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United States Department of State / Foreign relations of the United States, 1951. Asia and the Pacific (in two parts)

Burma,   pp. 267-330 PDF (25.0 MB)

Page 327

control of the Government of Burma and the U.S. Government and
require no appropriation or treasury disbursement authorization. The
money would pay for the construction of buildings for a Buddhist
university at Rangoon. For a short time prior to the establishment
of the university, the buildings would be occupied by the Sixth Great
Buddhist Council (comparable to the Council of Trent in the Christian
world), to be held in 1954 on the 2,500th anniversary of the enlighten-
ment of the Lord Buddha. In view of the political implications of
this project, ECA has requested the Department to state its position
in regard to it.
   Eighty-five percent of the people of Burma are devout Buddhists.
 Their religion is the major factor of unity among the Burmese in
 their present politically fragmented condition. For some time the
 present Government of Burma has realized that Buddhism, with a
 more effective organizational structure, would be the-most important
 factor in combating Communism. A successful Sixth Great Buddhist
 Council would give a tremendous impetus to this movement and would
 have a similar effect in other Buddhist countries. The announcement
 of this plan could be expected to have an immediate effect on the
 attitude of the government and the people of Burma toward the
 United States. It would constitute a striking demonstration of the
 fact that the United States is interested in the people of Burma as
 such and not in Burma as a pawn ina power struggle with the U.S.S.R.
   Following the meeting of the Great Council, the buildings would
be used to house a religious university, with the object of making
Rangoon a center of Buddhist scholarship and thus securing a con-
tinuing effort from the impetus begun by the Great Council.
  lWhen this project comes to the attention of certain religious groups
in this country it can be expected to arouse considerable adverse com-
ment. It is felt, on the other hand, that the benefit to be derived from
this project outweighs possible adverse considerations for the follow-
ing reasons:
  (1) It offers an opportunity to support a scheme which the Prime
Minister and the Burmese Government enthusiastically endorse and
which would strengthen them in their efforts to promote cooperation
with the West;
   (2) It would be the most effective way in which we could counteract
the influence of Communism in Burma;
   (3) The project is completely consistent with the objectives of the
American Government to strengthen Burma as a partner in the free
  (4) The counterpart funds to be used are in rupees, which can only
be spent in Burma and only on projects in which the Burmese Govern-
ment concurs.

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