20 AUGUST 1948, Page 1

Civil War in Burma

The situation in Burma hovers on the brink of complete chaos. Little is known of what is going on outside the capital, Rangoon, but it seems to be unfortunately true that a breakdown of the civil administration has followed the revolt of large sections of the police and army. The Government is trying somewhat belatedly to re- impose its authority, but too much valuable time has been wasted in recent weeks in trying to preserve the fabric of the post-war coalition at the expense of vigorous action against the rebels. The political situation is made more confused by the lavish use which all parties make of Western political terminology to describe an essentially oriental imbroglio. The present struggle has very little to do with anti-Fascists and Communists (no evidence has been produced to show that Russia is actively interested at present), but is the latest manifestation of Burma's perennial problem: how to govern a country larger than France, poorly supplied with com- munications and disrupted by large antagonistic minorities. There

has been no real stability in Burma since the Japanese invasion. Liberation was followed by the excitement of constitution-making, and then by complete independence, the murder of most of the Cabinet and now civil war. It is easy to point out the weaknesses of the new Burma ; the youth and inexperience of its leaders, its lack of authority and, above all, its failure to create a sense of loyalty. But it is more important to look for some means by which stability may be restored, and then for our Government to give, if asked, the help which it can still offer as a friend, if no longer as a colleague. Unfortunately, geography and tradition play into the hands of the rebels. As long as they are content to wage a guerrilla war it will be difficult to check them. But if they try to set up a rival government, they may cause a reaction in favour of the Prime Minister, Thakin Nu.