v 7.00.00
23 Jan 2024
updated 23 Jan 2024

Further reading

Burma (now Myanmar) is of course yet another faraway country of which we know little (though I can claim to have been conversant with their teak trade, Elephant Bill having been favourite reading at the age of 6 or so. I also read The Wooden Horse at that time, and for a while the word "mucking", used euphemistically in the book, became part of my everyday vocabulary too, probably to my parents' consternation.)

In the last few years, however, the name and personal history of Aung San Suu Kyi have become very familiar to us all, a breath of fresh air, not only in the murky world of Burmese politics but on the world stage also (even murkier). But how many of us knew (I certainly didn't until recently, Jan 1916) that she is the daughter of Aung San, founder of the Burmese Communist Party, and War Minister in the puppet Burmese state created by the Japanese in 1943. During the two years or so at the end of the war he became de facto Prime Minister of Burma, though the country was still under British control. He was assassinated in Aug 1947, during the final negotiations for complete independence.

The Karens, on whose behalf Ronald Kaulback wrote so eloquently, had themselves been campaigning for their own autonomy for a long time too, and have endured grave injustices and ill-treatment by the rest of Burma since Aung San's assassination. There seems to have been British complicity in this shameful business too. In fact, our successive governments seem never really to have accepted or understood the major contribution made by the Karens in the expulsion of Japanese forces from Burma. Indeed, Gen William Slim didn't even accept that the Burmese as a whole could help the British military very much, as per this extract


At our first interview, Aung San began to take rather a high hand. ... I pointed out that he was in no position to take the line he had. I did not need his forces; I was destroying the Japanese quite nicely without their help, and could continue to do so. I would accept his help and that of his army only on the clear understanding that it implied no recognition of any provisional government. ... The British Government had announced its intention to grant self-government to Burma within the British Commonwealth, and we had better limit our discussion to the best method of throwing the Japanese out of the country ..."