History of Myanmar 4  

Saturday, November 21, 2009




BURMA 1826-1851

Burma, 1824-1852
In the FIRST ANGLO-BURMESE WAR of 1824-1826, Burma had lost the provinces of Arakan and Tenasserim. The TREATY OF YANDABOO (Feb. 24th 1826) restored peace. Britain was represented in the Burmese capital of Ava by a British resident.
Anglo-Burmese relations were difficult; in 1837 the British Resident left the country, from 1840 onward Britain was not represented at all in Ava. A number of minor incidents occurred over the following years, which in 1852 were given as an incentive by the East India Company for the occupation and subsequent annexation of Lower Burma (Pegu) in the SECOND ANGLO-BURMESE WAR.

British Lower Burma, 1824-1852
In the FIRST ANGLO-BURMESE WAR of 1824-1826, the East India Company annexed the Burmese provinces of ARAKAN and TENASSERIM. They were attached to British India. In the TREATY OF YANDABOO, signed Feb. 26th 1826, the Burmese king ceded these territories.
In 1831, the population of Arakan was estimated as 173,000, in 1839 as 248,000. The Arakan capital of Syattwe ('Aracan') was given as 16,000 (1823).

The First Anglo-Burmese War 1824-1826

A.) The Situation Preceding the War 

Burma pursued a policy of expansion. In 1821-1822 the Burmese had conquered ASSAM; they prepared for an attack on BENGAL, held by the (British) EAST INDIA COMPANY (EIC).On February 24th 1824, Governor General Lord Amherst declared war on Burma.

B.) The Cource of Events 

Bengali troops in the garrison of BARAKHPUR mutinied when ordered to fight in the Anglo-Burmese War.
British-Indian forces expelled the Burmese from Assam. At the Chittagong front, the EIC tropops made little progress, meeting determined Burmese resistance. A British-Indian naval expedition took RANGOON on May 11th 1824 (the city had been evacuated by the Burmese). In March 1824, a British expedition took the capital of Arakan.
A Burmese force 60,000 strong was defeated outside Rangoon in December, and in May 1825 a British force tool PROME, the capital of Lower Burma. A peace treaty was signed at Yandabo on February 26th 1826.
EIC forces had suffered significant losses, the larger part due to disease.

C.) Legacy 

Burma had to cede Assam, Arakan and Tenasserim to the EIC. A British RESIDENT was to reside at Ava. MANIPUR was to be recognized as independent; Burma had to pay war indemnity. However, only in 1830 was a British resident accepted at Ava.

The Second Anglo-Burmese War 1852 

A.) The Situation Preceding the War 

The EIC had a stretegic interest in closing the gap between its possessions at Arakan and Tenasserim, and, more importantly, wanted to gain access to the TEAK FORESTS of Lower Burma. At the complaint of a British merchant, the EIC sent am officer, who confiscated a ship belonging to the Burmese king; this triggered the war.

B.) The Cource of Events 

EIC forces occupied the ports of Lower Burma (July 1852) and took control of the Teak Forests within the region. Peace was signed later that year; the British forces withdrew in 1853.
EIC forces suffered significant losses, mainly due to disease.

C.) Legacy 

Burma had to cede Pegu (Lower Burma with the Irawaddy delta and Rangoon). The British resident virtually controlled future Burmese foreign policy.

BURMA 1852-1884

British Lower Burma, 1852-1886

In the SECOND ANGLO-BURMESE WAR of 1852, East India Company Governor General Lord Dalhousie declared lower Burma (Pegu) annexed on Dec. 20th 1852. The administrative center was established at RANGOON. The Burmese king did not sign any treaty recognizing the British annexation. In 1862, Britain and Upper Burma established diplomatic relations; SIR ARTHUR PHAYRE was appointed the first CHIEF COMMISSIONER of the Province of British Burma (= Lower Burma). In 1867 a treaty was signed on trade and diplomatic relations with Upper Burma.
The SEPOY REBELLION of 1856-1857 caused the bankrupcy of the EIC; the British government took over her assets and debts. British India became a CROWN COLONY, Lower Burma (with Arakan and Tenasserim) treated as a part of it.
The British encouraged rice cultivation in the Irawaddy delta, for export; they also developed the country's mines. The British brought in contract labour ('COOLIES') from India and China. Railway construction began in 1877.
In 1878, RANGOON COLLEGE was founded (since 1920 University of Rangoon).

The Sepoy Rebellion of 1857-1858

also referred to as the Indian Mutiny or Indian Rebellion

A.) The Situation Preceding the Rebellion 

In the 1840es, the EAST INDIA COMPANY, facing financial difficulties, expanded rapidly into Hindustan and the Punjab. A huge force of Indian soldiers called SEPOYS (sipahis), commanded by British officers, was to protect and secure the newly acquired territories.

B.) The Cource of Events 

The LEE-ENFIELD RIFLE had been newly introduced in 1857. The complex process of loading required that Sepoy soldiers would have to use teeth to pull bullets out of their cartridges. These had been greased in animal fat (pig fat, beef tallow), to the horror of both Hindu and Muslim soldiers. Beginning in MEERUT, the Sepoy soldiers rebelled. NANA SAHIB, son of the last Maratha prince, was denied by the EIC succession to his father; he then lead an army of rebellious Sepoys against EIC troops in the BATTLE OF KANPUR (Cawnpore, May-June 1857); the battle turned into a massacre. Nana Sahib was victorious; by July he controlled Gwalior. Siege was laid to LUCKNOW (taken August 31st, where another massacre took place). Delhi fell in early September.
EIC (British) forces then retook Delhi (Sept. 20th) and laid siege to Lucknow, which fell in November. Peace was signed on July 8th 1858. Nana Sahib died in battle in 1859.

C.) Legacy 

One consequence was that the EIC was broke; its attempt to avoid bankrupcy by an aggressive policy of expansion had thus failed. The EIC was succeeded by the British government, which held on to the recent EIC acquisitions in the Ganges and Indus valleys. Britain established direct colonial rule over the more productive provinces of India, while being content with INDIRECT RULE over the remaining principalities of the subcontinent.
British diplomacy was somewhat more subtle than that of the EIC in the 1840es and 1850es, considering Indian religious traditions and respecting the rights of native dynasties.

Upper Burma, 1852-1886

After having lost the southern provinces in the SECOND ANGLO-BURMESE WAR of 1852, Burma was reduced to the upper Irawaddy valley (UPPER BURMA). In 1853 King MINDON MIN (-1878) ascended to the throne; he established a new capital at MANDALAY, modernized the administration of the country. In 1862, Britain and Upper Burma established diplomatic relations. In 1867 a treaty was signed on trade and diplomatic relations with Upper Burma.
Under Mindon Min's successor THIBAW, Anglo-Burmese relations deteriorated; in Brtain's view, Burma violated the treaty of 1867 by creating monopolies which placed British merchants at a disadvantage. The British resident in Mandalay was withdrawn. In the THIRD ANGLO-BURMESE WAR of 1885, the country was conquered, in 1886 formally annexed by the British.

The Third Anglo-Burmese War 1885 

A.) The Situation Preceding the War 

As a consequence of the SECOND ANGLO-BURMESE WAR, the Kingdom of Burma had been reduced to its core regions around the capital AVA, and its foreign policy effectively was determined by the British Resident. The Burmese, highly uncomfortable with this situation, entered into communication with the Italians and the French. Business interests also were involved (rubees, lumber), the treatment given to the (British) Bombay-Burmah Trading Company by the Burmese administration in 1885 provided the excuse for the British to act. The British wanted to prevent a potential expansion of the French sphere of influence.

B.) The Cource of Events 

A British fleet steamed up the Irawaddy River, and the capital Ava surrendered on Nov. 27th, MANDALAY was taken the next day. The river fleet reached the Chinese border in December. The army had to fight guerilla campaigns; the army was disbanded only in 1890. Burma, however, had been annexed in 1885.

C.) Legacy 

Burma had been annexed into British India. Rangoon, British since 1852, became the center of administration.

 BURMA 1885-1918

Burma, 1886-1918

Britain, already ruling LOWER BURMA since 1824 / 1852, in 1885 conquered UPPER BURMA in what is referred to as the THIRD ANGLO-BURMESE WAR. The war had started over a trade dispute. Britain gained Chinese acquiescence (Burma technically was a Chinese vassal state). Upper Burma was formally annexed in 1886. The SHAN STATES were declared a part of British India in 1886.
The war unified Burma; the seat of administration was RANGOON, all of Burma was treated as part of British India. The British administration expanded the railroad system and the mines; the cultication of rice for export, especially in the Irawaddy delta, was expanded. Workers ('COOLIES') from India and China were brought in to work the mines and plantations.
In 1891 the population of Burma numbered 7,722,053; the 1901 figure was 10,490,624, the increase partially due to the expansion of the area in which the census was undertaken (inclusion of Shan and Chin states). In 1893 an agreement was signed with Siam, delimiting the borders; in 1900 a similar agreement was signed with China.
By 1889 Burma was pacified.
Since 1897 the administration was headed by a LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR, assisted by a LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL of nine appointed members. A CHIEF COURT was established in 1900. The British administered ANGLO-INDIAN LAW, which was based on British, Hindu and Islamic tradition. Burma being a mainly Buddhist country, the BURMA LAWS ACT of 1898 stipulated that in the cases of succession, inheritance, marriage, caste or any religious usage or institution, Buddhist practises had to be followed. A BURMA CODE was published in 1899.
In 1900, Burma's state revenue amounted to 70,436,240 Rupees, state expenses to 43,081,000 Rupees. The revenue for 1905 was 96,562,298 Rs. versus expenses of 56,660,047 Rs.

 SHAN STATES, c. 1910

Timeline : Shan States











Existence of Kingdom of Mao recorded; tradition dates is foundation to 93 B.C.
King of Pagan, Narapatisithu, offered Buddha images to Bo Kyo Pagoda in
Mongol invasion of Burma
Establishment of a Shan dynasty in Ava (Upper Burma)
Shan Dynasty in Ava overthrown, country renamed Burma
Burmese control over Shan States rather nominal
City of Hsipaw founded (renamed after Burmese King Hsipaw, 1875-1885)
Energetic Burmese Kings Alaungpaya, Sinbyusin pursued campaigns in
Shan territory, subdued many of the Shan States
Chinese attempt to conquer Kengtung defeated
Siamese attempt to conquer Kengtung foiled
Kenghkam State established
Shan revolt, under Khun Sanghai, against Burmese rule
Siamese attempt to conquer Kengtung foiled
Siamese attempt to conquer Kengtung foiled
Monghsu, Mongsang split from Hsenwi State
Kehsi Mansam independent from Hsenwi
Frenchman François Garnier visited Kengtung, reported existence of minerals
Hsenwi State independent from Burma
Hsipaw, Kengtung States independent from Burma
Most Shan States had seceded from Burma
Kenghkam State absorbed into Mongnai State
Ruler of Hsipaw visited England
Burmese invasion, occupation of Mongnai, Mongnawng, Lawksawk; Kengtung held out
British conquest of Upper Burma
Struggle over throne in Hsenwi State
Withdrawal of Burmese forces; struggle over throne in Mongnai
Hsihkip State absorbed into Yawnghwe State
Hsipaw first Shan State to submit to British sovereignty; Monglong, Mongtung,
Hsumhsai annexed by Hsipaw
Laihka State devastated by troops of Linbin Confederacy
Shan States west of the Salween recognized British sovereignty
Hsenwi State split in two (N., S. Hsenwi)
Karenni invasion of Mawkmai; in 1889 British forces retaliated
British invasion; last Shan States submitted. Administratively separated into
Northern, Southern Shan States
Britain (for the Shan States), Siam signed border agreement
Construction of Railway Mandalay-Lashio
Britain (for the Shan States), China signed border agreement, which left
Jinghong as Chinese territory
British expedition installed malleable ruler in Manglon
Kachin rebellion against ruler of North Hsenwi
Britain (for the Shan States), Siam signed another border agreement
Kengcheng State absorbed into Kengtung State
Census established population of 1,137,444
Government school opened at Taunggyi
Federation of the Shan States created
Shan States Opium Act passed into law, to establish control over opium
production and trade (production declined significantly over the next years)
Burma Act administratively separated Shan States from Burma proper
Burma administratively separated from British India
Japanese/Thai occupation
Thailand annexed Kengtung, Mongpan States (ceded to Br. Burma in 1945)
Union of Burma released into independence; Shan States granted autonomy
within Burma
Following their defeat in the Chinese Civil War, elements of the Kuomintang
Army made themselves master of part of the Shan States
Catholic Diocesis of Kengtung established (Apostolic Prefecture since 1927)
The 34 Saophas (rulers) gave up their claims; the Shan States were turned
into a unified Shan State, autonomous within the Union of Burma
The autonomy of Shan State abolished
Armed rebellion against Burmese rule; Opium production (Golden Triangle)
Shan rebel leader Khun Sa surrendered to Burmese officials 


Timeline : Arakan


c. 1590





Burmese invasion; King Narameikhla of Arakan fled to (Muslim) Bengal
Narameikhla restored to Arakan throne; begin of the Mrauk-U Period (until 1784).
Persian introduced as court language; Arakan vassall of Bengal
Capital moved from Wethali to Mrauk U (Myohaung)
Arakanese conquest of Chittagong
Arrival of the Portuguese - Giovanni de Silveira
Arakan seized to be a vassall of Bengal
Arakan seized Chittagong from Bengal
Burmese invasion of Arakan
The Portuguese took Chittagong Fort
Arakan invasion of Pegu
Portuguese conquest of the island of Sandwip (lost c.1605)
Portuguese inhabitants of Dianga massacred at the order of King of Arakan
The Portuguese retook Sandwip
Arrival of the first Dutchmen (V.O.C. representatives) in Arakan
Portuguese victory over combined Arakanese-Dutch (V.O.C.) fleet
Arakanese reconquest of Sandwip
The V.O.C. began to purchase slaves caught by the Feringhi and Arakanese
Opening of a V.O.C. comptoir (trade factory) in Arakan
Feringhi (Portuguese pirate) Gonzales made Arakan his base
Arakanese invasion of Bengal; reached Dacca
Chittagong conquered by Mughal Empire
V.O.C. trade factory in Arakan closed down
Burmese conquest, devastation, annexation of Arakan
Following First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826), E.I.C. annexed Arakan
Akyab was established as seat of administration.
Kyaukpyu, hitherto a mere fishing village, established as a chief civil station
British administration enacted Waste Land Rules; waste land was regarded
govt. property, to be granted to applicants for the purpose of commercial use
Lighthouse constructed at Akyab
British garrison withdrawn from Kyaukpyu
Northern Arakan District (Arakan Hills Tract) administratively separated from Akyab
Market established at Myauktaung, N. Arakan Hills
Census : Population of Arakan 484,963
First Teak plantation in Akyab District established
Akyab, Kyaukpyu granted status of a municipality
Sandoway Town granted status of a municipality
Catholic missionaries (in the country since 1888) opened convent school in Akyab
Sandoway court house set afire by insurgents called Pongyis
Census : Population of Arakan 672,000
Rebellion at Akyab Jail
Sandoway District enlarged by cession of territory south of Gwa River from District
of Bassein
Ramree (Kyaukpyu District) deprived of status of municipality
Census : Population of Arakan 762,101
Census : Population of Arakan 1,186,700
Japanese Occupation
Burma released into independence; State of Arakan granted autonomy
Arakanese autonomy abolished
Rohingyas (Arakanese Muslims) fled Burma, into Bangladesh
Rohingyas fled Burma into Bangladesh 

 BURMA 1918-1941

Burma, 1919-1939

Since acquired by Britain in 1824 / 1852 / 1886, Burmese territory had been administrated as an annex to British India. This changed in 1935, when the GOVERNMENT OF BURMA ACT was passed; in 1937 Burma was separated from British India and declared a separate CROWN COLONY. The capital was RANGOON. Until 1923, the administration of Burma was headed by a Lieutenant Governor; in 1923 the post was elevated to GOVERNOR.
Students at RANGOON UNIVERSITY (founded in 1920) protested against British rule in 1936; in 1939 AUNG SAN was elected president of the We Burmans Association.
In 1931, Burma had 14,667,146 inhabitants, capital Rangoon 400,415. State expenses in 1936/1937 amounted to 902 Lakhs, state revenues to 920 Lakhs.



Burma, 1948-1962
Administration . Independence was granted on January 4th 1948. The AFPFL was the dominant political force until 1958. U Nu was PM from 1948 to 1956, from 1957 to 1958 and from 1960 to 1962; his tenure in office was interrupted by the tenure of General Ne Win (1958-1960) who took on the post as a caretaker, when the AFPFL split; Ne Win was to oust U Nu in a coup d'etat in 1962.

Civil War . Only months after independence, Burma deteriorated into civil war, the government forces facing several Communist factions (Red Flag Communists, Pro-Soviet, led by Thakin Soe; White Flag Communists (pro-Chinese) as well as ethnic/religious rebel groups. The civil war was faught on low scale; in 1952 the government numbered the casualties on their side as 3,424 dead. In 1956-1958, an end to both the Communist rebellion and to that in Arakan was negotiated; the Karen National Union continued to fight.

Foreign Policy . Burma joined the UN in 1948; Burma's U Nu was one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement. In 1949, when the Chinese Civil War ended, elements of the Kuomintang forces crossed into Burma, where they established a base in Shan State, from where they occasionally would launch strikes into the PR China.
In 1961 Burmese statesman U Thant was elected secretary general of the United Nations, a post he held until 1971.

Inter-Ethnic Relations . Burma adopted a federalist constitution; the Kachin, Shan, Kayah (Karenni), Karen, Rakhine (Arakanese) and Chin minorities were given autonomous states. U Nu treated Buddhism as state religion, a policy which alienated the Muslim Rohingya of Arakan, the Christian elements among the Kachin, Karenni, Karen and Chin. Much of Shan State was outside of the control of the central government, due to the presence of KMT forces.

The Economy . In 1952 a currency reform was implemented; the Burmese Kyat replaced the Burmese Rupee.
In 1948, Burma produced 5.2 million metric tons of rice, in 1962 7.6 million metric tons (IHS pp.194, 201).

Social History . J. Lahmeyer estimates the population of Burma in 1948 at 18.1 million, the figure for 1962 being 22.6 million.

Cultural History . In 1954-1956, the Sixth World Buddhist Synod was convened in Rangoon.

Myanmar since 1989

Administration . In 1989 Burma was rechristened Myanmar and elections were held in 1990, which resulted in a convincing victory of the democratic opposition. However, the SLORC, unwilling to accept defeat, had prominent opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi placed under house arrest, other opposition leaders jailed, and continued as if no election ever took place. No elections were held since 1990.
Myanmar was a police state in which political activity was observed by the state authorities. In 1991 Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; the state authorities tried to isolate her.

Foreign Policy . Internationally rather isolated, the military government of Burma/Myanmar cultivated strong ties with the PR China. In 1997 Myanmar was admitted to ASEAN; Myanmar's offensives into the regions inhabited by ethnic minorities caused, and in instances continue to cause, an exodus of refugees into Bangladesh (Rohingyas) and Thailand (Karen etc.).

Relations between the country's various ethnic groups . Burma had a troubled history with her ethnic minorities, which lived in regions supposedly enjoying political autonomy. In many of these autonomous regions, liberation organizations were fighting for independence. In 1994 the Kachin Independence Organization signed a ceasefire agreement, which in effect meant a surrender. In 1994 the Karen National Union split into a Christian (KNU) and a Buddhist wing (DKBO); since 1995 the government forces in alliance with the DKBO fight the KNU, the DKBO occasionally launching attacks across the Thai border into refugee camps. The New Mon State Party signed a ceasefire in 1995; the Beik Mon Army, a splinter group, which continued the struggle, surrendered in 1997. In Rakhine State (Arakan) several Muslim liberation organizations are active; one, the All Burma Muslim Union, signed a ceasefire in 1995. Anti-Muslim riots took place in 2001. The Shan State Army signed a ceasefire in 1995; in 2000-2002 there were skirmishes between the SSA and the United Wa State Party, which was allied with the government forces. In 1998 the Chin National Front rejected a ceasefire proposed by the government.
The army has increased in size, and in the last decade been given new equipment, which gives it superiority in conflicts with the various rebel groups; the strategy to use dissent among the rebels also worked.
Myanmar, in theory, is a federation providing political and cultural autonomy to the country's states. This autonomy is of a theoretical nature. Education is to be conducted solely in Burmese.
Listing refugees who left Burma / Myanmar since 1984, the UNHCR, as of April 2006, numbers the refugees in Bangladesh (Rohingya) as 100,000, those in Thailand (Karenni, Karen) as 151,000.

The Economy . Burma's economy failed to develop, in sharp contrast to her South East Asian neighbours; in 1997 Burma was admitted to ASEAN. Cautious attempts to open up her economy did not result in any visible progress. In 1997, imports exceeded exports at a ratio of 2:1; main trade partner was Singapore, main export products were agricultural products, forestry products, fishery products, minerals.
In 1989 Burma produced 13.8 million metric tons of rice, in 1999 the figure was 20.1 million metric tons (IHS p.201).
The area where Opium, the trade of which used to finance Shan resistance, was cultivated in Myanmar shrank from c. 160,000 ha in 1996 to c.44,000 ha in 2004.

Social History . In 1989 the population of Burma was estimated at 40 million; for 1999 at 45 million (Lahmeyer). No census has been held; estimates for one particular year may vary considerably.

Since 2009


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