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The Founding Fathers of the Union of Burma (Myanmar)

This article was written by Yawwun and published in the Guardian newspaper around 1955, and quoted from the book “Profile of a Burma Frontier Man”.

The foundation of the Union of Burma comprising the whole areas of the various small kingdoms for the first time in the history of the whole greater Burma is the greatest episode in her history. According to the “Historical Geography of the Burmese countries at several epochs” by Day and Sons Lithographers to the Queen reproduced as plate XXVI in Yule’s Mission to Ava in 1855 for the epochs about A.D. 1500, 1580, 1822 and 1856 one can see the numerous distribution of the various small kingdoms in the areas forming the present Union of Burma. The earliest map ”About A.D. 1500″ shows the kingdoms or independent countries of:

  1. AVA with two cities Pagan and Ava.
  2. PEGU with Pegu, Dagon, Ko Miu and Prome. Prome was the northern boundary of the Pegu Kingdom.
  3. TOUNGOO with Toungoo as capital.
  4. ARACAN with capital at Aracan.
  5. CHIN HILLS bounded .by Ava, Aracan, Tripu on the west and Manipoor on the north marked “wild tribes.”
  6. TAVOY with capital at Tavoy.
  7. North of Ava was a country marked Pong Nora.

The second map “About A.D. 1580” shows the emergence of the very big PEGUAN EMPIRE (Toungoo dynasty) absorbing most of the countries mentioned in the first map quoted above. This new empire composed of the former kingdom of Ava, Toungoo, Pegu, Tavoy, Pong Nora, and the eastern states of Upper Laos and Kiang Mai and covers Yuthia on the south east. Arakan and the Chin Hills were not included in the Peguan empire.

The third map ” A.D. 1822″ shows the EMPIRE OF AVA in the place of PEGUAN and covers approximately the same area as the Peguan empire plus the Arakan and Manipoor still without the Chin Hills but the boundary with Siam is approximately as at, present day.

The fourth map “A.D. 1856” which represents the position after the second Anglo Burmese war should be more familiar to most historical geographers. Only the last kingdom of Ava comprising Upper Burma remains in Burmese hands. The other former kingdoms had passed to a foreign monarch, Queen Victoria. It appears from the historical map and history that only the Chin Hills have never been under foreign domination between A.D. 1850 and A.D. 1856. A part of the Chin Hills, the Matu area was annexed by the British under Col. Burne as late as 1927. It took a few years to subdue the Zo Chins after the British troops entered the Chin Hills in 1889. This old and last independent country appeared to have given most heroic resistance when they were first intruded by the British under the personal command of General (later Field Marshal) Sir George White, V.C, K.C.B.

An account of the telegram No. 82 dated the 28th January 1889 despatched by General Sir George White, Commander of Upper Burma who succeeded General Prendergast at Mandalay and who led the Chin Hills Expedition should be of enduring interest to the future generations of the Union. The account was written by Sir Bertram Carey, K.C.I.E. on page 28 of the Chin Hills Gazetteer and sub-titled in the’ margin “Advance into the hills” and “Encounter with Siyins.”

“ADVANCE INTO THE HILLS”

“On the 30th December 1888 Sir George White arrived at Kambale (near Kalemyo) and accompanied the force, which continued steadily advancing up the hills, the Sappers assisted by coolies making a road in their tract, along which were constructed rough stockades, in which the troops slept and rations were stored. The troops found their route always heavily stockades and the stockades generally held by the enemy, who never ceased to ambush when opportunity occurred, both day and night.

“ENCOUNTER WITH SIYINS”

“On the 27th January 1889 the road-making party was again confronted by Chins. The working party was sent back to the stockade and the troops, now unencumbered, attacked the enemy, who retired slowly, making a stubborn resistance, till they reached some formidable and skillfully placed stockades, where they made a stand. Sir George White, at our stockade, hearing heavy firing in front, joined the attacked party with a small reinforcement of the 42nd Gurkhas, and at once ordered, and took prominent part in, the charge, which was “brilliantly led by Lieutenant-Colonel Skene, D.S.O.” Sir George White, in a telegram to the Chief Commissioner of Burma, described the action as follows:

“Enemy yesterday attacked our working party on road above this and held our covering party, 40 British and 100 Gurkhas, from 9 till 2, when I arrived and ordered their positions to be charged. We carried all, driving them entirely away, getting off ourselves wonderfully cheaply. Only one Norfolk dangerously wounded. Enemy in considerable numbers using many rifles and plenty ammunition. They fired at least 1,000 rounds, standing resolutely until actually charged, even trying to outflank us. Their loss probably about eight or ten, but they were carried down the khuds at once. Most difficult enemy to see or hit I ever fought.” Such was the tenacity of our ancestors to defend their independence. A second severe resistance was made by the Kimlai Siyins.at Taitan (Tartan) on the 4th May 1889.’ Some thirty Siyins including the chief commander Lian Kam lost their lives and one British officer Surgeon Ferdinand Le Quesne was awarded the Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery in that battle. “The attack and capture of the Siyin village of New Taitan followed on the <4th May 1889 and is of more interest than the preceding occurrences from the comparatively stubborn resistance offered by the Chins on this occasion” A. Scott Reid in “Chin Lushai Land” Calcutta 1893. Do Lian, son of Chief Lian Kam was sent to jail in Myingyan and died there in August 1894.

Unwillingness to remain ‘a subject nation was evidenced by a few important risings against the British :

  1. The Siyin Rebellion at Thuklai, 1892.
  2. The Haka Chin Rebellion 1917.
  3. The Kuki Chin Rebellion 1917.
  4. The Saya San Tharawaddy Rebellion 1931.
  5. The various rebellions in Burma and the Chin Hills against the Japanese imperial army in 1944-45.

For the culmination of the last and final independence of Burma the following historical factors are the significant episodes ––>page 2

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