On This Day

The Day the British Annexed Upper Myanmar

By Wei Yan Aung 1 January 2020

On this day 134 years ago, the British announced the annexation of upper Myanmar, while they were in the process of sending the country’s last monarch and his family into exile in Ratnagiri, a small town in India overlooking the Arabian Sea.

Despite the collapse of the Konbaung dynasty and independence, armed resistance against colonial rule in Myanmar raged for another four years. In response, the British launched a heavy-handed crackdown, using such tactics as beheading resistance leaders. During more than six decades of British rule, Myanmar saw developments in sectors like the economy, administration and transportation, but the sole beneficiaries of this development were British, Indian and Chinese, rather than Myanmar people.

On the plus side, British oppression kindled nationalism among Myanmar people that was strong enough to prompt the establishment of anti-British movements like the 1930 Peasants Armed Struggle, the 1936 Rangoon University Boycott and the General Strike of 1938.

After World War II, the British, facing growing calls for independence within Myanmar and the rise to power of the anti-colonialist Labour Party at home, finally granted Myanmar independence in January 1948, after 62 years of colonial rule. It was widely rumored that the British were involved in the assassination of General Aung San, the leader of Myanmar’s independence struggle, and his colleagues five months before relinquishing colonial rule over the Southeast Asian country.

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