18 MAY

BURMESE COLONIAL POLICE SHOOT DEAD PROTESTING VILLAGERS

[ 18 May 1946 ]

Today in 1946, Burmese colonial police shot dead five protesters in the town of Tantabin, near Rangoon. Most of the demonstrators were villagers. They had been demanding a delay on the repayment on loans due to food shortages and the release of 65 Burmese nationalists campaigning for independence from Britain, who, although they had not espoused violence, had been arrested for parading and performing military drills with dummy rifles and bamboo sticks.

As the crowd had gathered near the town centre, the police had started to beat the protesters with the butts of their rifles. Some of the demonstrators had then struck back with bamboo poles, and the police had responded by firing sixty live rounds into the crowd. An official inquiry set up by the British into the incident failed to establish whether the police had given any warning at all to the crowd to disperse before opening fire.1

FOOTNOTE

  1. Chirstopher Bayly and Tim Harper, Forgotten Wars: The End of Britain’s Asian Empire, 2007, p234-235 and ‘Police Fire on Burma Crowd,’ The Dundee Evening Telegraph, 20 May 1946, p. 1.

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