Thursday, November 4, 2010

Burma in Limbo - Part 4

1947 Interim Government of Burma.
On third December 1946 the Communists were expelled from ruling AFPFL. The expulsion basically laid the foundation for never-ending civil war in Burma.

Just 30 days before on third November 1946 AFPFL (Anti-Fascist Peoples’ Freedom League) the loosely formed coalition of Than Htun’s Communists and Kyaw Nyein’s Socialists and Aung San’s PVO had achieved their aim of forming the Aung San led interim government by pressuring the colonial government by a widely disruptive general strike nationwide. Even the colonial police joined the strike.

When the Governor Sir Hubert Rance invited AFPFL to join the colonial government in a power-sharing deal the Communists appointed their former Secretary-General Thein Phe Myint a minister. Aung San was effectively the PM and Kyaw Nyein was the powerful Home minister with police and internal security portfolios. Other ministers were appointed by the Governor.

Twenty days later, Indian Communists sent Burmese Communists a telegram denouncing their decision to join the colonial government a treacherous act since any kind of power sharing deal with British colonialist alone was a serious reactionary act in their view.

Almost from the beginning the CPB had had an influential Bengali cell and through those Burmese-Indians like Goshal aka Thakhin Ba Tin the CPI had ideological and some organizational control over the CPB till the late 1960s when Communist Party of China started controlling the CPB through the CPC Politburo Member responsible for the Ethnic Minorities’ Affairs in China. For CPC the Burmese Communists are another group of ethnic minorities like Tibetans and Ughurs.

So Burmese Communists did an about-turn, quit the government, and start accusing Aung San and Kyaw Nyein as power hungry traitors who had surrendered to the British just to join the colonial government. Already a staunch anti-Communist, Socialist Kyaw Nyein was greatly mad at the Communists and began to openly attack them in the AFPFL. He finally asked the Central Executive Committee meeting to expel the Communists from AFPFL if they did not immediately withdraw their wild accusations and apologize to him and Aung San.

But the Communists bluntly refused and Aung San was forced to expel CPB from the ruling AFPFL coalition. Modern Burma’s very first strong man Kyaw Nyein had won his very first round fight with the Communists and there were many more brutal rounds to come till he was put in jail by Ne Win on 5th May 1963. He died of natural cause on 29th June 1986.

Natural Born Socialist

Kyaw Nyein the Strike Leader (1936).
Born on 8th March 1915 in Pyinmanar son of another small town lawyer Kyaw Nyein was already a seasoned Socialist when he graduated with a Bachelor of Law degree from Rangoon University in 1941. He was one of the founding leaders of PRP (People Revolutionary Party which later became the Socialist Party) and the deputy foreign minister in Dr Ba Maw’s puppet government under Japanese rule.

Even though the majority of student leaders then were influenced by the Marxist Leninist literature Kyaw Nyein was rather strongly influenced by the writings of English Fabian Socialists. This translated extract is from the book “Kyaw Nyein” by his close friend Thein Phe Myint.

“Kyaw Nyein did see all the poor as the whole mass of poor people not as either worker class or peasant class as in Marxist classification. He was then reading Bernard Shaw’s books about Fabian Socialism. For example the Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism. He also read G.D.H. Cole’s books Guide through World Chaos and What Marx Really Meant.  Cole was an Oxford professor and a popular Socialist writer widely respected by the Burmese student leaders then.

He never read and studied the books written directly by the Communist leaders and intellectuals such as Marx or Lenin or Stalin. He only read the books about Communism and Communists written by the famous writers he already liked. The closest book he read about Marxism was John Strachey’s Theory and Practice of Socialism and Laski’s Communism.  He was always suspicious of the Communists not telling the truth about their Communism.

Even during the Japanese rule when the Russian and Chinese Communists were in peoples’ favor because of their strong stands and eventual victories against the Nazi Germany and Japan Kyaw Nyein only read Webbs’ Soviet Communism and Handbook of Marxism. He was a natural born Fabian Socialist who hated the Communists.”

Kyaw Nyein’s natural dislike of Communism in particular and one party dictatorship in general was even hardened more with deep disgust by his fearful experiences during the brutal Japanese rule from 1942 till 1945. This translated extract is what he wrote as the intro for the book “Kyaw Nyein”.

“During Japanese rule anyone accused of being a British spy were unjustly arrested without any investigation at all. Many people were tortured by brutal ways such as pulling the nails out, pouring boiling water into mouth, giving electric shocks. The prisoners even had to dig their own graves before they were finally murdered.

Even we political leaders and ministers then were afraid our days would come one day. Whenever I heard the screams and loud cries of hapless tortured victims from the Kempetai’s office nearby on my daily trips to the government office I even thought that must be the eight layers of Great Hell we Buddhists believe in.

Only then I remembered the English Colonial Government and even felt grateful to them for not behaving like the Japanese. Only then I clearly and vividly understood the value of democracy where no one could be arrested unjustly without being charged in a court of law, the value of freedom of expressions and thoughts, and the value of the Rule of Law where no one could be brutally tortured.

I then promised myself with a very strong commitment to fight whole of my life against any communist system, or any one party dictatorship, or any fascist system where our people could be treated like the pigs and cows in a slaughter house.”

After the Communists were expelled from the AFPFL the old friends and colleagues Kyaw Nyein and Than Htun started their grueling duel. The bitter divide between Communists and Socialists was felt all over the country even at the family level. Most small villages then were identified as either Communist or Socialist village. Same divide also happened in the urban communities too.

Communist Socialist Split

Thakhin Than Htun of  CPB.
The split between Than Htun’s Communists and Kyaw Nyein’s Socialists did begin earlier in 1945 just after the Second World War. 

Almost all the educated young leaders of the extreme nationalist movement then were either hardcore communists or communist sympathizers. 

So naturally once they were back in Rangoon from their rural hideouts after the big war they tried to regroup various leftwing factions into a solid political front under the banner of fledgling Communist Party of Burma (CPB).

CPB then was proudly jubilant for their leadership role in so-called anti-Japanese revolution while the Socialists and Aung San led army were almost being denounced for their active collaboration with the Japanese during the war. 

And initially the Socialists agreed to dissolve their PRP (People Revolutionary Party) and join the CPB to continue fighting the British for the complete independence.

But the naturally suspicious Communists refused to let the Socialists join the CPB wholesale; instead they wanted to individually consider new membership application case by case. The Communists wanted to filter out the reactionaries from the revolutionaries.

Also the unification of two major leftwing groups was hampered by the irreconcilable personal disputes between the old friends Than Htun and Kyaw Nyein. This translated extract is from the book “Kyaw Nyein” by Thein Phe Myint.

“Once the Japanese retreated from Rangoon all the political leaders came back and started the serious discussions of uniting CPB and PRP into a single revolutionary front. Then was the time the power of CPB was at its height. Internationally the Soviet Union was universally praised for rescuing the whole world from the fascists’ mouth, and internally the people of Burma were grateful of CPB for leading the fascist Japanese revolution.

So during the discussions for a united front the CPB and Communists had the upper hand over the PRP and Socialists. Instead of looking for a political solution in merging two parties since there were no distinguishable political or policy disputes between the two parties, they started looking for a personal solution.

The Communist leaders like Than Htun proposed if PRP wanted a single party as the revolutionary front they had to join CPB individually and CPB would select them case by case. They were willing to accept all the PRP leaders except Kyaw Nyein.

They asked, ‘Ko Kyaw Nyein, why don’t you retire from politics?’

It was in 1945. Kyaw Nyein angrily replied that he was in politics not to quit just because some people asked him to quit politics.”

The proposed revolutionary front under the CPB collapsed and Than Htun and Kyaw Nyein re-started the respective political parties, CPB and BSP (Burma Socialist Party), legally and publicly. Both parties also started massive recruitment drives throughout the country and formed rival workers unions and peasants associations. The sibling rivalry had begun and the long civil war between the Socialist and Communists would eventually follow.

As a legacy of their guerilla activities against the Japanese during the big war Communists mostly controlled the countryside through their Peasants Unions while the Socialist dominated the cities and towns through their Workers Unions and rival Peasants Associations. The same ideological war was already raging inside the Burmese army well before the hostilities between two left-wing parties came out into open. Socialist and Communist divide was in Aung San’s BIA since its inception in 1941.

Communist-Led Socialist-Army of Non-believers

Senior BNA Officers.
Aung San’s wartime Burmese army had three easily identifiable echelons in its officer corps. 

Aung San and the thirty comrades trained in Japan were the top most echelon and majority of them were Marxist, militant thakhins handpicked by Thakhin Mya and thus the Communists. Their allegiances were with the CPB first and Aung San second. Famous Brigadier Kyaw Zaw (Thakhin Shwe) was one of them. Ne Win sitting on the fence and a few right wing officers among them were the exception.

Below that top most echelon were the middle ranking officers who Joined BIA later in Burma. Most of them were the members of the PRP (which became the Socialist Party) as it was Kyaw Nyein’s and his Party’s far-reaching policy to influence the army by encouraging the educated young party members to join the fledgling army.

Than Htun and the Communists basically lost out on that opportunity as their official policy during the big war was to totally oppose the Japanese and their slave army BIA while Kyaw Nyein and the Socialists were actively cooperating with the Japanese. Famous Brigadier Aung Gyi was a member of that group.

For that group of staunch Socialist officers Ne Win became their de facto leader in the army as he was the eldest senior figure not aligned with either Communists or the right wingers, and Aung San as a father figure was too far above them. Almost all of them were absorbed into the new Burma Regular Army formed by the British after the big war. Once the civil war started and all the Communist officers were on the other side in the jungle they took control of the Burmese army by getting rid of all British-trained senior officers. They then happily followed Kyaw Nyein’s orders first and then reluctantly Ne Win’s later till the late 1960s.

Right below them was the echelon of junior officers graduated from the Japanese Military Academy in Mingaladon. Mostly uneducated peasants like my father they were just patriotic young teenagers raw and fresh with no preoccupying ideologies when they joined Aung San’s Army as lowly privates in the early 1940s and later brutalized in the Academy by the Japanese instructors. Most of them were also absorbed into the new Burma Regular Army, some as junior commissioned officers and most as NCOs.

Through their mates from Ne Win’s Fourth-Burma-Rifle they formed themselves into a unified clique loyal to Ne Win. And they were the backbone of Ne Win’s Army, for their allegiances were purely with nobody else but only Ne Win. With his blessing they would topple their Socialist seniors who were Kyaw Nyein’s men within a few years after the 1962 coup.

Dr. Maung Maung.
They then became their own masters as an elite military class (like their Japanese masters back in pre-war Japan) with Ne Win as a figurehead who initially thought he was pulling the strings without realizing till much later that he was only their shield against the people of Burma they’d been ruling with an iron fist since they had no political cloud to claim legitimacy for their control over Burma and her people.

They eventually forced disillusioned Ne Win to retire, imprisoned his family, dismantled the hated Socialist system, introduced a rather skewed version of free market system, and orderly transferred their power to the next generation of army officers led by first Saw Maung then Than Shwe their hand-picked successors.

Believe me I had seen the inner workings of their group through their well-known leaders like General Kyaw Htin and Dr. Maung Maung and Colonel Sein Lwin, and especially U Chit Hlaing the real father of Burmese Way to Socialism and the Principal of Central Political Institute which even occupied the old compound of the Japanese Military Academy in Mingaladon.

Socialist Repression

Sibling-rivalry-liked ideological and personal fights between two close friends Than Htun and Kyaw Nyein had evolved into a full scale nationwide conflict in 1947. But the ruling Socialists had a clear advantage over the Communists as only they had the far-reaching power of a government and in time they would use that devastating power to destroy their Communist enemies.

After the signing of Aung San – Attlee Agreement the interim government was changed to an Interim AFPFL government without the cabinet members appointed by the British governor as before. Now AFPFL had total control of Burma even before the independence and Aung San was basically the PM and Kyaw Nyein the powerful Home Minister. And the Socialist Kyaw Nyein used his police power extensively to suppress the rival Communists.

The conflict between Socialists and Communists had become the conflict between the ruling AFPFL and the Communists. Communists used the political power and their organizational hold over the trade unions and peasants associations to stage various workers strikes and peasant strikes to fight back the AFPFL while Kyaw Nyein was arresting many communists by using the Public Order and Peace Act.

The rarely used Section-5 of the Public Order and Peace Act was pulled out of the dusty British Law books by the skillful lawyer turned Home minister Kyaw Nyein and dusted and then ruthlessly used against his opponents. Aung San also supported Kyaw Nyein’s use of the POPA Section-5 against Than Htun’s Communists.

And Than Htun’s wife Khin Gyi was the sister of Aung San’s wife Khin Kyi the mother of ASSK.

The British prisons in Burma then were filled with the political prisoners arrested and detained indefinitely under the powers of Kyaw Nyein’s Section-5. While the arrest power was generously given to the police sub-inspectors at the township level, the release orders had to be signed by Kyaw Nyein himself. Kyaw Nyein was widely hated in Burma for his abuse of that law and he was even nick-named Section-5 Kyaw Nyein at the heights of his repression.

After the Communist rebellion in March 1948 Kyaw Nyein reintroduced through the cabinet the old POPA as the Public Order Preserving Act (1948).  Again the Section 5 of this new act permits Government to legally detain any person suspected of subversive activity without a charge and trial for a certain period (a year maximum by the advice of Police) while evidence was being collected. And it could be repeated every time release was due by releasing the prisoner and re-arresting him at the very gate of the prison.

Aung San’s Last days

Even though the Communists and the Socialists were at each other’s throat both parties supported Aung San’s plan of complete Independence within a year. But Aung San was now wavering about his original demand of leaving the British Commonwealth after independence. It was well documented and widely believed in Burma that on the eve of realizing his lifelong dream Aung San was strangely scared. Why, we really do need to ask, why?

The answer is quite simple. Aung San was a pragmatic leader not an ideologue like most of his leftwing comrades. On the exterior Aung San was seen (or he tried real hard to portray himself) as a staunch anti-British revolutionary but what was on the inside nobody really knows so we have to just speculate basing on the available evidence.

This translated extract is from the book “Kyaw Nyein” by Thein Phe Myint who was once the Secretary General of CPB and also a close friend and dear colleague of Aung San since their Student Union days back in the Rangoon University.

“Widespread among the student leaders was the practice of looking up to the English-educated Burmese politicians. Especially to Dr Ba Maw. They wanted to write English well like him. Speak English well like him. Among them Aung San and Kyaw Nyein were at the forefront. Aung San was the worst. I remembered he even imitated Dr Ba Maw when he practiced his English conversation while we were together in the prison in 1939.

The whole group of us except Kyaw Nyein was imprisoned. Ko Nu, Than Htun, Aung San, me and all others together. One day we got hold of an English newspaper with Dr. Ba Maw’s declaration on the front page. And Aung San read it aloud imitating Dr Ba Maw. After that he a non-smoker even stuffed his mouth with a big cigar like Dr Ba Maw did.

Aung San was also impressed by the famous British parliamentarians. He often read aloud   behind closed doors in his dormitory room the famous speeches delivered by the English politicians in the British Parliament. We used to make fun of him as we do not think the Parliament Democracy is a real politics. For us the Irish rebellions and the Indian Mutinies are the real politics.”

Aung San was a closet admirer of English as the educated rest of Burma then was. Maybe even more. This extract is from the book “Defeat to Victory” by Sir William Slim of the Forgotten British 14th Army. Aung San was meeting Slim very first time in Meikhtila and initially he was boldly refusing to surrender his BNA to Slim.

Field Marshall Sir William Slim.
“I admired his boldness and told him so. ‘But’ I said, ‘apart from the fact that you, a British subject,  have fought against the British Government, I have here in this headquarters people who tell me there is a well substantiated civil case of murder, complete with witnesses against you. I have been urged to place you on trial for that. You have nothing in writing, only a verbal promise at second-hand, that I would return you to your friends. Don’t you think you are taking considerable risks in coming here and taking this attitude?’
‘No’, he replied, shortly.
‘Why not?’
‘Because you are a British officer’, he answered.
I had to confess that he scored heavily – and what was more I believe he meant it.”

Our nationalist hero was more than an admirer of English. He was a closet Anglophile who could trust a powerful enemy with his dear life just only because that enemy was a British officer and English gentleman.

Maybe he didn’t hate British at all and both his betraying the Japanese and surrendering to the British army were not clever tactical moves but the sincere cooperation with the British he loved and respected deeply from the inside.

Like Kyaw Nyein, he might have been shocked by the brutalities of Japanese army in Burma and their complete neglect of civilized laws and the basic human rights of ordinary citizens, totally unlike his civilized English masters.

He once asked in one of his famous speeches what the British had ever done for us Burmese apart from sucking our blood by exploiting our natural resources. And it funnily reminded me of the famous Monty Python line, “All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us? ….. Brought peace!”

According to ICS U Shwe Baw the husband of U May Aung’s daughter Daw Mya Sein and the lucky survivor of the ill-fated Aung San’s cabinet sitting at the conference table on that faithful day of assassination, Aung San confided to him more than once that he was thinking about reentering the British Commonwealth. U Shwe Baw even had a gut feeling that Aung San himself regretted having taken full independence for Burma.

Just a couple of years before at the Kandy Conference Aung San somehow forced Lord Mountbatten to end the harsh British military administration and to hasten the speedy resumption of British civilian government even though the society then was highly politicized and armed to the teeth because of the big war. And Sir Dorman Smith’s government from India took over from Mountbatten in October 1945.

Mountbatten thought it was a grave mistake and he later wrote that Aung San himself admitted in 1947 his mistake of ending the British Military administration too early well before the country was back to normal. Aung San had exploited the lawless vacuum left by the British army to advance his nationalist cause but later he also realized how difficult and almost impossible to administer Burma once well respected and feared British were gone forever.

Now on the eve of independence he was horribly well aware of what he was getting himself and his Burma into. He might have started doubting his ability to hold Burma together in peace once English are gone.

But then was too late for a back down even for our great national hero. The unstoppable tide of public opinion was heavily against him. The extreme nationalists’ and his own relentless demand for the complete independence outside the British Commonwealth had driven the people of Burma to such a feverish level of extreme nationalist frenzies that if he reversed his strong anti-British stance he would be torn into pieces by both Socialists and Communists.

There was very strong evidence proving our Bogyoke Aung San was bullied by the Communists and Socialists into reluctantly taking the position of asking the British the complete independence for Burma against the wise advice of the independent and moderate-conservative members of his own AFPFL movement. This translated extract is from the book “Kyaw Nyein” by Thein Phe Myint the former secretary general of CPB.

“During the AFPFL Congress on Shwedagon Square (in January 1946) U Ba Phe (Ba Gyi Ba Phe) and U Ba Cho (Dee-doke U Ba Cho) persuaded us not to ask from the British the complete independence but the dominium status (like in Australia, Canada, and South Africa) only. Even Aung San himself was confused and started saying to us that the dominium rule wouldn’t be that bad at all, and the arguments were getting really strong (against complete independence).

I and Kyaw Nyein immediately sat down together and discussed the alarming situation and agreed to strongly propose for the complete independence. We then approached Thakhin Mya (the Chairman of Socialist Party) and got his agreement and we then clearly explained   our firm position to Aung San.

He finally agreed with us and allowed only Thakhin Mya to present the complete independent option to the Public Proposal Selection Committee of AFPFL. U Ba Phe and U Ba Cho were forced to give up and Aung San himself later declared the proposal for the complete independence at the public meeting.

What we learnt from that experience was that in AFPFL if we Communists and Socialists were united we could defeat the rightists like U Ba Phe and made the independents stand firmly on our side.”

Poor Aung San was haplessly trapped and he found no way out of it till the bullets of U Saw’s assassins had released him forever from his dilemma. The hot potato called Burma was now in the hands of his old mates Kyaw Nyein and U Nu.

Kyaw Nyein’s Six Problems

Kyaw Nyein With Chinese PM Chou En-lai.
In the early afternoon of the same day of Aung San’s assassination AFPFL CEC passed an urgent resolution recommending U Nu to take Aung San’s place as the PM. Sir Hubert Rance then officially invited U Nu to form a government. U saw and his gunmen were arrested inside U Saw’s fortress like compound by the police Deputy Chief Htun Hla Aung in the same afternoon. It turned out U Saw’s compound was already under police surveillance since U Saw was suspected of hiding arms and ammunition in his compound. U Saw and all his gunmen were put on trial later and convicted of multiple murders and finally hung.

Kyaw Nyein was in London when the assassination happened. He came back immediately, went and saw Aung San’s bullet riddled body lying in the state at the Jubilee Hall and wept and promised himself he would commit suicide if he didn’t get the killers of his dearest friend and his leader.

After Aung San’s death he developed a habit of never trusting anyone. He now watched everyone, friend and foe alike, with suspicion. And he took ruthless actions against anyone suspected of plotting against the state he represented as the powerful Home and Judicial Affairs Minister.

This translated extract is from the introduction he wrote in January 1961 for the book “Kyaw Nyein” by Thein Phe Myint.

“During the period of one year before independence and two years after (1947-49) Burma almost became Congo or Korea. Now looking back and it still frightened me greatly as the country then was almost on the verge of an abyss. There were six major problems facing me as the Home Minister during that critical period.

The first problem was Galone U Saw and his Myochit party. At that time U Saw had more Bren guns than our government had. They killed Bogyoke Aung San and Thakhin Mya while I was in London for Nu-Atlee Agreement. They also tried to kill me and U Nu. I acted quickly by giving arresting powers liberally to the local AFPFL Members of Parliament to arrest anyone suspected of associating with U Saw’s Party in their electorates. I also sent in my armed levies to capture all the arms from the Myochit Party members within 3-4 days. My quick actions basically killed U Saw’s rebellion before it even started.

My second problem then was the Communists. The 1942 Third International’s Policy and Programme had openly directed that the Communists of the European colonies must work together with non-communist patriots to gain independence, but once independence is achieved they must start a civil war to gain power. By following that directive from the International Communists the CPB had started a civil war policy since the day they were expelled from the ruling AFPFL.

Third problem was concerning the big landowners who lost their land to our land reform programs, English Capitalist Companies, some Karens, and some people from the British government. Big English Companies like BOC and Bombay Burma and Irrawaddy Flotillas were extremely angry at us for nationalizing their very profitable operations in Burma. Some from the English government were also angry at us for leaving the British Commonwealth and they were encouraging the Karens to rebel. They also prevented us from buying arms and ammunitions from England and other western countries.

My fourth problem was the conflict between Socialist and PVOs within the AFPFL. Since their formation as a veteran welfare group in 1945 PVO had reached the massive strength of nearly 200,000 in 1947. Among them the real war veterans were as few as about 2000. Most of the rest were patriots but many were village thugs joining the PVO just to wear the PVO uniforms and abuse the power of PVO over the locals. Since Bogyoke’s death no one could fully control them and their majority was with the Communists while only a minority was with my Socialists.

Fifth problem was the resistance within the government machination to the AFPFL government. Most police and local administrators were not really on the side of our government. They collaborated with the rebels and gave them government’s secrets and even joined them openly. Also at the Rangoon headquarters, instead of helping the AFPFL government the Chief Secretary, Home Secretary, Police Chief and his Deputy, Rangoon Police Chief, Karen Army-Chief Smith Dun, and other high ranking Karen Army Officers were pressuring U Nu to kick me and Socialists out of the cabinet and re-form the government without any politicians. What they wanted was really a coup against the elected government.

My sixth problem was our own Left Unity Alliance formed to counter against a possible coup by the security forces. Chaired by General Ne Win the Alliance was the loosely formed coalition of Socialists, PVOs, anti-civil war Communists, and left-leaning Army officers.  I had to arrest my close friend Thein Phe Myint for successfully persuading the Burma Rifle Regiment 3 and 6 to join the CPB when General Ne Win had  refused to stage a coup as the Alliance had suggested him without letting me and the AFPFL cabinet know of their plan.”

Independence was inching closer and closer. So was the civil war that would kill and maim no fewer than a million people of Burma in next 60 years.

Abort the Communists’ Civil War Baby
Elected AFPFL Government.
The Union Jack was finally lowered in Rangoon on 4th January 1948 and only 80 days later on March 28 our Section-5 Kyaw Nyein sent in the dogs to catch all the leaders of the Communist Party of Burma. Socialist Kyaw Nyein had finally decided to abort the Communists’ civil war baby well before it was born. The nationwide simultaneous large-scale arrest of all Communist leaders was started on that particular day. Kyaw Nyein had solved his first problem and U Saw and all his followers were well behind the bars. Then was the time for the second problem the Communists.

Only a timely warning from Thet Htun one of the Communist officers from the army helped Than Htun and the Politburo Members of CPB escape from Kyaw Nyein’s net to Pyinmana the Communist stronghold in the middle Burma. Burmese Civil War has started.

Even well before his nationwide arrests Kyaw Nyein had strongly believed that the CPB was already on its planned schedule to start a civil war by July or August of that year and he had the strong evidence from the CPB itself.

The first evidence was the People Era Journal of Communist party of India (CPI) published on 4th February 1948. Inside was an article declaring the civil war policy of CPB publicly very first time.

The article written by Goshal the Indian Politburo member of CPB and formerly a liaison between CPB and CPI during the war stated that the Burmese Independence just a month before was sham independence. By accepting the sham independence AFPFL was now cooperating with the British colonialist. To gain a true independence the people had to fight AFPFL and the British as the Chinese Communists were doing against the Koumingan Nationalist government in China. The Burmese Communists were to organize and prepare the masses of Burma for the coming National Liberation War.

The second evidence was the detail policy analysis and the action schedule for the planned civil war which was secretly distributed only among the members of the Central Committee of CPB.

Just a few months before the Communists members of parliament had voted for the new constitution and Than Htun even attended the Independence declaration ceremony on the 4th January. Kyaw Nyein had sincerely believed that despite the Communists’ full cooperation with his Socialist and AFPFL in writing the new constitution and declaration of Independence the CPB’soriginal stance had been reversed by other influential Communist parties especially the Russian and Indian Communists as what happened before in the December 1946 when the CPB was expelled from the AFPFL after they reversed their earlier decision to support the Interim AFPFL government.

This translated extract is from the introduction Kyaw Nyein wrote in January 1961 for the book “Kyaw Nyein” by Thein Phe Myint.

“Less than three months after the Independence the Communist Party started the rebellion. While the Starlin’s policy had already directed the Communists from the former European colonies to gain power by a civil war method, in 1947 the Congress of European Communist Parties led by the Russian representative Zadanov had decided that every Communist party in the world had to help Russia in the coming Third World War between Communist Russai and the Capitalist leader US by staging a rebellion and taking control of their respective countries.

That policy was called Zadanov’s Policy and the Communist parties in India, Burma, Malaya, Philippines, and Indonesia started the armed rebellions according to the Zadanov’s Policy. The peculiar fact was after Stalin’s death the new Peaceful Cooperation Policy of Crushev was adopted by the Russian and world Communist parties and so the rebelling communists from India, Malaya, Philippines, and Indonesia had surrendered and started participating again in the democracy politics but the Burmese Communists do not surrender and do continue the civil war despite U Nu’s General Amnesty Law.”

Kyaw Nyein had honestly believed that the CPB was already too deep into the war schedule and to prevent the civil war he had to act decisively while he and his socialists still had the advantage of surprise attack and the government power in hands to do just that. So he sent in the dogs to abort the civil war baby well before it was born. But the baby was still born and it wasn’t a stillborn.

Whatever Kyaw Nyein’s excuses were for the Communist rebellion the exact trigger for the civil war in Burma was his mass arrest of the Communists and that date of 28th March 1948 was the exact beginning of possibly the longest civil war in modern world.

This translated extract is from Brigadier Kyaw Zaw’s Autobiography from the CPB’s website. Bo Kyaw Zaw blamed only Kyaw Nyein for the civil war.

Brigadier General Kyaw Zaw.
“The Socialist Party did not have a widespread public support to stand alone in politics as their right. Throughout its history it had to rely on a famous leader and the fascists’ power of a government to survive. When Bogyoke was alive they depended on him and when he died they relied on U Nu. People abandoned them in 1960 election (on 6 February 1960) after their split with U Nu in 1958. Since then they have completely disappeared from the political stage of Burma. 

They could not stand in public in competition to the CPB. Within a year of Bogyoke’s death they started repressing the CPB. Finally to drive CPB into the jungle they started arresting the communist en masse. Unable to fight the CPB politically the Socialists drove them into the jungle and then used socialist-controlled army to exterminate them.

Socialists created the civil war. Their leader and Home Minister Kyaw Nyein personally led the putsch. He was the culprit number one for the Burmese civil war!”

More than 60 years later and over a million people perished, the war in Burma is still raging. The nasty civil war almost decimated the Burmese Army at first, but then slowly built up the army, and in return the army stokes the war flames harder to perpetuate the existence of the largest army in South East Asia. Meanwhile we Burmese have suffered like the mongrel dogs from a burnt-out Karen village in a jungle near Thai border.

Burma in Limbo - Part 1
Burma in Limbo - Part 5