Memorandum of Conversation, by the Consul General at Rangoon (Packer)62


I called on U Aung San today by appointment at 3:00 o’clock.

[Here follow three paragraphs on minor matters of interest.]

I referred to the AFPFL draft constitution and said that I had gathered from the constitution and press reports that it was proposed [Page 26] that a declaration of independence be made at the first session of the Constituent Assembly. He said that this would take place and that a Negotiations Committee would be appointed to negotiate with HMG for the transfer of power. I asked him when the transfer of power would occur. He said, possibly by May of next year. I asked if this date might also see the end of General Briggs’ forces in Burma.63 He did not reply definitely on this point.

I asked if he could tell me what attitude was going to be adopted concerning the investment of foreign capital. He said that he had planned a conference which would meet the end of the first week in June to consider Burma’s rehabilitation.* It would be composed of officials of the Government and others who would go into the question of Burma’s needs and work out some sort of a program. Their work would go on coterminously with the work of the Constituent Assembly. It would consider the question of foreign financial aid.

I said that I supposed that in view of his remarks about nationalization, foreign capital would want to know exactly how far he expected to go in his nationalization program before risking entering Burma. I asked if he could tell me how far he planned to go. He said his plans had not been mapped out very definitely; that he thought that the major industries would ultimately be nationalized, but that the whole program would have to be approached cautiously and taken up over a considerable period. He mentioned oil as one of the industries to be nationalized. He said that posts and telegraphs, as well as railways, were already nationalized and operated by the State.

I asked if he could define his attitude toward such enterprises as the American Baptist Mission and other American missionary organizations in Burma. He said the attitude would be to let any and all religions work here.

I said that I had heard mention of difficulties developing regarding the creation in Burma of a State religion under the proposed new Constitution and that opposition had developed to the provisions of the proposed draft Constitution. He said that it was true—it was again a political move—that there were a good many pongyis on the AFPFL side, and if necessary they would come out for the AFPFL; that he did not actually expect any difficulties to develop. The provisions of the draft Constitution would be adopted without important change.

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[Page 27]

I asked if he could tell me anything about his ideas concerning a Southeast Asia Federation. He said, smilingly, it was a propaganda matter, a long range affair; and it would have to be worked out according to circumstances over the years. I asked if he could tell me whether the provisions in the draft Constitution concerning Frontier Areas were substantially what was proposed in the Committee of Enquiry’s report. He said the report had made some recommendations along this general line; that the terms of reference of the Committee were limited; that it had recommended a scheme for representation of the Shans, Kachins and others in the Assembly. (He did not appear to attach much weight to the report.)

I asked if he could estimate for me the strength of the People’s Volunteer Organization, the Socialist party, and the All-Burma Peasant Union. He gave these figures: P.V.O. 200,000; the Peasant Union and Socialist party each about 800,000 (N.B. these figures differ considerably from the estimate given by U Kyaw Nyein, Member for Home Affairs; see Rangoon Despatch No. 335 dated May 27, 194764).

I said that as he undoubtedly knew, I should be glad at any time to be of any assistance possible in connection with Burma’s establishing a Foreign Service; that I had asked for a copy of our Foreign Service Regulations, which I would give to U Shwe Baw when received; that it might be helpful. I said that another matter which I thought might be of interest to him was the possibility in connection with the training of a Foreign Service of sending members of the staff of the Burma diplomatic mission in Washington to classes given at several universities in Washington which catered especially to students of government and intending Foreign Service Officers. I said that I knew from personal experience that several of the legations and embassies in Washington sent their junior officers to these schools for courses in which they were especially interested, and it might be that were advantage taken of these facilities, a number of junior Burmese Foreign Service Officers could obtain training and courses of study that would not be available to them elsewhere; that perhaps more officers could be assigned in order to take advantage of these facilities than actually would be needed to do the work of the mission.

I said that I had received the notification which he had had sent to me expressing the willingness of the Government of Burma to consider a draft consular convention, and that I had informed Washington to that effect. I said that I knew that one point in which Washington was particularly interested was the scope of the consular district of the American Consulate General in Rangoon which was limited to the city of Rangoon. Consequently when I went to northern [Page 28] Burma on a trip (Aung San and I had met at Panglong in February), I was from the HMG point of view out of my district. Washington did not like it and had taken the matter up with London, but the Burma Office remained adamant. He would recall that I had mentioned this matter to him in one of our conversations last fall. Aung San called in U Shwe Baw, and after they conversed together in Burmese for a few minutes, he said that the matter had been more or less decided in principle, and that there would be no difficulty in the matter. U Shwe Baw nodded concurrence.

I referred to our recent conversation in which the matter of the Kachin Memorial Agricultural and Mechanical School had been discussed. He said that this matter had been decided favorably and that I would receive notice of it in a few days.65

E[arl] L. P[acker]
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department in despatch 345, May 31, from Rangoon; received June 18.
  2. Gen. H. R. Briggs was in command of British and Indian troops in Burma.
  3. Mention of this appeared in the press of May 30, and May 31, 1947. [Footnote in the original.]
  4. Not printed.
  5. In despatch 356, June 5, from Rangoon, Mr. Packer reported on this matter and transmitted an unsigned, undated communication from the Burmese Department of Foreign Affairs, to the effect that the proposed school would be welcome to both Burma and the Kachin community (811.42745C/6–547).