Japanese occupation of Burma

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The flag of formally independent Burma, 1943.

The Japanese occupation of Burma (1942–1945) in World War II began with the conquest of Burma by the Imperial Japanese Army on May 4, 1942. Almost the entire country of Burma (now Myanmar ) then came under Japanese occupation and remained under the control of the Japanese Empire until 1943 . In 1943, the Japanese government and Emperor Hirohito guaranteed independence for the country , making Burma a puppet state under Japanese control. The country itself, part of the planned Greater East Asian Prosperity Sphere , was economically exploited, while the local population was often deported or ill-treated. With the British offensive from India in the spring of 1945 , Burma was almost completely recaptured by the British Army .


Nationalist movements in Burma

Burma had not been part of British India since 1937 ; a new constitution and the status of a crown colony should give the Burmese greater opportunities to participate in the administration of their country. At the same time, however, the nationalist activities in the country also grew, above all under the student movement Dobama Asiayone ( We-Burman Association ; informally called Thakins ). Nationalist uprisings had already led to the overthrow of Ba Maw's government in 1938/39 , but not to independence. The outbreak of World War II in 1939 was seen by some Burmese nationalists as an opportunity to force concessions from the British colonial power in return for aiding the war effort. Others, including the Thakins under Kodaw Hmaing , refused to support what they called the War of the British . In August 1939, Aung San and some Thakins founded the parties Ba Hein , Ba Thin , Than Tun and Thein Pe Myint , the Communist Party of Burma . Aung San was also involved in founding the Freedom Bloc , a nationalist and anti-colonialist resistance organization , with Ba Maw, the founder of the Sinyetha Party ( party of the poor man , Buddhist-democratic) .

Minami Kikan

After the Thakins and the Freedom Bloc called for a nationwide uprising in 1939/40, an arrest warrant against many of their members was issued by the English colonial government. Aung San and other high- ranking members of the Freedom Blocs were among those wanted . In August 1940, Aung San finally managed to secretly travel to China . Allegedly he wanted to get in touch with the Chinese communists of Mao Zedong in Shanghai . However, he was contacted in Amoy by agents of the Japanese secret police Kempeitai and he then traveled to Tokyo. There he then negotiated with the Japanese secret service, which offered him the establishment of a secret resistance unit, the Minami Kikan ( Southern Organization ). The Minami Kikan consisted of Burmese resistance fighters from the Freedom Blocs and the Thakins and was under the military command of Colonel Suzuki Keiji : the aim of the organization, whose members were trained and armed under the Japanese aegis, was to defeat the British colonial government through a national uprising in Burma to fall. This would also close the Burma Road, cutting off Allied supplies for China. This would allow the Japanese army to defeat Chiang Kai-shek's army in China. In April 1941 the Japanese began the military training of thirty members of the Minami Kikan under the leadership of Aung San on the Chinese island of Hainan . After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the start of the war with the Allies in December 1941, these thirty fighters would become the core of the Minami Kikan , renamed the Burma Independence Army (BIA) in 1941 . The BIA, Thakins and the Freedom Bloc supported the Japanese conquest of the country in 1942.

Burmese in the Japanese perception

Japanese propaganda poster against British rule in Asia, 1941.

In the Japanese Empire after the beginning of the Sino-Japanese War there was almost always a racist and xenophobic mood towards other East and Southeast Asian peoples, but above all towards the Chinese . In the 1930s, the Japanese military committed numerous war crimes against the civilian population in China, including the Nanking massacre . In addition, Japanese officers violated the Geneva Conventions by abducting Chinese civilians or prisoners of war as forced laborers or by often brutally executing them. An example of this is the brutal, so-called Hyakunin-giri Kyōsō competition. Japanese soldiers were guided by the supposed ideal of a particularly militaristic traditional war culture and, above all, by the Bushidō code of honor.

From 1939 to 1941, when Japanese generals decided to attack the colonial powers in Asia ( England , the Netherlands and the United States ), this decision was accompanied by a strong, extremely effective anti-Western and racist propaganda campaign throughout the empire. The British rule in Burma in particular was heavily criticized, which promoted the anti-British mood in the Japanese military.

Occupation time

Japanese military government 5 rupee banknote in circulation 1942-1943.

In 1942, the BIA formed a provisional government in some parts of the country. There was disagreement on the Japanese side over the question of how Japanese control over Burma could be secured in the future. While Colonel Suzuki encouraged the Thirty Comrades, the Japanese military leadership had never formally adopted the plan to form a Provisional Government. Finally, the army gave Ba Maw the task of forming a government. The BIA had grown uncontrollably in 1942, and officials or even criminals had become members in some areas. Under the Japanese occupation it was reorganized as the Burma Defense Army (BDA) and continued to be under the command of Aung San. On August 1, 1943, Burma was formally declared independent. Ba Maw became prime minister. His cabinet included Aung San as Minister of War, the communist Than Tun and the socialist leaders U Nu and Mya. The BDA was renamed again and was now called the Burma National Army (BNA).

The Burmese nationalists quickly realized that the Japanese promises of independence were not meant seriously. Aung San started negotiations with the Communist leaders, Than Tun and U Soe , and the Socialist leaders , Ba Swe and Kyaw No , to organize resistance against the Japanese. Than Tun and U Soe had already written the “Insein Manifesto” in 1941, which identified fascism as the main enemy, and later contacted the Anglo-British government in their summer quarters in Shimla in order to enter into temporary cooperation with the British. In August 1944 the Communist Party, the People's Revolutionary Party and the Burma National Army founded the “Anti-Fascist Organization” (AFO) at a secret meeting in Bago .

End of the occupation

There were informal contacts between the AFO and the Allies in 1944 and 1945 through British Force 136 , the Southeast Asian division of the Special Operations Executive . On March 27, 1945, the BNA organized a nationwide uprising against the Japanese to support the Allied advance - March 27 was later celebrated as "Day of Resistance" until it was renamed "Day of the Armed Forces" by the military. Aung San and others then started negotiations with Lord Mountbatten and joined the Allies as Patriotic Burmese Forces (PBF). At the first meeting, the AFO, chaired by U Soe and Aung San as a leading member, introduced itself to the British as the provisional government of Burma.

By May 1945 most areas of Burma had been liberated from the Japanese. Subsequently, in negotiations with the British on demobilization, the AFO tried to ensure that parts of their armed forces would be integrated into the regular Burma Army as closed units . Some veterans organized themselves under Aung San as Pyithu yèbaw tat ( People's Volunteer Organization ) and openly conducted exercises in uniform. In the Kandy Agreement in September 1945, the British and Burmese agreed to integrate a maximum of 5200 soldiers (plus 300 reservists) and 200 officers (200 reserves) of the PBF into the future Burma Army .

Individual evidence

  1. Angelene Naw: Aung San and the struggle for Burmese independence . Silkworm Books, Chiang Mai 2001, ISBN 974-7551-54-3 , pp. 135 f .


  • Martin Smith: Burma - Insurgency and the Politics of Ethnicity . Zed Books, London and New Jersey 1991, ISBN 1-85649-660-0 .
  • Ian Lyall Grant, Kazuo Tamayama: Burma 1942: The Japanese Invasion . Zampi Press, Chichester 2000, ISBN 0-9521083-1-3 .
  • Gerd Linde: Burma 1943 and 1944. The Expeditions Orde C. Wingates , individual publications on the military history of the Second World War No. 10, published by the Military History Research Office ; Verlag Rombach & Co., Freiburg 1972 ISBN 3-7930-0169-5 .
  • Louis Allen: Burma, the Longest War, 1941-1945 . JM Dent & Sons, London and Melbourne 1984, ISBN 0-460-04363-3 .

See also