Memorandum of Conversation, by the Ambassador in Burma (Key)


Subject: Matters Affecting Burma

Participants: Mr. Barrington, Burmese Ambassador
Mr. Key, Ambassador to Burma

The following summary of a conversation was supplied to the Department by Ambassador Key:1

During the course of a conversation which I had with Ambassador Barrington on March 19, the following topics were discussed:

1. Seagrave Case

I asked the Ambassador whether he had received any word from his Government on the subject of Dr. Seagrave’s possible return to Namkham. He replied in the negative, but expressed hope that permission would be forthcoming in due course. In the meantime he was happy to learn from me that the Prime Minister2 had overruled those who were urging that Dr. Seagrave be deported.

[Page 271]

I then broached with him the possibility of effecting an arrangement under which Dr. Seagrave might be permitted to resume his lifework in Namkham on the understanding that a responsible Burmese doctor in whom the Burmese Government had confidence assist Dr. Seagrave. Such an arrangement, I pointed out, should satisfy those elements who still mistrust Dr. Seagrave, in as much as such a doctor would be in a position to observe everything that was transpiring at the hospital, would give Dr. Seagrave a much needed medical assistant and would tend to give the hospital a Burmese tone, which heretofore had been somewhat lacking. From Dr. Seagrave’s viewpoint, such an arrangement would be advantageous as it would protect him from false rumors or accusations.

Ambassador Barrington expressed the opinion that some such arrangement should be very effective in helping to solve the vexatious problem of Dr. Seagrave’s future in Burma and could assure the continuation of his good work previously done at Namkham.

I asked the Ambassador to think over this suggestion and to let me have his considered opinion when I met him on March 21.3

[Here follows section No. 2 dealing with “Experts for Union Bank of Burma”.]

3. Recent Burmese Voting on UN Resolutions Affecting the Far East

I asked Ambassador Barrington if he could explain to me in confidence the background of the voting by the Burmese delegate to the UN on the two UN resolutions, i.e., the resolution calling for condemnation of China as the aggressor in Korea4 and the resolution declaring the US an aggressor in Formosa.4 (In the first instance it will be recalled that Burma voted against condemning China, but merely abstained with respect to the second resolution, although India voted against in each instance.)

Ambassador Barrington stated that Burma’s general policy with respect to the Far East was to vote against any resolution condemning any of the important powers as aggressors, as it was felt that any other action would be inconsistent with Burma’s “neutral attitude”. Pursuant to this policy, Burma had voted against the resolution condemning China as an aggressor. In the case of Formosa, however, the Burmese Government considered the latter to be a part of China, the government of which had been recognized by Burma some time back. [Page 272] Bearing these factors in mind, as well as the fact that Prime Minister Thakin Nu had not long ago publicly declared that Burma could not condone the U.S. actions affecting Formosa, he (Barrington) had, without reference to Rangoon (as there had not been sufficient time in which to obtain instructions) abstained from voting. His action and the reasons underlying it had been fully reported to Rangoon. The absence of any comeback from Rangoon led him to believe that his decision had been correct and had been approved by his Government.

4. Chinese Invasion Threat

I asked the Ambassador whether he had received any information from his Government indicative of possible incursions into Burma of Chinese-Communist-trained groups. He replied in the negative but added that his Government was uneasy on this score and had been far from satisfied with the explanations given to Ambassador Myint Thein by the Chinese Communist Foreign Office with respect to the Chinese maps on which the Sino-Burmese border was delineated well within Burmese territory.

I felt that this was an opportune moment to mention to him in broad outline a report which I had seen only that morning indicating that Kaw Seng5 and his followers, as well as another larger group, would probably soon be moving into Burma for the purpose of creating disturbances and giving support to the Burmese Communists, and that two Chinese Communist divisions had recently been moved to Paoshan. I observed that if this report is accurate we would soon be having a clear indication of the Chinese Communist attitude toward Burma. Ambassador Barrington expressed his deep appreciation for the information which I had given him and asked whether there would be any objection on my part if he passed on this information to his Government. I replied that there was no objection and that he would recall that on several occasions in the past the Ambassador in Rangoon or the State Department had advised his Government of matters of mutual interest of this kind. Mr. Barrington again voiced his appreciation and expressed the hope that both Governments would continue frankly to exchange vital information of this type.

[Here follows section No. 5 dealing with the “Rockefeller Board Report”.]

  1. The Department of State file copy indicates that the codrafter of this memorandum, along with Mr. Key, was Robert A. Acly, Officer in Charge, Burma Affairs.
  2. Thakin Nu.
  3. In telegram 595 to Rangoon. March 21, the information was transmitted that Barrington was sending this suggestion to his government to try to forestall an irrevocable decision against Seagrave’s return to his hospital at Namkham (790B.00/3–2151).
  4. Documentation is scheduled for publication in volume vii.
  5. Documentation is scheduled for publication in volume vii.
  6. Naw Seng was a Kachin insurgent military leader.