Anglo-Burmese War, Third

   As in the Second AngloBurmese War, the immediate cause of the third war was a relatively minor dispute, the decision of the Burmese government to impose a fine on a British firm, the Bombay Burmah Trading Company (BBTC), for illegal extraction of teak from royal forests near Toungoo (Taungoo). In addition, against the background of Anglo-French rivalry following establishment of the latter's interests in Indochina, the attempt of King Thibaw (r. 1878-1885) to cultivate close ties with Paris to counterbalance the British proved dangerously provocative (there were rumors that if the BBTC's forestry lease was terminated, it would be given to a French company). His rule was undermined by incompetence and factionalism, and his powerful Queen Supayalat, backed by a reactionary court faction, demanded a hard line against the British. The fact that the British envoy to the court at Mandalay had been recalled (in 1879) made negotiation over the dispute nearly impossible, while the rumors of expanding French influence grew thicker on the ground in the royal city and in Rangoon (Yangon).
   On October 22, 1885, the Viceroy of India, Lord Dufferin, sent an ultimatum to Thibaw demanding settlement of the commercial dispute, further trade privileges for the British, reestablishment of diplomatic relations, and British control of Burma's foreign relations, a measure that, if accepted, would have meant an end to the country's independence. On November 9, Thibaw issued an ambiguous reply.
   It was interpreted as a refusal, and a British expeditionary force was ordered to move up the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River from Lower Burma on November 14. It captured Mandalay two weeks later, after minimal Burmese resistance. Thibaw and Supayalat were sent into exile in India, to the distress of their subjects. On January 1, 1886, the annexation of Upper Burma was proclaimed, and subsequently all of Burma was made a province of the British Indian Empire. Although the Third Anglo-Burmese War was little more than "gunboat (or riverboat) diplomacy," British troops were tied down for years afterwards, suppressing guerrilla resistance both in what became known as Burma Proper and the Frontier Areas.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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