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Brown, Ian (1999) 'The Economic Crisis and Rebellion in Rural Burma in the Early 1930''s.' In: Minami, Ryōshin, Kim, Kwan S. and Falkus, Malcolm, (eds.), Growth Distribution and Political Change: Asia and the Wider World. London: Macmillan, pp. 143-157. (Studies in the Economies of East and Southeast Asia)

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In the final days of December 1930, an insurrection broke out in the Tharrawaddy District of Lower Burma, north of the capital, Rangoon.1 Its leader was Hsaya San, who at various times in his life (he was then 48) had been a wandering fortune-teller, a se saya (Burmese medical practitioner), a pongyi (Buddhist monk) and the operator of illegal lotteries, before, in the mid-1920s, becoming involved in the nationalist General Council of Burmese Associations, later in its radical So Thein faction. In raising the rebellion, Hsaya San presented himself as the Setkya-Min the powerful and benevolent ruler who, according to Burman belief, would appear at the end of Buddhism’s age of decline (widely interpreted to be the period of British rule) to restore the moral order and prepare mankind for the coming of the Buddha Maitreya (Embryo or Future Buddha). In those last days of 1930 the rebels raided villages to secure firearms, before attacking police stations, military posts, railway lines and telegraph installations. A number of village headmen and lone European officials were killed. On 31 December government forces attacked the rebel headquarters. Hsaya San fled north, while those of his followers who had avoided capture or death scattered into the surrounding areas. However, any hope the authorities may then have held that the insurrection had been broken was almost immediately lost. In early January minor disturbances took place in Yamethin, on the southern fringe of the Dry Zone, quickly succeeded by a major rising in Pyapon District, in the coastal delta south of Rangoon. In the months which followed there were serious outbreaks in many parts of the Lower Burma delta, the last major rising taking place in Pegu District, north-east of Rangoon, in late September 1931. Meanwhile Hsaya San had reappeared to lead a rising in the Shan States, in the far northeast. Over the course of the rebellion, 12 of Burma’s 20 districts were in disorder. In addition to the coordinated attacks on villages, government offices and railway lines, the disturbances involved bursts of communal violence between Burmese and Indians, and widespread spoliation by gangs of dacoits. Around 9000 rebels were arrested or captured, 3000 killed or wounded, and 350 convicted and hanged, including Hsaya San himself. The British administration was forced to import two divisions from India to strengthen the local military, and it took until mid-1932 to root out the last of the resistance. This was a major uprising.

Item Type: Book Chapters
SOAS Departments & Centres: Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of History
ISBN: 9780333682999
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2007 13:16

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