Courtesy Reuters

Economic Bases of Unrest in Burma

THE first two years of independence in Burma were a period of the greatest difficulty for the new régime. The country, which was devastated by the two Japanese campaigns, has since been torn by internal strife, partly due to Communist groups in open revolt against the newly elected Government, and partly arising from racial conflicts.

The situation today in the third year of independence seems more promising for eventual stability. The main Communist groups have been dispersed by government troops and the countryside is quieter. Conditions are far from settled, however. The Communist influence is partly dependent on events in China and Korea, so that it cannot be considered disposed of by military victories. Further, the countryside is still disturbed by marauding bands, calling themselves Communists although often only brigands.

The resulting chaos cannot easily be attributed to Burma's choice of independence, even by Churchillian critics of the régime, in view of the greater strength of the Communist-Nationalist opposition in both Malaya and Indo-China. Neither in Burma nor Siam can Communism appear as the champion of nationalist aspirations. Significantly the Communist opposition is weaker than elsewhere in Southeast Asia. In Burma it is also divided into two groups, kept apart by personal enmity between its leaders.

The reasons for other outbreaks of fighting can all be traced to separate tendencies of minority groups, distrustful of the Burmese majority. Yet, except for the Karens, the numbers have been small and the movements have had little support from responsible elements in the minorities themselves. With the semi-federal constitution of the Union, local autonomy already exists for most tribal minorities and its extension is always constitutionally possible. With the Karen rebels now defeated, the Government has the opportunity of developing constitutional reforms to provide Karen autonomy, and the principle of a new Karen state has been accepted.

Government troops seem to have turned the tide against all the various rebel groups in the last 12 months. Yet it is clearly going to take

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