Scouting and Guiding in Burma
Today, Myanmar is one of only six of the world's independent countries that do not have Scouting, however Scouting in Burma had a rich five decade history.
Scouting was founded in Burma as part of the British Indian branch of The Scout Association during colonial days, introduced in 1910 for British dependents. By 1913, Lone Scouts were found in Burma. Later, Scouting was opened to the Burmese. In 1922, Burmese Scouting became a separate branch of the British headquarters in London, but shared the same Chief Scout as India, the Viceroy. In the Burmese language, the Burmese Scouts are known as File:Bscript MyanmanainnganKinht.png (Template:IPA2 Myanma naing-ngan kin-htauk mya).
World War II
In Hilary Saint George Saunders' The Left Handshake, written in 1948, we are told
|“|| In Burma, organized Scouting did not survive the advent of the Japanese. Before and during the period of the invasion, Scouting was going on steadily, and in the large towns they were trained to help in air-raid precaution work," a Scouter from Burma wrote to the Chief Scout early in 1940. "Should war come our way, we cannot hope for better than we will do our part as well as the best at home are doing theirs." When the time came, the Scouts had very little chance, though they did what they could before war dispersed them. They trained well and thoroughly in all A.R.P. work, each Scout being careful to know his own area intimately. So useful were they that, as the Burmese Scouts left school, they were absorbed into the Auxiliary Fire Service, where they were allowed to wear Scout badges and scarves in addition to their A.R.P. uniform.
The last gathering of Scouts, most of whom were wearing it, took place on January 10, 1942, at Lanmadaw in Rangoon. By then they had already proved their mettle in the two great raids made by the Japanese against the city during the previous month. Of all the Rangoon Troops who helped to mitigate their effect, the 51st Kandawgalay took pride of place, not only for the number of Scouts belonging to it engaged in National Service, but also because of their great devotion to duty in time of danger. When the Auxiliary Fire Service left Rangoon with the retreating army, the Scouts went with them and moved successively to Mandalay, Maymyo and Shwebo. Most of them went farther and under their officers tramped the long road through the Naga Hills to Imphal and on to Assam and India. There some of them joined the Burmese Navy.
Post-War Burmese Scouting
Upon independence, the Union of Burma Boy Scouts was recognized in the spring of 1948, and was one of the founding National Scout Organizations of the Far East Regional Scout Conference. Because of the war and its aftermath, Scouting had almost disappeared, but strenuous efforts were made by former Scouters and Old Scouts to revive it.
J. S. Wilson, Director of the Boy Scouts International Bureau, visited Burma in 1952. Wilson's sole journey outside Rangoon was to fly to Myaungmya in the Delta. Scouting in that district was due to the enthusiasm of a Gurkha Preventive Officer, who formed all the official and influential men in the town into a Local Association. Many of those auxiliary leaders were given preliminary Scout training, and Scouters and Guiders received more intensive training, while he apprenticed a successor as District Commissioner. Wilson met Bluebirds and Guides, Cubs and Scouts at a refugee village rapidly becoming a cooperative settlement; Guides and Scouts in their own locale; as well as a little band of Scouts in the compound of a Buddhist monastery across the river.
Burma sent a representative to the 1957 Far East Scouters' Regional Pow-Wow held at Sutton Park, England. By 1959 the nation counted 13,889 members, and the University of Rangoon in 1960 hosted the Second Far East Regional Scout Conference, with the First Far East Professional Scouters Training Conference held at Inyale Camp in Rangoon as an ancillary event. U Tin Tun represented UBBS in the five-man Far East Scout Advisory Committee (FESAC). Burma's U Ba Htay was elected one of the very earliest chairmen of FESAC, which would later become the Asia-Pacific Region, and served from 1958 to 1960. Boy and Girl Scouts in Burma merged in 1962 to form the coeducational Union of Burma Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, which was active until 1964, reaching a membership high-point of 93,562.
Aside from the traditional UBBS scheme for training youth in patrols and troops, the visibility of Scouting in the urban and rural communities consisted of citywide Cleaning Week campaigns, "Safety-on-the-Road" serices, and Cub Scout rallies at Rangoon's Inyale Training Center. Scouts' Day was celebrated every January 1 in Rangoon. In 1958, UBBS published the Handbook for Patrol Leaders in the Burmese language.
The UBBS conducted a series of intensive training in the five regions of the country. In addition to the Cub Scout and Scout leaders' basic training courses, a Wood Badge course was conducted by John Thurman, Camp Chief of Gilwell Park in 1962.
On March 1, 1964 the military government dissolved the UBBS, Lieutenant Ye Htoon, the Director General of UBBSGG reported. The assets of the association were turned over to the Ministry of Education, which was authorized to form its socialist youth organization, the youth wing of the Burma Socialist Programme Party. Girl Guiding was not immediately outlawed, and the standalone Union of Burma Girl Guides Association remained a member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, and was last mentioned by WAGGGS in 1969.
International Scouting units in Burma
However, there are USA Girl Scouts Overseas in Yangon, serviced by way of USAGSO headquarters in New York, and there are American Boy Scouts in Yangon, linked to the Direct Service branch of the Boy Scouts of America, which supports units around the world.
- The Bharat Scouts and Guides
- Bangladesh Scouts
- Pakistan Boy Scouts Association
- Edward Michael Law Yone
- Scouting 'Round the World, John S. Wilson, first edition, Blandford Press 1959
- Facts on World Scouting, Boy Scouts International Bureau, Ottawa, Canada, 1961
- The Left Handshake, Hilary Saint George Saunders, 1948
- Forty Years and Beyond published by the Asia-Pacific Regional Office, 1997
- World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, World Bureau (1997), Trefoil Round the World. Eleventh Edition 1997. ISBN 0-900827-75-0
Additional information provided by and gratefully acknowledged from Ms. Arjay C. Francisco, Secretary, Youth Program and IT and Adult Resources and Research, WOSM Asia-Pacific Region
Members of the Asia-Pacific Scout Region
Full members: Australia | Bangladesh | Bhutan | Brunei | Republic of China (Taiwan) | Fiji | Hong Kong | India | Indonesia | Japan | Kiribati | South Korea | Malaysia | Maldives | Mongolia | Nepal | New Zealand | Pakistan | Papua New Guinea | Philippines | Singapore | Sri Lanka | Thailand