- Year of publication: 2013
- Source: Show
- Pages: 3-6
- DOI Address: -
A New Chapter in the History of Burma-Myanmar: What Will It Bring about?
On November 7, 2010 the so-called democratic elections were held in the Union of Myanmar. The name of the state was changed once again, like in October 1988, this time to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. The flag of the state has also changed. The generals took off their uniforms. Does it mean that we have a new, democratic chapter in the history of this unfortunate state? Especially that on November 13 Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has finally, this time after 7 years (and 15 years altogether in the last 21), been released from her house arrest?
In this short study (partly an introduction to this volume dealing with Burma-Mynamar), the author is trying to assess the current situation in this troubled country reaching the conclusion that this recent political exercise resembles what general Ne Win, the former dictator of Burma, did in the middle of the 1970’s. In other words, there is no guarantee whatsoever that this time, finally, Mynamar is getting closer to a real democracy. A litmus test of what is really going on there will be the attitude of the new “democratic” rulers in Naypyidaw, the new capital of the country since 2005, towards Aung San Suu Kyi and her followers.
The chapter is also a short history of modern Burma, since Ne Win’s fateful coup d’etat in 1962.
The British Encroach into Burma – the History of Three Invasions
The British Empire came to Burma gradually. Three wars (1822-24, 1852, 1885) were necessary to conquer this country. The gist of this chapter is a detailed description of those three invasions, according to the most recent data and sources available. The author is quoting many primary sources, mainly British, from that period, like – for instance - the writings of Arthur Phayre, major Snodgrass, William F.B. Laurie, bishop Vincenzo Sangermano, the merchant Henry Gouger or Kinwun Myingyi. Some more recent studies, especially those of D.G.E. Hall, A.T.Q. Stewart (“The Pagoda War”), Thant Myint-U or Maung Htin Aung were also used. These research works and memoirs were mixed with volumes of documents (like “The Defeat of Ava” by Terence R. Blackburn or famous “The Glass Palace Chronicle of the Kings of Burma”) and major international comparative studies, like those found in “The Cambridge History of South-East Asia”.
This is the first study of this kind ever to be published in Polish literature, being a part of a book by the author on the dramatic fate of Burma in its long history.
In the final part of his study the author comes to the conclusion, that both British colonial wars and behavior in Burma has brought about fervent nationalism among Burmese elites, dissatisfied with the British negation of their Monarchy, the Sangha (Buddhist hierarchy) and traditional customs, for instance the monastic scholar system known as phongyi kyuang. Those were the reasons for the quick appearance of dacoity in vast Burmese territories and later the fierce and fervent nationalism visible in the actions of general Aung San and other thakins (i.e. Burmese “masters”), who eventually brought about a return to independence for the country in 1948. Thus, the history of the British invasion of Burma has some important features and lessons for other possible invaders, wherever and whoever they may be.
General Aung San – the Father of Burma’s Independence
The author presents General Aung San (1915-1947) as a dedicated fighter for independence and through his complicated biography outlines the crucial period of Burma’s history: the end of the British colonial rule. The paper also presents the cultural differences that complicated Burmese-British relations.
It appears that Aung San’s nationalist spirit had been already shaped in his childhood. He became famous as a student leader during his education at Rangoon University in the 1930’s. In 1938 he had been elected the Secretary General of the most significant nationalist force: the Association We-Burmese (Do-Bama Asi-Ayone). On the one hand he was involved in lawful political activity, on the other he tried to acquire weapons by all possible means to start an armed struggle for independence. He created numerous political organizations of different political orientation (including the Communist Party of Burma). Eventually he arrived in Japan, where he received military training. In 1941, with the help of Japanese agents, he was able to create the Burma Independence Army in Thailand, which entered Burma together with the Japanese troops in 1942.
His co-operation with the Japanese forces was tortuous and painful, but he served as the Minister of War in their puppet Burmese Government. When it became obvious that the Allies will win, he established contacts with them and in August 1944 founded the Anti-Fascist Organisation. On March 27, 1945 he started an anti-Japanese uprising to help the British forces entering the country. At the end of the war his relations with the British authorities were very complex: the civil administration wanted to arrest him and bring him to justice as a war criminal, but the military commanders appreciated his help and wanted to collaborate with him and his Burmese forces. The second approach prevailed and in 1946 he headed the Burmese colonial government under the British Governor. In January 1947 he successfully negotiated Burma’s independence in London. The famous Panglong Agreement reached with the leaders of national minorities in February constituted another success of his. In April his party won the majority in the elections to the Constitutional Assembly and Aung San started his work on the constitution. In July, during feverish preparations for independence, he was assassinated together with six other members of the government. U Nu, his old friend and political successor completed his task of building up the independent state. The present military junta constitutes the first Burmese government, which does not respect General Aung San much owing to the prodemocratic activities of Aung San Suu Kyi, his daughter.
Post-War Burma’s Neutralism against Its Relations with Great Britain and the United States (1948–1962)
The article traces how the neutralist foreign policy of independent Burma was applied towards the British and American actors in the cold war theatre of Southeast Asia. The Burmese government of U Nu, threatened by insurgencies, approached the Anglo-Saxon powers to seek financial and military assistance provided there were no strings attached. The British, former colonial overlords of Burma looking to maintain leverage in the region, initially inspired distrust, but their tactful treatment of Burma’s neutralism opened the way to long-term cooperation already in the early 1950s, while Washington, which came to pursue the interventionist policy of ‘containment’ in Indochina, alienated Rangoon by affixing political conditions to material aid and abetting the Kuomintang occupation of Burmese border regions. The KMT and communist guerrilla crises induced Rangoon to court Beijing, yet its ties with the West remained close throughout the period. This undermines the assumptions about communist leanings of neutralist states harboured in both camps of the cold war rivalry, and reveals Burma’s course of foreign relations as largely successful.
Renaissance of Buddhism and Vipassana Meditation in Modern Burma
The paper describes Theravada Buddhism adopted in South-East Asia. In the first part the author (of Burmese origin but working in Poland) presents the traditional relations between the Burmese State and Buddhism.
The British colonial regime separated state administration from religious structure and deprived the Sangha of the state protection in the political, financial and educational spheres. Under such circumstances Buddhism suffered from degeneration and decomposition, even though it had been combined with the national identity. On the other hand, the Burmese, used to the traditional political-and-religious state power, disrespected the foreign (solely political) administration.
Independence resulted in the re-establishment of the traditional model of state power and of the state protection of Buddhism and the Sangha. The author outlines the main functions Buddhism performs in the modern Burmese State and its changing policy towards the Sangha. In his opinion, U Nu’s concept of democracy differed essentially from Western standards, since the government tried to “purify the citizens of their moral impurities” to build up a “Buddhist society”.
For ten years General Ne Win’s military regime maintained a predominantly civilian character, but later on it increased its ties with Buddhism and the Sangha. It resulted in a peculiar “Buddhist socialism” that combined Marxism and Buddhism. After 1988 the new military regime emphasised its religious ties even more. The state protection of Buddhism and the Sangha served not only to increase the authorities’ prestige, but also their control over the Sangha. The regime organised numerous magnificent religious ceremonies that undoubtedly increased the prestige of the ruling military junta.
In the second part of the study, the author shows the close ties of the Sangha with Burmese society and analyses the role of meditation in Buddhism. He outlines the particular characteristics of Buddhism and explains essential Buddhist notions. Then he moves on to a more detailed description of meditation itself and of its important place in the Buddhist Path. In addition to individual meditation practice, there was a lay meditation movement, which evolved as a kind of millenaristic national movement under the British colonial regime. It changed the traditional relations between the Burmese society and Buddhism. The Buddhist master Mahasi Sayadaw (1904-1982) contributed much to this new religious development in independent Burma. Notwithstanding the changes of the regime, the Buddhist mass meditation movement remains an important part of the Burmese social and spiritual life and it has great impact on Burmese society.
New Asian Regionalism with Particular Focus on ASEAN+3
The purpose of this article is to present the dynamic changes in the approach of Asian economies to economic integration and especially to describe the process called “new regionalism”.
Economic globalization is the main stimulus encouraging individual economies to undertake efforts towards the renewed interest in regionalism. Preferential trade agreements are the proof that economic competitiveness of individual countries is diminishing and nowadays competitiveness is based more on regions.
The author of this article points out some other factors stimulating this new regionalism, as well as the main features of this phenomenon. In the article, the author presents traditional integration in the form of ASEAN for comparative purposes as well, as it is easier to point out the differences between these two processes. Special attention is paid to the efforts of creating the East Asian Economic Group and China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA, in existence since 2010) and ASEAN+3 which includes ten ASEAN members, China, Republic of Korea and Japan. The article also touches upon the issue of the region’s financial stability and its main tool since 2009 – the Chiang Mai Initiative - Multilateralization as the first and very important step towards creating regional monetary fund.
ASEAN and the Political and Economic Changes in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos
The article focuses on the position of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia within ASEAN. As the ideological struggle subsided after the Cold War the three countries took the membership in ASEAN as their priority. The major challenge was to evaluate their chances and expectations before their accession to the organization and economic programs they had to implement so as to acquire full membership. Thanks to ASEAN all of them could develop multilateral economic policies, successfully participate in the international economic exchange and establish their position in the region. Their accession to the ASEAN illustrates new trends in the modern, globalized world driven by economic, not ideological, issues.
Economic Co-Operation between the EU and Taiwan in the Context of the Global Crisis – Perspectives of Development
In tough times of global economic slowdown, discovering the hidden potential of the EU-Taiwanese economic relations could be mutually beneficial. The article aims to identify this potential and the steps that, if taken, might contribute to its prompt fulfillment.
To start with, the EU and Taiwan are presented within the context of their international settings. An indication of institutions coordinating the EU-Taiwanese economic cooperation and the cooperation’s formula follows. Next, some basic statistical data is given. It refers to the dynamic and structure of trade exchange. The issues of the re-exports of Taiwanese goods processed in People’s Republic of China as well as the export of goods manufactured by Taiwanese-owned companies based there, in so far as they influence the statistical data analysis, are also mentioned.
The main part of the article presents the benefits from deepened economic cooperation between the EU and Taiwan as well as the potentially profitable areas for business development and issues vital to the strengthening of the economic ties. As the EU constitutes a huge single market with no barriers to trade, human and capital flows, with numerous combinations of geographic location, tax incentives, quality labour force, financial products and other resources available, it is a good place to invest in. Taiwan, on the other hand, a fast growing, stable economy, with high demand for ecological, consumer and luxury goods, seems potentially attractive to European companies as well. Moreover, due to its close ties to mainland China, it might be considered a foothold for businesses which plan to expand into the Chinese market. There is also a significant undiscovered potential for economic co-operation in the areas of energy-saving high-tech industries, financial services and public procurement markets.
An improvement of mutual economic relations is expected to follow the conclusion of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with mainland China, as well as the potential conclusion of Trade Enhancement Measures Agreement with the EU and the removal of the current tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade.
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