) Report of the Joint Select Committee London, 1934, 247. (Back)
(N.21) Prom 40 to 60 percent of the members were Government officers and staff, according to U Pu whom the author interviewed on November 30, 1957.(Back)
(N.22) An obituary of Sir J. A. Maung Gyi, by Nyo Mya, editor of the ‘Oway’ Burmese daily newspaper, appears in the Guardian magazine. April, 2955.(Back)
(N.23) Profile of U Them Maung. Guardian magazine. September. 2955.(Back)
(N.24) In a condolence motion in the Chamber of Deputies U Khant (Pantanaw) gave a life sketch of U Chit Hlaing, and, incidentally, of the GCBA movement. Parliamentary Proceedings, Deputies, vol. 3 No. 2, February 24, 2953, pp. 145—154. Proceedings axe all in Burmese now.(Back)
(N.25) U Ba Hlaing runs a business, and also writes on the ‘Revolution of the Olden Times’, mainly of the GCI3A era in the Amyothtz (Nationalist) Burmese fortnightly magazine published by Dr. Ba Maw.(Back)
(N.26) ‘The policy of His Majesty’s Government, with which the Government of India are in complete accord, is that of the increasing association of Indians in every branch of the administration and the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realization of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire.’ The reform schemes which were drafted in accordance this policy became popularly known as the ‘Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms’ after Mr. Montagu, Secretary of State for India, and Lord Chelmsford, the Viceroy in India.(Back)
(N.27) Sir Reginald attributed this liberal policy of the British Prime Minister Lord Curzon to ‘an extraordinary temporary lapse of an otherwise brilliant brain.’ The Zndiats Dilemma by Sir Reginald Craddock, London. 5930, quoted by John L. Christian in his valuable book, Burma and the Japanese Invader, Thackers, Bombay. 1945.(Back)
(N.28) An account of U Ottama and his times appears in the condolence motion and speech made by U Khant (Pantanaw) in the Chamber of Deputies, and the supporting Speeches. Chamber of Deputies, vol. 4 No. s6, September 9, 5953, pp. 1451—1464. There is also a biography of U Ottama in Burmese by U Soe Maung, editor of the New Light of Burma, published by Samameitta Publishers, Rangoon, ig~6.(Back)
(N.29) The Secretary of the GCBA in its first year was U Thin Maung; U Htoon Aung Gyaw was Treasurer; Executive Committee members were U Maung Maung Ohn Ghine, U Ba Hlaing, U Ba Si, U Pu (Tharrawaddy), U Them Maung, U Msung Gyee, U Tun Wai, U Aye Maung, and U Pu, hamster.(Back)
(N.30) Our National Day’ by ‘Deedok’ U Ba Choe, first published in the Rangoon Review, reproduced in the Guardian magazine, December, 1g53.(Back)
(N.31) Befterknown as Thakin Kodaw Hmaing, the Grand Old Man of Letters and Politics. Now 84, winner of the Stalin Peace Prize. (Back)
(N.32) Author and educationist, presently Burma’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations.(Back)
(N.33) ‘Burma Legislative Council’, by U Ba Dun, in Burma Yearbook and Directory. Rangoon, 1930. (Back)
(N.34) Speech by Sir Harcourt Butler to young officers at Meiktila, 11th. August, 1926.(Back)
Collection a/Speeches, Government Press, Rangoon, 1927
(N.35) Collection of Speeches, p. 146. (Back)
(N.36) Ibid.. pp. 159—60. (Back)
(N.37) A Ministers salary was Rs 5000 (i rupee = x. s. 6 a.) per month, which was a princely
salary. Ministers became known as ‘Eaters of Five Thousand’.(Back)
(N.38) The ‘Twenty-One’ were U Ba Pe. U Pu (barrister), ‘M. A.’ U Maung Gyee, U Them Maung. U Maung Gyi (New Light of Burma), U Sam, U Thin Maung, U Kun, Dr. Ba Yin. U Ba Hlaing. Dr. Them Maung. U Hla Pe, U Maung Maung Ohn Ghine, U Ba Si, U San Lin, U Ba U, U Lun Maung, U Sein Ba, U Maung Gyi, and U Thaw. (Back)
(N.39) Speech by U Pu, Burma Round Table Conference. Proceedings, Government Press, Ra.agoon, 1932. p.53. (Back)
(N.40) Ibid.. p. 78.(Back)
(N.41) In the dyarchical scheme the line of Ministers for Education which followed were: Dr. Ba Yin, U Ba Tin, barrister, U Kyaw Din, barrister, and Dr. Ba Maw, barrister; of Ministers for Forests: Sir Lee Ah Vain (two terms), barrister, Sir 5. A. Maung Gyi. and U Ba Pe.(Back)
(N.42) Two candidates were put forward, U Ba Pe, memeber for East Rangoon who won, obtaining 46 votes, and U Ba Dun, member for West Rangoon. who obtained 24 votes. Burma Legislative Council, Proceedings, vol. 1. 1923, pp. 51—52.(Back)
(N.43) Eg. Government’s statement that the Rangoon Cantonment, including areas adjoining the Shwedagon would be placed by the Government of India in the charge of the Local Government on terms involving the construction of a new cantonment at Mingladon (which was estimated to take ~ years) and the arsenal on the Pagoda could then be moved out. Ibid. p. 5o.(Back)
(N.44) Collection of Speeches, Sir Harcourt Butler. p.155.(Back)
(N.45) Views of Local Governments on the Recommendations of the~ Indian Statutory Commission, 7930, Calcutta, Government of India Press, 1930,P. 306.(Back)
(N.46) Report of the Rebellion in Burma up to 3rd. May 1931 HMSO, London, Cmd. 3900.(Back)
(N.47) Galon’ io the symbol of victory over the ‘Naga’. The Naga represents foreigners such as the English, the French, the Italians and the Russians. It is said that if a man has a ‘galon’ tattoo mark on him he becomes invulnerable, and the shot fired at him becomes coloured fiour.~ Statement by a prosecution witness at one of the trials; Aung lila vs. King Emperor, Indian Law Reports. Rangoon series. vol. IX, p. 417.(Back)
(N.48) The Government's first motion of the Bill was lost by 39 votes to 41. The Bill was Passed on subsequent motions after heated debates. Legislative Council, Proceedings, Vol. XX—!. 593!, pp. 55—75.(Back)
(N.49) Minister under the Japanese occupation, now back in law practice.(Back)
(N.50) Legislative Assembly, Debates, Vol. I., 593!, pp. 796—834, Government of India Press, New Delhi..(Back)
(N.51) Legislative Assembly, Deb~4es, vol. III., 1931, 2082—2122..(Back)
(N.52) Retold by Sir Arthur Eggar to the author when he visited Sir Arthur in Fowey, a fishing village in Cornwall, England. in May. ig~6; Sir Arthur was spending his advanced bachelor life — he had married since — fishing in the sea..(Back)
(N.53) Legislative Assembly, Debates, vol III, 193!, 2082—2122..(Back)
(N.54) Burma Round Table Conference, Proceedings, Government Press. Rangoon. 1932, p. I..(Back)
(N.55) Members of the Burma delegation were: the Sawbwa of Hsipaw, the Sawbwa of Yaunghwe, Sra Shwe Ba, Mr. C. H. Campagnac. Mr. N. M. Cawasjee, Mr. M. M. Ohn Ghine, Sir Oscar de Glanville, U Ton Aung Gyaw. U Maung Gyee, Mr. S. N. Haji, Mr. K. B. Harper, U Chit Hlaing. Mr. R. B. Howison, Dr Them Maung. U Tharrawaddy Maung Maung, Mr. Sydney Loo-Nee, U Ni, Miss. May Oung, U Ba Pe, Tharrawaddy U Pu. Mr. Hoe Kim Seing, U Ba Si, U Su. and U Aung Thin. The Sawbwa of North Hsenwi, and the Kyemmong of Kengtung were advisors to the Shans.(Back)
(N.56) Burma Round Table Conference, Proceedings, p. 39. Miss May Oung (Daw Mya Sein) is a lecturer in history at the University of Rangoon, and a prominent social worker.(Back)
(N.57) The young Sawbwa of Yaunghwe became the first President of the Union of Burma. and is now Speaker, Chamber of Nationalities.(Back)
(N.58) The primary task of the Burma Conference will be to discuss the lines of a constitution for a separated Burma.’ Announcement, dated August 20, 1931. Proceedings, p.9.(Back)
(N.59) Burma Round Table Conference. Proceedings of the Committee of the Whole Conference, 277. Government Press, Rangoon, 1932.(Back)
(N.60) The delegates from Burma were U Ba Pe, U Them Maung, U Chit Hlaing, Dr. Ba Maw, Mr. Tyabji, Dr. Daw Saw Sa, Saya Shwe Ba, Mr. Campagnac, Mr. Haji, Mr. Dawoodji, Mr. Harper, and U Shwe Tha.(Back)
(N.61) Joint Committee on Indian Constitutional Reform, Report, vol. I p. 249; HMSO, London, 1934.(Back)
(N.62) ss. 59, 122, Government of Burma Act. 1935.(Back)
(N.63) See profile of U Ba Swe in the Guardian magazine, March, 1956.(Back)
(N.64) U Nu’s condolence motion in the Constituent Assembly on the assassinations of Aung San and other leaders, gives sketches of the leaders, and the 1936 strike and the thakin movement; Constituent Assembly. Proceedings, vol. II. No. x., pp. 8—24.(Back)
(N.65) Who happened to be Nyo Mya, now editor of the ‘Oway’ Burmese daily newspaper.(Back)
(N.66) Accounts of the strike appear in the following profiles published in the Guardian magazine: U Nu, Prime Minister, May, sg~ Mr. M. A. Raschid, now Minister of Mines, December, 1956: U Kyaw Nyein, Deputy Premier in charge of National Economy, March, 1955; U Ba Swe. Deputy Premier in charge of National Security, March, tg~6; Bo Khin Maung Gale, Minister for Finance and Revenue, July, ‘954; U Tun Win, Minister for Co-operatives, October, 1955; U Hla Maung, Burma’s Ambassador to Peking. July, 1955; U Nyo Mya. October, 1958.(Back)
(N.67) U Ohn, Burma’s first Ambassador to Moscow. later Advisor to the Prime Minister, U Nu. U Tun On is Commissioner, Rangoon Corporation; U Thi Han is Director of Military Supplies. Ma Ah Mar. married U Hla, and they run the Ludt~ daily newspaper in Mandalay; Ma Khin Mya is now a lecturer in the Education Faculty of the University of Rangoon; Yi Yi took her advanced degree in teaching in the Unitcd States, and is married to an Army major.(Back)
(N.68) A brief autography of Aung San appeared in the Bamahhij Burmese daily newspaper, August I, 1943, which celebrated Burma’s independence under the Japanese, and also in Burma’, Challenge, in English. by Aung San, which was prepared for publication in 5946, but did not get beyond a few mimeographed copies for private circulation.(Back)
(N.69) Profile of Dr. Ba Maw. Guardian magazine, August, 5954.(Back)
(N.70) The Committee of which Justice H. B. L. Braund was chairman and U Pu Han. Mr.A. Rahim, U Khin Maung Dwe and Dr. M. A. Rauf were members, submitted its Report, on February z~’, 5939; Government Press, Rangoon, 5939.(Back)
(N.71) Forces leading to the unrest among the oilfield workers and peasants are analysed in Burma’s Revolution, in Burmese, written by Thakin Soc. who is now a Communist leader in insurrection, and published in Rangoon in 5939.(Back)
(N.72) Ba Hem became a Communist leader, and died on the eve of Burma’s independence. (Back)
(N.73) Hla Shwe became celebrated as a students’ leader, and Dictator’. He later left the movement and took a degree in medicine; in 5948, on his way to America for advanced Studies he died in an air crash. His brother is Thakin Hla Pe, ‘Ba Letya’.(Back)
(N.74) The Committee of which Justice Ba U was chairman and Senator U (later Sir) Thwin, and U Sesn Tun Aung were members, reported in July, 5939, with U Scm Tun Aung tendering a note of dissent. The Committee found that ‘the police had no justification whatsoever in charging the students in Sparks Street: and their conduct, to say the
least, is unmanly and most reprehensible.’ Report, Government Press. Rangoon, 1939.(Back)
(N.75) The author, then a student in the Intermediate College, Mandalay, was one of those whom the monks ~persuaded’ to sacrifice the western style hair-cut and be clean-shaven. The author found the cane which one monk had in his hand even mare persuasive than the argument, and readily gave in. That was the mood of the times.(Back)
(N.76) A Government reply to a question revealed that there were only 159 Burmans, 3040 other indigenous races, 1423 Indians and 1587 British soldiers in the Burma Army shortly before the outbreak of World War II, and of officers there were 4 Burnians, ~ indigenous races, 36 Indians and 163 British. House of Representatives, Proceedings, vol. III. 1938 p. 431.(Back)
(N.77) U Ohn Khin is now proprietor of the Bama.khit Burmese daily newspaper. Thakin Than Tun, top Communist leader, is in armed rising against the Government (profile of Thakin Than Tim, Guardian magazine, October, tg~6).(Back)
(N.78) The goodwill mission, 1939, was composed of Daw Mya Sein, U Ba Lwin (now Burma’s Ambassodor to Ceylon), Mr. S. T. Leong, barrister, Thakin Nu, and others.(Back)
(N.79) Saya Tun Shwe was cast in jail for sedition, taken out in India to British evacuation in 1942, and died in jail there.(Back)
(N.80) Burma’,1 Challcnga, Aung San.(Back)
(N.81) Ministers in U Saw’s Cabinet were: Sir Paw Tun. Tharrawaddy U Maung Maung. U Aye, U Ba Than, Saw Pe Tha, U Ba Thi. U Ba Yin, and U Ba On. (Back)
(N.82) The Second World War, Winston S. Churchill, vol. III. 727. Cassell, London, 1950.(Back)
(N.83) 'Journey Perilous’ was the title of a series of articles written by U Saw in the Burmese Review, weekly English journal, published by U Tin Tut, 1946—47.(Back)
(N.84) The author was Them Pe: U Nyana, another wellknown writer and playwright, said to Thein Pe: ‘Either you must have written it, or I, for there are only two of us in Burma who are capable of such genius.’ Thein Pc admitted the authorship then.(Back)
(N.85) The Times, London, October 17, 1941.(Back)
(N.86) The Times, October 30, 1941.(Back)
(N.87) The Times. October 23, 1941.(Back)
(N.88) The Times, November 5, 2941.(Back)
(N.89) Hansard, vol. 376, p. 884. House of Commons. (Back)
(N.90) The Times, November 4, 1941. (Back)
(N.91)By Proclamation dated December 10, 1942.(Back)
(N.92) The events in this chapter and sketches of the personalities appear in the following profiles in the Guardian magazine: U Kyaw Nyein, March 1955; U Ba Swe, March, 1956; General Ne Win. October, 1954; Bo Khin Maung Gale, July. 1954; Thakin Chit Maung, September, 1954. Bo Hmu Aung, May, 1954; U Nu, May, 1955; U Tun Win, October, 1955; Thakin Than Tun, October, 1956.The facts are also gathered from interviews. Notes of speeches made on the subject by Colonel Maung Maung, Colonel Aung Gyi. and Colonel Kyi Maung, who actively took part from BIA to the resistance, and remained to build the new Burma Army, at a briefing of a visiting Yugoslav military mission in Rangoon in 1953, have also been consulted by the author. Comments and interpretations are, of course, the author’s own responsibility. (Back)
(N.93) Profile of U Hla Maung, now Burma’s Ambassador in Peking, Guardian magazine, July. 1955. (Back)
(N.94) Profile of U Ba Swe. Guardian, March, 1956. (Back)
(N.95)Colonel Maung Maung is now, perhaps appropriately, Director of Military Training in the Burma Army, and Professor of Military Science at the University of Rangoon. Colonel Aung Gyi is Colonel, General Staff. (Back)
(N. 96)Burma’s Challenge, by Aung San. (Back)
(N. 97)A History of the Minami Organ, a diary written by Mitsuru Sugii in Japanese translated into English by H. Takahashi who, as ‘Colonel Kitajima’ came in with the Burma Independence Army; Mr. Takahashi is now assisting in the work of the Burma Defence Services Historical Research Institute. (Back)
(N. 98) Ibid. (Back)
(N. 99) The ‘thirty comrades were: Thakin Aung San (Bo Te Za); Thakin Shu Maung (Ba Ne Win); Thakin Tun Ok; Thakin Hla Pa (Bo Let Ya); Thakin Aung Than (Bo Set Kya); Thakin San Hlaing (Bo Aung): Hla Maung (Bo Zeya); Tun Shein. (Bo Yan Naing); Ko Shwe, (Bo Kyaw Zaw); Thakin Hla Myaing, (Bo Yan Aung); Thakin Ba Gyan (Bo La Yaung); Thakin Tin Aye. (Bo Phon Myint); Thakin Tun Khin, (Bo Myint Swe); Thakin Khin Maung U. (Bo Ta Ya): Thakin Tun Lwin. (Bo Ba La): Thakin Aung Thein. (Bo Ye Htut); Thakin Kyaw Sein. (Ba Mo Nyo): Thakin Saw Lwin (Bo Min Gaung): Thakin San Mya. (Bo Tauk Htain): Thakin Than Nyunt. (Ba Zin Yaw); Thakin Thit, (Ba Saw Naung); Ko Hla, (Ba Min Yaung): Thakin Tun Shwe, (Bo Lin Yon): Thakin Soe. (Bo Myint Aung); Ko Saung, (Bo Htein Win); Thakin Ngwe. (Bo Saw Aung); Thakin Aye Maung. (Bo Moe); Thakin Maung Maung. (Bo Nyana): Thakin Than Tin. (Bo Mya Din); Thakin Than Tin (died on Formosa island during training). Of the last-named six comrades, the five besides Thakin Than Tin died in the field either on entry into Burma. or during the resistance.Prominent among the survivors are: Bo Ne Win. General, and Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces; Bo Aung, Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies; Bo Min Gaung. Minister for Transport in the Union Cabinet: Ho Let Ya, one-time Deputy Prime Minister, now in business; Bo Set Kya, one-time Member of Parliament, now in business. Besides Bo Ne Win only one more of the ‘thirty comrades’ remains in the Burma Army, and he is Bo Bala , a major. Bo Kyaw Zaw attained the rank of Brigadier, the second highest rank in the Burma Army, and was retired out for certain leakages of vital information in his possession to the communist insurgents. Bo Zeya. Bo Yan Aung, and Bo Ye Htut are with the communist insurgents.(Back)
(N.100) The Burmese tabaung or soothsayer’s song had it that the last of the Burmese dynasty would be destroyed by the British, who in their turn would be hit by the moe gyo-’ (lightning).(Back)
(N.101) Bo Zeya remained with the Army to the resistance and, in the new Burma Army, reached back to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, then led some troops in mutiny and joined communist insurgents.(Back)
(N. 102) Profile of General Ne Win, Guardian, October, 1954.(Back)
(N. 103)Sir Maung Gyee was appointed Defence Counsellor to Sir Archibald Cochrane, the first Governor of Burma under the Government of Burma Act, in the latter part of 1940. Sir Archibald visited Burma in 1957, died at his home in Scotland in April. 1958.(Back)
(N.104)The Burma Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, and the Burma wing of the Royal Air Force distinguished themselves in war service after evacuating from Burma. The Vice Chief of Staff (Navy) of the Defence Forces, Commodore Than Pe was one of the first officers recruited for the BRNVR; the Vice-Chief of Staff (Air) T. Clift. and several senior officers of the Burma Air Force today also served in the RAF.(Back)
(N. 105)Bandoola was the Burmese general who fought the British in the first Anglo-Burmese War, and won the admiration of British field officers by his generalship.(Back)
(N. 106) In Burma under the Japanese, U Nu, MacMillans, London, 1953.(Back)
(N. 107) Profile of U Kyaw Nyein. Guardian. March, 1955. An approved version of the escape appeared in the Bamakhit newspaper (then published by the Government) on August 1. 5943.
(N. 108) Dr. Ba Maw called himself Prime Minister, but General Tojo referred to him as ‘Chief Administrator’. The role of theAdministration was, in strict law, advisory; the Japanese commander-in-chief and his military administration were the rulers. Dr.Ba Maw’s ‘Ministers’ were Dr. Them Maung; Thakin Mya; Thakin Than Ton; (Bandoola) U Sein; U Hla Pe; U Tun Aung; Thakin Tun Ok; Thakin Ba Sein, and U Ba Win. (Financial and Economic Annual of Burma, July, 1943. Government Press, Rangoon, 5943).
(N.109) Sir Mya Bu now lives in retirement. Sir Ba U became Chief Justice of the Union on independence, and President of Burma, 1951-56. (His autobiography. My Burma. has been published by Taplinger. New York). Sir Maung Gyee has retired after serving as Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s. Dr. Myint is Dean of Law, University of Rangoon. U Chan Tun Aung is Chief Justice of the High Court.
(N.120). In Burma, published in September, 0944. by the Foreign Affairs Association,Rangoon.
(N.121) The experiences of a senior official who spent the war years trading in rice are recorded in River Journey’ in the Guardian, August. September, and October, 5954.
(N.122) Poliiical Memoirs, by Thakin Thein Pe, Taingchit Press, Rangoon, 1957. (in Burmese).
(N.123) New Order Plan, in Burma, 1944.
(N.124)Quoted in Financial and Economic Annual of Burma, 1943.
(N.125) Burma’s Challenge, by Aung San.
(N. 126) See profile of U Thein Maung, Guardian, September, 1955.
(N.127) Burma Legislative Council, Proceedings, vol. I. No. 7. p. 273
(N.128) See text of the constitution, appendix II.
(N.129) Substantive articles of the treaty read:
Art. 1. The Japanese and Burmese Governments, for the purpose of prosecuting the Greater East Asia War, agree to co-operate in military, political and economic matters.
Art. 2. The Japanese and Burmese Governments agree to co-operate in the construction, advance and common prosperity of the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere.
Art. 3. Matters of detail regarding the execution of this treaty will be negotiated when necessary.
Art. 4. The Treaty will come into force on the date of signature. (Bamakhit. August I. tg~3; Burma during the Japanese Occupation, vol. I, October,1943, Government of Burma, Simla.)
(N.130)The Ministers of the Cabinet were: Dr. Ba Maw, Prime Minister; Thakin Mya, Deputy Prime Minister; Dr. Them Maung, Finance; U Tun Aung, War- Cooperation; U Ba Win, Home Affairs; Bandoola U Sein, Propaganda and Prosperity: U Hla Pe, Forests and Mines; Thakin Than Tun, Land and Agriculture; UThein Maung. Justice; U Mya, Commerce and Industry; U Hla Mm. Education. Health, and City Development; U Aye, Revenue; Thakin Nu. Foreign Affairs; Major-General Aung San, War; Thakin Lay Maung, Transport.
(N.131) The first meetings of San Pa Thin, Kya Doe and Aung San are described in Grandfather Long Legs, by Ian Mocrison, Faber & Faber. London, xg~ç~. An account of a goodwill mission among Karens appears in the Guardian. June, 1947, under the title, ~My Karen Diary’, by U Mya Sein.
(N.132) Profile of the Adipati Dr. Ba Maw, by Htin Fatt. in Burma, 1944.
(N.133) Col. Aung Gyi. Brig. Tin Pe, Col. Chit Khine, and Lt-Col. Aye Maung are serving officers in the Burma Army. So are Lt-Col. Win, and Cal. Maung-Maung. Ye Htut is a leader among communist insurgents. Ba Khin Maung Gale is Minister of Finance. U Ba Gyan, after resigning as Minister, now practises law. T. K. Boon is also a practising lawyer.
(N.134) In December, 1951. when the first course was started, his theme being that party politics must severely be shut out of the Army.
(N.135)Daw Khin Kyi, widow of Aung San, is permanent head of the Social Services Cammission. Daw Ma Ma Gyi, wife of Thakin Than Tun, is with her husband in the jungle.
(N.136) A typical Burmese group which stole out of Burma into India in 1944 was led by Thakin Ba and Mahn Win Maung. Thakin Ba, Ba Them and some colleagues died in an aircrash on their return journey into Burma. Mahn Win Maung parachuted back, and broke a leg. He became Minister in the Union Cabinet, and was elected to the Presidency of Burma in March 1957. An account of the group’s adventures appears in the speech of the President-elect. Joint Session, Proceedings, Parliament, vol. 7. No. 1. March,11, 1957.
(N.137) A fuller story of the Burma Independence Army, the Resistance, and the Burma Army will be told when the History of the Wax, being prepared by the Defence Services Historical Research Institute, is published. An account of the aim and purpose of the resistance was also given by General Ne Win in his broadcast from Rangoon on May 7.1945 (Text of broadcast appears in The New Burma, Nay Win Kyi Press, Rangoon, 1946, and the Guardian magazine January 1954).
(N.138) A report on the situation in Rangoon on the eve of the Japanese retreat by U Pu Glay, a senior reporter, now dead, appeared in the Ludu Burmese newspaper, March 27. 1958. ‘The exodus of the Adipadi Government’ from Rangoon, by U Tun Aung. who retreated with Dr. Ba Maw, appeared in the Guardtau, English daily newspaper, April 23, 1958.
(N.139) Profiles of Kyaw Nyein, Ba Swe, and Hla Maung. In the Guardian magazines of March, 1955. March 1956, and July. 1955 respectively.
(N. 140) Quoted by Aung San in a speech to the East and West Association, 29th. August, 1945, Burnza’s Challenge.
(N. 141) In Report to the Combined Chiefs of Staff by Vice-Admiral the Earl Mountbatten of Burma on his South-East Asia command, 1943—45, HMSO, London, 1951
(N.142) Ibid., P. 204. paragraph 85.
(N.143) Burma Statement of Policy by His Majesty’s Government,1945 HMSO, London.
(N.144) Speeches of Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith, Government Press. Rangoon, 1945
(N.145) The New Burma, (English), containing APPFL resolutions, etc.. Rangoon. 1946.
(N.146) Questions were repeatedly asked in the House of Commons about Dr. Ba Maw and U Saw before their release. Thus, Mr. Sorensen asked the Under-Secretary of State for Burma if Dr. Ba Maw had been brought back to Burma from Tokyo and if the Government intended to detain him indefinitely. When the Under-Secretary of State had no definite answer, Major Lloyd asked if the Government would ‘search out more Maw’s to be detained indefinitely.’ Hansard, Commons, 1945—46, vol. 426, 488. Similarly with U Saw. Tom Driberg once asked if U Saw would be free, when back in Burma, to enter politics, and if HMG was building him up to ‘counterbalance the overwhelming popular support enjoyed by the AFPFL?’ The Under-Secretary of State replied: ‘Burma. like this country, being a free country, it will be difficult to prevent any citizen taking part in politics.’ He gave a negative reply to the second part of the question. Mansard, Commons, 1946, vol. 418, 2346. For the exploits of Thakin Them Pe, there is his own account in Traveller in War-time, in Burmese, Shumawa publishers. Rangoon, 2953.
(N. 147) AFPFL nominees were: Bogyoke Aung San, U Ba Pe, U Ba On. U Aye, U Razak, U Mya (Pyawbwe), Thakin Mya. Thakin Them Pe. U Nyo Tun, Mahn Ba Khine, and Saw Ba U Gyi (who later led the insurrection of the Karen National Defence Organization). The Governor appointed. after failure of negotiations with the AFPFL: Sir Paw Tun, Sir Htoon Aung Gyaw, U Ba On and U Aye (who broke away from the AFPFL to accept office). U Lun, U Pu. Thakin Yan Aung (who is now Deputy Attorney-General), Mahn Ba Khin, U Tharrawaddy Maung Maung, Sir John Wise, and Sir Raibeart MacDaugall. See The New Burma.
(N.148)In his presidential address at the AFPFL convention in January, 1946. Reproduced in Burma’s Challenge.
(N.149) A detailed account — and an inspired defence — of Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith’s performance after liberation is in The First and Last In Burma. by Maurice Collis, Faber & Faber, London, 1957.
(N.150) Thakin Tun Ok was also appointed to the Executive Council on his return from wartime exile.
(N.151) Burma Legislative Council, Proceedings. vol. 1—12 p. 449.
(N.142) Burma Legislative Council. Proceedings, vol. 1—16 p. 1.
(N.153) Burma Legislative Council, Proceedings. vol. 1—17 p. 606.
(N.154). Burma Legislative Council, Proceedings. vol. 1---15p. 545.
(N.155) The Under-Secretary of State for Burma replied to a question by Tom Driberg that s the Government was not aware of any distress caused to loyal Burmese by the appointment of Thakin Tun Ok, a prominent young Burmese politician who has recently returned to Burma from Singapore where he had been deported by the Japanese.’ Hansard, Commons. 1945—46, vol. 420. 740—74!.
(N.156) An Enquiry Committee was appointed to report on the incident, and its Report was published by the Government Press, Rangoon. 2946.
(N.157) In Burma’s Fight for Freedom, commemorating independence, Government Information. Rangoon, January 1948.
(N.158) The new Executive Council. appointed on September 27, 1946, was made up of: U Aung San, de facto Deputy Chairman or Prime Minister, Counsellor for Defence and External Affairs; Thakin Mya, Home Affairs; U Ba Pe, Commerce and Supplies; Thakin Thein Pe, Agriculture and Rural Economy; Mahn Ba Khine, Industry and Labour; U Aung Zan Wai, Social Services; U Tin Tut, Finance & Revenue; Thakin Ba Sein. Transport & Communications; and Sir Maung Gyee, Public Works & Rehabilitation. (Burma Gazette. Part I, October 12, 1946). On the expulsion of the Communist Party from the AFPFL in October, Thakin Them Pe, its representative, resigned from the Council on October 22. Saw Ba U Gyi, and U Mya (Pyawbwe) were added as Counsellors (Burma Gazette, Part I. November 2, 5946). U Saw was appointed to the Council on November 8, 1946 (Burma Gazette. Part I, November g, 2946). U Saw and Thakin Ba Sein who went to London on the Burmese delegation and refused to sign the ‘Aung San-Attlee Agreement’ resigned from the Council on their return to Rangoon.
(N.159) Hansard. Commons, 1945—46, vol. 418, 1345.
(N.160)Reports on the situation in 5946 are found in: ‘Burma in August 5946’, by U Khaut, one-time Member of Parliament. in the Guardian magazine, November, 1955; and ‘Burma Demands her Freedom.’ by Thakin Kyaw Sein in the Guardian magazine, January. 5958.
(N.161) U Aung San led the delegation, with AFPFL leaders Thakin Mya, U Ba Pe. U Tin Tut, U Kyaw Nyein, and U Aung Than (Bo Setkya). Thakin Ba Sein, U Saw, and their advisors Thakin Cit and U Ba Yin, were also on the delegation.
(N.162) As It Happened an autobiography by Mr. C. R. Attlee. Odhams, London, pp. 217—220.
(N.163)‘It was a Memorable Signature’, by U Tin Tut. in the New Times of Burma, January 4, 1948.
(N.165)On February 28, 1947. Speeches of Bogyoke Aung San. Government Information, (Burmese). Rangoon, 1949.
(N.166) Conclusions reached in the Conversation between His Majesty’s Government and the Delegation from the Executive Council of the Governor of Burma. HMSO, London, command paper. 1947.
(N.167) Text of Panglong Agreement is appended.
(N.168) The members of the Committee for Burma proper were U Tin Tut, Thakin Nu, Ho Khin Maung Gale. and Saw Myint Them representing the Karen Youths’ Organization; frontier areas members were the Sawbwa of Mongpawn, Sama Hsinwa Nawng, U Vum Ko Hau. and Saw Sankey of the Karen National Union. U Kyaw Nyein served as a member at the early stages but withdrew due to pressure of work as Home Minister.
(N.169) See Report of the Committee. Government Press, Rangoon, 3947.
(N.170) Ibid., p. 29
(N.171) Except for the 7 Communist members, and a few ‘independent’ members, all the successful candidates, including those representing communal interests, were either actively AFPFL or supporters of the League. The Communist members also took part in the drafting of the constitution, and supported the agreements with His Majesty’s Government.
(N.172) See Appendix.
(N.173) U Chan Htoon served for several years as the first Attorney-General, and is now a ~Judge of the Supreme Court. His staff included U Tun Tin, U Scm, U Ba Thaung. ~U Khin Maung Than, U Nan Nwe, and U Thoung. U Them Han, scholar and poet. ,Librarian of the University of Rangoon, served as officer on special duty, and trans~Iated the English drafts into Burmese.
(N.174) ‘Sir B. N. Rau served as India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations ~WIth great distinction, before he was elected to be Judge of the International Court of Justice in which office he died.
(N.175) Burma Independence Act, 1947, dated 10th. December, 2947, xx Gao 6, Ch. 3.
(N.176) Sir Hubert Rance was awarded the highest title in its gift by the Government of the Union of Burma, and he visited Rangoon in 2956 to receive it.
(N.177) ~7ho story of the assassinations may be found in the judgment of the High Court. on Appeal from the Special Tribunal, U Saw and 9 others vs. The Union of Burma, 1948 Burma Law Reports 217. Also U Sow & 4 others vs. The Union of Burma, 1948. BLR 249, Supreme Court. An interesting ‘inside story’ of the crimes was given by one of his men, Thukha, while serving his sentence, to U Hla in an intimate interview: The Jail and the Men, by U Hla (in Burmese). Ludu Press, Mandalay, 1957.
(N.178) AS It Happened by Mr. C. R. Attlee
(N.179) Hansard, Commons, 1g46—47. vol. 432, 778.
(N.180) Mansard, Commons, vol. 43!, 2343.
(N.181) Broadcast to the nation, January 4, 1948.