THE ANTI-FASCIST LEAGUE: A NEW FORCE IN BURMAN POLITICS

Created: 9/21/1945

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

Ottici or St&atxgic Sxnvicia RlflKAKCH and ANALYSIS branch

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THE ANTI-FASCISTEW FORCE IN BURMAN POLITICS

The British forces returning to Burma5ingle,ascist Leaguepolitically dominant among the Burmans. The AFL and Its militaryBurma National Army (BNA)fully with the liberating armies. However,ibilshment of British rule In Burma was facilitated by the AFL and the BNA, lt is also complicated by the existencetrong,political organization.

The AFL, which apparently Includes most of Burma's political groups, was organized as an underground movement4 by members of the revolutionary nationalist Thakln Party. Its objectives were to expel the Japanese and to work for Burmese independence. In the fall4 the BNA offered guerrilla aid to the Allies and in5 committed fully organized units against the retreating Japanese. Realizing the growing power of the AFL, under the strong leadership of Thakln General Aung San, the British decided to make use of the League In the task of restoring law and order in Burma. The Burmese people, heartily tired of war and anxious for security, have followed theof the AFL In supporting the British.esult the Government of Burma, exiled in India during the war years, Is expected to beginthe British Army's Burma Civil Affairs government in the fall

The Thakln leaders who dominate the AFL have consistentlyfull Burman Independence from British rule and have even favored fighting for this goal. The League's present policy, however, Is toomprehensive national political organization which will be sufficiently strong and united to win self-government from the British, without recourse to arms. This policy undoubtedly Is baaedealistic appraisal of current BNA limitations, the low potential of Burma's war devastated economy, and the war weariness of the Burman people.

The violently anti-British Tha kins, taking Tokyo's Greater East Asia propaganda at face value, helped the Japanese in the conquest of Burmaowever, when the Japanese failed to give them asa role as they expected in Burma's new government and when they saw that Japanese rule did not really mean independence, they became bitterly disaffected. In the summerurthermore, after the failure of the Japanese drive intoerious rift developed between the Thaklns and the Burma puppet government. In4 the puppet premier. Ba Maw, in an effort to suppress growing opposition, dissolved

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all political parties. To replace them he established the Mahabama Asiay-one or Greater Burma Association, designed to unite all Burman factions into one patriotic league to support his government. Individualleaders were kept in the Cabinet in order to preserve the appearance ol solidarity. In effect, however, the opposition was forced underground and individual Thakins took the Initiative in directing it. Some Thakins actually spilt off from their party organization, calling themselvesOthers were anxious to drop their affiliationarty whichollaborationist record. Another element fled with puppet premier Ba Maw as Allied troops advanced. Tbe Thakin Party as such is now on the point of dissolution.

A small radical section In the League continues to advocate the old Thakin policy of winning Burma's Independence through recourse to arms. This faction, however, Is not strong enough to disrupt present League unity. Since the Japanese defeat In Burma the majority of the AFL leaden repudiated their former Thakin program in favorolicy of organized but peaceful popular pressure for Burman independence. They have clearly decided to capitalize on the "light hand" policy which Supreme SEAC Commander Mountbattrn has adopted. Certain leading elements In the League are well aware that, having greatly assisted the Japanese In the early phases of the war, they could be severely dealt with as collaborators. Good relations with Great Britain will give AFL leaders the time necessary to shape the League into an effective bargaining body, and an opportunity for those with collaborationist records to redeem themselves.

The League now embraces various factions of the former Thakin Party,mall Communist group, formeraw's Mvochlt (Patriotic) Party. Ba Pe's moderate United Party, the East Asia Youthertain politically active pongyt (Buddhist priest) groups,umber of non-political organizations Efforts are being made to consolidate and centralize the national structure of the League. AFL district branches and local cells are being instructed to affiliate themselves more closely with League headquarters in Rangoon.Burmans who wish to Join the League and Independent groups which resisted the Japanese are being asked to register. Furthermore, the League is seeking to gain the support of labor and agricultural groupseputationponsor of new farmers' cooperatives and labor unions.

The cement which now holds the highly disparate parts of the League together is the common objective of self-government for Burma Rival leaders within the League have merged their differencestooal which they consider obtainable only bynited front to the British. Furthermore, the dynamic leadership of the youthful Thakins, who are backed by the BNA, has wonarge measure of public support that the'older parties have realized the political necessities of Joining forces with them. The younger leadership of the AFL Is anxious to hold early elections on the purely political issue of Burma's relation to Great Britain. If elections are long delayed, basic

differences among the various parties now belonging to the League may well become more pronounced, with more moderate groups tending once again toompromise with the British In order to gain political power. Furthermore, AFL leaders arc temporarily minimizing economic issues because they know that Burma will be able to restrict foreign economic exploitation in the country only after achieving politicalThey fear that economic rehabilitation under exclusive British control would leave the Britishosition to make economicwhenever self-government Is conceded.

In general. League leaden have expressed satisfaction with theattitude of cooperation shown them by high British authorities. The British Civil Affairs Service ls much perturbed by growing BurmanInfluence, but has nevertheless allowed high-ranking AFLto attend weekly meetings where all civil questions are open for discussion. Admiral Mountbatten has In factreater degree of political freedom than Governor Dorman-Smith's counselors have thought advisable. Political meetings among the Burmese are apparently allowed upon the procurement of permits Few requests have beenAlthough the Burmans are dissatisfied with the British treatment of BNA units, the British reportedly plan to recognize the BNAart of the Allied Forces of South East Asia. Demobilization of the BNA wouldery difficult task, and might precipitate open rebellion.

AFL leaders believe that, bynited front, the various races of Burma could apply enough pressure on Great Britain to force the granting of early dominion status. For this reason they consider undesirable the creation of separate communal privileges for Karens and Indians and are much opposed to continued British control of the Shan States. If an Interim rule for mountainous border areas of Burma is necessary, the League would probably demand that lt be administered by an international trusteeship.

The AFL has not officially Indicated any dissatisfaction with British proposals for Burma's political future aa Interpreted at Rangoon onune by Governor Dorman-Smith The British White Paper of5 merely outlined, with no time-limiteries of steps which Burma would have to follow to attain self-government, whereas the Governor indicated his strong determination to hasten the process. Some observers believe that the League, along with most Burmans, will be satisfied with dominion status as an Intermediate objective if such status Is quickly and unequivocally granted. Other Leaguehe maintenance of an Independent National Defense Army, such as thenited Nations responsibility for the protection of Burma rather than reliance upon the promises and convenience of the Britishlace In the world peace organization and the right ofreedom to trade with all countries and to seek foreign capital and technical aid other than British,ew channel for presenting Burma's problems to the world In their true light.

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