Federal Movement

   A movement organized by leaders of the ethnic minorities, especially the Shans (Tai), to amend the Constitution of 1947 to make it more genuinely federal in character. In Shan State, support for the movement was inspired not only by shortcomings in the constitution but also by the harsh treatment local populations received at the hands of the Tatmadaw following the Kuomintang (Guomindang) intrusions of the early 1950s. The principal leader of the movement was Sao Shwe Taik, who had been Burma's president from 1948 to 1952.
   In January 1961, 33 Shan leaders met at the state capital, Taunggyi, and formed a Constitutional Revision Steering Committee. On June 8-16, 1961, a Constitutional Conference was held in the same city, attended by 226 delegates, including not only Shan but Karen, Kachin, and Chin representatives. Their proposals included reconstruction of the Union of Burma as a group of "co-equal" states; making Burma Proper a single state, separate from the central (federal) government; giving the two chambers of Parliament equal powers, so that the Chamber of Nationalities could better serve ethnic minority state interests; and the establishment of stronger and more autonomous state governments. Prime Minister U Nu was receptive to their proposals and invited ethnic minority leaders to a "Federal Seminar" in Rangoon (Yangon) in February 1962. While the talks were underway, General Ne Win seized power on March 2, 1962, and closed down parliamentary government. U Nu and ethnic leaders, including Sao Shwe Taik, were imprisoned. Brigadier Aung Gyi, a member of the original Revolutionary Council, stated that "we had economic, religious and political crises with the issue of federalism as the most important reason for the coup." Undoubtedly, stronger state governments in the ethnic areas, a key federal proposal, would have challenged the Tatmadaw's growing appetite for power. FORCE 136. The Far Eastern branch of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). Its mission in Burma and other parts of Southeast Asia was to organize local resistance against the Japanese during World War II. Largely through the work of Major Hugh Seagrim, it organized Karen (Kayin) guerrillas in the hill country east of the Sittang (Sittoung) River; and, with the cooperation of Communist Party of Burma operatives, especially Thein Pe Myint, made contact with the underground Anti-Fascist Organization among the Burmans (Bamars). Force 136 made extensive use of "Jedburgh Teams," consisting of two British officers and a wireless operator who were parachuted behind enemy lines. The effectiveness of Karen guerrillas during the 1945 Allied thrust into Burma and the uprising of the Burma National Army against the Japanese on March 27 were vindications of Force 136's underground activities, which were regarded with some skepticism by other elements of the British government and army.
   See also Armed Forces Day; Aung San; Japanese Occupation.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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