52. Telegram From the Embassy in Burma to the Department of State0

726. Department telegram 537.1 Initial call Ne Win this morning lasted 45 minutes. Throughout discussion only Ne Win and myself present. Ne Win appeared friendly, relaxed, and very self assured. He greeted me warmly and gave no evidence strain or tension in his attitude.

I began call conveying President’s greetings and hope he could visit Washington early July. Ne Win replied wished come Washington and meet President as soon as possible but not sure could get away so early. He said would like defer decision for time being, and felt by end of April he would be able see way clear whether could come or not. I pointed out importance having decision as early as possible in view question President’s own scheduling, and he promised give decision no later than end April. Ne Win referred to putting off Bowles visit, and asked me assure Bowles only timing inauspicious and he would be happy see Bowles at later time. Said visit by person his position so soon after change of government might have been misconstrued and also that he and all members government so busy at time would not have been able see anyone.

Regarding policy new government, Ne Win stressed would follow course “strict neutrality.” Also referred to statement would follow socialist pattern, which he said might bother some people in West. Said not yet decided part private sector would play in economic development plans but this under consideration and in principle he felt should be place for private as well as government sector in economy. Ne Win said not yet time fully consider role other countries with respect objectives economic growth in Burma but his government currently examining question. I mentioned optimism our recent trade mission regarding expansion US-Burmese trade and that we now prepared discuss conclusion investment on grantee agreement to which Ne Win gave agreement discussions proceed at appropriate level.

Ne Win brought up Laos situation stating effort form coalition government under Souvanna Phouma extraordinarily difficult if not impossible. Regarded Souvanna as “weak reed”, but also expressed little regard Phoumi or Souphanouvong. Asked what he expected happen, he [Page 110] shrugged off with “who knows.” Added it was most complicated situation and no easy answers. In context Laos, mentioned possibility of visit Malcolm MacDonald, and said regarded both MacDonald and his wife as good friends. (British Ambassador told me last night some discussion visit by MacDonald had come up in his initial talk with Ne Win.)

In discussion US programs Burma, I reviewed military sales programs and civic action program in terms reference telegram. Ne Win said negotiations military sales program carried on in accordance his wishes and final package agreed upon represented his own thinking as to what needed. Expressed pleasure new phase appeared nearing final solution. After I reviewed recommendations civic action re Namsang project, which I said under immediate consideration, Ne Win expressed some concern that there had been sufficient investigation whether spring able produce sufficient water for gravity flow system. Said he had originally preferred pumping system from river but had been assured gravity flow was most effective way provide water supply. He seemed pleased at progress made in discussions civic action and said he hoped development veteran villages would also stimulate other villages in area to improve cultivation methods et cetera, which he regarded as important by-product this program.

Regarding highway, Ne Win said details should be discussed with Minister Public Works (U Thi Han who also Foreign Minister and now in Geneva; Brig Tin Pe acting in his absence) and his staff who would then bring question to him. However, I went over for him our current concept stressing importance getting started as soon as possible Rangoon–Pegu section while at same time carrying out new engineering survey disputed Pegu–Pye sector. Recalled 75–25 percent division cost up to our original commitment 31.76 million and made clear we now neither reducing nor raising our original financial commitment. Also put him on notice when we had firm cost estimates as result new survey disputed sector we would need again sit down with Burmese and determine how proceed. Regarding question of alignment, Ne Win remarked he personally would like to have road on new alignment as did not wish us build on unsatisfactory alignment where later owing flood or other reasons might produce bad reaction to whole project. He reaffirmed priority his government gave to highway, and assured we could be sure of getting quick decisions from his government. Subject left for discussion Minister Public Works who would report to Ne Win for final decision. (Foreign Office has scheduled call on all members cabinet March 23 so doubt possibility see Tin Pe before that date although I am making effort to do so.)

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When I probed regarding other programs such as PL 480,2 Fulbright, et cetera, Ne Win said all programs now under review by new government but no reason not go ahead in discussions with appropriate officials. He stated press report suspending state scholarship program sending Burmese scholars abroad not necessarily accurate, although such course now under consideration. Said government not suspending educational exchange programs with other governments and UN, but “for present” will suspend exchange programs Asia and Ford Foundations. Ne Win stated not entirely happy present status either foundation in Burma. In particular, said activities Asia Foundation under careful review at present. Expressed unhappiness some of Asia Foundation programs at Rangoon University and also complained never gave full accounting of funds. On Ford Foundation, expressed concern support for Technological Institute at Insein. In this regard complained original intent Institute train subengineers and technicians being lost sight of by using it primarily as feeder for engineering college. Also said inadequate attention had been given to qualification students from Institute sent to US for further study. Concluded that in any case for present did not expect use resources either foundation for training purposes.

No discussion rumors Thai-SEATO-US assistance to Shans. Ne Win did not mention and in view tenor our discussion and second-hand nature reports I thought best not on my own initiative engage in denial or defense our position.

Memo of conversation being pouched.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 790B.13/3–1962. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to Bangkok and CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. Telegram 537, March 16, instructed Everton to inform Ne Win that U Nu had been invited to Washington for 5 days during July 1962. The President would receive Ne Win during that time if convenient. Everton was also to inform Ne Win that the Military Sales Program for Burma would soon be approved. (Ibid., 033.90B11/3–1662)
  3. The Agricultural Trade Development Act of 1954, “Food for Peace,” P.L. 480, 83d Congress, approved on July 10, 1954, as amended through P.L. 87–195, approved on September 4, 1961. (68 Stat. 454)
  4. In despatch 447, March 25. (Department of State, Central Files, 790B.13/3–2562)