Memorandum of Conversation, by the Consul General at Rangoon (Packer)60


U Chan Htoon61 called this morning to suggest the desirability of a message being sent by the American Government to the President of the Constituent Assembly along the lines of our message to the President of the Indian Constituent Assembly last December. He said that such messages were expected from the Governments of the Netherlands, China, and India. I said that I would be glad to bring the matter to the attention of my Government.

We then discussed at some length the AFPFL draft constitution. I said that I understood the provisions regarding religion had caused something of a stir. He said that this was true, and went on to say that the provisions were opposed by the All-Burma Buddhist Association and the All-Burma Pongyi Association, both of which desire to have Buddhism adopted as the state religion in view of the fact that perhaps 80 or more percent of the population of the whole of Burma (including the frontier areas) are Buddhists. He said that unless the old-line politicians pick up this topic as a point in respect of which to criticize the AFPFL, he thought it was easily possible that the provisions of the draft would be so altered before the Constituent Assembly finishes its work as to make Buddhism the state religion. If, however, the old-line politicians (Ba Maw, U Saw, etc.) oppose the present provisions of the draft constitution, it is probable the country will consider the objection purely a political one and not one of principle, and consequently the present provisions may stand.

[Page 25]

In respect of the provisions concerning the formation of political units within the Union of Burma, he thought the following might be the ultimate classification of the units named:

Union State Shan States Federation
Autonomous State Kachin State; Karenni State
National Area Chin Hills
National Minority Karens (outside Karenni)

I asked to what extent the Yugoslav Constitution had been used in drafting the AFPFL draft. He replied that it had been used very little. He then went on to say that the American Constitution had been used largely in the drafting of the provisions relating to citizenship, rights of equality and rights of freedom; that the South African Constitution had been of help in the drafting of the provisions relating to the Autonomous State and National Areas, and that the Canadian Constitution had been used in drafting the provisions relating to the Union State. The Soviet Constitution had furnished the title “Chamber of Nationalities”.

He said a point that was to receive further consideration was that relating to the tenure of office of the Judiciary. He thought also that the provisions relating to the Frontier Areas were likely to be changed before the Constituent Assembly concludes its work, revisions being contemplated in pre-Assembly work scheduled between the AFPFL committee and representatives of the Frontier Areas.

He said that there would probably be only three sessions of the Constituent Assembly: the opening session when the Assembly would organize and divide itself into committees; the second session when the committees would report and their work would be considered; the third session when the Constitution would be adopted, clause by clause.

He said further that he did not know what might be done with regard to establishing a relationship between the Nagas and Was and the Union of Burma.

E[arl] L. P[acker]
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department in covering despatch 344, May 29, from Rangoon; received June 16.
  2. Constitutional Adviser to the Government of Burma.