Kandy witnessed the peak of Aung San’s political career
Posted on May 13th, 2013

Janaka Perera

 This is a postscript to last week’s Lankaweb article titled, “British complicity in murder of Burma’s national hero Aung San raises issues for wider investigation of British crimes in colonial era.”

 Sri Lanka played an indirect role in the highlight of General Aung San’s political career.  Two years before his tragic death, on September 4, 1945 Aung San – then head of Myanmar’s Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League – led a military delegation to Kandy where he signed the historic agreement that paved the way for Myanmar’s independence.   The event took place at the Allied South-East Asia Command (SEAC) Headquarters in the island’s hill capital.

 The agreement concluded between SEAC Commander Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten and Gen. Aung San, was on the disbandment of the Burma Patriotic Forces and their reorganization as a standing National Army.

Aung San entered Myanmar’s national politics in 1938.  Following the outbreak of the world war Japan promised him and his freedom fighters (known as the Thirty Comrades) to help win independence for Myanmar from the British. The 30 comrades were followed by other Burmese patriots. The Japanese trained all of them, gave them weapons and uniforms and Aung San was put in charge of the force after being made a colonel.  

 However towards the end of the war they realized that Japan had no real intention of giving independence to Myanmar though Tokyo made a public declaration to that effect. It was really a case of one colonial power trying to replace another.  Also by 1944 the tide of the war had turned against Japan.  Relying on the Japanese any longer served no purpose at all.

Aung San had no alternative but to switch sides although he did not fully trust the British to whom he finally gave help towards the end of the war.  Japan formally surrendered to the Western Allies in September 1945.   The Kandy agreement signed in the same month meant the British would soon be compelled to give up Myanmar.  Aung San had fought the Japanese on condition that the British give full independence to Myanmar.  He had promised his people self-rule in less than two years after the end of World War II.

 When the assassins struck in Rangoon on July 19, 1947, the young General had almost fulfilled that promise “”…” which proved fateful for him – for the British had realized that an independent Myanmar under Aung San would never serve their objectives in the region. Although Britain’s Labour Government had decided to grant independence to Myanmar not everyone in the colonial administration was happy about it. Not surprisingly Myanmar did not remain even in the British Commonwealth after independence.

 In contrast Sri Lanka’s first Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake agreed to a Defence Agreement with the British in 1947.  Many believe that this agreement was an essential prerequisite to the country’s independence the following year.

 Today the dilemma Aung San Suu Kyi is facing reflects to some extent the situation her father was in during the last days of the world war. He had become completely disillusioned with Japanese but could not fully trust the British though he was compelled to reach an agreement with them.

 This is the reason the why Aung San Suu Kyi is attempting a reconciliation with the Myanmar’s military regime which kept her under house arrest for 20 years. This was seen on Myanmar’s annual Armed Forces Day (March 27) when she as Opposition Leader sat with the generals on a front row seat watching helicopters buzzing overhead, tanks and other military vehicles rolling by and fighter jets snaking into the sky

 Obviously some her supporters and the West were not happy at this spectacle. But for her it seems a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea.  Perhaps for now she apparently prefers to be with the devil rather than the deep blue sea “”…” the so-called international community.  An open confrontation with the military rulers would mean giving the West the opportunity to manipulate her in the name of democracy and human rights.  An image of Aung San Suu Kyi as a virtual puppet of Washington or London will not bode well for Myanmar in the long run.

 Remember Myanmar is rich in natural resources such as petroleum, timber, tin, antimony, zinc, copper, tungsten, lead, coal, some marble, limestone, precious stones, natural gas, and hydropower. The country also possesses huge stands of teak and other hardwoods. These perhaps give food for thought why the West is so keen to see democracy dawn on Myanmar, although they are not in such a hurry to see the same in countries (their friends) like Saudi Arabia.  

 Therefore whatever political reforms that should take place in Myanmar should come about with minimum outside interference or pressure from the outside world.

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