BECK index

South Asia 1941-1950

by Sanderson Beck

India during World War II
India Divided 1945-47
India and Pakistan 1947-50
Tibet and Nepal 1941-50
Ceylon's Independence 1941-50
Burma Invaded and Liberated 1942-50
Malaya Invaded and in Conflict 1942-50
Thailand 1941-50
Cambodia 1941-50
Laos 1941-50

India during World War II

Gandhi and India 1919-1941

General Claude Auchinleck became commander-in-chief in January 1941, and his successful recruiting helped increase the Indian armed forces from 190,000 at the start of the war to two million by 1943. Indian troops made up a large part of the British army in the successful African campaign against the Italians in Kenya, Sudan, and Ethiopia. In Burma the British forces retreated from Rangoon as the Japanese invaded in March 1942. Thousands of Indian refugees died as they fled to India. The Japanese navy sunk many Indian ships and controlled the Bay of Bengal. Japanese planes bombed India on April 6, and their navy seized the Andaman Islands.

In March 1942 US President Franklin Roosevelt urged Churchill to settle the differences with India in order to gain their support in the war. So Churchill sent Stafford Cripps to India with a declaration that promised the “earliest possible realization of self-government in India” by a constitution-making body “after the cessation of hostilities” under similar conditions as offered before. This offer was rejected by all the major parties and minorities in India because Indians did not trust the British, because they believed that they were losing the war to Germany, and because India was likely to be partitioned. Gandhi especially objected to what he called the “vivisection of India.” Roosevelt’s envoy, Col. Louis Johnson, tried to bring the two sides together, but Churchill refused to alter the proposal. The British blamed the failure on Gandhi’s pacifism; but Gandhi called that “a tissue of lies,” and the British did not produce the evidence of his telephone conversation they claimed they recorded.

In 1942 Gandhi wrote,

Supposing that the women and the children of Europe
became fired with the love of humanity,
they would take the men by storm and reduce militarism
to nothingness in an incredibly short time.9

In April he suggested ways to resist the Japanese nonviolently. He also said that if India had a national government, it should ally itself with the United Nations against the Fascist powers. He criticized the Japanese for attacking China and predicted that their ambition would fail and might prevent the “world federation and brotherhood without which there can be no hope for humanity.”10 He wrote that India had no enmity toward Japan or any nation and that a free India could negotiate with the Japanese. Gandhi was concerned that the British presence would invite the Japanese to invade India. He wanted the British to “entrust India to God or in modern parlance to anarchy.” If the Japanese did invade India, the Congress would organize nonviolent non-cooperation. The Americans eventually persuaded Gandhi that Japan’s occupation of India would cause China to fall also. Gandhi argued that India in bondage could not fight effectively against the Nazis and that the Allies’ subjection of India as well as Africans and Negroes damaged their moral cause.

After several days of discussion Gandhi persuaded the Congress Working Committee to adopt his famous “Quit India” resolution on July 14, 1942 “not only in the interest of India but also for the safety of the world and for the ending of Nazism, Fascism, Militarism, and other forms of imperialism.”11 Gandhi sent his disciple Mira Ben (Madeleine Slade) to the Viceroy, who said he would not tolerate any rebellion, whether violent or nonviolent. Gandhi called it an open revolt and said they should “free India or die;” but either he thought he had time to plan the campaign later, or he decided to leave it up to spontaneous action. The Government planned severe repression but waited until the AICC met and made a decision. The AICC passed the resolution on the night of August 8 with only a few Communists opposed, and before dawn the British arrested Gandhi, Azad, and the Working Committee. Within a week all the eminent leaders of the Congress were in prison. The British quickly declared Congress illegal, seized their headquarters at Allahabad, and confiscated their funds. The paper Harijan was put under a ban and was not allowed to publish again until 1946. Thus for three and a half years we have little or no writing from Gandhi.

News of the arrests of Gandhi and the Congress leaders immediately touched off nonviolent protests in Bombay, Ahmadabad, and Poona. On August 10 Delhi and towns in the United Provinces were aroused, and on the following day the disruptions spread across most of India with strikes, demonstrations, and even mob violence. Systems of communication and transportation were attacked and sabotaged. The UP alone reported that more than a hundred railway stations were damaged, and railway tracks were sabotaged a hundred times. Mobs attacked trams, buses, motor vehicles, and government buildings. The report found more than 425 cases of sabotaging telephone and telegraph wires, and 119 post offices were destroyed or severely damaged. The  Government quickly cracked down and arrested 16,089 people while 16 police officers were killed with 332 injured. The mass lawlessness spread in the Central Provinces and Bihar as well. Bombs were used, especially in Bombay.

Altogether in India 330 post offices were burned or seriously damaged; over 250 railways stations were destroyed or damaged; and more than two hundred police stations were attacked. Officials later estimated that the police and military fired at crowds 538 times, killing 940 and injuring 1,630. Nehru believed that even higher figures were “gross underestimates.” Some said that as many as 25,000 were killed, but Nehru estimated 10,000. Officials calculated that 60,229 persons were arrested with about 26,000 convicted and 18,000 detained without trial by the end of 1942.

Most of those demonstrating were students, peasants, and persons from the lower middle class. The military occupied Benares University and regained control of most districts by the end of August, and open protests were quelled by September 21. The police and the military reacted aggressively because of the sabotage and mob violence, and there were many atrocities. The revolt was violent in the sense that force was used to destroy communication lines, railways, bridges, and post offices. Some took over courts, jails, and government buildings, burning records. Yet at first this was not an armed uprising, and efforts were made to be nonviolent and not harm people. Heroic demonstrators were shot for trying to raise the Indian flag. In October some freedom fighters led by Jayaprakash Narayan went underground, but their more violent revolutionary efforts faded away by February 1943.

The Muslim League led by Jinnah remained aloof from the Quit India campaign and appealed to the United Nations to help them establish Pakistan. In 1942 Pir Pagaro led a violent revolt by gangs of Hurs in north-eastern Sind. The British imposed martial in June 1942 for a year, by which time the Pir had been executed. In Bengal the Muslim League party persuaded Fazl-ul-Huq to resign in March 1943, and K. Nazimuddin formed a ministry in April. The Muslim League also gained power in Assam, NWFP, and Sind, but the Unionist party maintained its hold on the Punjab. At Karachi in December 1943 the Muslim League adopted the slogan “Divide and Quit.”

The British considered Subhas Bose a dangerous revolutionary and had arrested him on July 2, 1940. When his hunger strike showed dangerous symptoms, they released him on December 5. He was kept under surveillance at his home in Calcutta but escaped on January 17, 1941 and made his way to Kabul and Moscow. On March 28 he flew to Berlin. He met with Ribbentrop, and the Germans helped him to broadcast anti-British propaganda and to raise Free Indian troops from the Indian prisoners of war in Germany. Bose founded Free India Centers in Rome and Paris while recruiting 3,000 soldiers.

Rash-behari Bose had fled to Japan in 1915, married a Japanese woman, and became a Japanese citizen. He organized a conference at Tokyo in March 1942, and they formed an Indian Independence League for Indians in Japanese Asia. A hundred delegates met at Bangkok in June and elected Rash-behari Bose chairman. They invited Subhas Bose to East Asia. Meanwhile Captain Mohan Singh had surrendered to the Japanese, and at Bangkok the holy man Giani Pritam Singh and Major Fuzihara persuaded him to fight for Indian independence. When the Japanese captured Singapore on February 15, 1942, Fuzihara gained 40,000 Indian prisoners of war. Mohan Singh used volunteers from them and formed the Indian National Army (INA). By August about 40,000 Indians were being trained physically and mentally with lectures on Indian history under British rule.

A German U-boat took Subhas Bose to a Japanese submarine, and he reached Tokyo on June 13, 1943. Prime Minister Hideki Tojo encouraged Bose’s plans for a provisional government and promised India “full independence.” On July 4 Rash-behari Bose turned over the presidency to Subhas Bose, who was named the supreme leader (Netaji). The INA trained men and women intensively for six months. On October 23 the Netaji announced on radio the Provisional Government of Azad Hind’s declaration of war against Britain and the USA. Within a few days Azad Hind (Free India) was recognized by Germany, Italy, Croatia, Burma, Thailand, Nationalist China, the Philippines, and Manchuria. On November 6 Tojo turned over the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the Provisional Government.

Field Marshal Terauchi allowed the Subhas Brigade to join the Japanese invasion of Burma to prove their worth. They went to Rangoon in February 1944 and marched along the Kaladan River. In May the INA entered Indian territory, and some Japanese troops were even put under Captain Suraj Mal. They occupied Mowdok and fought British forces until September. As the Japanese retreated, the INA stayed at Rangoon until they were captured by the British in May 1945. The Netaji fled to Bangkok and Saigon. The Japanese claimed he was killed in an airplane crash; but others believe he was eventually captured by Russians in Manchuria and sent to Siberia. When the British tried the INA officers for treason, they were shocked that most Indians considered them patriotic heroes. Nationwide demonstrations for the release of the INA prisoners in the winter of 1945 resulted in the police killing forty people and wounding more than three hundred in Calcutta; in Bombay 28 were killed, and more than two hundred were wounded.

While Gandhi was detained at the Aga Khan palace, he complained that the Government was spreading rumors that he was encouraging violent activities. He noted that the Government’s violence was on a gigantic scale compared to the protests. He announced a three-week fast to seek justice from God because the Viceroy had denied him justice. Although Viceroy Linlithgow warned him that he would consider a fast by Gandhi “political blackmail” and would let him die, Gandhi disagreed and began fasting on February 10, 1943. If he had not taken some lime juice with his water, he probably would have died.

The first Japanese air raid on Calcutta was on December 20, 1942. The loss of rice imports from Burma caused a food shortage in Bengal in 1943. Inefficient government caused a delay in food rationing, and more than a million people died from starvation and disease. The Famine Enquiry Commission estimated 1.5 million deaths, but the economist Chattopadhyaya of Calcutta University used surveys that showed it was about 3.5 million. India’s commander-in-chief Wavell became viceroy in October 1943. His proposal to appoint an Indian as finance minister was blocked by the Home Government, but he did manage to implement a Ministry for Planning and Development in 1944. The Japanese army invaded Manipur in March 1944, but they withdrew in August. Gandhi was released unconditionally from prison on May 5, 1944 because of a bad case of malaria. Wavell refused to meet with Gandhi or with the Working Committee. Rajagopalachari persuaded Gandhi to negotiate with Jinnah the partition he was determined to have. They held talks for eighteen days in September, but Jinnah refused to compromise on his demand for all of the Punjab, NWFP, Sind, Baluchistan, Bengal, and Assam.

Bhulabhai Desai was the Congress leader in the Central Legislative Assembly, and he negotiated an agreement with Liaquat Ali Khan of the Muslim League. Viceroy Wavell was interested, but Jinnah and the Congress leaders rejected the plan. After the Congress members were released from prison, Khan Sahib was able to form a ministry in NWFP. New ministries favorable to Congress were also formed in Assam and Sind by March 1945. That month Nazimuddin was defeated in Bengal, and the Governor took over under Section 93. Indian troops entered Mandalay on March 8 and regained Rangoon on May 4.

Viceroy Wavell’s efforts to find a constitutional solution were delayed or blocked by Churchill, and Wavell visited London in the spring of 1945. After returning to Delhi, the Viceroy announced on June 14 his proposals that called for an Executive Council made up of Indians except for the Viceroy and the Commander-in-Chief. The Council’s goals were to prosecute the war against Japan and carry the government until a permanent constitution was implemented. Gandhi, Jinnah, and the Hindu Mahasabhas objected to how the Council would be selected. Members of the Congress Working Committee were released on June 15 and decided that the Congress should participate in the conference at Simla. The Viceroy invited 21 Indian leaders to the conference, and Gandhi remained in town as an advisor. Jinnah refused to cooperate unless all five Muslims on the Council were from the League; Wavell refused to go forward without Jinnah’s consent.

World War II ended when Japan surrendered on August 14, 1945. Gandhi hoped for a real peace based on freedom and equality for all races and nations. He contrasted nonviolence to the horrible violence of the atomic bomb, and he called the use of this weapon on Japan cowardice. In his last years he became more of a socialist, believing that inequality breeds violence while equality produces nonviolence. He went on a pilgrimage to Noakhali to help the poor.

Just before the war ended, Churchill’s government was replaced by Labor with Clement Attlee as prime minister. They worked to fulfill the pledge that India would be granted dominion status after the war. The concern that an independent India would repudiate its foreign debt no longer existed because the war expenses had resulted in Britain owing India one billion pounds. Also there were now 15,000 trained Indian officers in the military. India had not had provincial elections since 1937 nor a general election since 1934. After visiting London, Viceroy Wavell on September 19 announced elections in December. The Congress party gained popularity by providing a legal team to defend three Indian National Army (INA) officers—a Hindu, a Muslim, and a Sikh—on trial for treason, murder, and torture before a military tribunal. The sentences of transportation to life were remitted, and they were merely cashiered. In the elections Congress got 91% of the vote in the non-Muslim constituencies, and in the Muslim areas the Muslim League received 87%. Congress had a majority in Assam and in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) as well as in Bombay, Madras, the United Provinces (UP), Bihar, Orissa, and the Central Provinces (CP). The Muslim League declined to join a coalition in the Punjab, but they did so with independents in Bengal. Congress excluded Communists in 1945, and in the election that year the Communists did not win any seats in the Central Legislative Assembly.

India Divided 1945-47

Indians in the Royal Indian Navy, who were suffering hardships in Bombay, revolted with strikes that led to looting, and more than two hundred people were killed by police and the army in February 1946. During these disturbances Attlee and Secretary of State Pethick-Lawrence announced that a Cabinet mission would visit India. On March 15 Attlee said in the House of Commons that minorities would be protected, but a minority would not be allowed to veto the advance of the majority. Pethick-Lawrence, Stafford Cripps, and A. V. Alexander arrived in New Delhi on March 24 to set up a process to write a constitution for an independent India. Giani Kartar Singh wanted the state of Khalistan for Sikhs. Jinnah and the Muslim League held a conference on April 10 and demanded a sovereign Pakistan formed from the Punjab, NWFP, Sind, and Baluchistan in the west with Bengal and Assam in the east. Jinnah indicated that he could accept a Pakistan that might exclude districts where Muslims were not a majority, but he insisted on retaining Calcutta. In April the Factories Amendment Act was passed that reduced the work week from 54 to 48 hours and from 60 to 50 hours in seasonal factories. The Indian National Government also passed important acts in industrial relations, social insurance, and improvement in working conditions.

Congress and the Muslim League could not agree, and on May 16, 1946 the Cabinet Mission announced their recommendation for a Union of India in regard to foreign affairs, defense, and communications with all other powers held by the provinces. Legislative seats were be proportioned by population. However, the plan was complicated by a controversial grouping of provinces into three sections. The general public received the plan favorably, and Gandhi said it was worthy of acceptance. The Council of the Muslim League accepted the proposals on June 6, but their negotiator Jinnah and Congress leaders could not agree on who should be in the Interim Government. Gandhi left Delhi on June 28, and the Cabinet Mission left India the next day. The All-India Congress Committee (AICC) met on July 6, ratified the statement, and elected Nehru president of the Congress.

Nehru said they could not accept British interference in the new government, and Jinnah considered this a repudiation of the agreement. The Council of the Muslim League withdrew its acceptance on July 29 and planned a day of direct action for August 16. In the provincial elections at the end of July the Congress won all the general seats except nine, and the Muslim League won all but five of the seats reserved for Muslims. The Congress Working Committee accepted the scheme and tried to satisfy the Muslim League on August 8. Four days later Viceroy Wavell asked Congress to form a provisional government. Nehru accepted and offered Jinnah five seats out of fourteen in the Interim Government, but Jinnah rejected this.

The British Government did little in Calcutta to stop the Muslim violence against Hindus that began on August 16. After a week of communal conflict some 5,000 people were dead with more than 15,000 injured, and about 100,000 were homeless. Chief Minister Suhrawardy and the Muslim League cabinet were blamed for declaring Direction Action Day a public holiday and not stopping the violence. Viceroy Wavell visited Calcutta and then met with Gandhi and Nehru. Wavell wanted to postpone the Constituent Assembly, but the Home Government insisted the Interim Government be inaugurated on September 2. The Muslim League urged people to protest by calling that day a Black Day, and hundreds died in the communal violence that broke out in Bombay and Ahmadabad. Gandhi learned in October that 5,000 people had been killed and 50,000 injured in Noakhali. The 77-year-old peacemaker went on a “village-a-day pilgrimage,” walking 116 miles in seven weeks.

Jinnah suggested a compromise that was accepted, and on October 13 the Muslim League agreed to join the Interim Government. League members took office on October 26, but Jinnah still held back. Pethick-Lawrence invited the leaders to meet in London in December. Jinnah gained some assurances and stayed on to give speeches warning the English that if they did not grant Pakistan, there would be civil war in India. Muslims refused to attend the Constituent Assembly on December 9. Rajendra Prasad was elected president, and they adjourned until January 20, 1947. Then they met for six days, passed Nehru’s objectives resolution, and appointed some committees. The Working Committee of the Muslim League met at Karachi on January 31 and declared the decisions of the Constituent Assembly “invalid and illegal” and said it should be dissolved.

On February 20, 1947 Prime Minister Attlee announced that the British would transfer power to the most responsible Indians no later than June 1948 regardless. The Congress Working Committee welcomed this, but Jinnah still demanded Pakistan. Muslim attacks on Hindus in Noakhali in eastern Bengal provoked Hindus in Bihar to seek revenge against Muslims. At least 5,000 were killed in Bihar, and 120,000 were refugees. Direct action by the Muslim League in the Punjab spread violence from Lahore to Multan, Rawalpindi, and Amritsar. A coalition broke up in the Punjab when Khizar Hyat Khan resigned on March 2. Governor Evan Jenkins asked a Muslim to form a ministry, but the Sikh leader Tara Singh held up a sword and shouted “Death to Pakistan.” For the next two weeks communal clashes disturbed the Punjab, killing at least two thousand. Demonstrations in the NWFP protested the Congress ministry of the Muslim Dr. Khan Sahib. Nehru visited there and was met by hostile crowds during his tour. The Governor had to take over under Section 93. In a new election the Muslim League also won a majority in Sind.

In the Interim Government the Muslim Liaquat Ali Khan had been made the finance minister, and he could block spending by any other department. On February 28 Liaquat Ali presented a budget to the Central Assembly for the fiscal year that would begin in April.  He said that the current taxes would leave a deficit of Rs. 485 million on the military expenditure of Rs. 1,887 million and the Rs. 1,392 million spent on civil administration. He also proposed abolishing the salt tax and raising the minimum exemption on income tax from Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 2,500. To balance the budget he made the following proposals: a special income tax of 25% on business profits over Rs. 100,000 would yield an estimated Rs. 300 million; a graduated tax on capital gains over Rs. 5,000 would bring in Rs. 35 million; doubling the corporate tax would raise Rs. 40 million; lowering the point for the maximum supertax rate would yield Rs. 25 million; and doubling the export duty on tea would raise Rs. 40 million. Abul Kalam Azad said that Congress policy favored removing economic inequalities, and the cabinet unanimously approved the new budget. The Congress party had been financed by Hindu capitalists who had greatly benefited from the boycott on foreign goods, and Patel and Rajagopalachari vehemently objected to the new budget. Liaquat Ali agreed to some amendments, and the Assembly approved the budget on March 25. However, the conflicts between the League and the Congress convinced Patel and other Congress members that creating Pakistan was the only way to avoid chaos.

Viscount Louis Mountbatten succeeded Wavell as viceroy on March 23, 1947. In a last-ditch effort to salvage Indian unity, on April 1 Gandhi proposed that Jinnah and his Muslim League control the new government; but this was rejected by Congress leaders as impractical. Two weeks later Mountbatten and Gandhi did get Jinnah to sign with them the following statement:

We denounce for all time
the use of force to achieve political ends,
and we call upon all the communities of India,
to whatever persuasion they may belong,
not only to refrain from all acts of violence and disorder,
but also to avoid both in speech and writing, any word
which might be construed as an incitement of such acts.12

Gandhi prayed for unity and tolerance, and he even read from the Qur’an at his prayer meetings in the most troubled areas. Hindus attacked him because they thought he was partial to Muslims; but Muslims demanded he let them have Pakistan.

Viceroy Mountbatten developed a plan for partition, and after persuading the Congress leaders he presented it to the governors on April 15. Congress leaders insisted that non-Muslim areas in the Punjab and Bengal must be allowed to remain in India, but Jinnah naturally opposed that. How the problems of mixed areas would be solved was rarely even discussed, and only Jinnah suggested that population could be exchanged. The Muslim leaders demanded that the Congress ministry in the NWFP resign, and trains were attacked. Mountbatten did little to quell the communal violence, but on May 2 he sent a tentative plan to London. The Cabinet approved with modifications, and Mountbatten showed it to Nehru on May 10. He vehemently refused to accept it because it would allow provinces and the princely states to secede and thus would “Balkanize” India. V. P. Menon gave the Viceroy a plan in which the partition would be into only two states with dominion status. The non-Muslim areas in the Punjab and Bengal could vote to be excluded from Pakistan. The 1941 census would be used to determine the Muslim-majority districts. Mountbatten met with Congress leaders Nehru and Patel, League leaders Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan, and with Baldev Singh of the Sikhs, and they all approved. The Viceroy went to London on May 18, and the Cabinet approved the new plan.

Mountbatten returned to India and met with leaders again on June 2, 1947. The next day Attlee announced what became known as the June 3rd Plan. That day All-India Radio also broadcast speeches by Mountbatten, Nehru, Jinnah, and Baldev Singh, and they all urged their followers to accept the plan peacefully. The next day at a press conference Mountbatten moved up the transfer of power to August 15. The Muslim League abandoned their mass movements and accepted the plan on June 10, and the All-India Congress Committee did so on June 15. Communal violence in Gurgaon near Delhi lasted until late June and took about a thousand lives. Violence also continued in Lahore and Amritsar, and the politicians in Delhi called for martial law. Nehru publicly criticized the British officers. This outburst discouraged some officers from staying on in India, though many continued to serve in Pakistan. A Boundary Force of 50,000 was authorized for the new border in the Punjab, and the governments of both India and Pakistan announced that violence would not be tolerated in either territory.

In divided provinces if either side voted to partition the province, that was to be determinative. On June 20 legislators in western Bengal voted 58-21 to partition the province and remain in India. In the Punjab the joint session voted 91-77 for Pakistan, but those in eastern Punjab voted 50-22 to stay in India. On June 26 the Sind Assembly decided 33-20 to be in Pakistan. In the mostly Muslim Sylhet 239,600 people voted to leave Assam and join East Bengal in Pakistan while 184,000 cast their ballots to stay in India. Baluchistan also decided to join Pakistan. On June 19 Gandhi had asked the Congress and the Muslim League to let the Pathans in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) establish their own constitution before deciding to join Pakistan or India. On June 24 Abdul Ghaffar Khan made a plea for a free Pathanistan, and the next day he announced that his Red Shirts would boycott the referendum. In the polling on July 6 out of three million people in the NWFP 289,200 voted for Pakistan while 2,800 voted the other way.

Patel announced on July 5 that the new government of India would ask princely states to accede only on defense, foreign affairs, and communications while respecting their autonomy on all other issues. Jinnah announced the same policy for the few states in Pakistan. The House of Commons passed the Indian Independence Bill on July 15, and King George VI approved it three days later. On July 25 Mountbatten persuaded almost all the states to sign accession agreements, but Hyderabad and Kashmir remained significant exceptions. India asked Mountbatten to be their governor-general, and Jinnah was determined to be governor-general of Pakistan. The provisional government of Pakistan began moving from Delhi to its new capital at Karachi on August 1.

Two Boundary Commissions for the Punjab and Bengal each included two judges appointed by the Congress and two by the League. They could not agree, and their chairman Cyril Radcliffe was authorized to draw the lines that partitioned the Punjab, Bengal, and Assam. West Bengal still had 16% Muslims while East Bengal had 42% non-Muslims. East Punjab had 38% of the area and 45% of the population but three out of five rivers. Sikhs resented losing Lahore and the canal colonies to West Punjab, and the Muslims complained that the Mandi hydro-electric plant went to East Punjab.

The United Nations agreed with Congress that India should continue its international personality. Gandhi went to Calcutta on August 9 to help preserve harmony, and Mountbatten, who had 55,000 soldiers unable to stop the rioting in the Punjab, called him a “one man boundary force.” The Constituent Assembly of Pakistan met on August 11 and elected Jinnah president. On August 14 Mountbatten rode in an open car with Jinnah through the streets of Karachi. On August 15, 1947 Pakistan and India officially became dominions in the British commonwealth. Nehru, who led the cabinet of India and had spent nine years in prison during the nonviolent struggle for freedom, at midnight spoke the following words:

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny,
and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge,
not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially.
At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps,
India will awake to life and freedom.
A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history,
when we step out from the old to the new,
when an age ends and when the soul of a nation
long suppressed finds utterance.
It is fitting that at this solemn moment
we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India
and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity....
We end today a period of ill fortune,
and India discovers herself again....
Freedom and power bring responsibility.
That responsibility rests upon this Assembly,
a sovereign body representing the sovereign people of India.13

Rajendra Prasad was elected president of the Assembly. Prasad noted their own sufferings and sacrifices but also recognized “the historic tradition and democratic ideals of the British race.” Lord and Lady Mountbatten were cheered by enormous crowds in Delhi, and a new era of good will between England and India began.

India and Pakistan 1947-50

The new border that separated India from Pakistan in the Punjab divided the Sikh population of four million in half. Nehru refused to let the British soldiers participate in the Boundary Force, and by August 15, 1947 less than 10,000 troops were in place in the Punjab. In the largest movement of people in world history about ten million Punjabis migrated in 1947. Muslims left East Punjab to go to Pakistan, and the Hindus and Sikhs departed from West Punjab to move to India. Indian intelligence estimated that at least 198,000 people were killed and that 100,000 were forcibly converted to Islam. However, Governor Francis Mudie of West Punjab estimated that half a million Muslims were killed, and the British High Commissioner in Karachi said the total was 800,000. As a result of the disruptions over the partition of India and Pakistan a total of fourteen million people lost their homes. Mountbatten and Jinnah met with the Joint Defense Council on August 29, and they abolished the Punjab Boundary Force. The soldiers went to their regiments in India and Pakistan, and these two dominions were to be responsible for law and order in their own territories. Pakistan formed the Ministry of Refugees and Rehabilitation at the beginning of September. British troops began withdrawing from India on August 17, and the last regiment left on February 18, 1948. The Indian Army was divided by religion with 270,000 soldiers going to India and 140,000 to Pakistan.

On August 15, 1947 Gandhi had fasted and prayed in a Muslim area of Calcutta instead of going to the ceremonies at Delhi. On the first of September he fasted again, and he only broke it three days later after municipal officials assured him that there had been no violence for 24 hours. While he was recovering from this fast, riots broke out in Delhi on September 7. In four days about two thousand people were killed. Gandhi went to Delhi to stop the pogroms against Muslims. When he was asked for a message, he wrote simply, “My life is my message.” Meanwhile a caravan of 800,000 people was moving from West Punjab to India.

The small state of Junagadh had announced its accession to Pakistan on August 15, 1947; but it is not contiguous with Pakistan, and the tiny states inside Junagadh had already acceded to India and asked for protection. India took over the administration of Junagadh on November 9, and in the plebiscite on February 20, 1948 out of 190,870 votes only 91 favored joining Pakistan rather than India.

In 1947 the Indian National Trade Union Congress was founded on Gandhian principles, and they represented 577 unions. Women began to be appointed to important positions. Sarojini Naidu became governor of the United Provinces. Vijayalakshmi Pandit was ambassador to Moscow and Washington.

Most of the people in Jammu and Kashmir were Muslims; but the Sikh conqueror Ranjit Singh had annexed it in 1819, and from 1846 it had been ruled by Hindu kings from the Dogra tribe. Their laws respected Hindu religion, and Muslims suffered discrimination. Maharaja Hari Singh began ruling in 1925, and he kept his capital at Jammu without going north to the summer center at Srinagar. In 1931 the school-teacher Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah began asking for more state services for Muslims. In April 1932 the Glancy Commission reported that real grievances needed redress. A new constitution enabled Hindus and Muslims to be elected to the legislature, but the Maharaja still held autocratic power. In his presidential address to the Muslim Conference on March 26, 1938 Sheikh Abdullah called for an end to communalism, hoping that all the communities would fight for freedom. They endorsed the political struggle in June 1939 and changed their name to the National Conference.

Ghulam Abbas revived the Muslim Conference in 1941 with the support of the religious leader Yusuf Shah. Jinnah visited Kashmir for two months in the summer of 1944, and the Congress party held a conference a year later with Nehru, Azad, and Abdul Ghaffar Khan attending. The Maharaja refused to give up power and arrested the leaders of the National Conference. In 1946 Sheikh Abdullah demanded the abrogation of the 1846 Treaty of Amritsar that had established the Dogra dynasty, but the Congress party policy was not to displace Indian princes but to allow them to head constitutional democracies. The Muslim Conference did not support the Quit Kashmir campaign of the National Conference; but when they defied a ban on holding a conference in Srinagar, the Maharaja had their leaders arrested on October 25. The Government called an election for January 1947, and the National Conference with its leaders in jail boycotted the election. Only 182,000 voted out of the 707,400 who were eligible. The Muslim Conference participated and won 16 of the 21 Muslim seats. Congress party president Acharya Kripalani visited Kashmir in May. He pleaded for the release of Sheikh Abdullah and warned the Maharaja that he would have trouble if he did not join the Indian Union. Abdullah and most of the National leaders remained in jail until late September after India’s Independence.

Pakistani leaders complained that Gurdaspur, which had the only road connecting India to Kashmir, had been awarded to East Punjab, and they believed that the Border Commission chairman Radcliffe was unfairly influenced by the Indians through Mountbatten. Sikhs were also upset that they lost some of their shrines to Pakistan. Sikhs and Hindus fled from West Punjab to the Kashmir Valley, and Muslims refugees went from East Punjab to Jammu. Maharaja Hari Singh signed standstill agreements with Pakistan and India, and a minister visited Delhi. The usual methods of repression by the Maharaja of Kashmir could not control the communal violence, and Muslim peasants in Poonch began a revolt. Then armed raiders from Pakistan crossed the border near Jammu, attacked villages, and stole cattle. Patel persuaded the Maharaja to release Sheikh Abdullah, and on October 3 Abdullah urged Kashmir to join India. He considered Nehru his best friend, and he revered Gandhi. Meanwhile the Muslims formed the Azad Kashmir government with the local barrister Muhammad Ibrahim as president.

Mehr Chand Mahajan replaced General Janak Singh as prime minister of Kashmir on October 15, and on that day he held a press conference and sent a telegram to Pakistan protesting the raids. One week later about five thousand tribesmen in British trucks and jeeps from the Pakistan army sacked Muzaffarabad and began pillaging and raping inside Kashmir. The Maharaja’s army of 8,000 was defeated and fled. British officers in Pakistan informed their British counterparts in India of the raids. The deputy prime minister of Kashmir went to Delhi, and on October 25 he asked the Indian Defense Committee for help. That day the Pakistan army notified New Delhi that “tribal volunteers” had entered Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah went to Nehru’s house and also asked for aid. V. P. Menon flew to Jammu and persuaded the Maharaja to sign a letter of conditional accession to India; a plebiscite was to be held when conditions returned to normal. Kashmir Prime Minister Mahajan returned with Menon to New Delhi and met with Nehru and Patel. Menon later wrote that Kashmir had signed the accession papers before India sent troops, but Mahajan’s report contradicted this. Nehru telegraphed Liaquat Ali Khan on October 26 that India was sending troops to Kashmir.

Governor-General Mountbatten wrote a letter to accept Kashmir’s accession. More than a hundred planes carried troops and supplies from India, and 329 soldiers arrived on October 27 just in time to save Srinagar. By the end of October they had been joined by three battalions, and the raiders retreated. Jinnah ordered General Gracey to move Pakistani troops into Kashmir, but he refused to do so without the approval of Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck, who flew to Lahore on October 28 and persuaded Jinnah to withdraw his invasion order. The next day Nehru and Patel refused to go to Lahore, and Mountbatten went only with his chief of staff Ismay and met with Liaquat and Jinnah. Meanwhile Gandhi was telling his prayer meetings that the kings and maharajas of the Indian states had been puppets of British imperialism, but now the people had become the real rulers.

In a broadcast on November 2 Nehru asked how the tribesmen crossing the frontier had been “armed so effectively,” but Pakistani prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan condemned the “illegal ownership” of Kashmir by the infamous Amritsar Treaty. Sheikh Abdullah inspired the popular resistance to the raiders, and by November 8 they had taken Baramulla. Pakistan refused to withdraw its forces and suggested the United Nations. Patel decided to stop honoring India’s financial commitments to Pakistan until they stopped supporting the raiders. On December 22 the Indian cabinet demanded that Pakistan stop aiding the raiders and warned that they would appeal to the UN Security Council. By the end of 1947 the Indian army had cleared the invaders out of the Kashmir Valley. India’s appeal to the UN on the first day of 1948 mentioned that their forces were opposed by 34,000 raiders. At a press conference the next day Nehru asked Pakistan to withdraw their personnel from Kashmir. Pakistan replied on January 15, accusing India of genocide against Muslims in East Punjab. Two days later the UN Security Council adopted a resolution establishing the UN Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP). India wanted the Security Council to recognize Pakistani aggression in Kashmir; but Pakistan believed the accession was not legally valid, and they would not withdraw unless India did so too.

Gandhi was criticized for approving India’s action in Kashmir; but he believed it was justified because not to stand one’s ground to defend oneself against an aggressor would be cowardice. Although he may not help one retaliate, Gandhi believed that he must not let a coward find shelter behind the guise of nonviolence. However, he advised that India should transfer the money due to Pakistan. Gandhi began a fast on January 13, 1948 and said he would continue until people stopped killing each other or he died. On the third day Patel and the Indian cabinet gave in and agreed to pay the £40 million from India’s assets that they had withheld from Pakistan because of Kashmir. Hindu refugees outside the gate chanted “Let Gandhi die,” and the visiting Nehru angrily challenged them to kill him first, causing them to disperse. Azad learned from the physically weakened Gandhi his demands that Muslims be allowed to move freely, live where they want with no economic boycott, and that 117 mosques should be returned to them. Gandhi’s kidneys were not functioning well. A Congress committee got 130 leaders that included Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, and others to sign a peace agreement, and 200,000 people took a written pledge to protect Muslims. So on January 18 he ended his fast. Although this religious hatred saddened Gandhi, India had gained independence, accomplishing the greatest nonviolent revolution in the history of the world.

Gandhi held open prayer meetings in Delhi for all faiths, and anyone could attend. A small conspiracy of Hindus in the extremist Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSSS) plotted to assassinate him, but their first attempt with a bomb on January 20 failed. Nehru and Patel urged Gandhi to accept police protection, but he refused, saying that he trusted God and would not submit to anger or fear. Police learned the names of those who would carry out the assassination, but they were unable to stop them. On January 30 at a prayer meeting Nathuram Godse shot Gandhi three times at close range; with his last breath the Mahatma chanted the name of God. More than a million people attended his funeral. Because the assassin was a Maharashtrian Brahmin, assaults in Maharashtra were made against the Brahmin and Bania communities; but most of the communal violence stopped. After a trial the assassin Nathuram Godse and one accomplice were hanged, and five other conspirators were sentenced to life imprisonment. The RSSS and other organizations of communal violence were banned.

The Eastern States merged into the provinces of Orissa and the Central Provinces. In March and April 1948 many of the smaller states were integrated into Mataya, Kathiawar, Rajasthan, and Vindhya Pradesh. In May, the Madhya States Union was formed from Gwalior, Indore, and Malwa. The Patiala and East Punjab States Union began in July. Junagadh and some adjoining states joined Kathiawar on the last day of 1948. The Greater Rajasthan Union was inaugurated as the largest union of states with 13 million people in March 1949. Baroda merged into Bombay in May, and Bhopal, Cooch Behar, Tripura, and Manipur joined the Central administration. By November all the states had become integrated except for Hyderabad and Kashmir. A total of 554 states were dissolved and integrated into the Union of India.

Hyderabad had a population of 16 million, who were mostly Hindu, but since the Mughal reign of Aurangzeb they had been ruled by the Nizam and elite Muslims. The seventh Nizam, Mir Usman Ali Khan, wanted to remain independent. When India withheld Pakistan’s Rs. 550 million share of the treasury in September 1947, the Nizam approved a Rs. 200 million loan to Pakistan. Hyderabad made a standstill agreement with the Indian Union in November to maintain its status quo before independence. The Nizam’s private force of Razakars were led by Kasim Razvi, and they caused border incidents with Madras, the Central Provinces, and Bombay. The Government of India demanded that the Nizam disband them, but he refused and appealed to the United Nations. Two days after a final letter of warning on September 11, 1948, Indian troops entered Hyderabad. Major-General El Edroos surrendered Hyderabad to Major-General J. N. Chaudhury of the Indian Army on September 18. Kasim Razvi was arrested, and the Nizam withdrew his case from the UN Security Council. Chaudhury became the military governor, and Hyderabad acceded to the Indian Union on January 26, 1950.

The Kashmir Maharaja appointed Sheikh Abdullah prime minister in March 1948. He was a socialist and proposed radical land reform without compensating land-owners. Pakistan’s military leaders allowed soldiers to desert their army in order to raid in Kashmir, and in April their British commander-in-chief approved their sending in troops for “self-defense.” India also launched an offensive in the spring, and neither side was able to advance much. On April 21 the UN Security Council resolved to send five commissioners to oversee the withdrawal by Pakistani and Indian troops. A Plebiscite Administration was to be set up to supervise the police. However, both Pakistan and India refused to accept the resolution. Mountbatten left India in June 1948, and Rajagopalachari became the first Indian governor-general.

Mediation efforts in Kashmir failed, and the UNCIP commission did not arrive in Kashmir until July. UNCIP learned on the first day that Pakistan had sent in regular troops, but they did not inform the Security Council nor India until much later. The Commission told Pakistan that they had violated international law. Sheikh Abdullah agreed with Nehru that the best solution was to partition Kashmir, but Pakistan rejected this. On August 13 the UN Security Council proposed a cease fire. India agreed with minor modifications, but Pakistan demanded conditions that the Commission would not accept. On October 12 delegates of Kashmir passed a National Conference resolution recommending permanent accession to India. At the very end of 1948 a cease-fire agreement was signed, and US Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was appointed UN Administrator for the plebiscite.

The Maharaja passed on restricted power to his son Karan Singh when he left Kashmir for health reasons in June 1949. UNCIP invited the two governments to meet at Karachi in July, and the cease-fire line was established. The Commission proposed an arbitrator, and Pakistan accepted; but India refused, fearing they would be at a military disadvantage if Pakistan invaded again with Azad Kashmir forces. On December 17 the UN Security Council appointed the Canadian General McNaughton to mediate, but India’s B. N. Rau argued that Pakistan made the plebiscite problematic by sending troops into Kashmir, occupying the northern areas, and building up the Azad forces. Pakistan’s representative Zafrulla Khan pointed out that Muslims made up 77% of Kashmir. The UN Security Council appointed the Australian Owen Dixon the next mediator on April 12, 1950, but he concluded that only bilateral talks between India and Pakistan could solve the problem of Kashmir.

In January 1948 a food shortage caused the refugee camps in West Punjab to become more permanent, and in April the camps had 750,000 people. Jinnah made a broadcast to the United States in February and said that Pakistan would not be a theocratic state but would have a democratic constitution with equal rights for all religions. On February 28 Pakistan’s finance minister Ghulam Muhammad presented an annual budget to the Karachi assembly calling for £27.8 million in military spending out of total expenditures of £39.4 million. A deficit of £25.1 million was expected. India also allocated more than half its budget for defense and projected a deficit of £20 million. In March the governments of India and Pakistan declared each other foreign nations in regard to customs and excise duty. Governor-General Jinnah only visited East Pakistan once, and he made his last major public address at Dacca on March 21 in English. His audience spoke Bengali, but he announced that Pakistan’s official language would be “Urdu and no other language.” East Pakistan was much smaller in area than West Pakistan, but it had a larger population. It would become Bangladesh in 1971.

On March 7, 1949 the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan adopted the Objectives Resolution that called for a constitution that would allow the state to exercise its power through the people’s chosen representatives with principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance, and social justice in accord with the teachings of Islam with provisions to protect minorities and depressed classes by guaranteeing equal rights with freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship, and association, with the independence of the judiciary secured, and the rights of the Federation’s territories safeguarded.

The canals in the divided Punjab were a source of dispute. When Pakistan did not renew the agreement, on April 1 the East Punjab Government cut off the water supply from the canals going into Pakistan from the Ravi and Sutlej rivers. Pakistan made another agreement on May 4; but later they complained that they had accepted it under duress. India believed that Pakistan had enough water from their rivers, and at the Inter-Dominion Conference in August 1949 they pressed for a joint survey of the water resources of the Indus rivers. India followed the British government in devaluing the pound sterling by 30% in September, but Pakistan declined to do so. So the Indian Government refused to recognize the Pakistani rupee, and trade between the two countries stopped for seven months.

In the first three months of 1950 a half million refugees went from East Pakistan to India. The prime ministers Nehru and Liaquat Ali Khan met, and on April 8 they made a general agreement on minorities and trade-related issues. The problem of evacuee property had not been solved yet because Hindu refugees had left behind property worth 14 billion rupees, while Muslims had left property valued at only 2 billion rupees in India. The Pakistan Ministry of Refugees calculated that West Pakistan had 7,900,000 Muslim refugees. An agreement was made at the fifth Inter-Dominion Conference at Karachi in January 1949, but the next month Pakistan ordered rent slashed on urban evacuee property by up to 80%. The Indian Government considered this a subtle way of undermining the agreement, and Pakistan accused India of not implementing the agreement. By the end of 1950 they still could not agree. That year 600,000 more refugees entered Pakistan from India.

India adopted a new constitution on November 26, 1949, and it came into force on January 26, 1950. The Constitution established a democratic republic to secure justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity and to guarantee all citizens equality before the law and freedom of speech, expression, assembly, conscience, and worship regardless of religion, race, caste, sex, and place of birth. English would continue to be the official language for fifteen years, but thereafter the official language would be Hindi. A president and vice president are elected for five-year terms. The Council of States is elected by the legislators in each state, but voters elect the House of the People directly. Governors of the states are appointed by the President for five-year terms, and the chief ministers in each state are appointed by the governors. The Supreme Court has jurisdiction over disputes between states and hears appeals from any High Court in a state.

The first elections were conducted without major difficulties, and the Congress party was victorious. On January 24, 1950 Rajendra Prasad was elected the first President of India. Socialists had left the Congress party and formed their own party in March 1948. Their policy statement in October 1949 explained that they stood for democratic socialism and individual rights while they rejected totalitarian Communism. After the conservative Deputy Prime Minister Patel died in December 1950, Nehru’s influence became even greater.

In a speech on foreign policy on December 4, 1947 Nehru affirmed that India stands for peace as well as freedom from imperialistic control. He began the policy that led the non-aligned movement when he stated that they avoid foreign entanglements by not joining either power bloc of the US or the USSR. He wrote in his 1949 book Independence and After that India’s long history is significant. Although India had little military power he argued that India could have much influence because of the “world situation in which force as a factor in international affairs will be reduced to the absolute minimum.”14 On January 18, 1950 Prime Minister Nehru wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of Pakistan proposing a joint declaration by their governments “for the avoidance of war,” but the Government of Pakistan rejected his terms as “too vague.”

Tibet and Nepal 1941-50

Tibet, Nepal, and Ceylon 1800-1941

In World War II the Tibetans decided to remain neutral and prayed for peace. Chiang Kai-shek wanted to build a road across the southeast corner of Tibet to Assam. The British offered to help their ally, but Tibet sent troops to stop the project. In 1942 some Chinese invaded Tibetan territory from Jinghai. The Regent and the Kashag over-ruled the Tsongdu and decided to allow non-military supplies to pass through Tibet. In April 1943 Chiang Kai-shek ordered Chinese troops from Jinghai, Yunnan, and Sigang sent to the border. In November the British sold Tibet five million rounds of rifle ammunition and a thousand shells for their mountain guns but no machine-gun bullets. Over the years Tibetans borrowed money to buy grain, and in 1944 many stopped paying the interest arrears. A district officer defended their refusal and was beaten to death by collectors of the Sera Che and Ngaga colleges. The monks refused to turn over the killers, and the Government had to use force to arrest them.

In 1942 the United States Office of Strategic Services (OSS) sent Captain Ilia Tolstoy and Lt. Brooke Dolan to Tibet with a letter from President Roosevelt and gifts that later included wireless transmitters. The young Dalai Lama wrote back that the Tibetans also valued freedom of thought, religion, and action and that they were praying for a termination of hostilities. When a US military plane crashed in Tibet in 1944, the Tibetans helped the crew make it to the Indian border. That summer Chiang Kai-shek’s advisor Shen Zonglian went to Lhasa to negotiate and was met there by Basil Gould. Shen persuaded the Tibetans to send an official delegation to China, and Hugh Richardson of the British mission warned them not to act as delegates to the Chinese National Assembly. The Assembly was postponed, and the Tibetans were kept in China for several months. Finally they were instructed to demand the return of Tibetan territory and return home. They made a public demonstration of not signing the resolutions of the Chinese National Assembly.

A second attempt at an English school in Lhasa was started in 1945; but once again monks complained that it endangered their religion, and it was closed. So the Government sent students to India with scholarships. Two German prisoners of war escaped from India and were given refuge in neutral Tibet, where they spent seven years and helped build a canal. In April 1945 Chiang Kai-shek sent Tibet arms and ammunition as a gift, saying he would  continue to supply them with weapons free of cost. In March 1947 Tibetan representatives attended the Asian Relations Conference in India under the Tibetan flag.

In 1947 a hand grenade in a package sent to Regent Taktra Rimpoche exploded. On April 14 and 15 the ex-regent Rating and some of his officials were arrested. The next day the suspected maker of the bomb committed suicide, and monks from the Che College of the Sera monastery, who supported Regent Rimpoche, murdered their abbot after his attempt to restrain their rebellious talk and military preparations. On April 20 the Tibetan army fired rounds from mountain guns against the Che College, and the monks fired back with rifles. Rating denied the charges he was trying to return to power, but flogging persuaded Kartho Rimpoche to reveal the conspiracy that was confirmed by Rating’s secretary. Rating had written a letter to Chiang Kai-shek about Regent Takra’s unjust rule and asked the Chinese to drop leaflets from airplanes, but they declined to do so. The Tibetan army attacked the Che College again on April 27 and took it over, killing about two hundred monks while 15 soldiers died. The ex-regent Rating was murdered in prison on May 8. Two of his secretaries and about thirty monks were punished by imprisonment. Ten candidates to be the next Panchen Lama had been gathered by the Chinese, who broke Tibetan tradition by selecting the next Panchen Lama in 1944. The Government of Tibet did not recognize their selection.

On August 15, 1947 the new government of India took over the treaty obligations the British had made with Tibet and replaced their missions. Tibet asked for the return of territories from Assam to Ladakh. When China invited Tibetan delegates to the National Assembly in 1949, Tibet sent a trade mission with official passports to India, the United Kingdom, and the United States as well as to China. In July 1949 the Tibetan Government asked Chinese officials to leave Lhasa and Chinese traders to leave Tibet. They were politely escorted out of Lhasa with musical honors. Radio reporter Lowell Thomas was allowed to visit Tibet and provided publicity.

Tibet affirmed its independence and tried to make military preparations to meet the threat of the Chinese Communists. India’s Prime Minister Nehru referred to Chinese suzerainty over Tibet, but the Tibetans reminded him that the Simla agreement insisted that Tibet remain autonomous. The Indian Government recognized Communist China in January 1950. In the spring Ma Bufang was driven out of Jinghai by the  Communists and asked permission to withdraw through Tibet. The Tibetan Government sent ambassadors to India, Nepal, the United Kingdom, and the United States to ask for help. On August 15 a major earthquake devastated eastern Tibet, killing many. On October 7, 1950 Chinese troops invaded eastern Tibet using Khampa irregulars. The Tibetans were quickly overwhelmed, and many surrendered. At the same time a small Chinese force crossed into northwest Tibet that had not been invaded since 1716. On October 25 Communist China proclaimed that they were liberating three million Tibetans from imperialist oppression and consolidating the western borders of China. The next day India sent a protest and warned China that this could block their admission into the United Nations. Beijing replied that Tibet is part of China and that no foreign intervention was required.

On November 11, 1950 the Government of Tibet appealed to the United Nations for help against Chinese aggression. Six days later the Tsongdu recognized the Dalai Lama as the ruler, and Regent Taktra resigned. El  Salvador moved that the United Nations condemn China’s invasion; but when India suggested that the issue could be settled peacefully without the United Nations, the United Kingdom and the United States went along with that. Yet a few days later in New Delhi the Indian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, said,

To use the sword against
the traditionally peace-loving Tibetan people was unjustified.
No other country in the world is as peace-loving as Tibet.
The Chinese government did not follow India's advice
to settle the Tibetan issue peacefully.15

On December 11 Tibet sent a telegram asking the United Nations for a fact-finding commission, but they received no answer. The sixteen-year-old Dalai Lama and some leading officials left Lhasa for the Chumbi Valley.

When the Congress Party announced civil disobedience for its Quit India campaign in August 1942, Bhim called them hooligans. He affirmed his policy of seclusion, but he complained that the Government of India was not taking measures to keep the road or railway open from India to Nepal. The people and Government of Nepal objected to British planes flying over the sacred Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, and the British avoided doing so while using airfields outside the city. The Japanese also vainly tried to get the Nepalese to overthrow the British in India.

Maharaja Juddha Shamsher retired to sacred Hardwar in India and was succeeded by his brother Padma Shamsher in January 1946. Gurkhas were used to quell communal riots between Hindus and Muslims in India because of their neutrality, but during the riots from November 1945 to February 1946 some Hindus were angered by the neutrality and killed a few Gurkhas. When the Gurkhas took the side of the Hindus in August 1946, they were attacked and killed by Muslims.

Ceylon's Independence 1941-50

Tibet, Nepal, and Ceylon 1800-1941

The Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) was declared illegal in March 1942. The Japanese Navy bombed Colombo on April 5, 1942, and the LSSP leaders escaped. On the night of May 8 a few gunners in the Ceylon Garrison Artillery mutinied on Horsburgh Island. Order was quickly restored, and three mutineers were executed.

By 1939, 78% of the civil service were Sri Lankans, and in 1943 examinations were held only in Ceylon. The Ceylon National Congress broadened its support in the early 1940s by holding its annual December conferences in rural areas. The Times of Ceylon admitted they had gained “mass appeal,” and the Young Lanka editorialized that they were “evolving a national consciousness.” When D. B. Jayatilaka retired in 1942 to become Ceylon’s ambassador to India at New Delhi, Don Stephen Senanayake became the leader of the Congress; but he was more conservative than the other leaders who demanded independence rather than dominion status. When the Communists joined the Congress in 1943, he resigned to cooperate with British authorities for constitutional concessions. Senanayake saw Sri Lanka as a multi-racial democracy and wanted to keep the state and religion separate. He persuaded Governor Caldecott and commander-in-chief Geoffrey Layton to advocate constitutional advancement for Sri Lanka. On March 26, 1943 the Colonial Office promised to grant Sri Lanka full responsibility for government under the Crown after the war.

The Soulbury Commission drafted a new constitution, and the Crown reserved the right to veto legislation that discriminated against religious and communal minorities; it held constituent powers and still controlled defense and external affairs. Louis Mountbatten was the Supreme Allied Commander for Southeast Asia, and his headquarters were in Ceylon. He approved Senanayake’s request for a constitution commission in 1944, though Senanayake and the Board of Ministers ended up boycotting its public hearings for widening its scope. Senanayake spent the summer of 1945 in London urging dominion status.

In November 1945 the State Council voted 51-3 to accept the constitution, which gave most executive power to a prime minister. The mostly elected lower house was to be supreme, and minority interests were protected. In 1946 the United National Party (UNP) was founded with Senanayake as its leader. They were joined by Bandaranaike’s Sinhala Maha Sabha, the Christians, and the Muslims. When Senanayake learned of Indian independence in 1947, he insisted on no less than dominion status; the British announced this on June 18. The British maintained defense ties and use of airfields and the Trincomalee harbor. Left-wing parties organized a strike and made substantial gains in the elections of 1947. Sri Lanka became an independent nation on February 4, 1948. Unlike the violence in India and Burma, the transition to the new government of Sri Lanka was peaceful. The Tamil leader G. G. Ponnambalam was given a position in the cabinet. The Tamil Congress maintained its identity but joined the coalition in 1948. Only the immigrant Indians were left out. In 1948 and 1949 the UNP passed three new laws that reduced political participation by Indian Tamils. Two Trotskyist groups merged in 1950. Dr. N. M Perera of the LSSP became leader of the opposition, but the Communists did not support him. Doubts about Sri Lanka’s actual independence caused the Soviet Union to deny it admission into the United Nations until 1955.

In the first half of the twentieth century the population of Ceylon increased faster than the area of non-export crops. Thus by 1950 food and drink were 47% of imports. In 1942 the Government set the price of rice above the market rate to encourage production, and this was continued after the war. In 1943 some food prices were frozen, and others were subsidized. The Government took over the importing and distribution of rice, wheat, and sugar. In 1948 the State began providing a mid-day meal for needy children in schools and milk for children between two and five years of age. Tea, rubber, and coconut went from 75% of exports in 1901 to about 90% in 1948; tea exports were 61%. The state got 58% of its revenues from import and export duties. Malaria was controlled in 1948 by spraying DDT, and health expenditures rose fourfold from 1931 to 1947.

Because of its strategic importance during the Japanese  occupation of much of Southeast Asia, the economy of Ceylon prospered from the military expenditures which reached 435 million rupees in 1944. Japan controlled the rubber from Malaya and the Dutch East Indies; so Ceylon’s rubber was essential for the Allied war effort, and its price was fixed by the British. The prosperous economy enabled the Government to provide more welfare services in education, health, and other needs with these expenditures reaching 56% of the budget in 1947.

Education minister C. W. W. Kannangara worked for controversial reforms in the Education Ordinance of 1939. By 1947 more than a million children were attending school, and literacy had risen from 26% in 1901 to 58% in 1946. Female literacy had gone from 8.5% to 44%. State expenditures on education went from 7% in 1925 to 19% in 1947.  Complaints that only the wealthy could pay the tuition for English schools led to the abolishing of all fees for state-aided schools in 1945. This enabled the number of students in English schools to increase by 71,000 in three years. In 1942 the University of Ceylon was established with faculties in Arts, Science, Medicine, and Oriental Studies. Its enrollment the first year was 904, and this went up to 1,554 students in 1947. Its tuition was also made free in 1945. That year the State Council decided to eventually replace English with the Sinhalese and Tamil languages in administration and law courts.

Burma Invaded and Liberated 1942-50

Burma, Malaya, and the British 1800-1941

Thakin Aung San agreed to collaborate with the Japanese, and in a short visit to Burma in 1941 he recruited Thakins Mya, Ba Swe, and Kyaw Nyein into the pro-Japanese People’s Revolutionary Party. Thakins Tun Oke and Ba Sein were already in Japan. Thirty comrades trained on Hainan Island and became the nucleus of the Burma Independence Army (BIA) that met at Bangkok in late 1941. Japan promised to liberate 130 million people from European colonialism.

Governor Reginald Dorman-Smith put off Burma’s November 1941 elections for a year and arranged for Premier U Saw to fly to London with his secretary U Tin Tut. They met with several British leaders and realized that Churchill was not going to live up to the promise of the Atlantic Charter during the war. After visiting the United States they returned to Europe, but in Lisbon they were detected meeting with Japanese officials. British police arrested them in Egypt on January 19, 1942, and U Saw was kept a prisoner in British Uganda until 1946. The Anglophile Paw Tun became the premier of Burma.

Japan invaded Burma in late December 1941 through the Myawaddy Pass; they took Tenasserim and defeated the British at Moulmein. Many towns were destroyed by Japanese air raids. The British tried to stop the Japanese army from crossing the Sittang River in February 1942 and lost much equipment. Many of the 400,000 Indians fleeing Burma by land died on the way back to India. After the Japanese air force defeated the Allied air force and the Americans in the Flying Tiger Corps, the British retreated, destroying oil wells, mining equipment, and river transportation. In the north the Japanese overcame Chinese defenders and invaded the Shan plateau. The Japanese kept the Burmans out of the Shan states. The BIA followed the Japanese army into Burma but was rather undisciplined. The Japanese used the Burmans mostly as guides and interpreters; but the numbers of the BIA swelled to 30,000 as the Thakin leaders recruited young men. Col. Suzuki commanded the BIA, and on March 7 he installed Thakin Tun Oke as administrator of the Burma Baho Government. The BIA plundered and looted so much that on June 4 the Japanese commander, General Iida, banned the BIA from participating in the government. Burmans began executing Karen hostages daily on May 26, and this civil war went on until the Japanese stopped it in mid-June. The BIA was demobilized on July 24 except for a few officers led by Thakins Aung San and Boh Let Ya. They cooperated with the Japanese in the new Burma Defense Army (BDA), which carefully screened 4,000 recruits in August.

General Iida asked Dr. Ba Maw to head a new government to restore order, and political leaders met at Mandalay on May 21. They were promised independence in a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere if they supported the Japanese war. Ba Maw selected Bandoola U Sein and Dr. Thein Maung to publicize a “Trust Japan” program in Upper Burma. Old officials and BIA personnel were mollified by putting them on probation for three months. The Japanese requisitioned rice, killed cattle, and conscripted Burmans and Karens for labor service. Thousands of the 30,000 working on the Siam-Burma railway died of starvation, disease, and overwork. Japan used sesame oil for lubrication; Lower Burma lacked cooking oil as the Rangoon price of sesame oil multiplied thirteen times. Shipping problems left Burma with three million tons of surplus rice. Two million acres of paddy went out of production and reverted to jungle. Allied air raids kept the railways from operating; the south had too much rice while the north starved. Malaria spread, and the Japanese took severe measures against epidemics of smallpox, cholera, and bubonic plague. The Burmans especially resented the military police (kempetai) and informers. Japanese attempts to form Buddhist organizations got little support, but many Karens cooperated with the Japanese. The most popular Japanese organization was the East Asia Youth League, which included Burmans, Indians, Karens, Mons, and Shans. Ba Maw tried to merge this with his National Service Association.

In January 1943 Premier Tojo promised Burma independence within a year. Ba Maw, Thein Maung, Mya, and Aung San visited Tokyo in March, and they agreed to declare war on Britain and the United States. Ba Maw returned in April and formed four armies for fighting, service, politics, and labor. The Burma Independence Preparatory Committee began meeting in May, but the sessions were secret. Tojo announced in July that the eastern Shan states of Kengtung and Mongpan were ceded to Thailand. Ba Maw and Thakin Nu visited Singapore and learned that S. C. Bose’s Indian National Army (INA) was going to invade India through Burma. On August 1 the independence of Burma was announced, but as Japan’s ally war was declared against the United Kingdom and the United States. Ba Maw became head of state (Adipadi) as well as premier, and by the end of 1943 he was being called king. Fifty Burmese state scholars were granted living allowances to study at the International Students Institute in Tokyo.

In 1944 the East Asia Youth League became the All Burma Youth League (ABYL) and joined the secret resistance effort organized by the Thakins as the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL). Ba Maw blocked General Isamura’s plan to make the study of Japanese compulsory in Burma’s schools, and Isamura would not let leaders of the Dobama-Sinyetha party raise a new Burma flag. Ba Maw published a revised booklet called Burma’s New Order Plan in June that advised the Japanese not to interfere in Burma’s political affairs nor take opinion polls that cause distrust of the government; they should respect Burman officers. Ba Maw did not to betray the resistance activities of the AFPFL to the Japanese, and by early spring of 1945 he was legislating economic matters without Japanese approval. Thakins Than Tun and Aung San were already using their ministerial positions to overthrow Japanese rule. Defense minister Aung San had renamed the BDA the Burma National Army (BNA) in September 1943.

The first overt Burman resistance against the Japanese occupation occurred in June 1944 and was quickly crushed by the Kempetai. General Mohan Singh and some Indian officers tried to dissolve the Indian National Army (INA) and were sent to a Japanese prison camp in New Guinea. Azad Hind (Free India) moved its headquarters to Rangoon in January 1944 with Ba Maw’s approval. The manifesto “Drive Away the Fascist Japanese Marauders” signed by “Comrades” urged readers to set up a “People’s Government” and promised freedom and employment security. In the dry season of 1944-45 a British-Indian-African army began to reconquer Burma. In April the INA refused to fight the revolting Burma National Army, and they surrendered on May 18. The Allies had been bombing railways and strategic centers in Burma since 1943. The city of Akyab was destroyed by bombing, and artillery damaged Mandalay. A few Communist resistance fighters joined with the AFPFL, and Thakin Than Tun was secretary.

Meanwhile the British tried to make plans with Governor Dorman-Smith, who was in exile at Simla in India. In November 1944 the Commons Committee on Burma Policy published the Blue-Print for Burma that was so imperialistic, ignorant, and incompetent that even the exiled premier Paw Tun called it “rubbish.” British capitalists wanted to reimpose their exploitation of Burma by reviving the Chettyar moneylending, cheap labor by Indian immigrants, and at least three years of authoritarian rule by the Governor under emergency Article 139. Louis Mountbatten was the Supreme Allied Commander for Southeast Asia. He took responsibility for civil affairs in reoccupied Burma on January 1, 1944, and a British attempt to invade Arakan again was stopped by a Japanese counter-attack. Mountbatten contacted Aung San and had more respect for his leadership. In February 1945 he approved distributing 3,000 weapons to anti-Japanese groups.

On March 27, 1945 General Aung San turned the Burma National Army against the Japanese, and this date later was celebrated as Resistance Day or Armed Forces Day. Two days later 5,000 Burmans attacked the Japanese from the rear near Prome. This enabled the British 14th army to advance 220 miles from Yamethin to Pegu. On April 22 the Japanese retreated, and Ba Maw fled the capital with Thakins Mya, Nu, and Lun Baw, going to Moulmein. Japanese forces tried to make a stand at Pegu on April 29, but British forces defeated them and entered Rangoon on May 5. Mountbatten persuaded the British authorities to begin paying and supplying the BNA, which was renamed again the Patriotic Burmese Forces. They joined the victory parade in Rangoon on June 15.

The AFPFL issued a statement on May 25, 1945 calling for a new constitution and elections as soon as conditions permitted. About 50,000 hungry refugees flooded into Rangoon. On June 2 Mountbatten announced amnesty for all Burmans except those who had committed proven crimes. The Labor Party under Clement Attlee came into office in July and promised earlier self-government for Burma. More than half the casualties inflicted on the Japanese in the last two weeks of the war were by Burmese guerrilla forces. The supreme council of the AFPFL was enlarged to include three representatives each from the People’s Revolutionary Party (socialists and Communists), the Burma National Army, the All Burma Youth League, the Karen Central Organization, and the Maha Sangha (Buddhists). The Chinese army directed by Americans and aided by Kachin guerrillas reconquered northernmost Burma. Some of the Japanese soldiers in the Burmese jungle did not learn of the surrender until October.

Aung San declined a commission in the British army. Mountbatten turned control over to Governor Dorman-Smith on October 16 except for the Tenasserim peninsula and some mountain regions. The Governor’s policy to honor Chettyar land titles and mortgages and use immigrant Indian labor made Burman resistance certain. The Patriotic Burmese Forces were demobilized; but they were so loyal to Aung San that the veterans quickly reorganized in their villages as the People’s Volunteer Organization (PVO). Communists, led by Thakins Than Tun and Thein Pe, won over peasants by promising them “no rent and no taxes.” Thakin Ba Hein formed the All Burma Trade Union Congress (ABTUC), and other Communists organized workers in transport, docks, railways, mines, and clerical employees. The British wanted to restore their tax base and favorable trade balance; they paid peasants only half the low 1941 price for rice even though costs had risen fourfold. Governor Dorman-Smith began meeting with Aung San and other AFPFL leaders, but they were unable to compromise on the composition of the council. Aung San denounced Dorman-Smith as unworthy in December and refused to join the council as the opposition leader. The AFPFL demanded a representative council, early elections for a constituent assembly, and publication of the Governor’s plans for economic reconstruction. They avoided inciting violence and sought peaceful solutions, but Governor Dorman-Smith would not let their representatives fly to London.

In January 1946 Aung San spoke to a large rally at the Shwe Dagon pagoda in Rangoon, and they called for nationalization of agricultural land with compensation for private owners. The Communist Thakin Soe dissented so vehemently that he was expelled from the party and formed the “Red Flag” Communist party, which was outlawed in July. The British brought back the exiled Thakins Ba Sein, Tun Oke, and U Saw, and in February Tun Oke accused Aung San of having executed a village headman during fighting in early 1942. However, London feared a revolution and blocked his arrest. Burma was in turmoil, and Governor Dorman-Smith in April proposed new elections. He denounced Aung San’s private PVO army in May, but he became seriously ill and took a boat to England in June. On May 18 some Communists had provoked an attack on police at Tantabin, and the police killed three people. Moderates in the AFPFL prohibited Communist activities in rural branches in August. Meanwhile Tom Driber was trying to inform members of the English Parliament of what was actually occurring in Burma. During a mass meeting at Rangoon in October 1945 the Karens had voted for a separate Karen state. The following August they sent a delegation to London, but the Labor government declined to support their plans.

Governor Hugh Rance arrived in August 1946, and a police strike began at Rangoon on September 2. The AFPFL provided PVO volunteers to keep order. The police commissioner offered cost-of-living allowances; but by September 18 all government employees were on strike, and the commissioner dismissed 3,000 policeman who did not return. U Saw was shot on September 21 while returning from a Myochit party meeting, but surgery saved his eye. He blamed his political enemies. Three days later the strike became general when the railway and oil workers’ unions joined. On the 27th a new council was announced that was more representative. General Aung San was deputy chairman and was in charge of defense and external affairs. U Kyaw Nyein was the home member, and Thakin Mya led the Socialists. The general strike ended on October 4, and six days later the AFPFL Executive Committee expelled the Communist party. Aung San and Thakin Nu toured the frontier areas, and in November the Shans, Chins, and Kachins formed the Supreme Council of the United Hill Peoples (SCOUHP) with Sai Shwe Thaike as president.

On November 10 Aung San demanded elections in April 1947  for a constituent assembly with representatives of the frontier peoples and full independence in 1947. Aung San, Mya, Ba Sein, U Tin Tut, U Ba Pe, and U Saw went to London in January. The British agreed to the elections and offered to loan Burma £7.5 million. In February the AFPFL met at Panglong and approved the London agreement and democratic rights for all citizens with financial aid for the frontiers. The frontier areas were to be allotted 45 seats in the Assembly and the Karens 24 seats. U Saw and Thakin Ba Sein resigned their ministerial positions in the Interim Government, and the Communists provoked rebellion and robbing in some areas. On April 1 Aung San spoke to the All Arakan Conference and prevented resolutions from passing for open rebellion, nonpayment of taxes, and canceling the agricultural debt. In the April elections the PVO followers of Aung San won 171 seats, and the 45 delegates from the frontier areas supported the AFPFL; the Communists elected only seven candidates. The Karen National Union as well as Ba Maw, U Saw, and Thakin Ba Sein boycotted the election, though the Karen Youth Organization won 19 seats.

The Constituent Assembly convened on June 10, 1947 and unanimously voted to sever all connection to the British empire. On July 19 two gunmen with automatic weapons instigated by U Saw broke into a cabinet meeting and assassinated Prime Minister Aung San, the capable Mya, and seven other leaders. Thakin Nu was AFPFL vice president and president of the Constituent Assembly, and Governor Rance quickly made him prime minister. After a long trial U Saw and his accomplices were convicted and hanged. Premier Nu completed work on the Constitution, which was enacted on September 24. The president was to be elected by the combined vote of the two chambers of deputies and nationalities. Large landholding was prohibited, and Burma became the owner of much land and public utilities with a monopoly over timber, minerals, coal, and petroleum. States could secede after ten years. The socialism was reflected in the red flag with six white stars grouped in a blue corner. Premier Nu signed a treaty with Prime Minister Attlee on October 17 that recognized Burma’s independence but agreed that no armed forces outside the British Commonwealth would be received. Despite Churchill’s vehement opposition, the Burma Independence Bill passed the House of Commons on December 10 by a vote of 228 to 114.

The independent nation of Burma was inaugurated on January 4, 1948. Thakin Nu continued as prime minister, and the sawbwa Sao Shwe Thaike became the first president. Nu was a novelist, a Marxist, and a devoted Buddhist. He reviewed their troubled history and proclaimed that Burma had become one nation of the “Mons, Arakanese, Burmese, the Karens, the Shans, the Kachins, and the Chins.” The civil service was mostly British and Indian, and 71 of 99 Superior Civil Service members departed in the first few months. Meanwhile the PVO had deteriorated without Aung San’s leadership and split. In February the majority White Band PVO opposed disbanding while the Yellow Band PVO cooperated with Nu’s government. In March at the All Burma Peasants’ Union conference 75,000 gathered, and H. M. Goshal promised them free land with no taxes, and later Thakin Than Tun spoke to the resistance rally of the ABTUC. The police were too late to arrest the leaders, and the White Flag Communist uprising began on March 28 with guerrilla actions in the jungles and foothills. They had about 25,000 partisans and took over the railway corridor from Toungoo to Yamethin.

Burma entered the United Nations on April 19, 1948. Premier Nu intended to retire to a monastery in June. In May the Two-Year Plan of Economic Development was published with land redistribution raised to a top priority. On June 1 they nationalized the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company, which was the largest steamship line in Southeast Asia, and most of the teak concession operated by the British. The fifteen-point Leftist Unity Program was announced to win back the PVO; but point 15 that called for a Marxist League to promote Marxist doctrines was soon abandoned so that the Yellow Band PVO would join with the AFPFL in approving the Program on July 2. The entire cabinet had resigned by July 16. Nu persuaded Karen leaders not to seek a separate state except by democratic means. The White Band PVO rebelled on July 29, and two of the five battalions of Burma Rifles mutinied in August. Nu resumed his position and was chosen as Premier on September 14 with a new cabinet of 21 members.

The Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO) seized Moulmein again; Thakin Nu agreed to arm them to fight the Communists and PVO, but many of them defected to join the Communists. On September 18 London’s Daily Mail reporter Alexander  Campbell was arrested for fomenting Karen rebellion. The next day Minister U Tin Tut was assassinated. In October the Regional Autonomy Enquiry Commission was set up under Justice U Ba U and the Karen National Union (KNU) leader Saw Ba U Gyi to explore how to satisfy the aspirations of the Mons, Karens, and Arakanese. However, on November 13 KNU leaders proposed an independent Karen-Mon state that would include all of Tenasserim and Irrawaddy plus most of contiguous Lower Burma.

The KNDO rebellion began in January 1949 at Bassein, Toungoo, and Insein with forces totaling about 7,000 men, and a temporary Karen administration was set up at Toungoo. On February 4 most of the civil service in the Federation of Service Unions went on strike to protest a large cut in salaries. The Government of Burma postponed the 1949 elections, and the next election was not held until June 1951. Nu’s government held the seaport of Rangoon, and the dissident groups were not coordinated. Burmans blamed American missionaries for the Karen “Baptist Rebellion,” but the revolt was more nationalist than religious. On February 9 the Burma Air Force attacked the Karen battalion, and Burma’s army at Pegu blocked the Karens at Toungoo from aiding their forces at Insein. The two main rebel groups renewed negotiations. Six Socialists and Yellow Band PVO leaders withdrew from Nu’s cabinet on April 1 so that Nu and General Ne Win could negotiate more freely with the Communists and the Karens, but an agreement signed by Karens at Rangoon on April 4 was not accepted by KNDO leaders at Toungoo.

Burman forces had captured Mandalay on April 3, and in June they occupied the oil fields at Yenangyaung and Chauk. They recaptured Tharrawaddy in July, and General Ne Win went on a diplomatic mission to gain arms from the English and Americans. The Government Economic Council invited capital to invest in transportation, electric power, and manufacturing. The English Labor government had decided in June to provide Burma with 10,000 rifles, and in the fall the Commonwealth agreed to loan Burma 350 million rupees. On December 17 Burma became the first non-Communist nation to recognize the People’s Republic of China. Prime Minister Nu and Premier Zhou En-lai agreed to “five principles of co-existence” so as not to interfere in each other’s domestic affairs. In the first three months of 1950 about 2,000 Guomindang soldiers took refuge in Burma with their families, settling in the Shan state of Kentung.

Delayed attempts to implement the 1948 Land Nationalization Act aroused protests in April 1950. Agricultural holdings were limited to 50 acres, and cultivators were urged to join government-sponsored cooperatives. The  Democratic Local Government Act had passed in February 1949, and it provided for local elections at various levels; but most were not yet ready to make this work. The Communists and Karen rebels were causing three-quarters of the anti-government attacks in the spring of 1950. In June the Government wrote off 70 million Burmese rupees (kyats) of cultivators’ debt. Premier Nu estimated in September that the insurgency was 95% contained, but the press estimated that only a third of the country was under control. Burma condemned North Korea’s invasion in June and in July voted to support the United Nations response. The British Commonwealth agreed to loan Burma £6 million in June 1950, but instead Burma turned to the United States and received aid from the Technical Cooperation Administration (TCA) in September. In reaction leftists withdrew from the AFPFL in December to form the Burma Workers’ and Peasants’ Party (BWPP). Premier Nu sponsored three bills in October to promote Buddhist reform. The population of Burma had increased from about two million in 1800 to eighteen million in 1950.

Malaya Invaded and in Conflict 1942-50

Burma, Malaya, and the British 1800-1941

In December 1941 the British had only one Australian and two Indian divisions in Malaya. Japanese forces invaded northern Malaya on December 8, 1941. Two days later they sank the British battleships Repulse and Prince of Wales off Kuantan. The Japanese invaded Borneo with 10,000 men on December 25 and occupied Sarawak, Brunei, and North Borneo with 25,000 troops. In January 1942 their armies defeated an Indian division and took over central Malaya, moving south down the peninsula. The British released all the Communists from jail, hoping that they would go underground and resist the Japanese. The northern shore of Singapore had no fortifications, and the Japanese attacked from there on February 8. General Arthur Percival capitulated to General Yamashita a week later. The Japanese killed or captured about 166,600 men while losing about 15,000. The Japanese made Singapore their center for governing all of Malaya and Sumatra, and they renamed it Syonan. Before evacuating, the British destroyed machinery for mining tin and processing rubber, and the Japanese were not able to rebuild the equipment. In the first week the Japanese implemented sook ching (purification by suffering) and claimed they executed only 5,000 anti-Japanese Chinese men, but Chinese estimates were six to eight times that. Chinese resisters formed the Malayan Peoples Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) in the jungle.

The Japanese banned the KMM in June 1942, and many of them joined the MPAJA. Chinese associations were disbanded, and only 180 of the 1,369 Chinese schools were allowed to operate and were required to use Japanese. Of the peninsula’s 885 Malay schools, 721 were reopened within a year. The Japanese organized the paramilitary youth group Pembela Tanah Ayer (PETA) under Ibrahim Yaacob. The Japanese Kempetai found most of the Communist leaders of the MCP Central Committee and eliminated them; but Lai Tek, who had been secretary-general since 1938, was secretly released and spied for Japan. They made the elderly Lim Boon Keng raise $50 million for Japanese war aims by June. About 20,000 of the 45,000 Indian prisoners of war joined the Indian National Army (INA) under Mohan Singh. Subhas Chandra Bose arrived at Singapore in July 1943 to revive the Indian Independence League and build up the INA.

Many Chinese and Indians were resettled in agricultural areas to increase food production. In October 1943 Japan ceded the Unfederated Malay States (UMF) of Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, and Terengganu to Siam to make more soldiers available for their campaign in Burma. That month a rebellion at Jesselton in Borneo against conscription resulted in the beheading of 175 and the death of 131 others in captivity at Labuan. Another Borneo uprising in 1944 was discovered and punished with mass executions. About one-sixth of the people on the west coast of Borneo died by execution or from ill treatment.

Communal violence broke out in May 1945 when Malays led by Penghulu Salleh attacked Chinese towns in Johor. About 7,000 mostly Chinese MPAJA had stockpiled weapons in the jungle, and they began killing Malays for having collaborated with the Japanese. Ibrahim Yaacob remained a Malay spokesman, and in July 1945 the Japanese allowed the formation of the Union of Peninsular Indonesians. Dr. Burhanuddin Al-Helmy urged racial harmony and Malay unity while trying to establish self-government, calling for the Republic of Greater Indonesia. British troops landed at Penang on September 3 and at Singapore two days later, but the main force did not come ashore until September 9. The British Military Administration (BMA) tried to stop the communal violence, and they were aided by Onn bin Jaafar of Johor. They persuaded most of the MPAJA to turn in their arms for a war gratuity of $350, and they joined the victory parade at Kuala Lumpur on September 12.

The Communists united more than sixty trade unions into the General Labour Union (GLU) at Singapore in October 1945. The British had a plan for a centralized Malayan Union to combine the FMS and UMS with Penang and Melaka. Harold MacMichael was sent to Malaya in October to investigate whether the sultans should stay on their thrones and to sign new treaties; all had signed by the end of the year. English-educated leftists formed the Malayan Democratic Union in Singapore in December and affiliated with the MCP. The BMA jailed GLU’s secretary-general Soon Khwong in January 1946; but 173,000 workers went on a general strike and stopped transportation for two days until he was released. Another GLU strike of 12,000 railway workers succeeded after two months.

The British announced the Malayan Union Plan in January 1946. All those who had lived in Malaya for ten of the last fifteen years were to be citizens with equal rights regardless of race or religion, and new immigrants would become citizens after five years. The Malayan sultans lost all sovereignty to the British except for an Advisory Council on Muslim issues, and so they rejected the Union and sent a mission to London. At a Singapore ceremony early in 1946 Southeast Asia Commander Louis Mountbatten awarded eight MPAJA leaders medals. Public health services and sanitation were improved. Schools reopened despite teacher shortages, and by 1946 twice as many children were attending school than had before the war. Vernacular schools taught English as a second language.

Food shortages and high prices led to rationing and price subsidies for rice. The Communists organized demonstrations and strikes, and ethnic violence broke out again. Onn bin Jaafar brought together 41 Malay associations in the All-Malay Congress at Kuala Lumpur in March 1946. Malays boycotted the British inauguration of Edward Gent as the first governor of the Malayan Union on April 1, and they went into mourning for a week. In May the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) was established with Onn as president. Their Congress declared the MacMichael treaties invalid and demanded the Malayan Union be repealed. The British kept Singapore as a free port and a naval base, and in July 1946 Labuan, North Borneo, and Sarawak became Crown Colonies.

The Malayan Indian Congress (MIC) formed in August, but they were excluded from the negotiations on a Federation by the UMNO and the British Commissioner-General Malcolm MacDonald of the Working Committee. Citizenship was made more restrictive by requiring fifteen years residence, a declaration of permanent settlement, and competence in Malay or English. Elections for the Executive and Legislative Councils were to be introduced as soon as possible. In December 1946 the All-Malay Council of Joint Action (AMCJA) was organized at Singapore and included the MIC. Two months later more leftists joined, and the Chinese leader Tan Cheng Lock became chairman of the alliance of AMCJA and the Center of People’s Power (PUTERA).

The Malayan Communist Party (MCP) did not realize that their leader Lai Tek had been a Japanese informer until they suspected his moderate policies that supported the British and put off an armed uprising in 1947. In March he hid in Singapore with party funds and took them to Hong Kong in August. He fled to Thailand, but an intercepted MCP message indicated that he had been eliminated. Meanwhile the General Labour Union became the Pan-Malayan Federation of Trade Unions (PMFTU) early in 1947 with a membership of 450,000. Lower rubber prices and wages stimulated more than 300 major strikes in 1947. The British declared strikes and processions illegal and began arresting and deporting Chinese Communists. The Malayan Union was dissolved, and the Federation of Malaya was established on February 1, 1948.

Chin Peng became secretary-general of the MCP and favored armed insurrection. A Conference of South Asian Communists organized by the Soviet-dominated World Federation of Democratic Youth met at Calcutta in February 1948, and the MCP with 7,000 soldiers planned a revolt. Three European estate managers and two others were murdered in Perak on June 16, and two days later a State of Emergency was declared in Perak. That month there were 67 murders and attempted murders, and the Emergency was extended to all of Malaya, allowing the Government to detain “terrorists” without trial. In July the MCP was declared illegal. By the end of 1948 hundreds had been deported, and 1,779 communist sympathizers were being detained. The number of special constables was increased to 24,000 by September. The MCP went underground and called themselves the Min Yuen (People’s Movement) and the Malayan Races Liberation Army (MRLA). The Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) was formed in February 1949 with Tan Cheng Lock as president to work for independence, and within three years they had 300,000 members.

Resistance to British rule in Sarawak culminated when a Malay school-teacher at Sibu assassinated Governor Duncan Stewart in 1949. Four conspirators were hanged, and seven others were given long prison sentences. The recruitment and training of 26,000 Malay police for jungle warfare helped subdue the revolt by the middle of 1949.

In October the Raffles College and the King Edward VII College of Medicine were combined into the University of Malaya. Rebuilding the tin dredges took two years, but by 1950 tin production surpassed pre-war levels. Rubber rebounded faster with three times pre-war production that year. American rearmament stimulated these industries. In March 1950 General Harold Briggs began directing Emergency operations and implemented his plan of new security measures as a war. He introduced War Executive Committees to coordinate federal, state, and district levels of law enforcement. Men were conscripted into the army and the police, and employment was controlled. Chinese squatter communities in Min Yuen areas were moved, and eventually a half million people were relocated in five hundred new villages.

Thailand 1941-50

Siam, Cambodia, and Laos 1800-1941

Japanese troops invaded Thailand in nine places on December 8, 1941. Phibun was away from Bangkok, but the next day he ordered a cease fire and granted the Japanese safe passage. A few days later Thailand formed a military alliance with Japan, and on January 25, 1942 they declared war on Britain and the United States. The Regent Pridi refused to sign the declaration and went into hiding. Seni Pramoj, the Thai ambassador in Washington, believed the war declaration was so wrong that he refused to deliver the message and began organizing the Free Thai movement with the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS). In May the Japanese let the Thai army take over the Shan states in Burma. Phibun passed the Sangha Act that took away the privileged position of the Thammayut sect and the patriarch in favor of councils of elders.

The Japanese kept an army of at least 50,000 in Thailand throughout the war. They ravaged the Thai economy to supply their army in Burma, and in August 1943 they turned over the four Unfederated Malay States to Thailand. Because of inflation in January 1944 Japan doubled its loan from Thailand to 45 million baht a month. Phibun dismissed Finance minister Vanich Pananond, had him arrested, and refused to release him. Thai radio broadcasts stopped criticizing the Western Allies, hoping they would stop the bombing raids. Resistance groups called Seri Thai (Free Thai) supported the allies by working with the American OSS and the English Force 136. Early in 1944 some men and equipment were parachuted into Thailand. That year the Code of National Bravery was based on the Bushido code of the Japanese samurai; but many realized the war had turned against Japan. On July 24, six days after Tojo resigned, the Pridi supporters in the Assembly removed Phibun from power so that the Allies would not treat them as enemies. A week later Khuang Aphaiwong became prime minister to deal with the Japanese while Pridi worked with the Free Thai and the Allies. Pridi also got amnesty for 61 political prisoners. By 1945 Bangkok had suffered more than 4,000 Allied bombing raids, and 60% of the population had evacuated.

On August 15, 1945 Emperor Hirohito broadcast on radio that all Japanese forces were to lay down their arms. Thailand was still officially at war until Thai Regent Pridi disavowed Phibun’s declaration of war. Mountbatten told Pridi to announce also that the Seri Thai had called off their uprising against the Japanese. The British sent in Force 136 covertly to help the 20,000 British, Australian, and Dutch prisoners who were still dying at the rate of fifteen a day because of the forced work on the “Death Railway” to Burma that had taken the lives of 12,000 Allied prisoners. The Americans kept the British from taking over Thailand’s stockpiles of rice, but Thai rice was sold to the British at fixed prices. Seni Pramoj was brought back from America to replace the collaborating Khuang as prime minister in September and to lead the peace negotiations. Seni and his brother Kukrit Pramoj formed the Democrat Party, and they opposed Pridi in the Assembly. Thailand was known as Siam to other nations again from September 1945 until May 11, 1949.

Two parties supporting Pridi won a majority in the January 1946 elections. Seni lacked political experience, and Pridi made Khuang Aphaiwong prime minister again. Dissatisfied Pridi became prime minister himself in March. He supervised drafting of a new constitution with a fully elected House of Representatives that would elect a Senate. In April under Allied pressure the highest court in Thailand stopped the prosecution of Phibun for war crimes as retroactive and unconstitutional. Pridi’s new constitution came into effect in May. King Ananda was found dead from a bullet wound in his forehead on June 9. Pridi as regent was suspected; but an inquiry could not decide whether it was murder, suicide, or a gun accident. The King was succeeded by his younger brother Phumiphon Adundet, who was also being educated in Switzerland. Pridi made Thamrong Nawasawat prime minister in August and went abroad.

Pridi proposed that boundary questions with French Indochina be referred to the United Nations. In November 1946 France promised not to veto Thailand’s admission into the United Nations in exchange for the return of its territories. Thailand agreed to this and also annulled its law against Communism to please the Soviet Union. Thailand became a member of the United Nations in 1947. The Association of United Workers of Thailand was formed in April, and within two years they had 60,000 members.

In September 1947 Pridi founded the Southeast Asia League. The military feared that Pridi was organizing a Communist revolution, and Phibun took power again on November 8 with another coup, this one directed by Col. Sarit Thanarat. They made Khuang Aphaiwong prime minister, and the election in January 1948 gave him and the Democrat Party a slim majority. Pridi was ordered arrested for complicity in the murder of the King, and he fled from Thailand. The chief police investigator Phinit was a brother-in-law of the Pramoj brothers and was bribed to implicate Pridi. Three of Pridi’s associates were arrested and were executed in 1955 before the bribery was discovered in 1979.

Khuang and the Democrats wrote a new constitution; but the military forced Khuang to resign, and Phibun was made prime minister again on April 8, 1948. Once again he went after Chinese Communists; he purged the army of Seri Thai, and he replaced and arrested Pridi supporters. He also arrested Malay leaders, and that April aerial bombing and troops were used to put down an insurgency in the south. General Net Khemayothin and sixty officers were arrested in October for plotting a coup.

Pridi came back to Bangkok in February 1949 and tried to seize power with help from Seri Thai arms; but Col. Sarit bombarded them in the Grand Palace, and they fled. A month later four of Pridi’s legislative supporters were shot to death by police who claimed they were trying to escape. In March the Democrat party promulgated a new constitution with a Senate appointed by the King. Under Phibun the police arbitrarily arrested dissidents and tortured them, killing some. Thugs beat up critical newspaper editors. Yet Supha Sirimanon and Kulap Saipradit with Pridi followers founded the Adviser (Aksonsan) journal. Phibun was accused of rigging the June elections that gave his pro-government party a majority in the lower house. Even though Phibun had been their enemy during the war, because of the Cold War the United States now made millions of dollars available for his military government. In July 1950 Thailand was the first Asian country to offer troops to support the US in the Korean War.

Cambodia 1941-50

Cambodia 1800-1941

In December 1941 the Japanese army invaded Cambodia through Battambang, and by August 1942 the Japanese had posted 8,000 troops in Cambodia. Nagara Vatta supported Japan and opposed colonialism, and the French censored at least 32 issues, including ten leading editorials. The monk Achar Hem Chieu taught Pali in Phnom Penh and advocated Gandhian nonviolence against colonial rule. He was arrested for an anti-French plot on July 17, 1942 even though a monk was supposed to be defrocked first. Monks were beaten but did not retreat, and several Buddhist elders were also arrested. Son Ngoc Thanh took refuge in the Japanese legation and fled to Bangkok. Hem Chieu was accused of urging Cambodian soldiers to desert. The Japanese sponsored a Cambodian nationalist rally three days later that demanded his release. Nagara Vatta editor Pach Chhoeun led the march and was arrested as he presented a petition in the French Residence. Vichy commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment. In 1943 Hem Chieu died of illness on the French penal island of Poulo Condore. That year the Japanese bought a million tons of rice in Indochina at the low price of a quarter piaster per kilo. Most of it was not used for food but to power engines and military vehicles. Also in 1943 French resident Georges Gautier announced that the 45-letter Cambodian alphabet would be replaced by Roman letters.

On March 9, 1945 the Japanese disarmed French forces and cancelled the Romanization. Four days later the Japanese authorized King Sihanouk to proclaim Cambodia’s independence, changing their name from the French Cambodge to the Khmer pronunciation Kampuchea. Two weeks later the Vietnamese rioted in Phnom Penh because they feared being interned. The Japanese took the French into protective custody until the end of the war. Son Ngoc Thanh returned and became minister of Foreign Affairs. Those with incomes less than 1,200 piasters were exempted from the capitation tax. Sihanouk appeared at a rally on July 20 to commemorate the Buddhists’ demonstration of 1942. An anti-royalist coup was suppressed on August 10, the day Son Ngoc Thanh became prime minister. Later that month a nationalist rally was attended by 30,000 people, and Thanh organized a referendum that got 541,470 votes for independence. The half-Vietnamese Thanh urged the Cambodians to join the Vietnamese resistance against the French. The French returned to Cambodia on September 12, 1945 and arrested Thanh one month later, deporting him to France. The French protectorate was reimposed on October 15.

The French returned to Cambodia on September 12, 1945 and arrested Thanh one month later, deporting him to France. The French protectorate was reimposed on October 15. In early 1946 bandit gangs calling themselves Issarak took over the countryside from the French. In April they killed the French garrison at Siem Reap and captured their weapons. King Sihanouk made an agreement in May with the French, who promised Cambodia a constitution with the right to form political parties, but they retained control over finance, defense, and foreign affairs. Son Ngoc Tranh was accused of treason for collaborating with the Japanese. The Democratic party (Krom Pracheathipodei) was led by Prince Sisowath Yuthewong and was supported by Nagara Vatta and the ideas of Chhoeun. The Liberal party (Kanaq Sereipheap) led by Prince Norodom Norindeth was conservative and was supported by large landowners. More than sixty percent of the newly enfranchised voted on September 1, 1946. The Democrats won 50 seats, the Liberals got 14, and 3 seats were independent. More than three thousand Khmer Issaraks accepted amnesty in December  under a new constitution.

In 1947 the Democrats agreed to the constitution modeled after the Fourth Republic of France that gave power to the National Assembly. The Issarak insurgency faded as Battambang and Siem Reap were returned to Cambodia, and the Bangkok regime had little sympathy for them. Most of the noncommunists who opposed the Viet Minh accepted the amnesty that was offered in 1949. On November 9 King Sihanouk signed a treaty with the French that he called “50 percent independence,” but the Assembly led by the Democrats refused to ratify the treaty. Early in 1950 the United States recognized Laos and Cambodia as independent and began giving them aid.

Laos 1941-50

Laos 1800-1941

In 1944 Public Education director Charles Rochet proposed using the Roman alphabet for writing Lao, but this idea was resisted and dropped.After France was liberated from the Axis powers, the Japanese seized Viang Chan from the French on March 9, 1945; but they did not take Luang Prabang until April 5, allowing the French time to retreat. The Lao Seri had formed in 1944 to fight the Japanese, and Crown Prince Savangvatthana urged Laos to resist and assist the French. However, the Japanese persuaded King Sisavangvong to declare independence from France on April 8, and Phetxarat became prime minister.

After the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, the Lao Pen Lao was formed to resist the return of the French; but the French sent orders by radio for the underground groups to restore the French administration. On August 27 Phetxarat took over Viang Chan from the Japanese and would not acknowledge the French, who evacuated to Thailand. He brought together the National Renovation Movement, Lao Seri, and Lao Pen Lao into the Lao Issara. Phetxarat believed that the French failure to defend Laos from the Japanese cancelled all the Franco-Laos treaties. On September 2 he appealed to King Sisavangvong; but he had already welcomed the French Commissioner Col. Hans Imfeld, and in the south Prince Bunum of Champassak also cooperated with the French. On September 15 Phetxarat proclaimed the unification of Luang Prabang with the south and declared an independent Laos. General Charles de Gaulle sent the King a telegram recognizing his sovereignty over all of Laos, and the King dismissed Phetxarat. The Allies had designated the Chinese and the British to accept the Japanese surrender in the north and the south respectively. The Nationalist Chinese Division 93 refused to recognize any French officials and disarmed them in Luang Prabang, plundering the country. Phetxarat welcomed the Chinese, and the Lao Issara held Thakhaek and Savannakhet. In September the British helped the French return to Pakxe and Salavan.

A People’s Committee in Viang Chan promulgated a provisional constitution and the Pathet Lao government with a 45-member provisional National Assembly. The King declared all this illegal, and on October 20 this National Assembly passed a resolution deposing the King. Phetxarat’s friend Khammao Vilai became prime minister. Suphanuvong came back to Laos from Vietnam in October with twelve Viet Minh soldiers, and he replaced Un Xananikon as Lao Issara’s commissioner for the five southern provinces. Un became deputy to Suphanuvong, whom the provisional government made commander of the Army for the Liberation and Defense of Laos. Phetxarat refused to appoint Suphanuvong defense minister but made him minister of Foreign Affairs. Another brother Suvanna Phuma became minister of Public works. A joint Lao-Viet general staff coordinated the efforts of the Lao Issara and the Viet Minh. On November 13 the Pathet Lao declared martial law, and Major Sing Rattanasamai was sent to retake Xiang Khuang and Xam Neua. By the end of the month the French had withdrawn from northern Laos except for Luang Prabang. French property was nationalized, but the Chinese army continued to occupy the north.

After the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, the Lao Pen Lao was formed to resist the return of the French; but the French sent orders by radio for the underground groups to restore the French administration. On August 27 Phetxarat took over Viang Chan from the Japanese and would not acknowledge the French, who evacuated to Thailand. He brought together the National Renovation Movement, Lao Seri, and Lao Pen Lao into the Lao Issara. Phetxarat believed that the French failure to defend Laos from the Japanese cancelled all the Franco-Laos treaties. On September 2 he appealed to King Sisavangvong; but he had already welcomed the French Commissioner Col. Hans Imfeld, and in the south Prince Bunum of Champassak also cooperated with the French. On September 15 Phetxarat proclaimed the unification of Luang Prabang with the south and declared an independent Laos. General Charles de Gaulle sent the King a telegram recognizing his sovereignty over all  of Laos, and the King dismissed Phetxarat. The Allies had designated the Chinese and the British to accept the Japanese surrender in the north and the south respectively. The Nationalist Chinese Division 93 refused to recognize any French officials and disarmed them in Luang Prabang, plundering the country. Phetxarat welcomed the Chinese, and the Lao Issara held Thakhaek and Savannakhet. In September the British helped the French return to Pakxe and Salavan.

A People’s Committee in Viang Chan promulgated a provisional constitution and the Pathet Lao government with a 45-member provisional National Assembly. The King declared all this illegal, and on October 20 this National Assembly passed a resolution deposing the King. Phetxarat’s friend Khammao Vilai became prime minister. Suphanuvong came back to Laos from Vietnam in October with twelve Vietminh soldiers, and he replaced Un Xananikon as Lao Issara’s commissioner for the five southern provinces. Un became deputy to Suphanuvong, whom the provisional government made commander of the Army for the Liberation and Defense of Laos. Phetxarat refused to appoint Suphanuvong defense minister but made him minister of Foreign Affairs. Another brother Suvanna Phuma became minister of Public works. A joint Lao-Viet general staff coordinated the efforts of the Lao Issara and the Viet Minh. On November 13 the Pathet Lao declared martial law, and Major Sing Rattanasamai was sent to retake Xiang Khuang and Xam Neua. By the end of the month the French had withdrawn from northern Laos except for Luang Prabang. French property was nationalized, but the Chinese army continued to occupy the north.

In January 1946 Lao and Hmong partisans helped the French recapture Xiang Khuang while the Lao Issara suffered from a lack of money and equipment. Suphanuvong and the Lao Issara tried to defend Thakhaek, but on March 21 the French used airplanes, armored cars, and artillery to defeat the poorly armed Laos and Vietnamese. Suphanuvong was badly wounded, and the Lao Issara suffered a thousand casualties; but Un led three hundred survivors into Thailand and back to Viang Chan. The French and their Lao allies had only 19 killed and 20 wounded.

King Sisavangvong and the provisional government compromised to form a constitutional monarchy, and Phetxarat attended the ceremony in Luang Prabang with his ministers. However, after the Chinese forces withdrew from Viang Chan, French troops reoccupied the city on April 24, 1946. In May the French regained Luang Prabang as the Lao Issara and about two thousand supporters took refuge in Thailand. Thousands of Vietnamese also fled from Laos. The King appointed Phetxarat’s half brother Kindavong interim prime minister. A Franco-Lao commission in July led to the modus vivendi signed on August 27 establishing Laos as a constitutional monarchy within the French Union. A secret protocol guaranteed that Prince Bunum would be inspector-general of Champassak for life. Under the Indochinese Federation the résident supérieur would govern Laos, but provincial councilors replaced the residents in the provinces. A Constituent Assembly of 44 deputies was elected by universal male suffrage in December.

In March 1947 the Assembly began debating the constitution, and Phetxarat’s half brother Suvannarat led the provisional cabinet. The constitution was adopted, and 35 deputies were elected to the National Assembly in August. The King’s Council of twelve members acted as a high court and reviewed legislation. In November the Assembly met and confirmed Suvannarat as prime minister. Ministers Bong Suvannavong and Ku Voravong formed the Lao National Union as the first officially recognized political party, and they published New Laos (Lao Mai). The College Pavie became a senior  high school in 1947, and junior high schools opened in Pakxe, Luang Prabang, and Savannakhet. Education was given 17% of the national budget, and health services were improved. Laos gained a little more independence when the General Convention signed in July 1949 led to an amended constitution in September.

The Lao Resistance in the East had formed at Vinh in September 1946. A year later Pridi’s Bangkok government backed the League of Southeast Asia, and Suphanavong was elected secretary-general. However, in November 1947 a military coup in Thailand made the Lao Issara unwelcome there. Many of the moderates in Thailand returned to Laos while the radicals joined the Vietminh. In January 1949 the Raxavong brigade was organized in southeastern Laos under Kaison Phomvihan of the ICP. The next month Suphanavong broke with the Lao Issara and formed the Lao People’s Progressive Organization in northern Laos. The returning Lao Issara leaders agreed to the transfer of powers to the Royal Lao government on February 6, 1950. The French retained control over the administration of justice, internal security, and command of the Lao army, which was formed by conscription. The next day the United States and Britain recognized the independence of Laos, but the only country to exchange ambassadors was Thailand. The admission of Laos into the United Nations was vetoed by the Soviet Union.


1. Women and Social Justice, p. 100 quoted in Gandhi’s Technique of Mass Mobilization by M. M. Verma, p. 135.
2. The Life of Mahatma Gandhi by Louis Fischer, p. 383.
3. Quoted in Struggle for Freedom, p. 646.
4. Mahatma: Life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Volume 7 by D. G. Tendulkar, p. 377.
5. India 1947-50, Volume 1 Internal Affairs, p. 4.
6. Quoted in India 1947-50, Volume 2 External Affairs, p. xix.
7. Tibet Disappears by Chanakya Sen, p. 66 quoted in Tibet: A Political History by Tsepon W. D. Shakabpa, p. 303.

Copyright © 2007 by Sanderson Beck

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