Rangoon Embassy files, lot 57 F 108, “Amb Sebald-PM U Nu”

No. 21
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Ambassador in Burma (Sebald)



  • Call on Prime Minister U Nu1


  • Prime Minister U Nu
  • Ambassador W. J. Sebald

I called on Prime Minister U Nu by appointment at 4 p.m. today. After the usual preliminaries, I opened the conversation by telling the Prime Minister that I had been present at the Martyrs Day rally of last Saturday, and that I had the advantage of having U Tun Shein2 sitting next to me, with the result that I was given a [Page 26] running translation of his entire speech. I congratulated the Prime Minister on a very fine speech which obviously was well received not only at the rally, but throughout Burma.

After some further discussion of the rally, I told the Prime Minister that I was most encouraged from what I had learned during my short time in Burma, the situation appearing to be much better than I had been led to anticipate by press reports not only in the United States but elsewhere. The Prime Minister said that he felt Burma has a “bad press” and that journalists who come here report only the bad side of the picture and entirely disregard the good or progressive measures that are being accomplished by the Government. When I made a reference to possible similar misreporting in Burma of happenings in the United States, the Prime Minister replied that in his opinion USIS has done an excellent job in acquainting the Burmese people with the true American attitude toward Burma. I said that I was very gratified to learn this, as only today I read a report of what the USIS people were doing. This indicated to me that they are working very hard and with a commendable sympathetic approach toward Burma and the Burmese people. I commented that, fortunately, any assistance which we are giving to Burma has no strings attached; on reconsideration, perhaps there are two strings, (1) we must be assured that Burma wishes to receive what aid we are able to give, and (2) such aid will assist in bringing about a free, strong, and independent Burma. The Prime Minister laughed and said that those are no strings and if they are, he would gladly accept them.

The conversation then led on to the present insurgency in Burma. I remarked that it was encouraging to know that the Burmese Government is pushing its action against the insurgents during the rainy season, with a view to continuing the pressure in the dry season when the backbone of the insurgents might well be broken. The Prime Minister said that this is so but that, unfortunately, the Government had also to consider the welfare needs of the people, and that arms being so expensive it was necessary to divide the budget to provide an army to fight the insurgents and also to insure an improvement in the livelihood of the people.

I asked the Prime Minister whether he was having difficulties in obtaining arms through the British Services Mission. He recounted the difficulties in the past but was very hopeful that Air Commodore Ward,3 upon his return from London, would be able to meet the needs of the Burmese Armed Forces. He said that Commodore Ward had gone to London especially to place the urgent need for [Page 27] more arms and support before the proper authorities in England. Should it transpire that sufficient arms are not forthcoming, the Prime Minister felt that it might be necessary to appeal to the United States for aid in this regard. He stressed, however, that Burma would, of course pay for any arms furnished to it: the difficulty would probably be in obtaining a U.S. permit for exportation to Burma. In any event, the Prime Minister said he would await the return of Air Commodore Ward to learn what the prospects are and, if necessary, he would again raise this subject with me at a later time.

The Prime Minister explained that even if the backbone of the insurgents is broken, Burma would still not “be out of the woods”. He said that he fears the probability that the insurgents, and particularly the communist elements thereof, would flee into Communist China where they would be furnished with new armament, regrouped and retrained, and would probably re-enter Burma to begin a rebellion all over again. For this reason he considers it essential that the Army be strengthened with sufficient arms to meet any threats of this kind, particularly on the China border.

A chance remark on my part regarding communist aggression in Korea led the Prime Minister to say that if the United States had not taken prompt action to send troops to Korea to stop the communist onslaught, Southeast Asia, including Burma, would have fallen prey to communist aggressors. He said that in June 1950, he and other Burmese leaders greatly feared that Burma would of its own accord go communist. As an example, he cited the breakoff of the BWPP, who, he said, split from the AFPFL in order to form a new party which would be in a position to welcome the Chinese Communists when they entered Burma. At that time he felt that it was nip-and-tuck between Southeast Asia falling to the communists and the ability of the Governments in Southeast Asia to survive.

The discussion led to international communism concerning which the Prime Minister took an entirely realistic view. He said that the pipelines of the national communist parties all lead to Moscow, and while he had no cavil with the Soviet Communist Party if it were to limit its operations to the U.S.S.R., he hates the Burmese Communists, who are stooges of Moscow and operate against the best interests of their own country. He said with vehemence that local communist parties which follow the orders of Moscow are unmoral, dishonest gangs with which there can be no compromise.

The Prime Minister was interested in and seemed to have some familiarity with my remarks concerning the French Communist Party and its shift in tactics before, during, and after the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact. He laughed and said that the example [Page 28] which I had given well illustrates the abjectness of local communist parties.

The Prime Minister said he hoped I would travel in Burma in order to see the peoples in outlying districts and specifically suggested that I might wish to go to Lashio and the Shan States. I replied that I am most anxious to do this and hoped that it would be possible at a later date. He said that it would, but suggested that the best time for travel is after the monsoon season.

On leaving, I told the Prime Minister that I hoped he would feel free to call upon me at any time when he wished to discuss matters of mutual concern. He said he would do so.

The entire interview was most cordial and the Prime Minister personally accompanied me to my car.

W.J. Sebald
  1. The Prime Minister had recently dropped the use of the title Thakin.
  2. Permanent Secretary of the Burmese Foreign Office.
  3. Air Commodore E. L. S. Ward was head of the British Services Mission in Burma.