Monday, June 1, 2020

Suzuki & Sawamoto: Burma's Founding Fathers (3)

Suzuki and all his officers from
Minami-Kikan were Nakano
Spy School graduates. 
In mid-1940 the Navy General Staff knew more about the political and economic situation in Burma than did Army General Staff Headquarters. Kokubu Shozo (a dashing naval reserve officer) had been keeping Navy Headquarters informed on the political situation and economic resources through a series of reports based on several years first-hand acquaintance.

Army general Staff Headquarters, on the other hand, had no such source of information on Burma, but had just sent Suzuki to Burma to learn what he could.

Kokubu's main contacts in the independence movement, by contrast, were with the Aung Than and Ba Sein faction of the Thakhin Party. With them Kokubu had discussed the drafting of a plan for Burma's independence. Kokubu also knew the general situation Burma well and had taken a Foreign Ministry official, Ohashi Chuichi, on a tour of a railway viaduct (Goat-Htate Bridge) on the Burma Road.

For Kokubu's pains he and Ohashi were arrested by British Police who suspected a plot to blow up the bridge. Through Kokubu's friends in both Navy Headquarters and Foreign Ministry he was called to Naval Headquarters and asked for information.

The Navy was already sensitive to the problem of policy toward the South. Kokubu suggested a plan for a Burma policy, basing his proposals on many conversations with Aung Than and Ba Sein and on a plan drafted by Ba Sein.

Kokubu's plan or Burma independence envisaged overthrow of the pro-British U Pu cabinet (1939-40), establishing a new cabinet under Ba Phe, who would in turn be overthrown by a non-confidence bill and replaced by Ba Maw; supplying weapons, ammunition, communication devices; mobilizing press and priests to achieve unity of these projects to be supported by funds from Japan; and minting of Burmese currency notes in Japan.

Kokubu conceived a plan for Burmese units to be  supplied with arms, though he did not detail a program for military training. Ba Phe cabinet members, Ba Maw's party and part of Thakhin Prty, The General Council Of Buddhist Associations (GCBA), and groups of young monks would all be mobilised for political and military action. A Japanese headquarters would be established in Rangoon, with branches in Moulmein, Bassein, and Mandalay.

To create forces capable of military action, Kokubu suggested mobilizing farmers near Mandalay, Moulmein, Bassein and the outskirts of Rangoon. He spoke of a revolutionary army but not of the details of its recruitment or training.

He also suggested a "Revolutionary Provisional Government", dissolution of parliament when military occupation was completed, and establishing a semi-military government under martial law. Kokubu believed the Burmese people are so nationalistic and pro-Japanese that he dismissed the need for propaganda groups in Burma.

Kokubu tried to impress on Navy General Headquarters the advisability of supporting Aung Than and Ba Sein rather than Aung San, who he was convinced was a Communist. This led to friction between Kokubu and Suzuki as champions of rival factions of Thakhin Party. Despite Kobuku's much longer first-hand acquaintance with the Burmese nationalists, he did not prevail over Suzuki and the more powerful Army in this initial difference of opinion.

With Kobuku and Suziki feeding information to Nay and Army Headquarters respectively, and both in Tokyo in January 1941, it seemed to both Navy and Army that the time had come for concrete steps. Aung San's presence in Japan may have been an added incentive. The Navy contacted the Army, and this precipitated joint conversations leading to the formation of Minami Kikan.

On 16 January, the first of several meeting was held at the Suikosha (Naval Club). Suzuki and one of the leading Army members, Lt. Kawashima Takenobu, prepared a draft plan on Burmese independence, apart from the Kokubu draft. Sugi and Mizutani were involved in the preparations as civilians from the Army side. It was decided to give the Kikan the cover name of Nampo Kigyo Chosakai (Southern Enterprises Research Association).

Minami Kikan members included ten officers who were graduates of Nakano Gakko (Nakano Spy School) and over fifteen NCOs who were also Nakano graduates. Though the NCOs were not trained in intelligence, they had studied Burmese language as part of their preparations. Most of the Nakano Gakko alumni were graduates of the Second Class and also graduates of the 46th through 49th classes of the Military Academy.

Colonel Suzuki in Burmese dress is on the front row between Aung San and Ne Win.

Suzuki & Sawamoto: Founding Fathers of Modern Burma (1)