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Burma (Assassinations)

Volume 440: debated on Monday 21 July 1947

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(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether the Government have any statement to make on the grave and tragic events which have lust taken place in Burma.

I have nothing to add to the very full reports that have appeared in the Press. We are in the closest touch with the Governor, and any information received from him will at once be made available.

The House will join with me in deploring this brutal outrage which has met with universal condemnation. My colleagues and I who had long talks with U Aung San and Thakin Mya had formed a high opinion of them both. They were, in our view, men of great intelligence, courage and public spirit who could ill he spared in Burma in these critical days. U Aung San had shown high qualities of leadership. The underlying causes of the plot are not yet clear. Everything is being done to trace the culprits and to fix responsibility.

The House will have seen that a new Executive Council has now been formed by Thakin Nu, the President of the Constituent Assembly, who has, as the House is aware, very recently visited this country as the head of the Burma Goodwill Mission. The swift formation of a new Council is the best guarantee of the early restoration of normal conditions in Burma. The shocking events that have taken place will in no way deflect His Majesty's Government from their settled policy. Their attitude towards Burma and Burma's aspirations and their anxiety to see her progress to her goal, remain unchanged.

The House will wish to join with me in extending their deep sympathy to the relations of the victims and their earnest good wishes to the new Council for the successful fulfilment of its vital tasks.

While sharing the right hon. Gentleman's sentiments about this outrage, may I ask if he can give any information as to what are the position and responsibilities of any British troops in Burma, in view of the grave situation which exists there now?

The responsibility for maintaining internal security rests with the Governor of Burma. The troops are available for that purpose and are, of course, under British command, and under the control of the Governor. There is no restriction on their employment. As the right hon. Gentleman realises, it is not yet a Dominion Government and, therefore, we have our responsibilities for law and order. I should add that every step is being taken to provide for reinforcements if they are needed, and a request has been sent to India for the use of Indian troops if they should be necessary. So far they have not been necessary.

Will my right hon. Friend specially convey to the Burmese people the real and deep sorrow which is felt by Members on this side of the House who learned to respect U Aung San and his comrades, and will he bear in mind that the moral guilt of the assassination attaches less, perhaps, to the brutal gunmen in Rangoon than to the comfortable Conservative gentlemen here who incited U Saw to treachery and sabotage?

The hon. Member is not entitled to make imputations of that kind. I would point out that that is an unnecessary imputation. After all, we do expect reasonable Parliamentary manners here, and I must say that the hon. Gentleman went quite outside what is reasonable.

With respect, when I said "here" I meant here in England. I was not specifically referring to this House.

It would certainly appear that the hon. Member referred to hon. Members here.

I know the Prime Minister and the country will not pay any attention to that sort of question. May I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the crucial nature of the tragedy and the grave menace which it strikes at the future stability of Burma, he will give the House an opportunity for debating this matter?

I should have thought it was premature to come to any decision on that point. We will see how events proceed.