The Beginning of Burma’s Problems

As Burma slipped deeper into socialism, 400 Catholic schools were stolen from the priests, brothers and sisters who had built them.

A roadblock in Burma following the February coup
A roadblock in Burma following the February coup (photo: Register Burma Correspondent)

“There’s only one thing worse than a fool and that’s the smug, conceited man always in love with his own opinions.” (Proverbs 26:12)

Burma’s contemporary problems did not just begin with the British Raj. If anything, the answers to many of its problems came in the ideas and structures Western Christians taught them — including human rights, universal education and Christ’s Gospel.

However, it was the Japanese onslaught that cemented those Western values in the soul of the Burmese — and by “Burmese,” I mean all of the 147 indigenous ethnicities united under the name “Burma” (now known as Myanmar). The ethnic Burmese are approximately 50% of the population. Burmese is the national language though it’s usually called “Myanmarian” in a vain attempt at not offending conquered people.

Burmese dictator Shu Maung was born in Paungdale, Burma, and died an ignoble death in Rangoon (now also known as Yangon) in 2002. He ruled Burma in what would later be known as the first of three military juntas to take over the country. He controlled Burma from 1962 to 1988.

Shu Maung studied at Rangoon University College from 1929 to 1931. In the mid-1930s he became involved in the struggle for Burmese independence from the British Empire which led him to ally himself with the Japanese invasion force which had subjugated Burma and an enormous swath of Asia from 1894 to 1945.

In 1941, Shu Maung was one of Thirty Comrades (i.e., Thakin) who was sent to China’s Hainan province to study in a Japanese military school operating there. During his studies, he changed his name to Ne Win ― the name by which history would remember him.

Upon completing his studies, Ne Win served as an officer in the Japanese-sponsored Burma National Army from 1943 to 1945. He finally came to his senses about the Japanese’s true plans concerning Burma and Asia and abandoned his commission. He became involved in the underground resistance to combat the Japanese. When Burma gained independence from Britain on Jan. 4, 1948, Ne Win served as the second commander in chief of the army.

In 1958, Ne Win was asked to serve as Burma’s prime minister in an interim government after Prime Minster U Nu’s administration proved itself incapable of suppressing the ethnic insurgencies on Burma’s outer edges. Ne Win ordered general elections in 1960 and relinquished his position when U Nu was reelected to the post restored parliamentary government.

On March 2, 1962, Ne Win carried out a coup d’état and imprisoned U Nu. He established the Revolutionary Council of the Union of Burma, whose members were taken nearly exclusively from the armed forces.

Ne Win established a marxist dictatorship with the assistance of Chinese Communist Party amid the latter’s atrocities throughout China and especially in Tibet and Uyghuristan. Burma still suffers from the socialist machinations that have plagued all of the 41 nations that had succumb to socialism, including a dogged and massively redundant bureaucracy and a parliament that is constitutionally required to reserve 25% of its seats for active military personnel.

The repressive military dictatorship which Ne Win (his name is often preceded with the letter “U” which is simply an honorific meaning “Mr.”) instituted with a socialist economic program already doomed to failure considering it was based on the Chinese and Soviet systems. All private companies were nationalized including mines, airports, trains, schools and hospitals. In practical terms, this meant that all 400 Catholic schools were stolen from the priests, brothers and sisters who had built them through donations from Catholics around the world.

Like all other communist dictators, Ne Win embarked on an overreaching, impractical and ultimately dangerous industrialization program which ultimately led to the destruction of all natural aquifers throughout the country except in the highest of mountain ranges, forcing the Burmese to restrict themselves to drinking only botted water. Tap water is undrinkable throughout the rest of the country.

Ne Win also destroyed all foreign investment in the company principally controlled by Indians, Chinese, and Pakistani traders. Ne Win steered a neutral, isolationist and xenophobic course in foreign policy. Burma was essentially cut off from the rest of the world, which explains why no one in the West recognizes the new name “Myanmar.”

Only one political party remained legal — the Burmese Socialist Program Party (BSPP). In 1964, all others were instantly disbanded and their leaders arrested. BSPP is run solely by military leaders.

Ne Win instituted a new constitution in 1972–73, cementing his control over the nation. A new government took power in 1974 in a rigged election, with Ne Win becoming president while remaining chairman of the BSPP.

By the late 1980s, Ne Win’s socialist and isolationist policies had reduced Burma to one of the world’s poorest countries. The nation had been one of the world’s largest exporters of rice but corruption and mismanagement, ecological disasters, agricultural failures and famines had driven this nation’s once-vibrant economy into a black market.

In late 1987, antigovernment rioting broke out in all major cities followed by massive student protesters in 1988. In 1988, the long-expected, so-called “Monk Revolution” took place. Even atheists socialist could never destroy the people’s piety when it comes to Buddhism and the awe and respect with which lay people hold their monks and abbots was no match for the socialists.

However, in each case, Ne Win’s marxists troops cruelly slaughtered 30,000 people, many of whom weren’t protesting. Thousands were jailed and tortured.

The uncontainable chaotic rage against the heavy-handed socialist necessitated Ne Win to resign from the BSPP chairmanship in July 1988. Without his backing, the BSPP no longer could command respect and it was quickly replaced in September by the State Law and Order Restoration Council, which was similarly headed by military officers.

Historians assert that Ne Win was the éminence grise in Burma though he was never publicly seen well into the 1990s. In March 2002, he was placed under house arrest following the imprisonment of several family members who were accused of plotting a coup against the country’s new military junta, though he was never formally charged and he remained publicly under house arrest until his death in 2002 at the age of 91.

Ethnic civil wars have been a part of Burma’s contemporary history since the Raj. However, Ne Win was particularly cruel to the ethnicities on Burma’s borders including the Chin, Shan, Karen, Wa, Ta’ang, Kachin and Kayin. Conflict has even spilled over into neighboring India’s Nagaland, but the aggressors there are exclusively Hindu nationalists. A large percentage of Burma’s outlying ethnicities have converted to Christianity over the centuries, mostly Catholic. This xenophobia has stoked Burmese nationalists to insist, “To be Burmese, one must be Buddhist.” In fact, that very sentiment led to the assassination of first native martyr ― Father Stephen Wong ― whose cause for canonization is currently being considered along with a dozen other martyrs.

The Burmese war against the Shan shares the dubious honor of being considered one of the world’s longest civil wars. But the Kayin claim their war against Burmese colonization is equally long. The same goes for the Shan and the Karen.

Hostilities between the Burmese socialist army and the largely Christian Chin have mostly died down due to attrition. However, nationalist Buddhist monks still provocatively build temples throughout their state in a vain hope that the Chin will abandon their “foreign religion.” Christianity, however, remains in the Chin hearts.

All of these wars, which Western socialists are loath to discuss, have all lasted for 60+ years. There have certainly been truces including the 15-year long ceasefire with the Kayin but, otherwise, at least half the country is off-limits to foreigners as established warzones.

Currently there are 15 different armed rebel groups active in Burma. Though the rebels have universally laid down their arms upon hearing of the military coup on Feb. 2, the socialists have brutally attacked these outlying ethnicities throughout the country slaughtering at least 100 innocents since the coup was announced. Anthropologists have suggested that the socialist army is trying to provoke these ethnicities to fight them so that the socialists can claim that they are fighting insurgents. On the latter’s part, they’ve thus far not taken the bait. Throughout their conflicts, socialists have torched 3000 Christian villages and driven their people into the jungles as internally-displaced persons.