Communist Party of Burma


Communist Party of Burma
   (CPB)
   Sometimes known as the Burma Communist Party (BCP), one of the major revolutionary movements in Southeast Asia during the Cold War; it broke apart in 1989. Although communist parties were established in India, China, and Japan during the 1920s, an indigenous communist movement was established in Rangoon (Yangon) only on the eve of World War II, on August 15, 1939, by a group of Thakins, including Aung San, Hla Pe (Bo Let Ya), and Thein Pe Myint. The most important postwar communist leaders, Thakin Soe and Thakin Than Tun, did not attend the initial meeting but joined soon afterward. The first communist cell opposed British imperialism, but in July 1941 Thakins Soe and Than Tun, imprisoned at Insein Jail, issued a manifesto calling for alliance with the British against Japanese fascism. After the Japanese invasion began in December 1941, Thakins Thein Pe Myint and Tin Shwe went to India, and during the war they worked with the British Force 136 to organize underground resistance. The CPB was a founding member of the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League (AFPFL), and in the last months of the war, as many as 30,000 communist guerrillas fought the Japanese.
   In the postwar period, communists were divided on the issue of whether to cooperate with the largely nationalist AFPFL, led by Aung San, or begin revolutionary struggle. Thakin Soe broke with the CPB mainstream to start an insurgency in February 1946, known as the "Red Flag" Communists, in the Arakan (Rakhine) Yoma and the delta of the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River. In October of that year, the CPB was expelled from the AFPFL. On March 28, 1948,Thakin Than Tun's mainstream group, the "White Flag" Communists, began an uprising against the central government in the countryside.
   From 1948 to 1950, the communists, along with ethnic insurgents, posed a serious threat to the government of Prime Minister U Nu, but thereafter they suffered military reverses that shrank the size of their liberated areas. The White Flag Communists, based primarily in the Pegu (Bago) Yoma, were not entirely suppressed by the Tatmadaw until 1975, when communist leaders Thakins Zin and Chit were killed. The CPB's headquarters were officially moved from the Pegu Yoma to Panghsang, on the Burma-China border. During the 1960s, the communist movement was seriously weakened by Chinese Cultural Revolution-style purges designed to get rid of "revisionists"; leading communists, such as Goshal, Yebaw Htay, and Bo Yan Aung (one of the Thirty Comrades), were executed.
   A major turning point in the CPB's history was the establishment of the "Northeastern Command" along the China-Burma border in Shan State in January 1968. This was generously backed by the People's Republic of China after anti-Chinese riots broke out in Rangoon in June 1967. The CPB's People's Army, equipped with Chinese arms and advised by Chinese cadres, became the strongest insurgency opposing the Ne Win government, numbering as many as 15,000 men by the early 1980s, mostly ethnic minority soldiers, twothirds of whom were Wa. Increasingly they became involved in the opium economy in the Burma-China border area. Decreasing Chinese support during the 1980s and ethnic minority soldiers' resentment of the Burman (Bamar) communist leadership were contributing factors in the March-April 1989 mutiny that led to the retirement of chairman Thakin Ba Thein Tin and other leaders to China and the breakup of the People's Army into four new ethnic-based forces, of which the largest and most powerful was the United Wa State Army. During 1989, these forces signed cease-fires with the State Law and Order Restoration Council regime, and the history of the Communist Party of Burma was effectively over.
   Although its revolution failed, the CPB had a tremendous impact on Burmese politics. The authoritarian nature of the regime established by General Ne Win in 1962 and the Tatmadaw's monopolization of political power were justified largely in terms of the communist threat, especially after China began giving the CPB a large amount of aid after 1967. In the 1950s and early 1960s, many university students were attracted to communism, and Ne Win suppressed them harshly. By the early 1980s, however, communist influence in central Burma was virtually nonexistent. Communism had little or no impact on the events of Democracy Summer in 1988. But the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) continued to employ the communist threat to legitimize its hard-line policies. In 1989, SLORC Secretary-1 Khin Nyunt published a lengthy tract, Burma Communist Party's Conspiracy to Take Over State Power, claiming that student oppositionists were manipulated by a communist "underground." Aung Gyi claimed that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was influenced by communist members of her National League for Democracy.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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