The new state of the Union of Burma which was established early in 1948 is professedly founded upon two basic concepts - socialism and democracy. The constitution provides for all the fundamental freedoms, and for a system of parliamentary government, based largely on the British pattern, with an elected legislature and the separation of legislative, executive, and judicial powers. The Government has taken a further step toward extending democratic procedures by selling a Ministry for Democratization, whose task is to institute and operate a system of local government in which all those who rule, from the village level upward, shall be elected. This system is still experimental, and over the major portion of the country, centralized rule, that is through Government-nominated civil servants, continues side by side with parliamentary practice.
The growth of true democracy has undeniably been hampered by the strife-torn period which has existed without break from the very earliest clays of our independence. When the insurrection was at its height, the Rangoon Government was unable to find men or arms to send to a hundred threatened towns and villages and was forced to find its friends wherever it could. More often than not these friends were simply thugs and desperadoes. But because they were prepared to fight the insurgents, the Government armed them and supported them. In those days of chaos, the country quickly reverted to a more primitive form of political organization than democracy—the rule of the strongman. In their petty domains, these strongmen became little kings, with power of life and death over the people. Soon, the people began to hate the tyrants, and once their usefulness was exhausted, even the Government became ashamed of them. Gradually, they were dispensed with, pensioned off, and disarmed. But there still remained the vacuum of power which could not be filled democratically by an unenlightened electorate, ill-used to the sensation of governing themselves.