Teak: Abundant natural resources

Teak are known as Myanmar’s abundant natural resources. A forest product closely identified with Myanmar is teak wood. For hundreds of years the hills of the Pegu Yoma have produced teak. Carefully controlled by the government even back in the days of the kings of Burma, teak is a renewable resource that is a prized product of this poor country. It takes sixty years befor a teak tree can be selected by foresters for harvesting. Thousands of working elephants drag the felled logs through the forest to roads where they can be trucked out.

Beginning of Colonial antique furniture in Myanmar

The British swallowed Burma in three bites. The First Anglo-Burma War (1824-26) saw the loss of the Arakan next to British territory in Bengal. The British also took the teak-rich Tennasarim coast on the southern coast. They struck again in 1852 and absorbed lower Burma, including the port of Rangoon, into the Indian Empire. Than only left land-locked upper Burma with its isolated capital at Mandalay. Fearful of French designs on Burma, the British pre-empted the French and moved up the Ayeyawady River. This was the “road to Mandalay” in the words of Kipling’s poem. The campaign was short, ending with the capture of the capital almost without firing a shot. This left Burma in the hands of a colonial power who chose to rule the lowland Burmans directly, i.e. under British law and the upland peoples indirectly, i.e. through their traditional rules. 

In 1941 the Japanese struck Southeast Asia with great fore and surprise and caught the British unprepared in Burma, as elsewhere. The Japanese occupation was short, but brutal. With peace in 1945 the country was devastated and could not easily return to the pattern of rule of the British. (Sources: Barry Broman, Myanmar: Serenity and Transition in Burma, 2004)

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