Armed Forces, Colonial

Armed Forces, Colonial
   The major characteristics of the armed forces in Burma under British colonial rule were their relatively small size, reflecting dependence in emergencies on the British Indian Army; preference shown to ethnic minorities, especially Karens (Kayins), Chins, and Kachins, in recruitment; and their organization into ethnically defined "class battalions." Few Burmans (Bamars) served in the ranks; according to official statistics for 1931, there were only 472 "Burmans" out of a total of 3,837 men, and this category also included Mons and Shans. Because the principal role of the colonial forces was to enforce internal security, the British were reluctant to encourage participation by Burmans because they were regarded as potentially disloyal, an assumption bolstered by the student strike of 1920 and the Saya San Rebellion. Official histories of the Tatmadaw brand the colonial armed forces as "mercenaries," while the units that grew out of the predominantly Burman Burma Independence Army were "patriotic soldiers."

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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