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Burmese Regalia

Volume 702: debated on Thursday 19 November 1964

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asked the Prime Minister by what authority Her Majesty's Government have decided to return the Mandalay Regalia to Burma.

Since her independence in 1948, Burma has on several occasions requested the return of the Burmese Regalia in the Victoria and Albert Museum, popularly known as the Mandalay Regalia.

Authority for their return was given by the Foreign Secretary after consultation with his colleagues, in the interests of promoting closer relations between Britain and Burma.

Would it not have been courteous to have informed the House rather than issue a Press release a week ago? While recognising the need for good relations between this country and Burma and hoping that our trade will recover from its present low level and that this regalia will not go the way of the Abyssinian Crown—similarly returned—may I ask what his attitude would be to a request from, say, Ghana to return the golden ornaments of the Asantehene, or a request from the U.A.R. to return the Rosetta Stone?

Those questions are a little hypothetical and perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put them down if he wants an answer to them. In view of his own well-known desire for improved relations with both the Commonwealth and ex-Commonwealth countries, I am a little surprised at his attitude here. The regalia in question was taken by military force from Burma in 1890, and it was thought right and proper for the improvement of Anglo-Burmese relations that it should be returned.