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ေအာက္ပါ BBC ကထုတ္လႊင္႔ ခဲ႔တဲ႔ TV အစီအစဥ္ မွာ Friends of the Burma Hill Peoples အဖြဲ႔နဲ႔ ကရင္လူမ်ိဳးေတြ ေပါင္းျပီး ဗိုလ္ခ်ဳပ္ေအာင္ဆန္းကို လုပ္ၾကံခဲ႔တယ္လို႔ စြတ္စြဲထားတယ္။ ဒီ ကိစၥကို ၥ
Friends of the Burma Hill Peoples အဖြဲ႔ဝင္ျဖစ္တ႔ဲ H.A. Stonor, ex-Welch Regiment ရဲ႔ျပန္လည္ေျဖရွင္းခ်က္ပါ။
Friends of the Burma Hill Peoples အဖြဲ႔ဝင္ျဖစ္တ႔ဲ H.A. Stonor, ex-Welch Regiment ရဲ႔ျပန္လည္ေျဖရွင္းခ်က္ပါ။
The BurmaNet News, October 7, 1997
INDEPENDENT COMMENTARY: RECENT SPECULATIONS ON AUNG
by H.A. Stonor
[Note from BurmaNet Editor: BurmaNet was pleased to receive this commentary
from H. A. Stonor, one of the British officers who were in Burma at the time
of General Aung San's assassination. Few British officers from that period
are still alive today, so H. A. Stonor's commentary is particularly
valuable. Another commentary on how the assassination plot developed was
recently posted by "Naing Win / Kyin Ho, M.D." on the burmanet-l newsgroup,
so we have also included it below.]
AN INDEPENDENT COMMENTARY ON RECENT SPECULATIONS
CONCERNING THE ASSASSINATION OF AUNG SAN
3 October 1997
On 19 July, the BBC transmitted a television documentary, "Who Really Killed
Aung San?", which was also the subject of an article by the correspondent
Fergal Keane, printed in the Guardian newspaper on the same day and in the
South China Morning Post on 22 July. In these reports it was insinuated that
the assassination of Aung San and five fellow cabinet members in July 1947
was somehow the work of a secret conspiracy involving not only a jealous
Burmese politician, U Saw, but also an amalgam of different British officials,
including the former governor Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith and Captain David
Vivian as well as a group of British Burma veterans in the United Kingdom,
known as the Friends of the Burma Hill Peoples.
With time and distance, it is, of course, easy to play flights of fancy with
fading traces of history. However, as one who not only lived through those
terrible events in Rangoon but was also a member of the Friends of the Burma
Hill Peoples, the programme made no sense whatsoever and was a gross
distortion of many events.
Firstly, while U Saw was executed for his alleged role in the
assassinations, it is
true that many contemporaries - both Burmese and British officials alike -
always felt further questions needed to be answered over U Saw's actions at the
time: whether he had organised the assassinations alone, on behalf of others, or
whether, indeed, he was victim of one of the most successful frame-ups in
history. Certainly, in the violent climate of those times, there were many
bands and much confusion in the country. U Saw himself had recently survived
an assassination attempt on his own life, while Aung San and his Cabinet had
been discussing the mass arrest of political opponents that very day.
Furthermore, there was evidence of two rogue British officers, Captain Vivian
and Major Young, conspiring for financial gain to supply U Saw with arms.
Most curious of all, however, were the actions of U Saw himself. As a former
prime minister, U Saw no doubt retained political ambitions, but his behaviour
that day was not that of a man who had any immediate master-plan for power.
In fact, U Saw did absolutely nothing but sit in his house until he was
Moreover, although the BBC programme conveniently overlooked this, there
was never any question of the British governor, Sir Hubert Rance, appointing U
Saw in Aung San's place. If guilty on his own, it appeared to be a heinous
crime without motive.
Inevitably, although U Saw was swiftly arrested, speculation remained rife in
the following weeks. The Burmese communists, who were also armed and then
very powerful, immediately believed that there must have been some British
involvement, since they claimed that Aung San, frustrated at the slow pace of
the British withdrawal from Burma, was considering rejoining their ranks.
Aung San, it should be remembered, was a co-founder of the Communist Party
of Burma in 1939. Indeed, I personally witnessed Aung San's brother-in-law,
the communist leader Than Tun, march into the British Club in Rangoon after
the assassination, where he began smashing glasses and generally berating the
Those of us in the British services, however, began to hear other reports,
suggesting other possible perpetrators amongst Aung San's political rivals, who
had either framed U Saw or used him as their fall-guy. To my knowledge,
although such reports were circulating, they were never formally investigated,
but amongst names mentioned were socialist activists, whose leader, U Nu, was
fortuitously absent from the Secretariat building that day and subsequently
became prime minister in Aung San's place. Other rumours pointed at corrupt
factions within the fledgling Burmese armed forces (later led by Ne Win), who
were privately jealous of Aung San's dominating political power.
The BBC programme, however, did not look at these issues, but instead tried to
link together a very disparate group of British officials and Burmese
in an alleged conspiracy where the only real connections are a succession of
herrings or, at best, coincidences. Much was made by Feargal Keane and the
programme-makers of the alleged discovery of secret British documents, but
not only were they not quoted but the programme did not even demonstrate
how all the different characters were supposed to be linked by these supposed
new documents. Indeed, in some cases, the individuals never even met nor were
they known to each other.
Much, for example, was made of the connection between U Saw and the British
Council representative, John Bingley, but the BBC programme provided no
evidence of complicity in the actual crime other than the suggestion that
Bingley, who was acting as an individual, made a nod and a wink remark to U
Saw at a tea party. U Saw's actions in prison certainly show that he looked to
Bingley for help and the communications between the two men appeared odd,
but again this does not prove Bingley's involvement or, more importantly, go on
to link to any greater conspiracy.
Another example is the role of the two corrupt British officers, Captain Vivian
and Major Young, who had stolen guns for profit, and these were later found
conveniently dumped in the lake by U Saw's house and were reportedly used in
the assassination plot. In another curious twist, in 1949, when serving a jail
term in Insein prison for his crimes, Captain Vivian was released in fighting
after troops from the Karen National Union took control of the town during the
civil war that broke out after independence. The programme then follows this
trail and concentrates on the embarrassment of a later British government,
which was hardly surprising, at repatriating a convicted gun-runner, Vivian,
back to the United Kingdom from a war-zone. However, again, this does not
link--nor was it shown to link--into any secret British conspiracy.
And this is where the programme made even more dangerous errors, when, in
the attempt to find an instigator, it tried to somehow link the Karen question
with the assassination of Aung San. The group it accused was the Friends of
the Burma Hill Peoples. As a member of this group, all I can say is that
accusation is manifestly untrue.
Firstly, the Friends of the Burma Hill Peoples did not really develop into
until 1948, a year after Aung San's death. Secondly, the Friends began life
talking shop of British veterans who, quite rightly in the view of Burma's
subsequent history, were concerned at the deep ethnic tensions within the
country and the fate of Burma's ethnic minority peoples, who had been
extremely loyal to the Allied Forces in the fight against fascism in the Second
Thirdly, diverse opinions were expressed within the group, which included
such very different people as H.N.C. Stevenson, the ex-director of the Frontier
Areas Administration, Sir Reginald Dorman- Smith, the former Burma
governor, Raymond Blackburn, the socialist M.P., and Frank Owen, the editor
of the Daily Mail. Indeed, when a number of us considered it appropriate to
become more actively involved in support of the Karen cause (which,
incidentally, was the subject of a very accurate television documentary,
"Forgotten Allies", in April 1997 by the BBC's historical Timewatch series),
members such as Stevenson made their disagreements clear and withdrew.
Finally, the programme was quite wrong to state that the ex-Burma governor,
Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith, was the key figure behind the Friends of the
Burma Hill Peoples. Although Dorman-Smith attended at least one meeting out
of interest (where he said nothing), the main activist was, in fact, Col.
Cromarty-Tulloch, a veteran of Force 136.
Of course, since Dorman-Smith was well-known to U Saw, it no doubt suited
the programme makers to play up this angle in the attempt to try and prove a
secret British plot, but it has no foundation in historical fact.
late Dorman-Smith is the main target for many of the innuendoes and
conspiracy theories that are trailed throughout the programme.
However, not only is there no suggestion of how this plot was organised by
Dorman-Smith (or how it was supposed to work), but the programme
conveniently overlooked Dorman-Smith's words and actions at the time, when
he was a man very much in tune with the sufferings and feelings of Burma. In
1950, for example, following the assassination of the Karen leader Saw Ba U
Gyi, Dorman-Smith movingly wrote to The Times newspaper in London, "The
major tragedy is that Burma is losing her best potential leaders at far too
a rate. Aung San, U Saw, Saw Ba U Gyi, U Tin Tut, all have gone." This was
the contemporary view of Dorman-Smith, but the programme-makers
selectively disregard it, even though his analysis has great meaning today.
Fifty years later, the tragedy of Burma lives on and, even worse, by quite
incorrectly trying to link innocent Karens and the long-departed colonial
government in the assassinations, the programme has a very distorting
resonance in the present tense. In Burma today, the sufferings of the Karen
people are immense, and the struggle for justice and democracy for all the
peoples of Burma still continues.
Very sadly, then, the programme--and its many speculations--have recently
been picked up by Burmese government officials for their own propaganda
purposes in denouncing both the British and Karen nationalists, so it is vital
that the historical record is put straight now before any further damage is
There are, indeed, questions to be asked and many lessons to be learned from
the tragic events at Burma's independence, but these must be based on reality
and not with the leisure of conspiracy theories and speculation.
H.A. Stonor, ex-Welch Regiment and Friends of the Burma Hill Peoples