Anglo-Burmese

   Also known as Anglo-Burmans or Eurasians, the children of mixed European and Burmese parentage played a prominent role in colonial society. Colonial Burma was an intensely race-conscious society, and Anglo-Burmese, along with Anglo-Indians (children of mixed European-Indian parentage) occupied an ambiguous position. Although they were never fully accepted in either indigenous or European society, the British considered them more trustworthy than the indigenous ethnic groups, especially the Burmans (Bamars). The Anglo-Burmese found employment in the civil service (working on the railroads, port authority, and schools), the police, and the colonial armed forces, as well as in private business. Because of this, the Burmese often resented them, especially after nationalist sentiment intensified in the 1920s and 1930s. Usually the term "Anglo-Burmese" was used synonymously with "Eurasian" to refer not only to persons of partial British ancestry but also to the children of Burmese and continental European (especially Portuguese), North American, Australian, and possibly also Middle Eastern (Armenian) parents. Most Anglo-Burmese were Christians and were educated at schools run by missionaries. They possessed their own culture and ways of life, reflecting British values, and are best understood not as a "race" (or "mixed race") but as a distinct ethnic group. The history of Anglo-Burmese/Eurasians goes back at least to the Bayingyi, Portuguese followers of Felipe de Brito who were resettled near Shwebo in Upper Burma in the early 17th century. Before the Third Anglo-Burmese War and the fall of the Konbaung Dynasty, a special official, the kalawun, was responsible for resident Europeans, Eurasians, and Indians (kala originally referring in the Burmese [Myanmar] language to persons from the Indian subcontinent). Colonization brought large numbers of British male soldiers, officials, and merchants, many of whom had relationships with Burmese women, although such contacts were officially discouraged. This policy was in contrast to the Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia), where there was a centuries-long tradition of intermarriage between Europeans and locals (though the Dutch, for status reasons, also preferred "pure" European spouses). This created a lamentable double standard. European women in Burma were few, especially upcountry. Brief liaisons with local women, or the keeping of Burmese mistresses, was tolerated, while lawful matrimony with a Burmese woman often subjected a European and his children to both social and official opprobrium. Gordon Luce, an eminent scholar of early Burma, had a Burmese wife, and was criticized by the governor himself, Reginald Craddock, for being "pro-Burman" (that is, liking the Burmese better than his own race). Because of this double standard, European men frequently abandoned their Burmese consorts and Eurasian children, leaving them destitute and at the mercy of a society that despised them. Some of the most vivid descriptions of the Anglo-Burmese plight are found in George Orwell's Burmese Days. However, toward the close of the colonial era, the prejudice against interracial marriage seems to have diminished.
   In the 1930s, the Eurasian population of Burma, including AngloBurmese, Anglo-Indians, and others, was 110,000 (out of a total of 17 million). The 1931 census of Rangoon (Yangon) counted 9,878 Anglo-Indians, an official category that included Anglo-Burmese, out of a total population of 400,415; this was more than double the 1901 figure, 4,674 out of a total of 248,060. Special seats were allocated for Anglo-Indians/Anglo-Burmese in the legislatures established by the dyarchy reforms of 1923 and the Government of Burma Act of 1935.
   When the Japanese invaded Burma in late 1941, many AngloBurmese left the country, often going on foot over the mountains to India and suffering great hardship. Those who remained frequently attempted to pass as Burmese. As Burma approached independence after World War II, the Anglo-Burmese community faced a difficult choice: whether to throw in their lot with the new nation, necessary for surviving in a Burmese- or Burman-dominated society, or leave their homeland of many generations. Independence leader Aung San stressed that they must "prove their allegiance by actions and not by words," reflecting the nationalist belief that they had been "disloyal" in the past. They continued to play an important role in national life during the period when U Nu was prime minister (1948-1962), but the establishment of a military regime by Ne Win in 1962 led to their exclusion from the civil service and the higher ranks of the Tatmadaw. They were denied full citizenship rights under the Citizenship Law of 1982 because their ancestors had arrived in Burma after the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826). Despite such barriers, a handful of Anglo-Burmese achieved prominence after 1962, including an Anglo-Shan, Brigadier Tommy Clift, who served in the original Revolutionary Council; June Rose Bellamy (Yadana Natmai), the child of an Australian and a Konbaung princess who became Ne Win's wife; and Brigadier David Abel, who served as minister of economic planning under the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). However, the SLORC and the State Peace and Development Council perpetrated crude slanders against Aung San Suu Kyi, accusing her of being a "race-traitor" because she had married an Englishman, Dr. Michael Aris. Many Anglo-Burmese emigrated to the United Kingdom, Australia, and other countries, the community in western Australia being especially prominent. Because of their fluency in English and their cultural orientation to the West, Anglo-Burmese have found it relatively easy to assimilate to British and Australian society.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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