Journal of Burma Studies

Volume 21.2, Abstracts

Disarmament and Resistance in Colonial Burma: A Case Study of the Chin Hills

Pum Khan Pau

The paper is an in-depth analysis of the disarmament policy carried out by the British in the Chin Hills in the late nineteenth century. Situated within the larger context of British colonial policy across the world, disarmament, from colonial perspective, was not only important but a desirable and feasible goal of the so-called ‘pacification’ process. However, the harsh measures often adopted by colonial rulers to achieve its goal remain highly questionable and in most cases, they backfired. The paper argues that the British disarmament policy in the Chin Hills backfired and was strongly resisted by the Chin people not simply because they wanted to save their guns, but it they saw it as a struggle against colonial expansion into the hill tract. It further argues that though the British had successfully confiscated guns from the Chins and regulated possession of guns through licensing, secret re-armament among the Chins clearly reveals that they had not reconciled to colonial administration. 

“The Friends of the Burma Hill People”: Lt. Col. John Cromarty Tulloch and the British Support to the Karen Independence Movement, 1947-1952

Giulia Garbagni

In the chaotic aftermath of Burmese independence, Britain officially maintained a policy of non-intervention in the domestic affairs of its former colony. However, the conservative dissatisfaction with what was perceived as a hurried independence soon found expression in “The Friends of the Burma Hill People,” an organization founded in London in 1947 in support of the Karen nationalist movement. This paper aims at shedding new light onto the internal dynamics and motives underpinning the underground activities of the group, focusing on its charismatic founder: Lieutenant Colonel John Cromarty Tulloch, Force 136 veteran and ardent supporter of the Karen independence cause. By relying on archival material from the British Library’s India Office Records, recently declassified Secret Service personal files, as well as on Tulloch’s wartime memoirs, this paper serves a twofold purpose. First, it sets to offer a new degree of accuracy in reconstructing the dynamics and connections of Tulloch’s network, providing a more nuanced insight of the motives and strategies of the “Friends of the Burma Hill People”. Second, it challenges the widespread tendency either to dismiss Tulloch’s endeavor as the machinations of a nostalgic veteran, or of interpreting it within a Cold War logic. Instead, it highlights the role played by colonial narratives of “martial race” and “loyalty” in fuelling British conservative opposition against the new Burma – which are well and alive to this day.

Railways in Shan State

Lindsay C. Stubbs

There are two major railway lines in Shan State, the largest of Burma’s administrative regions. The first starts at Mandalay, crossing into Shan State after Pyin Oo Lwin and going to the railhead at Lashio. A second starts at Thazi, and passes through Kalaw to go to Shwe Nyaung near Inle Lake before continuing north to the railhead at Yaksauk. Shwe Nyaung was once connected to Taunggyi by a rail line, now long since abandoned. There is another line, isolated from the rest of the network, which runs from Taunggyi to Kakku, then on to Namsang and Mong Nai. The line is only usable as far as Htiyi. A line from Mong Nai to Kengtung, known as the Shan State Railway, was announced with much fanfare in 2009 but construction was abandoned soon after it started. This paper will discuss the need for the immediate rebuilding of the line from Shwe Nyaung to Taunggyi, and in the longer term a line linking Taunggyi to Kengtung. The new National League for Democracy government could create much political goodwill for itself by rebuilding the line from Shwe Nyaung to Taunggyi (about 21 miles); by improving the road from Taunggyi to Kengtung (a distance of 281 miles); by re-opening the line from Taunggyi to Mong Nai; and in the longer term building a railway of quality from Taunggyi to Kengtung. This paper draws on fieldwork conducted in Shan State in 2013, 2016 and 2017. 

Textiles and Supernatural Power: A Tai Belief System

Susan Conway

This paper focuses on textiles (monk's robes and funeral shrouds) and supernatural formulae created by the Tai of Lan Na (Northern Thailand) and the Shan States (Myanmar). The term supernatural formula is used to describe a magical prescription that incorporates visual material with some form of verbal communication. Visual material includes representations of spirits, magical diagrams (yantra) and texts written in ancient Tai scripts and verbal communication involving incantations in Pali and Tai languages. Formulae are created in the context of a Tai magical-religious belief system that draws on the power of Buddhism and Nature, spirits and healing, scared objects and astrology, cosmology and numerology. This belief system has enabled the development of a distinct Tai material culture of which textiles are one aspect. A srā, meaning a craftsperson or artisan (Burmese: saya, Thai: paw maw or paw acharn), uses the belief system to invoke spirits to bring good luck and to create protection against evil spirits that bring bad luck. Monk’s robes are a source for protection and healing generated through the power of Buddhism. Funeral shrouds draw on power from a wider source that includes elements of the Tai magical belief system. 

Myanmar. Through the lens of people.

Georg Winterberger

Crucial questions for every researcher using qualitative methods are about access to the field and about asking the right questions in the field. I was lucky to be able to use the Photo-Interviewing method, which allowed me to get insight into my informants’ points of view. In addition, this method enabled me to ask the right questions – or at least the ones that were of great importance to my informants. With this photo-essay, I want to illustrate from a methodological point of view how I got to this method and how it works. I introduce my own experiences with the Photo-Interviewing method first, followed by short presentation of similar methods in use. In the third part, I want to highlight the value of this method by discussing ten photos, which emerged while applying the method.

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