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February 28, 2010

Arakanese Nationalism and the Struggle for National self- determination
(An overview of Arakanese political history up to 1988)
                                                                                         By: Khaing Aung Win
Arakan had been an independent kingdom before it was invaded by the Burmans in
1784. The invasionof the Burmans into Arakan in 1784 led the Burmans into conflict
with the British in British-India . The Arakanese people took refuge in chittagong Hill
Tracts of British- India and repulsed the Burman invaders to restore their home land .The
resistance wars launched by the Arakanese people were misjudged by the Burmans as to be
the encouragement of the British . This gave rise to conflict between the British and the
Burmans .
After the first Anglo-Burman war in 1826 , Arakan was ceded to the British by the
Burmans. Instead of ceding Arakan to Arakanese people ,the British colonized it and
incorporated it into British–India .The British’s rule in Arakan in the 19th century faced
numerous pro- independence revolts staged by the Arakanese people .The imposition of the
British’s control in Arakan took long time, some areas not being pacified until the early
20thcentury .In 1852 , a second Anglo- Burman war resulted the Burmans to surrender to
the British and the remainder of the Burmans territories were incorporated into British
-India .
Up to theearliest 20th century , the national liberation movement of Arakan was carried out
in isolation having no relation with the neighbouring nationalist movements .
The Burman’s nationalism was faded away under the oppressive British colonial rule .In
1917 ,the emergence of saradaw U Ottama , an Arakanese Buddhist monk ,woke up the
Burman’s nationalism .
Being aware of impossibility for freedom for the Burmans without co-operation
of non-Burman ethnic nationalities in British-Burma, the Burman political leaders persuaded
the non-Burman ethnic nationalities to be united in struggle against the British colonial rule
giving a sham promise for establishment of Federal Union of all ethnic nationalities equal in
every respect .The Arakanese political leaders hopefully believed the sham promise given by
the Burman political leaders and co-operated with the Burmans to achieve independence of
British -Burma instead of setting up definite political position to gain the right to selfdetermination
of Arakanese people .
When Burma gained independence from the British in 1948 by the collective efforts of the
Burman and non–Burman ethnic nationalities including Arakanese people , Arakanese
people found themselves that they were a colony of the Burmans and were deceived by the
Burmans , who transformed their nationalism into the form of military dictatorship to
dominate the non-Burman ethnic nationalities : Chin, Kachin, Karen ,Kayah,
Mon ,Rakhaing( Arakanese people ) and Shan .However , the Arakanese people did not give
up their struggle for the right to self-determination .They continued their struggle and they are
stillstruggling for their right to self-determination by various means sacrificing a lot of their
lives .After forty years of Burma’s independence, the Burman nationalism in the form of
military dictatorship became a detriment even to the interest of the majority Burman people .
In this paper ,I attempt to define the Arakanese nationalism and examine the general condition
of their struggle for national self-determination.
Arakanese Nationalism
The Arakanese nationalism at this present phase can be classified into two streams
according to the national movements carried out by the Arakanese nationalists. One is
characteristic of third-world anti-imperialist nationalliberation. It is originated from the
political concept to regain the long lost national independenceand takes the form of political
struggle to establish a national state with jurisdiction over Arakan national territory based on
the self-determination as defined by the United Nations Organization. There is another stream
of Arakanese nationalism which is based on the principles of federalism, political equality and
the right to self-determination of all different ethnic nationalities in Burma.
This stream of Arakanese nationalism claims that a condition of peace and progress for
different ethnic nationalities in Burma is possible only as a result of abolition of the
Burman’s chauvinistic domination in the form of military dictatorship, and establishment of
an authentic federal union on the basic of full freedom and political equality of non-
Burman ethnic nationalities .Such a change in the basic structure of Burma’s political
community that those relations which breed exploitation of non-Burman ethnic nationalities
by the Burmans, and human misery will come to an end. Therefore, its goal is the attainment
of national freedom of Arakanese people and other ethnic nationalities, and the beginning of
free society of all ethnic nationalities of Burma, where racial oppression , economic
exploitation and violations of Human Rights will be terminated.
The rights of self-determination has been interpreted by both streams of Arakanese
nationalism as a people’s freedom to determine their political status, to pursue their
economic, social and cultural developments independently.{ (1)the Arakanese people must be
in a position to act – they must not be compelled by external forces or the threat of
punishment (2) the actions of Arakanese people must be performed in obedience to a lawthey
must be rational free choosers (3) the Arakanese people must themselves create or
prescribe the law to which they are obedient.}
Both streams of Arakanese Nationalism claim that the people of Arakanare a people who
have the rights to self-determination according to the UN charter ,and take the view that there
are all the features of a colony in Arakan. This is because Arakan, which was an independent
kingdom till 1784, was conquered by the aliens as the Burmans in 1784, the British in 1826
and the Japanese in 1942 successively, and the Arakanese people are still subjected to extreme
national oppression and political domination by the aliens Burmans. That is why both streams
of Arakanese nationalism demand the decolonisation of Arakan. The Arakanese people, who
carry the political heritage of the independent kingdom of Arakan, have the will to be
identified them as a people having a social entity with their own identity and characteristics in
their own territory.
Both streams of Arakanese nationalism assert in the matter of racial groups in Arakan
that the minority rights shall be guaranteed to the racial groups that migrated in
Arakan before 1826, the year on which the British occupied Arakan. However, those
Bengali Muslims, who were brought to Arakan after 1826 by the British for the purpose
of employments in the expanded cultivation in Arakan, are considered as individuals,
not a racial group. Their rights as citizens shall not be deprived like other citizens. The
individual citizens and freely constituted groups or organizations shall enjoy full
participation in every aspect of Arakanese political community. Arakanese nationalists,
who centre national independence, struggle by all necessary means, violence or nonviolence,
against the Burman domination. But, Arakanese nationalists, who centre the
right to self-determination of Arakanese people within the frame-work of a genuine
federal structure, struggle by non-violence means.
The successive Burman military regimes always attempt to crush any form of Arakanese
national movements through their military and police apparatus. It is illegal to establish an
Arakanese political organization in Arakan.
The socio-economic conditions of Arakan are aggravated as a result of the successive Burman
regime’s policies to retard deliberately social and economic developments of Arakanese
people. Their policies aimed at economic exploitation of natural resources and economic
bases of Arakan bring about million of Arakanese people to live in a condition of absolute
poverty. The mortality rate is higher in Arakan compared with in the territory where the
majority Burmans inhabit due to the lack of health care and medical expenditure. Most of the
industry are constructed in the territories where majority Burmans inhabit, and there are no
industry for the interest of Arakanese people in Arakan.
Transportation and communication are very poor, and standard of living in Arakan lags far
behind the territories where the majority Burmans inhabit. The education is neglected and
Arakanese people continue to experience decline of per capital income.Accordingly,
Arakanese nationalism contains a back-ward looking elements demanding redress of past
grievance and it also claims that Arakan national question must be viewed historically and
Location and Territory of Arakan
Arakan is situated between Burma on the east and Bangladesh on the west, and is separated
from Burma by the Arakan mountain ranges ( Arakan Roma). It is also bordered by India and
Bangladesh on the north and bounded on the south-west by the bay of Bengal .The present
total area of Arakan is about 18,500 sq-miles. Actual territory belonged to Arakan before it
came under foreign rule in 1784 was twice the area of the present day Arakan. The
southernmost territory of Arakan, from Kyauk-chwan River to cape Negres, was integrated
into Bessein district of lower Burma by the British in 1853. The territories covering Tripura
region, Chittagong Hill tracts and plain was integrated into British-India in 1937 by the
British again. Arakan Hill Tracts (Platwa district) was integrated into Chin special division by
the U Nu-led AFPFL Burman regime in 1952 in order to create discords between the peoples
of Arakan and Chinland.
A Short History Background of Arakan
The origin and development of Arakanese nationalism and national movements lie in the
history of Arakan. The history of Arakan can be viewed dividing into the following periods.
(a) Independent kingdom of Arakan ruled by Arakanese kings 3325 BC - 1784 AD
(b) The Burman rule 1784 AD - 1825 AD
(c) The Brithish rule 1826 AD - 1942 AD
(d) The Japanese rule 1942 AD - 1945 AD
(e) The British rule 1945 AD - 1947 AD
(f) The Burman rule 1948 AD to Up to Date
Ethnically, Arakanese people are mixture of Indo-Aryans and Mongolians. The ancient
chronologies gave 3325 BC as the date of the founding of the first Dynnyawaddy dynasty on
the east of Gissapa River (also known as Kalandan River). The founder of the first
Dynnyawaddy dynasty was king Marayu ( ayoung hero) who was a descendant of the ancient
tribe of the Shakyas in the northern India. King Marayu and his army was successful to
subdue the carnivorous barbarians who forayed Dynnyawaddy occasionally. King Marayu
established a beautiful city and led the kingdom to be a prosperous and peaceful society, and
he died at the age of eighty. The name of his kingdom “Dynnyawaddy” means a land of
plentiful rice production.
The Ananda Chandra inscriptions (686 A.D) on the Chite-thaung pillar of Mrauk-U has
recorded the presences of Arakanese dynasties from the 6th century BC. According to the
Ananda Chandra inscriptions and other ancient chronologies, the following six dynasties
reigned in Arakan.
(1) The first Dynnyawaddy ( BC 3325 to BC 1510) founded by King Marayu,
(2) The second Dynnyawaddy (BC 1483 to BC 581)founded by King Kanrazargree
(3) The third Dynnyawaddy ( BC 580 to AD 326 )founded by King Chandrasuria
(4) Wesali Dynasty (AD 327 to AD 818) founded by King Dvan Chandra,
(5) Lemro Dynasty (AD 818 to AD1404 ) founded by King Khattathun,
(6) Mrauk-U Dynasty (AD 1430 to AD 1784) founded by King Sawmon.
The 243 Arakannese kings ruled Arakan for a long period of 5108 years. The land which is
known as Arakan by the foreign peoples is christened by her own people as “Rakhaing Pray”.
According to the ancient Arakanese chronologies, the name “Rakhaing” is originated from
pali word “Rakkhapura” which means the native land of “Rakkha”. The word “Rakkha”, in
the course of time, evolves into “Rakhaing”. “Rakkha” in pali means safe-guarding of nation
and moral precepts. In an old history record of Arakan in poetic form, the meaning of
“Rakhaing” is mentioned as:
“Because they are capable of cherishing
and safe-guarding of their nation
and moral precepts,
They are deserved to be named
and to be called “Rakhaing”.
(Ashon Nagainda Mawgun, 14th Century).
In the Ananda Chandra inscriptions, the ancient name of Arakan is mentioned as
“Arakhadesa” in Sanskrit. “Arakha” means safe-guarding of nation and “desa” means land.
“Arakha” may be the source of foreign version “Arakan” for “Rakhaing”.
The fifty eight descendents of King Marayu ruled for (1818) years till BC 1510. The 58th King
Pyaw Hla Si Thu was usurped by the three disloyal ministers in BC 1510. Under the usurpers,
the insurrections were rampant throughout the kingdom. About the same time, a wave of
Indo-Aryan tribe led by Kanrazagree, entered Arakan from the north. Kanrazagree eliminated
all insurrections and dethroned the usurpers.
In BC 1483, Kanrazagree ascended the throne and established the second Dynnyawaddy
dynasty. His 28 descendants ruled Arakan for 927 years. The second Dynnyawaddy dynasty
was succeeded by the third Dynnyawaddy dynasty founded by King Chandrasuria in BC 580.
King Chandrasuria was a descendant of King Kanrazargree. He was a contemporary to king
Bimbisara of the kingdom of Magadha in India. During the reign of King Chandrasuria,
Arakan had commercial contact with the Kingdom of Magadha in India by both land and sea
routes. The Kingdom of Magadha was economically and technologically a valuable support to
Arakan. Dynnyawaddy inscriptions dated 544 BC says that during the reign of King
Chandrasuria, Lord Buddha visited Arakan.
It is quite possible that Arakanese people professed faith in Buddhism since then, and from
that time onwards, Buddhism seems to have continued to flourish and to influence Arakanese
civilization. Owing to the trade between the kingdom of Maghada and Arakan, there was
much cultural contact with the kingdom of Maghada at that time.
The third Dynnyawaddy dynasty was succeeded by the wesali dynasty which was established
by King Dvan Cahdra in AD 327. The capital city Wesali was very beautiful and popularly
known as the city of the stone Pier. Contacts were had with foreign peoples and trade was
carried on through both sea and land routes. The trading ships from foreign countries
harboured at the stone pier of capital city Wesali.
The kingdom of Arakan under the Chandra kings of Wesali dynasty became prosperous due to
the trade relations with foreign countries. In the trade relations, gold and silver coins were
used as currency. During this periods, although Arakanese court used Sanskrit alphabet and
Pali language, a new style of “Rakkhawunna” script ( Arakanese script) was invented and
promoted for a purpose of public use and the writing of Arakanese language to be uniform,
and thus fostered national unity. A lot of translation of Sanskrit literature into Arakanese
language were done in this period. Among them, the translation of law of Manu, translation of
Sarrnakya’s Niti and translation of the fables of King Kyammadike were famous and well
known. In this period, books written in Arakanese language on traditional medicines , arts,
warfare, metallurgy, pottery and architecture were produced in vast quantities. The most
famous Arakanese literary works as “Pyinnyameda chronical”in poetic form and “Thein Kan
Mein Twin Poem” were written in this period. “Pyinnyameda chronical” in poetic form was
composed by Medapynnya, a Minister of King Thirichandra, in 622-658 AD and “TheinKan
Mein Twin Poem” was composed by Princess Thuwunnadevi in 650-667 AD.
The industry of Arakan, in this period, produced household utensils such as stone plates, the
decorated carvings of stone and metal images, lamps, pots, golden sash, rings, bracelets, earsplugs
and textiles. Dams and embankments were built and irrigation systems were used in
order to distribute water for agricultural lands, and thus yield rich harvests. Buddhism thrived,
and pagodas, stupas, monasteries and shrines were built throughout the kingdom. Buddha
images were cast, and land grants were made to the religious institutions. The Buddhist synod
of 638 AD was convened by attending 1,000 Buddhist monks from the Island of Lanka
(Ceylon) and 1,000 Arakanese Buddhist monks. It lasted for 3 years, and the Pitakas, the three
repositories of Buddhist scripture, were written on the 5,000 copper plates. Arakan was a
prosperous and powerful nation in this period, and was the highest level of the world standard
of that period.
The Wesali dynasty was followed, in AD 818, by a new dynasty, the Lemro (four cities) which
ruled Arakan nearly 600 years, until 1404 AD. Sixty kings ruled from four cities of Pyinsa,
Parein, Nereinsara Taungoo and Launggrat successively .During the rules of king Kawlia and
King Datha Raza, the fifth and sixth kings of the Parein city of Lemro dynasty , Arakan grew
into a more powerful nation. The Lemro period was one of the most glorious periods in the
history of Arakan. One of the outstanding kings of Lemro period was King Mun Htee, who
was on the throne form 1238 AD to 1389 AD or a little over 96 years. Under him, military
operations were greatly expanded the territories of Kingdom of Arakan; to the west into
Bengal , to the east the west bank of Irrawaddy river, and to the north Kammapura and
Tripura. King Mun Htee and his great army paid a visit to Buddha Gaya of India, and repaired
the temples there and setup a stone pillar on which he mentioned his arrival and merit. The
Kingdom of Arakan flourished during King Mon Htee’s rule. He is still famous in the world
history as a king who was an example to his people by being obedient to the laws which were
made by himself. During the Lemro Period, there lived a Buddhist monk named “Rakhaing
Thu Mrat”, who wrote “Lakathara Pyo”( the essence of human conduct), which is still
considered as the outstanding literature of Arakan and Burma.
After Lemro dynasty, there came Mrauk-U dynasty founded by King Saw Mon in 1430 AD.
Mrauk-U dynasty ruled Arakan for more than 350 years. During the time of Mrauk-U dynasty,
Arakan saw the development of Arakanese literature and culture in all sphere of national life
for which it is called “the golden age of Arakan history”. The Kingdom of Arakan became
more unified and powerful under the reign of Mun Khari (1434-1458 AD).In 1454, King Mun
Khari met King Narapati of Ava of the Burmans (1443-1469 AD) and the watershed of
Arakan mountain ranges ( Arakan Roma) was demarcated as the border line of the two
kingdoms. Again in 1480 AD , by the another meeting between Arakanese King Ba Saw Pru
and Burman King of Ava Thihathuria, the stable friendship of the two kingdoms was
established. During the reign of King Ba Saw Pru (1458-1481 AD), the famous Arakanese
literature “Rakaing Munthamee E Chin” ( the classical poem addressed to a child princess
extolling the glory of ancestors) was written by Minister Phadu Mun Nyo.
The greatest King Mun Ben (1531-1553 AD) created a naval fleet of 10,000 war boats that
dominated the bay of Bengal and Gulf of Marta ban. The kings of Arakan firmly established
their authority in Bengal during Mrauk-U period. The Mrauk-U dynasty ruled from the entire
coast line of Dacca and the Sundabans to Yankon and Moulmein, a coastal strip of a thousand
miles in length and varying from 150 to 20 miles in depth. The Mogul and Afghan kings sent
annual presents, and the kings of Island of Lanka (Ceylon) and Portugal paid their respect and
sent trading ships to Arakan. It was under the government of King Mun Ben that annals were
written at the court and an amendment of the Arakanese legal code was made, and a new
constitution of Kingdom of Arakan (i.e. Shwemyin Dhammathat) was adopted on the advice
of Ashon Mra Wa, an erudite hermit.
The ports along the Arkan coast received Arab, central Asia, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese
traders in this period. A Dutch man, who visited Arakan in the 16th Century, described Arakan
as one of the richest countries in Asia ,and compared Mrauk-U city with Amsterdam of Dutch
and London of England in size and prosperity .Growing international trade, and political and
administrative skills of Arakanese kings enabled Arakan to be a prosperous and powerful
country in the South East Asia. The reigns of warrior kings; Mun Phalong (1571-1593 AD),
his son Mun Razagree (1593-1612 AD) and his grandson Mun Khamuang (1612-1622 AD)
strengthened the wealth and power of Arakan.
The Arakanese king of Mrauk-U dynasty practised open doors’ policy which attracted foreign
traders to the kingdom and appointed some foreigners as servants at the court. According to
the record of father Sebastiao Manrique of Portugal, not only the Muslim guards and
Portuguese captains of the fleet but also there were even a troop of Japanese guards at the
court around 1630 AD. With the Arakanese kings’ open doors’ policy, the imports of
techniques and skills in the fields of construction, ship-building , artillery and metallurgy
flowed into Arakan in this period.
The Barman’s , ever jealous of prosperity and cultural developments of the kingdom of
Arakan, always planned to break up her national sovereignty and to loot her vast wealth.
Eventually, the turbulent situation happened in Arakan during 1780s due to the power struggle
among the local Dukes led to be exploited by the Burmans. In 1782 AD, Thadoe Aung, Duke
of Rambree, became the king of Arakan. He was accorded the title “Mahasamada”(Great
President Elect) by the Mun Ahtaingban (The Royal Assembly of Lords). He was a
Republican and had the policy to form a more workable government elected by the Mun
Ahtaingban ( The Royal Assembly of Lords). Ngathade, Duke of Ngasaraingchaung, had the
policy to maintain feudalism, and asked Bodaw U Wyne, King of the Amarapura of the
Burmans, to invade Arakan. His idea was that Bodaw U Wyne would enthrone him as a king.
However, the Burman King Bodaw U Wyne had no intention of enthroning Ngathande as a
king of Arakan. His policy was to break up national sovereignty of kingdom of Arakan, and
toloot her vast wealth and to reduce Arakan to the position of an administrative province of
the Burman empire.
In 1784 AD, the expeditionary Burman invaders’ forces sent by the Burman king Bodaw U
Wyne invaded Arakan without declaration of war. The royal forces of kingdom of Arakan
were caught unawares, and suffered a crushing defeat due to lack of unified military
preparations. Arakanese King “Mahasamada”( Great President Elect) was dethroned and
murdered by Burman invaders.
The Struggle for National Self-Determination
The resistant wars broke out in various parts of Arakan as soon as Arakan was invaded by the
Burman invaders’ forces. Araknnese forces led by Crown Prince ThaukSan Shwe,
Taungmungree Kyaw Htwee, Duke Kaung Nyunt Randaing of Pinnaychaung Island, Duke
Poe Lone of Rambree Island, Dhapaing Mra Raung, Dhapaing Htwan Aung, Dhapaing
Hari, Dhapaing Ray San and Nga Myo Por fought against the Burman invaders in different
parts of Arakan.
Resistance spread to the whole Kingdom, when the Burman invaders had made an
arrangement to carry away the Great Mahamuni Buddha Image by January 1785.It continued
to grow till 1824, the year on which the British declared war against the Burman invaders in
Arakan. The imposition of the Burman’s control on Arakan was not possible during their
occupation of Arakan for 40 years. (from 1784 to1824)
During their invasion, the Burman invaders’ forces committed a crime against humanity with
a genocide killing about 236,000 Arakanese civilians including 10,000 infants of cradle age.
They killed the infants mercilessly with the slogan of “while cutting down the stalk of a reed,
its stump should not be left out”. A mass of 100,000 skilled workers, artisans, intellectuals and
Buddhist monks were arrested and taken across the Arakan mountain ranges, and they all
were initiated into slavery and servitude at pagodas and temples of pagan, Sagaing and
The Great Mahamuni Buddha Image was also carried away to Mandalay. Moreover, the
Burman invaders destroyed many valuable creations of Arakan including royal palace, city
gates, the clock-tower, the booming drum that was believed to have a mystical effect on the
Burman dynasties and many other edifices of splendour. The industries and business centres
were also destroyed by them. The ancient chronicles and books were carried away by them
with an intention of eradicating of national feeling of the Arakanese people, and many others
were destroyed. The Arakanese books on literature, arts, traditional medicines, warfare,
metallurgy, architecture, ship-building, which were carried away by the Burman invaders, are
estimated to be about the height of two toddy palms. The Arakan genocide is the forgotten
genocide of the 18th century, remembered mainly by the Arakanese people.
More than 200,000 Arakanese people fled into the British-Bengal to escape the atrocities
committed by the Burman invaders. The Naff river was strewed with the dead bodies of all
ages and of both sexes. Captain Hiram Cox, a British officer, took care Arakanese refugees
with great sympathy. He managed to resettle about ten thousands in wasteland around
Chittagong, but many other had dispersed widely among the hill and jungle of Chittagong
hills tracts. The main settlement area of Arakanese refugees was named as Cox’s Bazaar.
About 10,000 Arakanese refugees from the southern region of Arakan escaped to delta areas
of east Bengal boating across the Bengal Sea, and made their settlement there.
In 1811-1815, the situation abruptly changed; war of tremendous resistance broke out in
Arakan. Lord Chain Bran known as King Bering in the contemporary British records
organized Arakanese people living among the hills and jungles of Chittagong hills tracts, and
built up an army with a 20,000 man strong and fought against the Burman invaders to drive
them out from the soil of Arakan. Lord Chin Bran and his army succeeded in crushing one
after another, and they were capable to lay siege Mrauk-U, capital city of Arakan, repeatedly.
They plundered Burman’s garrisons on their way to Mrauk-U and killed the Burmans whom
they encountered on their way.
Military campaigns were carried out in various parts of Arakan by Lord Chin Bran’s troops.
By 1812, almost the whole of territories of Arakan was under the control of Lord Chin Bran’s
troops. However, the Burman king sent larger reinforcements by land and sea to consolidate
the position. The Buman invaders slaughtered innocent civilians in revenge ,and so Lord
Chin Bran led his troops to retreat to Chittagong hills tracts. In order to defend the Burmese
forces, he built a fort at Plun Chural, a three days journey from Panwa (Ramu), where he died
of old age in 1815. The revolt, that Lord Chin Bran started, did not end with his death. He was
succeeded by other leaders, who gained support from Arakanese people, and continued
struggle against the Burman invaders. Outstanding among his successors were Dhabainggri
Kyaw Bone, Lord Aung Kyaw Zan , Lord Lat Ronephawgri and Zonetat Myattaungrhay.
Arakanese troops advanced inside Arakan and fought the Burman garrisons repeatedly giving
much trouble to the Burman’s shaky rule in Arakan. By 1818, the Burman governor of
Rambree sent a letter to the British authorities in Calcutta. The letter stated: “One lakh of
Arakanese people living in the British dominion are challenging the Burman’s rule in Arakan
many times with the encouragement of the British. I demand the British authorities to
extradite those Arakanese people to Arakan, and failure to accede the demand will be brought
to the destruction of the British dominion by the Burman forces” .
The British at that time was in difficulties both inside and outside India - distressing political
situation in various parts of India, troubled with Pandris ,and strained relations with China,
Nepal and Afghanistan. Therefore, the British first tried to avoid the direct conflict with the
Burmans by sending envoys to Ava. But, it was unsuccessful. Then, when the British were
fighting with Pandris, the king of Ava of the Burmans sent a letter again to Lord Hastings
demanding the surrender of Chittagong , Dhaka, Cassimbazaar and Murshidabad. Soon, in
1821-1822, The Burman forces invaded Assam, and in September 1823 the Shapuri Island
near Chittagong which was belonging to the British dominion. At the same time , the Bumans
were making preparation for the dispatch of a military expedition to invade the British-
Bengal. All those events frustrated the British.
At the beginning of 1824, an agreement was signed between the exiled Arakanese Princes and
the British authorities in Bengal to establish an alliance between the British and Arakan. By
the terms of this agreement, Arakanese forces under the command of Lord Aung Kyaw Zan
must fight the Burman forces on the side of the British, and Arakan must be ceded to the
princes of Arakan after the Burman invader’s forces were driven out of the soil of Arakan.
About the sametime, the advance of the Burman forces towards the eastern frontier of the
British dominion made the British inevitable to declare war on Ava of the Burmans. On 4
March 1824, therefore, Lord Amherst declared war on Ava of the Burmans. In the war,
Arakanese forces fought against the Burmans on the side of the British. The Burman forces
suffered a crushing defeat and by the “Yantabo Peace Treaty” at the end of the first Anglo-
Burman war on 24 February 1826, Arakan was ceded to the British by the Burmans. However,
after the conquest of Arakan, the British reneged on to comply with the agreement and
colonized and integrated Arakan into British-India.
In 1827, therefore, Arakanese nationalists led by Lord Aung Kyaw Zan, Prince Shwe Ban and
Lord Aung kyaw Rhee sought help from the French and hatched a plot to drive out the British
from the soil of Arakan. A lot of Arakanese patriots joined them and built up underground
resistance forces under their leadership. The resistance forces carried out guerrilla combats
against the British troops and attacked the British authorities. On one occasion, the resistance
forces made a raid up the police thana of Akyab and burned it up.
However, Lord Aung Kyaw Zan, Prince Shwe Ban and Lord Aung kyaw Rhee , who were
masterminds of the revolt, were discovered and arrested by the British on account of a traitor.
The revolt without its leaders was quelled by the superior British battalions, which were
reinforced with Indian troops from British-India.
Lord Aung Kyaw Zan, Prince Shwe Ban, Lord Aung kyaw Rhee and many other
leaders were put in the Dhaka jail for unlimited time. They died of hunger strike in Dhaka jail
in 1834. They all are still considered by the Arakanese people as the founders’ of new
Arakanese nationalism. Prince Shwe Ban left a message written on the wall of Dhaka jail with
his own blood to the future Arakanese generation. It was in a poetic from, and it reads:
“ Those who will come in the future,
All Arakansese people;
Do not deviate with other thoughts
Follow my path
Diligently and resolutely
We shall regain our land Arakan
Keep up with the efforts and work with determinations,
Even Nirvana is not beyond the reach of attainment
I ring the bell of the truth,
These were my words at my death”
Similarly, Lord Aung Kyaw Rhee also left a message to future Arakanese generations. It was
also a poetic forms and it reads:
“If you are cheated with the face of money and betrayed,
Oh! People of future, do not tolerate,
In all international matters, use your wisdom and intelligence,
And strive with good plans.
Do not be derelict
Be loyal to your nation,
Be ready to sacrifice your life
And let your blood flows,
We shall regain our own land,
Don’t want to be underdog in this world.”
After the failed plot hatched by the Arakanese princes and patriots, the British rule in Arakan
in the 19thcentury faced numerous pro-impendence revolts staged by the Arakanese
nationalists, and the peasant revolts broke out simultaneously in different parts of Arakan.The
imposition of the British’s control took long time, some area not being pacified until the early
20th century. Among the numerous revolts,
(a) the pro-independence revolt led by Bo Chit San in the Lemro delta of northern
Arakan in 1828,
(b) the pro-independence revolt led by Bo Maung Tha Oo in southern Arakan in 1829,
(c) the pro-independence revolt led by Kyeintali Sayadaw in southern Arakan in 1831,
(d) The Peasant revolt led by Bo Maung Oo Pru in Akyab district in 1867,
(e) the pro-independence revolt led by Bo Nga Mauk in Rambree Island in 1887,
(f) the pro-independence revolt led by Sandoway Saradaw and Kyauk Sein Bo in
Sandway district in 1890,
(g) the pro-independence revolt led by Bo Maung Bun and Bo Ngataro in Akyab
district in 1888.
(h) the pro-independence revolt led by Bo Mra Htwan, Bo Shwe Hla and Bo Lar Ba in
Akyab district in 1890-91.
(i) the pro-independence revolt led by Bo Kyaw Wa in Sandoway District in 1890,
(j) the pro-independence revolt led by Bo Chun Pho and his son Maung Phaw Aung in
Akyab district in 1891-92 were enormous and popular.
The pro-independence revolts were staged with their plans to repulse the British and regain
independence of Arakan. The peasant revolts stemmed from the British’s evil administration
that raised land taxes, capitation tax and the practice of forced-labour from the peasants. The
revolts gave much trouble to the British rule in Arakan. The revolts were quelled by the
British hardly and at the great cost.
In 1852, after hostile acts of the Burmans to the British traders, a second Anglo-Burman war
led to the annexation of the Irrawaddy Delta of the Burman’s territory into the British
dominion. Finally, in 1885, the Burman king Thibaw, with the French encouragement,
confiscated the Bombay-Burma company’s properties, thus bringing down on his country a
force of 10,000 British and Indian troops, who deported the king and occupied the remainder
of the Burman’s territories.
After the end of the third Anglo-Burman war in 1886 , the entire territories of Burman
became a province of British-India empire. It was misfortune of the Burmans in the 19th
century to be ruled by a dynasty bent upon conquest .The territory of Arakan, which was not
the integral part of Burma, was annexed to the territory of Burma by the British in order that
the British could establish convenient administration in their dominion.
Arakan national movement, from 1900 to 1940, was characterized by the multiplicity of its
organizations and the diversity of its methods. The Rakkhapura League established in 1918,
All Arakan League established in 1930 engendered an appreciation of Arakan’s lost heritage
and a sense of national identity among the Arakanese people. The national sentiment in favour
of independence remained active among the Arakanese people.
The Burmans’ nationalism was faded away under the oppressive British colonial rule. The
Burmans’ nationalism was awakened and motivated by Saradaw U Ottama, an Arakanese
Buddhis monk. There was nothing to indicate the existence of an genuine Burman nationalist
sentiment until emergence of Saradaw U Ottama in 1917.
After the first world war (1914-1918), the British colonial masters faced a political crisis to
control their colonies. Due to the impact of the First World War, the people of British’s
colonies suffered economic hardship, and grew their indignation with the British. Saradaw U
Ottama , during this period, travelled from one place to another, and preached the Burmans
and non- Burmans in British-Burma sermon about being vigilant to the cause of freedom. He
stimulated them to have valour to fight for freedom. Thus, he became their leaders who was
indivisible from them.
In April 1918, Sir Montague Chelmsford , the new Governor of British-India, produced the
Montague Chelmsford report in British-India to compensate a severe blow to British power
and influence by the first world war. In order to deceive the peoples in British-Burma, sir
Reginald Cradock , lieutenant Governor of British-India, produced the Cradock scheme for
Burma in December 1918 before the administrative system of diarchy had been introduced in
Saradaw U Ottama undauntedly challenged the Cradock scheme by yielding “Get out
Cradock from Burma”. At that time , the Burmans were afraid of even a police man of British
administration . He incited the Burmans and non-Burmans to oppose the British rule without
fear. The British’s arrest of Saradaw U Ottama and the sentence of the British’s court to him
for three years imprisonment with hard labour due to his challenge against the British in 1922
woke up the Burmans from their silent fear of the British colonial masters. This event spread
as the forest fire and turned the entire people of British-Burma against British rule.
Saradaw U Ottama dominated the course of Burma’s politics more than two decades from
1917 to 1939.His political speeches, political writings and political activities created many
political organisations and movements against the British’s rule in Burma. Under the political
leadership of Saradaw U Ottama, the first Rangoon University student’s boycott in 1920 came
to be launched and the national colleges and schools emerged in Burma; the Cradock scheme
was withdrawn ; the visit of prince of Whale to Burma in 1924 was boycotted; When the
white committee led by Sir A.S White came to Burma to investigate for administrative system
of diarchy, it was boycotted; When Simon commission, a body named to study Burma’s
political conditions, arrived in Rangoon on 29 January 1929, it was not welcomed and
boycotted; the second Rangoon University student’s boycott came to be launched in 1936; a
series of hunger strikes, public demonstrations, marches of protest, strikes and boycott
followed; the administrative system of diarchy disappeared in 1937. He was the first national
leader not only to secure the support of the Burma’s intelligentsia and the middle class, but
also to stir and attract the loyalty of the untold masses in the countless villages of Burma.
Saradaw U Ottama, who initiated non-violent tactics in Burma, was designated as Mahatma
Gandhi of Burma. His policy was to liberate the Asian people from the yoke of European
colonial masters through non-violent means. The British authorities jailed him for four times
in order to eradicate all uprisings in British-Burma and his fighting spirit. Nevertheless , he
never gave up his struggle against the British colonial rule till his death on 9th September
1939. That is why Aung San Suu Kyi, in her famous book “ the freedom from fear, ”wrote:
“the first exciter of fighting will and fighting capability for independence of
Burma was Saradaw U Ottama”.
In this phase, two main strategies were developed by the Arakanese elite groups. One was to
collaborate in the British administration in order to upgrade educational, and economic
conditions of the Arakanese people through self-government and democratic means, and at the
same time, to wear the British administration down by erosion from within .Another was to
co-operate with the Burman national movement if the Burman movement aimed at not only
freedom of the Burmans alone but also freedom of Arakanese people as well.
As a consequence, the Arakanese intellectuals, who centred the former strategy entered the
British administration securing major civil services positions. Such intellectuals as Sir Paw
Tun , deputy chairman of the executive council of Governor Sir Dorman Smith, Sir Tun Aung
Kyaw, the famous supreme court judge, ICS U Kyaw Mun and U May Aung were Arakanese
nationalists who took major civil services positions in the British administration. The
Arakanese nationalists, who centred the latter strategy, co-operated in the Burmans’ national
movements emerged under the political leadership of Saradaw U Ottama. Such Arakanese
nationalists as Dr. Shwe Zan Aung, U Sein Hla Aung and U Sein Tun Aung became the
famous leaders of the General Council of Burmese Association (GCBA) (1920), which was
the forerunner of the political parties in Burma. U Ba U, an Arakanese student leader, led the
first Rangoon university students’ boycott movement in 1920. Ko Kyaw Yin, Ko Nyo Tun and
Ko Ba Zan took part in the front line of the second Rangoon university boycott movement led
by Ko Nu and Ko Aung San in 1930.
In this phase, the Arakanese people and the Burmans were the same oppressed peoples under
the British colonial rule, and had the same sentiment against the British domination over
Asian peoples. A satisfactory promise for independence of Arakan after throwing off of the
British was also made by the Burman leaders who were languishing under the British rule.
Arakanese people and their leaders hoped that after attaining freedom of British-Burma,
Arakan which had been an independent kingdom would regain her independence. Arakanese
nationalists, therefore, fought on the political front by means of deputations and petitions, and
sometimes strikes to influence the British’s policies in British-Burma. In December 1931, a
round table conference for Burma’s political affairs was convened in London. Daw Mra Sein,
an Arakanese woman politician, presented the case for Burma’s separation from India in the
British commons as a representative of Burma’s delegation to the round table conference in
The following year, a general election was held in Burma in which the majority people voted
to separate Burma from British-India .In 1937, Burma was detached from British-India and
given some self-government which made it more autonomous and gave more room to
motivate Arakanese nationalism as well as the Burman nationalism. In 1939, Arakan National
Congress (ANC) was formed by uniting various groups- democrats, socialists, communists
and other well defined groups of the Arakan independence movements. Alongside the
growing in strength and developments in organization of ANC was the emergence of the
major poor peasants’ movements and solidarity among the Arakanese people.
In 1942, the Japanese invaded British-Burma. In the invasion of British-Burma, the Japanese
forces had been joined by a small force known as the Burma Independence Army (BIA) led
by General Aung San. The British retreated to India creating many social disorders in Arakan.
The Japanese fascists were at first welcomed by the Burmans as liberators because they
established a government led by Dr. Ba Maw and proclaimed Burma’s independence on 1st
August 1943. However, the Burmans soon discovered that the independence the Japanese
fascists existed only on paper. Everywhere in Burma were guilty of atrocities committed by
the arrogant Japanese fascists.
The allied forces in India carried out their first offensive against the Japanese fascists in
Burma in November 1942 but were repulsed with heavy losses. For the allied forces in India,
the battle for British-Burma was one of the hardest-fought of entire war(i.e. the second world
war). By 1942, Arakan National Congress (ANC) under the leadership of Saradaw U Seinda,
Saradaw U Pyinnyathiha and U Tha Zan Hla grew in strength and became a powerful
organization of Arakan. By 1944, ANC was invited to attend the Anti-fascist Conference in
Rangoon. Saradaw U Seinda and U Nyo Tun attended the Anti-fascist Conference in Rangoon
and signed on the Treaty of Burma Revolutionary Front(TBRF), representing the Arakanese
people. As a consequence, the Anti-fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL) was formed as
a coalition of various political organizations in British-Burma.
All the Burman and non-Burman nationalistic, socialist and communist parties joined AFPFL
including ANC, and elected General Aung San as chairman of AFPFL. They agreed on a
program of collective struggle against the Japanese fascists, struggle for independence of
British-Burma and a political program based on the principle of a Federal Union of Burma.
ANC joined AFPFL as a member organization because AFPFL’s policy stood for the freedom,
equality and the right to self-determination of all ethnic nationalities in the territory of British-
Burma, and the Burman AFPFL leaders also promised an independent state of Arakan after
attaining freedom of British-Burma.
With an aim to liberate Arakanese people from the yoke of colonists , ANC built up
Arakanese Defence Army(ADA) with a 3,000 man strong in the rural areas of Arakan in
1944.Commander Kra Hla Aung became the chief commander of ADA. When AFPFL leaders
sought support from the British in India, the leaders of ANC provided much help to them. The
British in India promised support. ADA under the leadership of ANC waged the anti-Japanese
fascists war in the middle of 1944. ADA was supported with arms and ammunition by the
British in India. In December 1944, the Japanese fascists were totally wiped out from the soil
of Arakan by ADA, and ANC made a plan to set up Arakanese government and run the
business of government in Arakan.
However, the British forces invaded Arakan and occupied Akyab, the capital city of Arakan,
on 1st January 1945.Thus, Arakan came under the British rule again. Commander Kra Hla
Aung and the Arakanese volunteers of ADA under the leadership of ANC were the first
resistance fighters against the Japanese invasion in British-Burma. They fought against the
Japanese fascists prior to the Burmans’ anti-Japanese resistance which commenced on 27th
March 1945. After the British’s reoccupation of Arakan in 1945, two different strategies were
surfaced among the leaders of ANC. One was to continue co-operation with AFPFL until full
freedom of Arakan was achieved. Another was to revolt against the British for the
independence of Arakan. At last, ANC split into two factions. The Arakanese nationalists, who
favoured the latter strategy, realized that Arakan should be granted independence separately
according to the provisions of Atlantic Charter.
As soon as Arakan came under the British rule again, the British promulgated that all
arms and ammunitions in the hand of ADA’s volunteers should be made over to the
British .For this act , the British gave reason that those arms and ammunitions would be
supplied to the AFPFL’s troops under the command of General Aung San in order to begin
anti-Japanese war in proper Burma .The faction of ANC, which had the strategy to cooperate
with AFPFL, made over their arms and ammunitions to the British .But ,the another faction
of ANC ,which had the strategy to revolt against the British for independence of Arakan if the
British failed to comply with the Atlantic Charter ,did not make over their arms and
ammunitions to the British. Instead ,they prepared for revolt.
So, a warrant was out for the arrest of Saradaw U Seinda ,his guerrilla leaders and followers
.They all went underground .However , the hundred of guerrilla leaders and their followers
were arrested and charged with the criminal offences .They were inhumanly tortured, and
sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour by the British Courts .Some were
condemned to death by hanging four or five times. The villages in the rural areas, which gave
support to the guerrilla leaders, were set fire by the British troops. Feeling in Arakan rose to a
danger pitch , Saradaw U Seinda become canonized as a great national hero .
During 1945, Arakan become more and more tense. Irate mobs periodicallyparaded in the
streets of Akyab and other towns as Kyaukpru, Sandoway, Kyauktaw and Minbra . There
wasanti-British sentiment prevailing .The Arakanese guerrillas , who took part in the anti-
Japanese war in 1944, became intolerable , and they manifested their readiness to sacrifice
their lives in the struggle against the British .
On 10 March 1945, the British fourteenth army conquered Mandalay ,the second capital city
of proper Burma .On 27 March 1945, AFPFL forces under the command of General Aung
San declared war against the Japanese fascists and began guerrilla combats against the
Japanese forces in proper Burma .The British forces conquered Rangoon, the capital city
proper Burma, on 2ndMay 1945 , and thus proper Burma also came under the British rule
In July 1945, a national election had been held in Great Britain, and Winston Churchill, the
conservative leader ,had been displaced as prime minister by Clement Atlee . The coming to
power of the labour party was a good augury for the cause of Burma’s independence .
By 1946, the Mraybon Conference was held under the auspices of Saradaw U Seinda in
Mraybon town of Arakan. At theconference , the unity of all the Arakanese left wings was
successfully built. At the beginning of 1947, the People’s Liberation Party (PLP) led by
Saradaw U Seinda was formed, and began the armed struggle against the governments in
Rangoon for independence of Arakan. The PLP was capable to control a number of
villages in Akyab district and kyaukpru district , and acted as local government .
The struggle of PLP against the governments in Rangooncontinued till 1958.
In January 1947, the British labour government signed an agreement with General Aung
San , chairman of AFPFL, agreeing both independence of Burma and incorporation of the
territories owned by the non-Burman ethnic nationalities in British-Burma . But, theterms of
the agreement contained a proviso which stated, “ the free consent of the non-Burma ethnic
nationalities shall be required for the incorporation of their territories into Burma .”
AFPFL’s leaders including General Aung San, thus, sought political support from all non-
Burman ethnic nationalities – Chain, Kachin ,Karen , Kayah, Mon ,Rakhaing (Arakanese )
and Shan to achieve the independence of Burma speedily and without any hindrance. When
AFPFL’s leaders sought political support from non-Burman ethnic nationalities , they
promised a new Federal Union of all ethnic nationalities equal in every respect .General
Aung San and AFPFL’s leaders promised Arakanese political leaders that after
independence of British-Burma , Arakan might join Union of Burma or might establish a
sovereign independent state according to the free will of Arakanese people .
The factionof ANC led by U Pyinnyathiha, U Nyo Tun and U Aung Zan Wai accepted the
promise made by General Aung San and AFPFL’s leaders and made their decision to
cooperate with AFPFL for the speedy attainment of independence of British -Burma.
Accordingly , U Aung Zan Wai accepted the proposal of the British governor of Burma to
join the interim government of Ministerial Burma as a cabinet minister together with General
Aung San, chairman of AFPFL, in order to hasten the process of independence of British-
Burma .
Eventually, an agreement between AFPFL’s chairman General Aung San , who was also a
representative of interim government of Ministerial Burma ,and the leaders of non-Burman
ethnic nationalities reached at the Panglong Conference on 12th February 1947 .
This agreement is still known as “the Panglong Agreement”. The Panglong Agreement
recognized equality, voluntary association and self-determination of non-Burman and
Burman ethnic nationalities in the federal structure as a Nation made up of nations, and
provided the basic principles for the establishment of future Federal Union . The leaders of
non-Burman ethnic nationalities also agreed in the Palonglong Agreement to co-operate with
the interim government of Ministerial Burma to hasten the process of achieving independence
of Burma from the British.
On 19July 1947, General Aung San was murdered, together with most of the cabinet minister
of interim government of Ministerial Burma, and U Nu took the leading role of the Burman
politics in the place of General Aung San. U Nu-led AFPFL, however , deviated from the
fundamental principles for authentic Federal Union laid down by General Aung San and the
leader of the non-Burman ethnic nationalities at the Panglong Conference, and adopted a
constitution which was favourable to the hegemony of the Burmans over non- Burman ethnic
nationalities .
According to the 1947 constitution adopted by the U Nu-led AFPFL, the non-Burman ethnic
nationalities were deprived of their right to self- determination. The Union of Burma formed
by the U Nu-led AFPFLwas, in essence, unitary and colonial in structure . Therefore, when
Burma attained independence on 4 January 1948 ,the Burmans completely monopolized over
economic ,social , educational , administrative and military affairs, and run
the whole machinery of government of the so-called Union of Burma , reducing the non-
Burman ethnic nationalities to colonies. For non-Burman ethnic nationalities , independence
of Burma in 1948 meant super session of the Burman domination in the place of the British’s
domination.Accordingly , the non-Burman ethnic nationalities took up arms and civil war ,
that has been going on for almost sixty years , began soon after Burma had gained
independence from the British . Under the sham Union of Burma, the Arakanese people,
who carry the heritage of an independent Kingdom, were not even given an autonomous
state , but reduced to a mere administrative formality .
Consequently, the Arakanese peopleintensified the struggle for autonomous state through
democratic and non-violent means. All Arakan National United League (AANUL) under
the leadership of U Maung Kyaw Zan won landslide victory in Arakan in the elections held
during the parliamentary period of AFPFL’s governments ( 1948-1962). AANUL, which
was popularly Known as “Ra-Ta-Nya” , struggled hard in the parliament joining hands with
other non-Burman ethnic nationalities parties to modify 1947 constitution to an authentic
federal constitution and to gave Arakan a political status of autonomous state in the
authentic federal structure. AANUL’s struggle and influence among the Arakanese people
grew tremendously. Under the leadership of AANUL, Arakanese people fromall walks of life
took to the streets widely and periodically demanding for autonomous state .
As a result , in 1961, the then ruling Pa-Hta-Sa (the Union Party ) government led by U Nu
promised for the autonomous states of Arakan and Mon. During this phase from 1948 to
1962, the federal movements formed by uniting all non-Burman ethnic nationalities became
increasingly enormous and popular . In this movements ,the role played by the Shan
nationalists was great . The unity and solidarityamong the non-Burman ethnic nationalities
became greater than had been achieved before .In the Parliament debates ,the MPs of non-
Burman ethnic nationalities demanded to amend the sham Union constitution to be genuine so
that non-Burman ethnic nationalities could enjoy their right to self-determination as the
promise made to them before independence of Burma by General Aung San and the Burman
AFPFL leaders.
Moreover , on 25 February 1962, the leaders of non-Burman ethnic nationalities attended the
historic “Taung Gyi Conference” in southern Shan State and signed on the draft genuine
federation popularly known as “the Shan’s principles ”,and unitedly demanded it to the then
ruling Union Party government led by U Nu . The features of genuine Federal Union of
Burma in the draft genuine federation could be summed up as follows:
( 1) . Eight federating states should be constituted to establish genuine Federal Union of
Burma .they are : (a) Arakan state (b) Burmar state (c) Chin state (d) Kachin state (e) Karen
state (f) Karyar state (g) Mon state (h) Shan state .
(2) The federating statesshould be sovereign and equal in every respect with the exception
of some powers empowered to the federal legislature .
(3) Every federating state should have its own constitution, legislature and government.
(4) The federal legislature should be bi-cameral legislature in which there are a national
Assembly composed of equal numbers of representative from the federating states and
the people’s Assembly composed of representatives elected from among the entire
people of the Federal Union according to the defined constituencies. Both Assemblies
should have equal power .
(5) The president and thegovernment of the Federal Union should be elected from among
the representatives of two Assemblies in a Joint session . The government of the
federal Unionshould be responsible to the parliament .
(6) The federal legislature should be empowered the following power:
(a) Foreign affairs ( b) Defence (c) Finance (d) Judiciary (e) Currency and coinage
(f) Post and telecommunication (g) Railway and Airway (h)Taxation on seaports.
(7) The federating states should be fully autonomous and free from interference of centre
and other federating states .
(8) Fair and just financial allotment should be made among the federating states , and
natural resources and economic bases of a federating state should be owned by itself.
However, before U Nu’s government coulddo nothing regarding these demands of the non-
Burman ethnic nationalities, highly chauvinistic Burman senior military officers led by
General Ne Win took over the state power by staging a military coup on 2 March 1962.
General Ne Win justified his act of military coup by alleging that the Union of Burma was
being torn apart by the non-Burman ethnic nationalities .The background to the military
coup was nothing but a planed effort of highly chauvinistic Burmans not only to secure
Burman domination over non-Burman ethnic nationalities but also to thwart peaceful
struggle of non-Burma ethnic nationalities for their right to self-determination in the federal
The coup leaders dissolved the democratically elected government and parliament, and
arrested and jailed the president of Union , the cabinet members and the leaders of non-
Burman ethnic nationalities who were attending the Taunggyi Conference . They revoked
political freedomand all democratic rights, and abolished the 1947 constitutions .They
formed themselves the Revolutionary Council (RC) under the leadership of General Ne
Win, and assumed all powers and military dictatorship was put into practice . The Burmese
Socialist Program Party( BSPP) was formed under the tight control of the Revolutionary
Council on July 4, 1962 .The Burmese way to socialism was the BSPP’s policy .All
economic activities , including retail trade, were nationalized . The private properties and
ownerships were confiscated .The government’s strategies were directed to the monopoly of
political power by the Burman military ; the removal of affairs of non- Burman ethnic
nationalities from politics to the safe containment of the Burman military’s administration;
the fragmentation of non-Burman ethnic nationalities into various racial groups. The
Burmese way to socialism plunged Burma intothe conditions of technologically backward,
with low living standards , and an underdeveloped , and chaotic education infrastructure.
Soon after the military coup led by General Ne Win in 1963, Arakan National Liberation
Organization (ANLO) was formed under the Leadership of U San Phaw Oo and U Maung
Sein Nyunt. A new movement wascarried out by ANLO which between 1962 and 1969
revolted against the Burman central regime . The political background to insurrection of
ANLO was attributable to failure of the Burman central regime to recognize the political
status of Arakan i.e. the right to self-determination of Arakanese people .The ANLO’s
political ideology was socialism and its organizational activities and guerrilla warfare were
carried out mostly in the rural areas of Arakan. But, it had its clandestine intellectual groups
in the urban areas .
About the same times, a faction led by U kyaw Zan Rhee and Bo Maung Han broke away
from the communist Party of Burma ( Red Flag) and established the communist Party of
Arakan ( CPA) and set up its political stand on the Arakanese national line .The CPA
espoused Marxism -Leninism and demanded independence of Arakan .It recruited its
members both from the rural and urban areas of Arakan. Some Arakanese intellectuals gave
support to the CPA , but it was largely a peasant party . The socio-economic and political
background to insurrection of CPA included indignation of majority
Arakanese peasants arising fromfailure of the successive Burman regimes to decolonise
Arakan, and indigence of Arakanese peasants brought about by enormously exploitation of
peasant’s production ,natural resources and economic bases of Arakan by the chauvinistic
Burman regimes.
In 1963 , the then ruling Revolutionary Council led by General Ne Win declared a country
-wide cease fire and invited all armed organizations waging war against it to the so-called
peace-talks .U kyaw Zan Rhee and U Thein Pe of CPA attended the so-called peace -talks
,and demanded to withdraw Burman troops from Arakan and to recognize the right to selfdetermination
of Arakanese people so that Arakanese people could establish an independent
Republic of Arakan peacefully and exercise their right to self- determination without
interference of alien. The demand ofCPA was not acceded by the Burman Revolutionary
Council, and guerrilla activities were launched widely in Arakan by the CPA again.
In 1964 , a new armed organization, Arakan National United Organization (ANUO) came
into existence . Commander Kra Hla Aung wasat the head of the ANUO, which committed
to the armed struggle as the vehicle for independence of Arakan .However, the guerrilla
activities were carried out by the ANUO mostly in areas of so far distant from the main
centres of population that they had little impact on the majority of the people.
In 1967, there was a great scarcityof rice in Arakan due to the economic exploitation of
Burman Revolutionary Council led by General Ne Win. The production of rice everywhere
in Arakan was confiscated at gun point by the Burman troops in order to make profit for the
Burman military , neglecting the Arakanese people who were suffering famine . Thousands
of Arakanese civilians in rural and urban died of starvation at the beginning of 1967. On
13th August1967, a march of tens of thousands of Arakanese people took place in Sittwe ,
capital city of Arakan, demanding distribution of enough rice for public consumption. But
,the demand of the Arakanese people was neglected . The Burmantroops, instead, opened
fire into the mob: over 400 were killed and thousands were wounded. The August killing in
Arakan in 1967 resulted increasingly growing in anti- Burman sentiment and fighting spirit
among the young Arakanese people , which instigated the armed insurrection for
independence in the 1970s . There was a specific grudge against the Burmans, and anti-
Burman sentiment was prevailing.
By 1967, Arakan Independence Front ( AIF) led by Peter Ba Cho was formed to struggle
for independence of Arakan .By 1969 , Arakan National Liberation Party(ANLP) was
established by the unification of ANLO and AI F in order to intensify struggle against the
Burman central regime. U Maung Sein Nyunt was elected as the chairman of ANLP . The
guerrilla combats were launchedin the northern region of Arakan by ANLP, giving much
trouble to the Burman central regime .
In the early 1970s, Arakanese nationalists had many links with both Karen and Kachin
struggles for national self-determination . Many Arakanese young people participatedin
military combats against the Burman troops in Karenland and kachinland. Both Karen
National Union (KNU) and Kachin Independence organization (KIO) had aims to help in
building up of new Arakanese armed forces in their lands, and many plans were made to
send Arakanese armed forces to Arakan in order to open a new military front in the struggle
against the Burman domination in Arakan.
On 3rdMarch 1970, Arakan Independence Organization ( AIO) was formed under the
leadership of Htwaan Shwe Maung and San Kyaw Htwaan in Kachinland .AIO created a
new Arakanese nationalism by blending classic nationalist concepts with a new vision of
armed struggle for independence of Arakan. In this plan, Arakan IndependenceArmy (AIA)
became the armed wing of AIO. The officersand volunteers of AIA were trained by KIO in
The first expedition of AIA under the command of Lt-Col Htwaan Shwe Maung exploredthe
long march from Kachinland to Arakan on 5th November 1971 along the Indo-Burma
borders. This military expedition led by Lt-Col Htwaan Shwe Maung reached Arakan on 27th
February 1972 successfully . AIA staged many guerrilla combats against theBurman troops
in Kyauk-taw , Mrauk-U, Mimbra and Palatwa townships in Arakan . AIA received a lot of
support from Arakanese people in rural and urban area. AIO was capable to create a network
of resistance cells which were spreadto every village and every town in Arakan.
However ,the second military expedition of AIA under the command of Major San Kyaw
Htwaan suffered a crushing defeat in face with the outnumbered and outgunned Burman
troops in chinland in mid 1977. Major San Kyaw Htwaan died in action .The fall of
Major San Kyaw Htwaan was a great loss to the struggle of Arakanesepeople for their right
to self-determination because he was a person who possessed martial prowess and mental
faculty. His political essay titled “what should we do?” (Nga Roe Zar lote Ket Phoe Le`) still
arouses the Arakanese national sentiment in favour of independence among the Arakanese
people . He is still remembered by the Arakanese people as a national hero.
In 1973,Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) and its military wing Arakan Liberation Army (ALA)
under the leadership of Khaing Moe Lunn was formed in Karenland .ALP insisted that the
sole solution to Arakan national question is the armed struggle against the Burman central
regime . ALP recruited its members from overseas Arakanese people in Burma and
Thailand.But it had its network of resistance cells in the rural and urban areas of Arakan .
The officers and volunteers of ALA were trained by KNU in Karenland . They hadto
participate in the military combats launched by the KNU against the Burman troops in
Karenland so that they could have a practical military experiences .
In 1974, a new constitutionwas adopted by the Burman military regime led by General Ne
Win , but without consent of non -Burman ethnic nationalities . A lot of political leaders of
non-Burman ethnic nationalities were arrested and put in the jails forlong term in order to
implement the new constitution of 1974 without the voice of non -Burnan ethnic nationalities
.Under the constitution of 1974 , Arakan was recognized as a state of the so-called
socialist Republic of Union of Burma . But, in essence, the statehood of Arakan was merely
nominal within the sham Union of Burma .The domesticated Arakan State Council’s
authority under the tight control of the Burman military was introduced. The elections were a
farce, as the only political party allowed was BSPP, which was dominated by the Burman
military .There was no possibility of Arakanese people to exercise their right to selfdetermination
In 1976 , the military expedition of ALA, under the command of Col. Khing Moe Lunn
marched from Karenland to Arakan , traversing Kareland ,Karennilnd , Kachinland and
Chinland . It was a long march of nearly 2000miles .The military expedition of ALAwas
only a force with a 300 man strong .Throughout the long march , it fought several combats
with the Burman troops. In Chinland alone , it fought 100 combats with the Burman troops.
However ,whenit encountered the Burman force with a 10,000 man strong in Chinland in
June 1977, it suffered a crushing defeat. Col .Khing MoeLunn killed himself preferring
death in dignity to surrender . The remnants of ALP’s leaders and its troops spent their times,
preparing their new plans and participating in the combats lunched by KNU against the
Burman troops in Karenland . Col.Khing Moe Lunn is still considered as a national hero by
the Arakanese people.During 1970s, as the BSPP Burman military regime mounted its
strategy of annihilation in rural areas of Arakan evrey underground armed groups of Arakan
had to retreat to bordering countries such as India and Bangladesh ; ANLP in 1975, CPA and
CPB (red flag) in 1978, AIO in 1979 CPA and CPB (white flag) in 1980. In October 1979, the
Vanguard of Arakan Revolution ( VAR) –a coalition of two parties including AIO and ANPLwas
created at Raju camp in Bangladesh.
The Burman centralregime deployed many battalions in Arakan unprecedently , and
implemented the strategy of the four cuts operation under martial law in order to keep
Arakanese people in rural areas aloof from the Arakanese armed revolution. With heavy
military offensives, the Burman troops committed gross human rights violations as numerous
arrests, torture ,killings , raping of women , lootings ,the destruction and forced relocation of
villages against the Araknese people in rural areas .The gross human rights violations in
Arakan during 1970s led to the killing of 2000 civilians , destructions and forced relocations
of 1500 villages, and detention of 10,000 civilians in military concentration camps.
On May 1986 , a clandestine troop of CPA led by Major Maung Saw Yin, which had
remained underground , gained public support and captured Minbra Town and proclaimed
independence of Arakan there . The next day ,the people from all walks of life of Minbra
town and nearby townships (about ten thousands people) flocked to the football field of
Minbra town, where they manifested their support to proclamation of independence of Arakan
by CPA. Being incapable to control Minbya townfor long time , after two days , the troop of
CPA retreated to the jungle area of the Arakan mountain ranges. After CPA’s capture of
Minbya town, the martial law was imposed, and wide-scale arrests, jailing ,torture and
killings of innocent civilians, looting of properties and money and restriction of free
movements of Arakanese civilians were conducted in Arakan by the Burman regime.
In 1988, a tremendous country-wide democracy uprising brokeout in Burma . Millions of
citizens took to the streets and demandednot only ousting of the government of military
dictatorship but also replacing a democratic government in its place. The socio-economic and
political background to the democracy uprising in 1988 was stemmed from economic
hardship of the entire people of Burmaand the loss of their human rights due to the economic
mismanagement , corrupt , repressive and isolationist system of the Burman military regime
led by General Ne Win ,which turned the country into the poorest in the world . In July 1988,
General Ne Win resigned following thedeaths of thousands of demonstrators who were
killed in the streets by the military .
The series of replaced leaders were appointed, but the people responded by intensifying
theiractivities and demands sacrificing their lives. On 18th September1988, the SLORC
military junta led by General Saw Maung, the successors of General Ne Win , seized the
state power after a brutal military crackdown , killing tens of thousands of innocent people.
During democracy uprising ,a great number of Arakanese people were killed in the streets of
The background tothe military coup on 18 September 1988 was to consolidate the state
power in the hands of Chauvinistic Burman military senior officers . Following the violent
suppression of the pro-democracy uprising , hundreds of thousands of demonstrators,
students and Buddhist monks fled to the neighbouring countries such as Thailand, India and
Bangladesh to avoid arrest, torture and extra judicial killings of the military junta..
The progressive Burman democrats, students and intellectuals joined hands with armed
organizations of non- Burman ethnic nationalities in the border areas to struggle against the
military Junta for democracy, human rights and the right to self-determination of Burman
and non- Burman peoples. A new chapter began for the new generation of Arakan to intensify
struggle for the right toself-determination of Arakanese people.
There is nodoubt that the kingdom of Arakanwas invaded by the Burman invaders in 1784
because Arakan national unity was sabotaged by the regional rivalries. The resistance wars
staged by the Arakanese princesand patriots did not triumph due to lack of the same master
plan and unified command. Under the rule of British (from 1826 to 1900), Arakanese
political leaders were unable to establish a strong national unity to repulse the British .Instead,
they fought against the British separately in different parts of Arakan .
During the pre-independence Burma, again, Arakanese political leaders were incapable of
setting definite political position of Arakanese people through their own initiatives .They,
instead, believed hopefully a sham promise given by the Burman political leaders .During this
period, Arakanese political leaders did not foresee the fact that the Burman’s main concern
have always been themselves and with political and cultural superiority of the Burmans over
all small nations such as Chin, Kachin, Karen ,Shan, Kayah, Mon and Arakan .
They also did not foresee the fact that the Burmans are feather-brained to know the need for
adopting a positive attitude towards the small nations.
From independence of Burma in 1948 to 1988 , intensification of the process of the armedstruggle
for self-determination of Arakanese people under one master plan was not attainable
.This must be attributed in the main to lack of skilled leadership and in the last analysis to
lack of political insights and political culture among the armed- groups concerned.
Arakanese nationalistic armed groups which commenced guerrilla’s combats against the
Burman central regime during 1960s and 1970s had their differences. Those undesirable
differences that led to major clashes paralysed Arakanese armed movements and entailed the
declension of organizational activities among the people. The armed groups competed with
one another for power and influence; a crushing defeat suffered by one with the Burman
central regime was seen by his rivals as an opportunity for weakening it.
Moreover, the communist armed movement agitated by the communist party of Burma from
1946 to 1980 weakened the Arakanese national armed- movement to some extent. The
communists got moresupport from some rural areas in Arakan than nationalists. Along with its
growing in organizational strength in some rural areas in Arakan, the communist policy
towards Arakanese national armed- movement in the areas controlled by it was to break up
and eliminate as far as possible .The main reason of some rural peasant’s support to the
communist movement was ascribable to their indomitable spirit arising from various forms of
suppression inflicted to them by the Burman central regime .The communists were more
capable to exploit this indomitable spirit of some rural peasants in Arakan than Arakanese
nationalists .The communists knew how to impress upon simple-minded rural peasants.
However, Arakan was not yet industrialized and had no true proletariats, and the support of
rural peasants to the communists laid its root in the national sentiments of the rural peasants.
The majority Arakanese people have national sentiment in favour of their long lost right to
self-determination .Therefore, Arakanese nationalism is nothing, but Arakanese people’s
national sentiment in favour of their right to self-determination; the sense of permanent duty
to struggle against any regime which deprives their right to self-determination.
This national sentiment is manifested in their relentless and continual struggle for their right
to self-determination by various means since the fall of Mrauk-U dynasty in 1784. The
countless number of Arakanese people has shed their blood enormously for their right to selfdetermination
since the fall of Mrauk-U dynasty. The various forms of struggles against the
Burman central regimes, which claim their right to self-determination, have proven that
Arakan had never been a part of Burman till 1784 and the guerrilla outfits have further
testified that Arakan is still colonized by the union of Burma. From 1988 onwards, the
Arakanese nationalism seems stronger than ever .History of Arakan demonstrates the fact that
persistence and hardworking of Arakanese people with a clear vision and grim determination,
had accomplished and can surely accomplish in the future as well.
haing Aung Win
References .
1. The statements released by ALP and NUPA
2. The election campaign Declaration issued by Arakan League for Democracy (ALD),
1990 , p-2
3. The Statement of the third congress issued by Arakan League for Democracy ( Exile)
13th April 2001, Newdelihi, India
4. U Aung Tha Oo , Rakhing Razawan Yaing kyany hmu Thamaing ( Cultural history of
5. Tun Shwe khaing , the Ancient Cities of Arakan, 1985, p-180 to 205
6. Dr. Aye Kyaw , the Burma we love: A position paper of the Arakanese perspective
presented at Oslo Burma seminar on January 15 -17 , 2004
7. Dynnyawaddi inscription recording the visit of Lord Buddha to Arakan , Northern
Brahmin, 544B6
8. U San Tha Aung , wesali (
9. Shwe Zan , A glimpse of old Rakhine , Arakan Post , monthly journal published in
Dhaka , Bangladesh,2004, p-17
10. G.E .Harvey ,History of Burma ,London 1967, p-3
11. Candamalalankara, the Rakhing Razawan thite vol I&II
12. Shwe Lu Maung alias shahnawaz Khan, PhD (wales,UK), Sovereign Rakhapura and
31st December : Reflection of some thoughts (
13. Shwe Lu Maung alias shahnawaz Khan, phD (wales ,UK) The Arakanese students
and youth movements, a political analysis , Arakan Post ,second issue, January 2004.
14. Dr .Abdul Mabud Khan ,The liberation struggle in Arakan ( from 1948 to 1982 ),
CLIO, vol 3 June 1985,Jahangirmagar University, Dhaka ,Bangladesh.
15. Dr.Jacqucue P. Leiden ,Arakan during the Mrauk-U period : The political success of a
Buddhist Border state .
16. Tha Thwan Aung , The Rakhing Maha Razawan daw gri ,1927.
17. Dr .Forchhammer , Arakan, 1881.
18. Maurice collies ,The land of Great Images ,1942
19. M.S collies and San Shwe Bu , Arakan’s place in the civilization of the bay : a study
of coinage and foreign relation, JBRS Vol V , part (2) 1925.
20. S.T Aung , Datum of the national movements of Arakan including the armed struggle
since the fall of Mrauk-U ,1992 (
21. Dr. Saw Mra Aung ,Mrauk-U Era AD 1430-1784 in Ancient Rakhine Prae (Arakan
Nation) 1994
22. Ashon Wathawa , The Arakanese Dictionary 1996, Rangoon.
23. Ran Rahul, Politics of central Asia ,1973.
24. Po Hla Aung , A new History of Arakan,1980
25. Brain Crozier , South east Asia in turmoil, penguin Books Ltd,1965.
26. A.W.Palmer . A dictionary of modern History (1789-1945) ,Penguin Books Ltd 1964.
27. Aung San Suu Kyi , Freedom from Fear , penguin Books Ltd .1991
28. Bonbauk Tha Kyaw :On The Road to Revolution( Taw Hlan Ray kharee wai)
29. Maung Boon, The First Burmese War .(Translated by San Shwe Bu) JBRS vol *3,part
30. Ba Shwe , the Arakanese resistance movements against the British
( http://www.rakh )
31. U Aung Zan wai , Memoires of Maung Kan Htu.
32. Dr . Aye Chan, The Muslim enclave in Arakan state of Burma (2004).
33. U Tun Myint (Taungyi ), Dan Tu Thaw Shan pyi
34. Mra Htwan Aung , U Ottama and Diarchy.( From koloni khite shwepray Rakahaing ),
Ashon Ottama Journal .vol 1 ,March 2001 , published by RPLC.
35. Chao Tzang Yawnzhwe , The Burma Military : Holding the country Together?
(Independent Burma at forty years: Six Assessments , Cornell university , New
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