The first chapter of the book,
"The Burmese Void," gives a brief outline of the
picture of the Burmese history. The author wants to familiarise
the general reader with a particular difficulty—the ethnic
diversity of the state, which is the main reason behind the
civil war. To understand this complex subject, he says, it is
important to know the relation of minorities with each other and
with the majority ethnic community—the Burmans. The next
chapter deals with geographical divisions and ethnicity. Quoting
various scholars, the author tries to explain the origin of the
inhabitants of Burma and complications in its demography due to
"cultural assimilation and cross-breeding."
One chapter deals
with the British conquest of Burma and the Japanese invasion.
The author notes: "British conquest of Burma arose from no
premeditated plan of imperial ambition. It was an organic
extension of British rule in India." However, Burmans who
had invaded Asssam twice, claiming part of Bengal, were ‘responsible’
for the First Anglo-Burman War. The war ended after Burmans
agreed to cede some parts to the British. The next two wars
concluded with the annexation of Lower Burma and Upper Burma,
According to the
author, the conditions for the civil war were in place during
the early twentieth century after Burmans, who were the majority
community, realised that "foreigners’ decisions"
were affecting their lives. The countdown to independence began
in 1931. Burma was separated from India four years later, and
the statute came into force in 1937, making Burma Proper, like
India, "a dyarchy in respect of nearly all internal matters
with a Cabinet responsible to the governor and a Parliament
elected by popular franchise." During this period, two
young student leaders Nu and Aung San, the father of Daw Aung
San Suu Kyi, shot into national fame. They intensified their
struggle movement and later invited the Japanese for their help.
In 1943, the Japanese granted "independence" to Burma.
But ethnic riots forced Aung San to turn on the Japanese and
side with the British, ultimately driving the Japanese away with
the help of Allied forces.
The next two
chapters discuss the rise of Burmans against the British and the
role of Aung San in the freedom movement. These chapters offer
the reader interesting insights into the early life of Aung San
and other leaders. The author has given a brief introduction to
the final pre-war phase leaders like Ba Maw, U Pu, U Saw and Paw
Tun. Problems faced by Aung San after the war and his dealing
with the British make for an interesting reading.
notoriety in the world for its "indulgence" in the
drugs trade is an open secret. In a chapter, "The
Narcocrats," the author first gives the brief history of
opium and then puts forth his argument to explain how deeply the
military government is involved in this trade.
"Whither Burma?" Tucker analyses various scholars’
observations and solutions proposed by them for devolution of
power to civilian rule. He himself has suggested many remedies
to solve this problem, and believes that "the military
regime will not last and its end may come sooner than many Burma
scholars expect." The book, written after years of
painstaking research, has been successful in painting Burma’s
history. The use of maps and illustrations makes it that much
better. The chronological guide may be helpful to those who want
to have a quick look at the subject. It is a great source for
those who want to know about the past and the present of the