ON January 4, 1948, the sovereign and independent republic of Burma was born, and a connection with the British Crown begun 120 years ago with the annexation of Tenasserim and Arakan in 1826 was ended. The parting was friendly, and it is of interest to trace the recent history of Burma to disclose the reasons for this, and also, perhaps, to form some estimate of the new state's prospects.
Prior to 1937 Burma was a province of India, and shared in the constitutional advances embodied in the Government of India Act of 1919, which handed one part of the functions of government over to ministers who were responsible to an elected legislature. This system of "dyarchy" had defects, but in fact it did what it was intended to do: it set up standards of democratic conduct in public affairs and trained the country's political leaders in the art of administration. It prepared the way for the next step forward, which was taken in Burma with the passing of the Government of Burma Act in 1935. By this Burma was separated from India, and given a constitution which laid so much responsibility on the elected representatives of the people as to bring the country close to the position of a Dominion.
Burma had long been divided when, in 1886, the third Burmese war brought upper Burma under British rule. The lower-Burma farmer, who was growing rich under British protection, had no nostalgic longings for the Mandalay monarchy. In upper Burma, the prestige of the monarchy had sunk so low, and the country was in such disorder, that the common folk welcomed the security and justice of the British régime. But at the end of the First World War, men's minds had absorbed the doctrines of self-determination, and a new nationalism sprang up, bent on making Burma a free partner in the British Commonwealth. The slow advance in constitutional development, though welcomed readily enough by the nationalists, was inadequate to satisfy their demands.
Thus it came about that although the
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