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The usual sources present. This is a series of interviews with experts on Asian affairs designed to strengthen our understanding of Asian people by ideas. Your most on this transcribed series is the noted author on the ward winning broadcaster league rail. Here now is Mrs. Graham. Burma is known as the land of the pagodas. I have never been there. I suppose many of you have not. It's more than halfway around the world it's about 10000 miles in fact from New York City. It is known as the land of sampans and fishing boats of green paddy fields dotted with little whites dogs do densely forested mountains and it sounds like a fairy and chanting place. And so I'm very pleased that the guest who was on this edition of the Asia Society presents comes from them that Burma has more than 25 million people in population and about 270 thousand square miles. Often it's compared to Texas. Our guest who comes from is named. And
Mr. G is a man who has served his country well and what is more I think in being an educated probably than anything else. He has been at the University of Mandalay 958 265 as a professor of history and political science since September 967 he has been in the United States as an assistant professor of Government at Bates College which you know is in Maine. And Mr. Gee the interesting thing if we could begin with that is how people are addressed in Burma. If I call you that has a certain meaning. Yes. Our society is a lost society. Well let me explain this way. We have three way of addressing a person that is among us. When we say which literally means uncle. You address to a person who is either older than
age or have a definite rank or status in society. Then the next one the word which literally means brother is addressed to a person who might be a stranger whom you don't want to offend and who is about your age. So you would address him as in my case my mon je. Then if a person is younger than yourself or if he is not of any status you simply call him my mon G. So the three words go all Mao has. Relationship to the degree and status or to the age of the person addressed. But I think that even in the United States where we're supposed to be quite democratic our class system prevails and people may be called MR. They may be called Professor. Sometimes the honorable if they have had it at a certain position
such as in a bathroom or a general that call that all their lives even if they no longer see. So do you think that the status system in Burma is that much more pronounced than it is in other countries of the world. Yes I would say so because here you can call the president Mr. President or the ambassador Mr. Ambassador which I think shows a sense of equality in addressing each other treating as equals whereas in our society you would call a person there for years an ambassador like you know Excel and see if there is a president you would call your excellence. Which people feel as giving them respect. Whereas we also would simply call Mr. President. And I noticed this in regard to our passengers to the United States once being interviewed in the television program we're
back in the 55 to 60 and he was addresses your accent and see by the TV and I think the radio you cost us. Yes well those define a point of address and one has to be familiar with them too. To do them correctly because they can have great significance forces for certain people. Would you say that you like to be addressed according to this man depending upon who's aggressing you or since you've been here which is not a very long time since 67 you have lost some of this regard. Well yeah again you know I must say that I would act differently in a different situation because knowing that in my society if someone were to call you as just simply my monkey that would mean that you are slighted. Whereas in a western society a person just mom and she or you for years.
Grant Robertson just Grant Robertson doesn't think when I have decided to settle this by referring to you as Professor G. And then I think we will have no problem. Not that we would have I'm sure and I think since a Burma declared its independence in 1948 and became a separate republic outside an independent republic outside of the British Commonwealth. What changes took place as a result of that in Burma. Well yes I can say this. We adopted parliamentary democracy which is a democracy modeled on that of Great Britain. We had had a representative institutions in the past since 1923 and the so-called doc ecosystem the central government and the local government running power all we had since 1937 and which follows the
implementation of the government of Burma Act of 1935 to how we had tried the parliamentary system which is the executive is elected from the parliament. In other words the legislators ha elected to the cabinet. This is the system which we have rigid from the British and the late General Allen Simon who is the founding father of the newly independent Burma. I chose excuse me the parliamentary system because see then that this would bring. Not only the governmental system but also the values social cultural and economic and all through the parliamentary institution. He think
that we could achieve these goals and from Nineteen forty eight tale Nineteen fifty eight The government in Burma was run by one so-called major party EFP Al which means anti fesses people's freedom link which is a long time coalition party of a sort it. Organizations like a women's Leake the Muslim League. Communists Socialists you don't leak Qur'an organization and small organizations like even fog brigades and so forth. And this party has been in power since 1940 eight till nine hundred fifty eight when they split into two. Then if VFL the name was
retained by affection headed by us we and the party which left the FBI and headed by the ex-Premier who knew call themselves the pea dung body which is the Union party. So we have the two parties the so-called AFPFL party and then the Union Party headed by one. By us we and the other by whom. And as a result of the split in the ep EFL the military. Commander in Chief General Ne Win was all us two had a caretaker government so that free elections could be held and the following in 1960 general election were held and the union party headed by who came into power. Well it is a deeply religious
man and he's leaped into his so called religious meditation leps as if I may say so and although at one time he believed that there where in his words sixteen hundred thousand he says problems in the country he never seriously paid attention to these problems. Instead when the going is rough as you would say he would go up Mt.. BHOPAL which is about four thousand eight hundred feet high and in a rest house built there specially for him. He would meditate for about as long as a month. And then there were his pet friendly schemes like. Building not. That is to see spritz shrines all over Burma. And built what you would call the
pens. TV enclosure for us three dogs the power years which the people don't think much of it. And these are pets cames and his his wife escapades from the secular point of view and going into these meditations long meditations. Really make people disillusioned with his government. And the Army to think likewise. And then in March 2nd 1962 the army with General Ne Win has had again and took power from the civilian government. Well the reason was not given by a specific reason. I beg your pardon was not given by Gen. Ne Win. What he said when he took power was that the country was going to the dogs. This is the sort of
the very reason. But most people believe the knowledgeable people at the time believe that the main reason why it took power was because. He believed that the country would split into several small groups. In other words centrifugal tendencies were trying to destroy him to integrate the country into pieces. What the people meant the so-called intelligencia and the intellectuals meant was that the seans an ethnic minority. About two million Strong's perhaps two and a half million living into the US and not east of Burma. Had you given the the option of leaving the country after 10 years and this was written into the Constitution
now the seans the Chiefs Call Saul was now demanded. From the civilian government headed by that baby now given the chance to decide for themselves this is sort of the principle of self-determination which they were demanding the army can agree to this and to because of the demand on the part of the shuns it as soon as me and carraige other ethnic minority groups to make similar demands so that there were demands from the US the odorous Grace creatio group which have aided Burma and then there were the demands for a separate a federal state problem the Alleghenies who lived on the literal Western littoral part of the country the western seaboard and then there were also demands from other. Groups like the pitch
and the chins. It seems that in every country where there are minority groups and I suppose that's true of practically all countries except maybe this these three Scandinavian countries are the only ones I can think of with all that homogeneous and their population. There are always the problems of the minorities feel that they're treated unfairly so it's an interesting parallel that you can draw this between Burma and other countries of the world Professor. General Ne Win is still in control of the majority of people that he's doing a good job. Well it's hard to say that brought into question. My personal opinion is that. The people. Don't like it. And it is my honest opinion that if that were a general election to be held I think the army would be voted out of power.
What has happened to the minorities who had various complaints while they still in the country but with little to say. Well yes many of the leaders when they took power in March 1962 was rounded up and sent to the in seeing jail. Insane is not to be insane you know. But I and s the. And it's a look at you why would I give you a plane that yes where the jail is. You know they would be about 12 miles out of Rangoon. Are they still in prison. Well a few has been released but I don't exactly know. I still suspect that some. Of their leaders what you may call the most die hard charmed chiefs may still be behind bars as in many Asian countries for that matter as in many countries of the world where the economy has been largely agricultural there is a desire to change not only but at least partly due more industrialization. So I'm sure that that is what Burma would like
to do and has been doing. But would you say that this program is being implemented by as a socialistic way of running things or is it a combination of private capital and government capital. Well I want to know well what is a day when the military take over power. Probably civilian government in March 19 to 62 and soon after that they published what is known as the Burmese way to socialism idiology. Business. It is a philosophy which favors state control of the economy and according to what they say in that little booklet they said that they would like to see what in their view is the man exploiting man which they say is the capital his way.
And so there would not be satisfied until they have extinguished the bad and cultivate the good traits of the man's moral director and they hope to achieve this by what we call the socialist economy and a few months later they start implementing their philosophy translating it into action and private stow private mail goes and. Private shall we say for factories industries. All were taken over by the government there including no banks no private enterprise of any kind in Burma at the present time. No no not even at the level of small stoves. No and many thousands countries there are small private enterprise as you say little shops
yes even small hotels which are run by the staff and tail and profit share that way. But in Burma it is so. The Burmese way to socialism would seem to be complete state control. You know Operation it is a totalitarian economy. Finally you say yes but what are relations then with the rest of Asia. I had the feeling that Burma had withdrawn somewhat since the general took over and that there is not too much travel back and forth. Yes that is what you might call the Zeno fold here. Yeah the fear of the what they believe the corrupting influence of the West. Well this has manifested in the times of the Burmese Kings they distrusted in those old days the Burmese. I thought the Western missionaries their luncheons and the.
Why have any manifestations in the hall on the part of the western US. They were always suspect and I could cite the case of Henry who was a much and during the time of King. By G Daw he was in turn when the war broke out between the British and the Burmese in 82 in a full and he was held together with I don't know and jetsam Reverend dawn and jetsam who is a who is an American and Dr Pryce who is also an American and Henry was a British merchant. What di thing is called sometime as he. Has a word for it excuse me I've forgotten that. Don't you know who poached. Yes someone who. Yeah someone else came along came along and only did it when he did a phenomenal way didn't along those East India Company had the monopoly and this was a man who. Try to.
But in spite of Burma's dislike for the West which one can understand through looking at historical events of the past and and spite of Burma's practicing socialism at the present time. You think that Burma would be friendly with China. You would think that John and Burma would have much in common. Yet I've heard of riots against China in the city of Rangoon for example. What was the basis of that. In the short time we have left could you explain that. Yes well. In the beginning the Burma Burma government was under. Ne Win was highly critical of the Western bloc particularly I must say the United States well not against the government. If I may say so but against the Ford Foundation or the Asia Foundation and private agencies or corporations of that sort because they believe that they have something to do with the CIA. And they suspect these organisation as interfering in domestic politics like corrupting the
intelligencia not active interference. But. Influencing or trying to influence the intelligentsia and intellectuals Yes. I see and feel that would make for a hostile feeling about the United State. But could you just briefly say how has this turned or added it to a top gelati of feeling of antagonism towards China. Well as I was going to say and their win was very friendly with the Chinese leaders and US I believe given the Iraq treatment and I've seen the movie Taken off for being greeted at the airport in King it was oh grand on a grand scale you know that he was he was greeted as his motorcade passed along the streets of King. And because of that I believe it was a very warm you know towards China and
there were frequent visits by that leaders of China like Jordan lie. I wish I wish he would come. Yes I'm sorry though that we time always presses us and we have not really found out of why. Well yes I LET ME BE say this. It would have to be extremely Yes the ride was due to what you might call the overflow of the Cultural Revolution. I see. And that had its effects outside of China as well. Yes and that's great. I think I have been most fascinated by your talk about so on another occasion we can continue our discussion of them. But I thank you very much for being here today. My pleasure. And mass say that our guest on this program has been Gee what present is a persistent professor of Government at Bates College in Maine. This is Lee Graham saying goodbye with a reminder that although East is East and West is West we do think the time has come for the twain to meet.
That concludes tonight's edition of the Asia Society presents with Lee Graham. The series comes to you through the cooperation of the Asia Society. If you would like to comment on tonight's program or would like further information about the society and how you can participate in its many interesting activities please write to Mrs. Graham at WNYC in New York City 100 0 7 and make a note to join us again next week at this time for another edition of the Asia Society presents. This program was distributed by the National Network.
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Asia Society presents
Episode Number
Producing Organization
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Series Description
Asia Society presents is a series of programs from WNYC and The Asia Society. Through interviews with experts on Asian affairs, the series attempts to strengthen listeners understanding of Asian people and ideas. Episodes focus on specific countries and political, cultural, and historical topics.
Talk Show
Global Affairs
Race and Ethnicity
Media type
Host: Graham, Leigh
Producing Organization: WNYC
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-6-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:26:24
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Chicago: “Asia Society presents; 3,” 1969-01-16, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 2, 2024,
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APA: Asia Society presents; 3. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from