The Colonial Era of Myanmar

The colonial era (1826-1948)

Between 1826 and 1886, Burma was annexed to the British-Indian colonial empire in three stages. The first Anglo-Burmese war from 1824 to 1826 had its cause in a conflict over the respective spheres of influence caused by the expansion of both sides. The British East India Company, based in Calcutta, also tried to limit French influence on trade with Burma. The war ended with the Treaty of Yandabo. Among other things, it stipulated that the provinces Tenasserim (Tanintharyi) and Arakan (Rakhine) were handed over to the British side. In addition, the conclusion of a commercial contract was agreed.

This contract did not come about due to the different ideas of both sides about the conditions of free trade. This laid an essential cornerstone for the British campaign between April and December 1852. After this campaign, the East Indian company took possession of the entire sub-company. The Burmese kingdom thus no longer had access to the sea. A conflict over trade issues was ultimately also the reason for the 7-29 November 1885 ongoing third Anglo-Burmese War, at the end of which the last Burmese monarch Thibaw and his family were exiled in the Indian city of Ratnagiri (south of Mumbai).

According to cheeroutdoor, Burma remained a part of British India until 1935, when it became an independent province. From the 1920’s onwards, Burmese nationalists began to increasingly fight for the country’s independence. Monks and students played a central role in this.

The Second World War opened up the possibility of realizing this concern. 30 young Burmese under the leadership of Aung San underwent military training under Japanese supervision on the island of Hainan, formed the Burmese national army at the end of 1942 and helped the Japanese army to drive the British troops out of the country. In August 1943, Burma became nominally independent. Against the background of the military successes of the Allies, Aung San ordered on March 27, 1945 that the Burmese army should take up arms against the previous Japanese allies. The day has been a public holiday since then.

In January 1947, a delegation in London led by Aung San negotiated the terms of independence within a year. One condition was that the areas predominantly populated by ethnic non-Burmese groups, which had previously been administered separately by the British, also consented to independence. At the Panglong Conference held at a location in Shan State in February 1947, this was agreed with representatives of the Chin, Kachin and Shan. In April of the same year there were elections to a constituent assembly held, which discussed a draft constitution drawn up by Aung San. During these deliberations, Aung San was murdered along with members of his Provisional Cabinet on July 19, 1947 on behalf of a political rival. The day has been a national holiday (Martyrs’ Day) since then.

Bogyoke (General) Aung San (1915-1947)

General Aung San is the national hero of Myanmar and the only symbolic figure who is recognized by (almost) all ethnic and political groups in the country.

Aung San was born near the center of the Burmese oil industry and studied in Rangoon. He rose to prominence through his role in the 1936 student strike, soon after became the leader of the radical We Burma movement and fled to China in 1940, where he was contacted by the Japanese army. With 30 other young Burmese he received military training in Hainan and founded the Burmese army in Bangkok at the end of 1942. This then drove out the English together with the Japanese. In 1943, Aung San became Minister of War in Burma, which had been formally declared independent, and Ne Win took his position as Army Commander-in-Chief. In March 1945, Aung San changed sides. The army now fought the Japanese on the side of the Allies. After the war, Aung San negotiated the conditions for independence with the British (January 1947) and some ethnic leaders (March 1947), which came into force on 4.1.1948. He wrote a draft constitution for a society based on socialist principles. Capitalism and Western democracy were rejected after the experience with colonial power. Aung San also turned down the British offer to join the Commonwealth. Half a year before independence, celebrated on 4.1.1948, he was born on July 19th. political rival murdered. The day is still a national holiday as well as two other days that are connected to his person, the “Union Day” (12.2. In memory of the Panglong Agreement with the other ethnic groups) and the “Day of the Armed Forces” (27.3. in memory of the beginning of the fight against the Japanese in 1945).

The Aung Sans house in Yangon