The Kachin Memorandum of 1947

Photo: Kachin Leaders with the Frontier Areas Committee of Enquiry (FACE); Maymyo, April 1947. (Illustrated London News)

The Frontier Areas Committee of Enquiry, also known as the Rees-Williams Commission, began its proceedings in March 1947. The Enquiry was made necessary due to limitations in the Panglong Agreement drafted by U Tin Tut. It had been rectified and signed by leaders of Burma Proper, the Kachin hills, Shan States and the Chin hills, but was not accepted unanimously by the frontier peoples. 

In order to participate in the work of the Constituent Assembly, representatives of the Supreme Council of United Hill Peoples (S.C.O.U.H.P) informed the Enquiry Committee in its memorandum that association with Burma shall be on a Federal basis with equal rights for all, full autonomy for all representatives of the hill areas, and the right of secession from Burma proper at any time after attaining independence. 

According to firsthand accounts by Duwa Zau Lawn of Bhamo, a signatory to the Panglong Agreement, and Duwa Shan Lone, Secretary of the Panglong Conference, Bogyoke Aung San repeatedly persuaded the hill tribes delegates at the Conference to ask for independence from the British together and explained the benefits of establishing a federation with Ministerial Burma. Bogyoke promised the Nyaung Shwe Sawbwa saying, “I am glad to hear your expression of trust in me, but let me tell you this Sawbwagyi, do not put your trust in personalities. Rather, trust the constitution that we will be drafting together. I can assure you here and now, that all matters such as the right to secession and other safeguards you wish included in the Constitution will be fully addressed. So please join hands with us in the Constituent Assembly where further details will be discussed and thrashed out.” The Kachin leaders were satisfied with Bogyoke’s promise for the establishment of a Kachin State in the new constitution.

The Sawbwa of Yawnghwe, president of S.C.O.U.H.P., told the Committee that association of the Frontier Areas with Ministerial Burma is based on the condition of guaranteed full autonomy in internal administration. The Kachins reiterated similar desires for the fullest possible autonomy for the states within the federation, with the exception of certain objects to be entrusted to the federation.

Representatives from the Myitkyina and Bhamo Council of Kachins, the Kachin Youth League, the Jinghpaw National Modern Civilization Development Association, the Northern Hsenwi-Mongmit Kachins, Kachins serving in the army and Frontier Constabulary, Hkamti Long Shans, the Nepali Association, the Bhamo A.F.P.F.L and Burmans from the Bhamo Part II Area, participated and expressed their views at the meeting held in Maymyo on April 16, 17 and 21 in 1947. All the Kachins and Shans representatives signed on to the memorandum expressing their collective desires to be submitted to the Enquiry Committee. Duwa Zau Lawn told the Enquiry Committee that if their demands outlined in the memorandum were rejected at the Constituent Assembly, the Kachins will not join the federation.

Following is the full text of the memorandum:

Memorandum expressing the wishes of the Kachin People, submitted to the Enquiry Committee by the Group of Kachin Representatives sent from Kachin Hill Areas. 

We thank the British Government and the Governor’s Executive Council for their success in forming an Enquiry Committee to explore ways and means for the lasting association for mutual benefit of the minority races in the hill regions of Burma, with the Burmese, as contemplated by the London Agreement executed between the two Governments. 

We also thank the Chairman as well as the members of the Enquiry Committee for the consideration paid to the Kachin people by inviting them in order to ascertain their wishes. 

As the Kachin representatives, who will give evidence are those selected at meetings of the District Council and the Kachin people, it may be accepted that what they will say are without doubt in the best interests of the Kachin people and their future welfare, in administration as well as in the field of economics. 

Though undoubtedly there are many natural and geographical links between the Burmese and the Kachins, yet there are such wide divergences in manners, customs, beliefs and racial characteristics that we cannot consider that the time has yet come for the fusion of the Burmese and the Kachin into one nation. 

On the other hand, our complete separation from the Burmese will affect adversely the welfare and economic progress of both. The best course therefore is for the Kachins to form a separate state within a Burmese federation. 

The Kachins have a strong desire that the Kachin State should include not only the hill areas but the whole district of Myitkyina and Bhamo, and the plains and hill areas forming the northern portion of the Katha District. 

The reason for this desire to include the plains areas which come under the scope of the Government of Burma Act, 1935, is that the Kachin Hill areas in the northern part of Burma run north to south down to the north of Katha and extend in strips like the fingers of a hand. There are streams and narrow plains in between these strips of hill areas and there live Shans, Burmese and a few non-Burmans. Under the Government of Burma Act, 1935, those streams and plains are Part II Scheduled Areas while the Kachin Hill Areas are Part I Scheduled Areas. 

In the Myitkyina and the Bhamo Districts, the Part I Areas, where the Kachins live form the largest portion, and the Kachin population is also the largest. The dissection of each district into numerous parts has caused undue complexity and difficulty in the relationship between the Kachins themselves and also in the political and economic progress of the Kachins. 

The retention of the division into Part I and Part II will hinder the association of the Burmese and Shans with the Kachins and create antagonism. In Part II Areas the Shan population is the largest. Shans and Kachins have been living together in amity since the days of old. There is considerable similarity between Shans and Kachins in the manner of living, in customs and in mentality. Over a hundred thousand Kachins are residing in the Shan States of Hsenwi, Momeik, Tawngpeng and Hsipaw States, In view of the fact that the Kachins can live amicably with the Shans in these States, there is no reason why those Shans who live in the Myitkyina and the Bhamo Districts should not live in harmony with the Kachins. 

In requesting the inclusion of the Shans and the Burmese of the Part II Areas in the Kachin State, the Kachins have no intention of interfering with the livelihood of these races or with their religious practices, customs and usages. The Kachins intend to grant all indigenous races in the separate Kachin State to enjoy equal rights, and to constitute a Council in which will be represented every indigenous race and which will be empowered to administer for the common good after free deliberation.

The Constituent Assembly of Burma is to be constituted to devise means for the long-term association to their mutual benefit of the Kachins and the Burmese. The Kachins desire to attend the Assembly on the basis of the following principles identical with the resolutions passed by the S.C.O.U.H.P., at a meeting held by the Shans, Kachins and Chins at Yawnghwe: 

  1. To confirm and decide on a separate Kachin State.
  2. Equal rights with the Burmese people.
  3. The internal affairs of the separate Kachin State to be controlled by the people belonging to the State with no external interference,
  4. Defence, External Affairs, Communications, Posts and Telegraphs, Currency and Coinage, Titles and Honours, the holding of Durbars, and Customs, etc., to be Federal subjects; Kachins should be represented in the Federal Government and no decisions to be taken therein without the consent of the minorities representatives. 
  5. A subsidy from the Central Government until the Kachin separate State can organize its own finance in a stable manner; when the state can do so it should have separate finance as the Shan States Federation. 
  6. The right to secede from the Federation at any time. 
  7. As the population of Kachins in Burma is over five hundred thousand, not less than ten representatives in the Constituent Assembly, these to be selected by the District Councils or at mass meetings and not to be elected by voting. 
  8. Resolutions in the Constituent Assembly relating to a State should be passed only if two-thirds of the members of the State concerned agree.
  9. The Constitution to be on the lines of United States Constitution or on such other new lines as may be devised in the light of the circumstances of Burma and be acceptable to the minorities. The separate States shall be represented in the Federal Government Departments and in the Federal Cabinet. 
  10. The separate Kachin State to have a legislature for internal subjects.
  11. If it should be necessary to constitute a Council to advise the Kachin State in its relations with the Federal Government; such Council shall be constituted in such manner as may be desired by the State. 
  12. Whether the Kachins will remain within the British Commonwealth or will leave it will be decided only at the Constituent Assembly. 
  13. Points which are in dispute with the Burmese over constitutional rules either when they are being shown up or when they have been drawn up to be settled by a tribunal consisting of one Burmese High Court Judge and another High Court Judge. 
  14. No amendment to the constitution, agreed upon by the Constituent Assembly, to be made in regard to the Kachin separate State without the consent of the representatives of the State. 
  15. If the Burmese pledge themselves to the above principles, a firm Agreement on Burmese-Kachin relations should be executed. The British Government should witness the said Agreement to reassure the minorities of its binding nature. 
  16. If the Burmese find themselves unable to accept either the whole of the above-mentioned principles or some of the main principles, it would be difficult to constitute the proposed Federation now and the matter will have to be postponed. In the meantime the Kachins will devise alternatives in consultation with the S.C.O.U.H.P. 

The Kachins find that though the British Government has ruled over them for over 60 years there has been no marked improvement in their circumstances. At present there is a wide difference in development between the Burmese and the Kachins who consider therefore that at such a time of transition the British Government should accept responsibility for guiding the Kachins to a course or action which will not prejudice their future. 

In both world wars the Kachins fought with the Allies against the enemies of the interests of the British Empire. The Kachins therefore can never think that the British Government would forget them who thus defended their interests. 

The representatives who submit the above resolutions are as below: 


(1) Kumweng Gam, Elder, Manhkrin, Myitkyina.

(2) Zau Rip, Secretary, Kachin Central Executive Council, Myitkyina.

(3) Zau Naw, Chief, Sadon, Myitkyina.

(4) Karing Naw, President, Kachin District Council, Myitkyina. 

(5) Hpala Gam, Counsellor, Kauhkawng, Myitkyina.

(6) Zau Aung, Cbief, N’Wanghkang’ Myitkyina.

(7) Gum Lan, Chief, Tagap, Myitkyina.

(8) Sumdu Gam, Counsellor, Putao, Myitkyina.

(9) U Aung Ba, Representative, Hkamti Long, Myitkyina. 

(10) Maung Shwe Thaung, Representative, Hkamti Long, Myitkyina. 

(11) U Hla, Representative, Hkamti Long, Myitkyina.

(12) Sao Nwa Seik Ta, Chief Representative, Hkamti Long, Myitkyina.

(13) Zau Rai, Counsellor, N. Triangle, Myitkyina.

(14) Sumlat Gam, Counsellor, N. Triangle, Myitkyina. 

(15) Ningrang Yaw, Counsellor, Sumprabum, Myitkyina. 

(16) Mwijang La, Counsellor, Sadon, Myitkyina. 

(17) Sara Hkaw Sau, Counsellor, Lauhkawng, Myitkyina. 

(18) Taik Bawn, Counsellor, Lauhkawng, Myitkyina. 

(19) Dingra Tang, Representative, Putao, Myitkyina. 

(20) Ngwa Le, Elder, Manhkrin, Myitkyina. 

(21) Padip La Tawng, Counsellor, Mohnyin.

(22) Hpauyam Gam, ]inghpaw Modern Civilization Development. 

(23) Ginran Tang, President, Central Karen Association, Youths’ League.

(24) Sara Gun Gam, Member, Central Karen Association, Youths’ League.

(25) Duwa Zau Lawn, President, Kachin’ Central Executive Council, Bhamo.

(26) Duwa Zau La, President, Kachin District Council, Bhamo. 

(27) Mungga Tu, A.T.M., B.G.M., Chief, Manmaukawng, Bhamo. 

(28) Zau Lawn, Chief, Mongkha, Bhamo.  

(29) Gumja Naw, Chief, Maga, Bhamo.

(30) Hpaugan Tu, Chief, Hkamleng, Bhamo.

(31) Sub F. Maran Tu, Pensioner, Bumwa, Bhamo.

(32) Sub Gawlu Tu, Pensioner, Momauk, Bhamo.

(33) Sara Manam La, Elder, Chyahkandap, Bhamo.

(34) Maran La, Elder, Sinlumkaba, Bhamo.

(35) Maran Kamhpang, Headman, Tunghongyaung, Bhamo. 

(36) Maraw Tu, Elder, Lana Hpara, Bhamo.

(37) M. Yaw Han, Contractor, Kaihtik, Bhamo. 

(38) Zau Tang, Taung-ok, Lweje, Bhamo.

(39) Ugvi Hting Nan, Range Officer, Shwegu.

(40) L. Ra Ring, Secretary, Kachin District Council, Bhamo. 

(41) Lawang Li, Kachin Youths’ League, Bhamo.

(42) L. Yawng Htang, Kachin Youths’ League, Bhamo. 

(43) Maru Shawng, Kachin Youths’ League, Bhamo.

(44) Hkun Hpung, Chief, Howa, North Hsenwi.

(45) Kareng Hkam, A.T.M., Interpreter, Kutkai, North Hsenwi. 

(46) Lashi Gam, Elder, Kutkai, North Hsenwi.

(47) Sub Zau Bawk, Elder, Kutkai, North Hsenwi.

(48) Sara La Hkang, Youths’ League.

(49) Sara Zau Ba, Mawswi, Mongmit. 

(50) Maraw Hkunlpa, Taung-ok, Shwegu, Bhamo. 

MAYMYO : 15th April 1947.