Pacification of Burma

   The Third Anglo-Burmese War lasted only two weeks, from its outbreak on November 14, 1885, until the occupation of Mandalay on November 28. But the countrywide uprisings that followed, involving thousands of rural-based guerrillas, surprised the British, who expected that the Burmese people would be grateful for having been liberated from the tyranny of King Thibaw's court. After being appointed chief commissioner of Burma in March 1886, Sir Charles Crosthwaithe launched a "pacification" campaign, involving more than 40,000 British and Indian troops and military police, which succeeded in imposing order in most parts of Upper and Lower Burma by 1887 (British authority over border areas where Shans, Kachins, and Chins resided was not effectively imposed until the end of the decade). This was accomplished through the use of mobile cavalry operations, summary executions, and the forced relocation of communities that supported rebels, a method that was especially effective in tearing up the social roots of guerrilla resistance. Some of the harsher measures were criticized in the British newspapers and Parliament. Crosthwaithe claimed that when villagers were unwilling to give information on rebel movements, "the only open course was to make them fear us rather than the bandits."
   The intensity of the popular resistance and its appearance even in areas that had been under British rule for decades, such as the delta of the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady River), was caused in Upper Burma by the breakdown of governmental institutions during the last years of Thibaw's reign and the desire of bandit gangs to take advantage of an anarchic situation. In Lower Burma, rebels were inspired by their Upper Burma counterparts. But the uprising also had a patriotic theme, especially when members of the royal family, such as the Myinzaing Prince, a surviving son of King Mindon, were involved. In the Shan States, the Limbin Confederacy, led by another royal prince, first opposed King Thibaw, then the British. Patriotic movements attempted to restore the traditional political and social order, though not necessarily by a scion of the Konbaung Dynasty, and it was often difficult to tell the difference between a bandit (dacoit) and a patriotic leader. In some areas, members of the Sangha actively aided the resistance, anticipating the anti-British "political pongyis" of the 1920s. British use of Karen (Kayin) levies to suppress the rebellion, encouraged by some Christian missionaries, fueled ethnic antagonism.
   Although the uprisings were largely suppressed by 1890, the British resorted to similar pacification measures in dealing with the Saya San (Hsaya San) Rebellion of 1930-1932, the last major Burmese rural uprising.
   See also Anglo-Chin War.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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