“The Friends of the Burma Hill People”: Lt. Col. John Cromarty Tulloch and the British Support to the Karen Independence Movement, 1947-1952
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.
"A Textbook Case of Nation-Building: The Evolution of History Curricula in Myanmar"
This article aims to analyze the history curriculum used in primary and secondary schools under the SLORC/SPDC from the perspective of the State's nation-building endeavors. To do so, we provide some background on history textbooks during colonial, parliamentary, and socialist eras, and then describe three shifts in discourse on national identity in post-socialist Myanmar: the replacement of Aung San by the Great Kings as main national references, the projection of "Myanmar" identity back in history, and the designation of Thais, along with British colonialists, as historical enemies of the nation. We argue that those shifts constituted a step away from a national identity based on some extent of inter-ethnic compromise, toward one based on an ancient and glorious indigenous essence. We then examine the textbooks of two ethno-nationalist groups, the KNU and the SSA-S to illustrate the discursive similarities across political boundaries.
While revisions of national history are common around the world and might even be a sine qua non for the emergence of a nation, we suggest that the SLORC/SPDC's narrow conception of national identity, coupled with the underfunding of the welfare state and especially education, has often been counter-productive to state aims, undermining the success of schooling as a tool of nation-building and lending legitimacy to radical ethno-nationalist conceptions of history and identity.
“Transition” as a Migratory Model in Myanmar
‘Transition’ has been a staple concept in political science, law, economics, and development studies for several decades. Easily transposed from the analytic context into everyday parlance, it carries a teleological sense of progress and promise, a ritualistic shedding of a ‘before’ as part of a present journey into a brighter future. Even where it is not defined any further, it can serve as a rallying cry, or a delaying tactic in the face of those demanding more radical change. Today’s use of ‘transition’ in reference to Myanmar found in scholarly, journalistic, and general idiom, then, is nothing new: ‘transition’ as a paradigm has a long history in places like Spain after Franco, during the democratization of Latin America, and in the post-Soviet spaces of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. After reviewing the literature on ‘transitology’, we focus on the anthropological critique of the paradigm that was taken up by political scientists when ever more countries were declared to be ‘in transition’. We argue that Myanmar is only the last example of states that are assigned a transitory stage of development. This article addresses the political agendas and the pitfalls that travel along with the paradigm.
Disorder as Order: The Ethno-Nationalist Struggle of the Karen in Burma/Myanmar
Burma’s 66 years civil war is the longest armed conflict in the world. This article analyses the complexity of one of the many ethnic armed conflicts between the Karen and the state. The Karen ethno-nationalist struggle is rooted in the ethnic categorization and identity politics of colonial order, which has influences the political orders after independence. Al living generations in Burma have to some extend experienced violence. Violent disorder and memory of suffering and victimhood dominate a majority of the Karen. The author argue that the prolonged violent conflict has widened the ethnic incompatibilities and impacts the current ceasefire negotiations. Internalsegmentation of the Karen society as well as internal divisions and conflicts has also had a considerable impact upon the track of this conflict. Cultural, religious and political diversity among the Karen – and other ethnic groups – further complicates prospects for a political solution to the armed struggle.
"Deep Change? Burmese Wall Paintings from the Eleventh to the Nineteenth Centuries" pp.1-50
This article will compare the narrative constructions of early (eleventh to thirteenth centuries) and late (seventeenth to early nineteenth centuries) Burmese wall paintings to determine whether or not “deep change” has occurred. Although many of the same stories were depicted in the murals during both time periods, the method by which the visual stories were portrayed changed from an emphasis upon iconic imagery to an exploration of narrative process. By analyzing the narrative modes employed during the two periods, the emphases of each are revealed. The changes that occurred in the Burmese murals most likely relate to the increasing orthodoxy of Burmese Theravada Buddhism and strengthening crown control over the country. Because the teleological purpose of the murals remains virtually identical, however, it is argued that no “deep change” occurred in the murals between the eleventh and nineteenth centuries.
"From Gold Leaf to Buddhist Hagiographies: Contact with Regions to the East Seen in Late Burmese Murals"
In 1767 the Burmese army sacked the Thai city of Ayutthaya, and multitudes of people were captured and relocated to the Burmese central zone, including artists and theatrical performers. This event has been considered seminal in the emergence of Thai influences on Burmese art, including mural painting. Yet, Burmese deportations of people from the Thai, Lan Na, Sipsong Panna, and Shan States regions occurred on a number of occasions prior to the late eighteenth century attack. And, trade networks and religious exchanges between monasteries formed alternative routes of communication between Burma, Ayutthaya, Lan Na, Sipsong Panna, and the Shan States. Unsurprisingly, such variant interactions had an impact on artistic production in Burma prior to the destruction of Ayutthaya and the relocation of artists to the Ava region. The information utilized in Burmese murals ranges from central Thai elements of style and dress to the narratives and methods of religious practice found particularly in Tai regions. This paper explores these aspects in Burmese mural paintings from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries in order to suggest the extent and nature of this impact, as well as the various means – social, religious, political – by which it came about. The murals ultimately present a view of Burma readily absorbing external material due in part to shared religious beliefs and fluid political relationships in the region.
"Verging on Modernity: A Late Nineteenth-Century Burmese Painting on Cloth Depicting the Vessantara Jataka"
This large (428 cm x 82.5 cm) opaque watercolour painting on cotton cloth is stitched into a cloth border. Its composition depicts events in the Vessantara Jataka narrative. Traditional Burmese painting on manuscripts and murals were surveyed for similarities but this demonstrated that the representation of the main protagonists in the panel was entirely novel. Compared with published nineteenth century Burmese paintings on cloth a group of paintings dated to between approx. 1885 and 1910 described as 'family group portraits,' showed the greatest similarity. Formal studio photographic portraits popular with elite Burmese families of that period also show striking compositional similarities.
Contexts for the use of these cloth paintings on this theme were investigated. Initially the long painted cloth scrolls employed in the annual Vessantara Festival in northeast Thailand and Laos seemed to provide a model but in the absence of any record of a similar function in Burma, this theory was rejected. Observations and photographs published by travellers in Burma in late nineteenth century illuminate a number of community events in Burmese life for which paintings on cloth (or paper) did serve a purpose. 'Family group portraits' are discernible in the photographs at these events. It is proposed that a small group of traditional Burmese painters stimulated by the challenge of photographic images, turned their hand, for a short period to emulating these photographic images on cloth for these purposes. The reasons for the choice of the Vessantara Jataka in this case as a subject are discussed.
"Campā Epigraphical Data on Polities and Peoples of Ancient Myanmar"
The article traces the nomenclature applied to ethnic groups and polities in the early pre modern period, and re examines the first appearance of a name for the ceremonial center known as Pagan. By providing updated readings of epigraphical data derived from Campā, the authors correct an influential misreading of an important inscription known since the 19th century, its misdating traceable to Etienne Aymonier and inserted into the authorized Burmese narrative by Gordon H. Luce. As Griffiths and Lepoutre show, the inscription originated in the 13th century. This correction of the evidence, based on Claude Jacques’ and their own re-evaluation, is expanded to examine the names applied to polities ancient Myanmar may have interacted with.
"Three More Sanskrit Inscriptions of Arakan"
The earliest phase of Arakan history, between about the fifth and the tenth centuries, has to be written on the basis of inscriptions and related material such as coins bearing Sanskrit texts, as well as sculpture and architecture. These show Arakan to have had strong ties to Southeastern Bengal (the Samataṭa and Harikela regions) and beyond this with the Buddhist communities of Northeastern India using Sanskrit as preferential medium of expression. A first batch of Arakan Sanskrit inscriptions was studied by E.H. Johnston and published posthumously in 1943. Since then, this field has moved forward thanks mainly to three articles by D. C. Sircar that appeared in the 1960s and 1970s. Since then, no further epigraphic material of early Arakan has been published. The Sanskrit inscriptions of Arakan are often in deplorable state of preservation. But even fragmentary material can throw new light on the past, especially when studied in combination with epigraphical and numismatic discoveries made in Southeast Bengal over the past half-century. This article deals with three such fragmentary inscriptions, all previously unpublished. It presents the discovery that the ancient name of Arakan was Kāmaraṅga, discusses aspects of the history of Buddhism in Arakan during the first millennium, and discusses the problem of the chronology of early Arakan based on a detailed palaeographic analysis of the inscriptions published here.
Buddha’s life in Konbaung period bronzes from Yazagyo
This article presents a collection of small bronzes retrieved from a cluster of ruined Buddhist structures at Yazagyo, in the Kabaw Valley, a remote area of Northwestern Burma. The items can be clearly dated to the early 1880s, near the end of the Konbaung dynasty, thus providing type specimens for chronological comparison. The bronzes recapitulate crucial chapters in Prince Siddhartha's and then the Buddha Gotama's life, and they are examined by the article's three authors. The article details the relics’ enshrinement, their dating, historical context, and the stories of the Buddha that they animate. The article includes 22 photographs.