845C.00/1–1547: Telegram

The Chargé in the United Kingdom (Gallman) to the Secretary of State


295. Following his policy of personally keeping Embassy informed re Burma talk developments, Sir Gilbert Laithwaite had following to say this morning:

Aung San’s opening speech January 13 was restrained and helpful. Speech of Thakin Ba Sein9 was more political and “tub thumping”. Other members of delegation have disassociated themselves from Ba Sein’s remarks.
Little has happened so far. Delegation was supposed to have presented yesterday to British its agreed demands but at meeting Aung San reported that his colleagues could not reach agreement among themselves re demands. Laithwaite understood that delegates reached agreement only at 2 a.m. this morning. Burma delegation will file its demands at today’s meeting when discussions point by point will begin.
Laithwaite said that while text Burmese demands could not be made available to Embassy at this time they differed little from various public statements made by Burmese leaders. Delegation appears to feel strongly that elections for legislature should not be held but that indigenous inhabitants Burma should instead elect Constituent Assembly. Laithwaite said that it seemed more reasonable to Burma Office, and would be far easier from parliamentary point of view, if legislature is elected first and then that part of it representing indigenous inhabitants is transformed into Constituent Assembly. However, Burmans seem to set great store by this point which probably will be discussed at length. In view of charges from some quarters that AFPFL has certain totalitarian tendencies, he did not feel that abandonment of legislature elections was a particularly sound AFPFL move.
Re tribal areas, Burmans have demanded free access with view to persuading inhabitants to become willingly part of Burma proper. Apparently a kind of whirlwind political campaign in tribal areas by leading Burmese parties is contemplated. To some degree Aung San’s reassuring statements paragraph 2 Embassy’s 252, January 14,10 re full freedom for all races and religions were window dressing. British had no objection to free access but “it will be hard to prove [Page 3] either way whether people tribal areas are willing to join Burma proper”. Before giving up their special responsibilities in these areas British will have to be convinced that inhabitants have exercised their free choice.
Laithwaite characterized situation described Rangoon’s 29, January 1110a as part of AFPFL’s policy of keeping up a good head of steam in Burma for emergency use. Aung San is not convinced that talks will be successful and is anxious to be able to move as outcome London conversations may require.
Laithwaite said that he was increasingly impressed by Aung San’s ability and strength of character.
Laithwaite promised Embassy another report Friday.11

  1. Member of Burma Mission to London and of the Burmese Executive Council (Transport and Communications), leader of the Dobama Asiayone Party.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. This telegram was repeated by the Department as No. 25, January 16, 7 p.m., to Rangoon and as No. 32 to New Delhi. The Department in its 285, January 17, 6 p.m., to London, welcomed the British attitude as “eminently reasonable”. (845C.00/1–1547) Further British reports were made on January 18 and 21 (not printed), and progress was reported.