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Caretaker Government, 1958-60

Ne WinIn his acceptance speech before parliament, General Ne Win promised to "do my best to hold fair and free elections within six months if the insurgency and crimes are brought to an end within the period." His cabinet was composed of former civil servants; party politicians were excluded.

The primary task undertaken by the caretaker regime was the establishment of law and order. Several hundred politicians were arrested, and thousands of rebels were killed, were captured, or surrendered. Town and village defense was reorganized and removed from the control of civilian politicians. General Ne Win saw as the next most pressing need the restoration of order to the administration of government offices, enterprises, and services. To achieve this the general inserted military men into many government departments and turned over control of the state-owned industrial and commercial enterprises to the Defense Services Institute under the direction of a capable and dynamic subordinate, Brigadier Aung Gyi. Within a short time the Defense Services Institute was operating a large economic complex, including banks, factories, shipping, and numerous other commercial enterprises. Some had been taken over from private control, and others were newly established by the Defense Services Institute.

The administration of the border states was brought into closer conformity with that of the rest of the union. The hereditary chiefs of Shan and Kayah states were induced to surrender substantial political and revenue powers-powers that they held according to the 1947 constitution but that had long been regarded by the union government as incompatible with a modern democracy as well as potentially threatening to the integrity of the union. Politically, the caretaker regime tried to remain free of party labels, although government spokesmen frequently found occasion to attack members of U Nu's Clean AFPFL. The army did not form its own political party, but the armed forces established a National Solidarity Association in towns and villages throughout Burma that involved the cooperation of military and civilian personnel in security and social welfare projects and in demonstrations of loyalty to the union. These associations were continued by the armed forces after the civilian government was restored.

U Nu Returns to Power

U NuIn February 1960 General Ne Win began the process of reinstating civilian government by holding elections for parliament. U Nu, at the head of the Clean AFPFL, fought a highly effective campaign on the issue of democracy versus fascism and on a promise to establish Buddhism as the state religion if he became prime minister. For the first time in Burma's history, more than half the electorate (59 percent) turned out to vote, and U Nu won a massive victory. After taking office on April 4, 1960, U Nu reorganized his party and renamed it the Pyidaungsu (Union League) Party. The Stable AFPFL was the major opposition party, and after the election it dropped the prefix from its name. The National United Front, although it contested many seats, did not win any.

While campaigning, U Nu had hinted at the possibility of separate Mon and Arakanese states being formed. Several small revolts had flared up in Shan State in 1959 after the sawbwas had relinquished their authority, and because more than 10 years had elapsed since the constitution had come into effect, it was legally possible for the Shans and Kayahs to consider seceding from the union. In february 1962 U Nu called leaders of the semiautonomous states to Rangoon to discuss minority problems. They considered the possibility of replacing the present constitution with one that provided for "pure federalism."

Internal divisions within U Nu's Pyidaungsu Party became severe during the national congress of the party in January 1962. As a result, U Nu had to retire from his position as party president. The economy and the efficiency of government were deteriorating. In addition, the business community of Rangoon was unhappy with the announced decision of the government to nationalize all foreign trade as of March 1, 1962.

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Page last modified: 08-10-2011 12:16:47 ZULU