Internal Communications

In 1871-1872 there were 814 m. of road in Lower Burma, but the chief means of internal communication was by water. Steamers plied on the Irrawaddy as far as Thayetmyo. The vessels of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company now ply to Bassein and to all points on the Irrawaddy as far north as Bhamo, and in the dry weather to Myitkyina, and also on the Chindwin as far north as Kindat, and to Homalin during the rains. The Arakan Flotilla Company has also helped to open up the Arakan division. The length of roads has not greatly increased in Lower Burma, but there has been a great deal of road construction in Upper Burma. At the end of the year 1904-1905 there were in the whole province 7486 m. of road, 1516 m. of which were metalled and 3170 unmetalled, with 2799 m. of other tracks. But the chief advance in communications has been in railway construction. The first railway from Rangoon to Prome, 161 m., was opened in 1877, and that from Rangoon to Toungoo, 166 m., was opened in 1884. Since the annexation of Upper Burma this has been extended to Mandalay, and the Mu Valley railway has been constructed from Sagaing to Myitkyina, a distance of 752 m. from Rangoon. The Mandalay-Lashio railway has been completed, and trains run from Mandalay to Lashio, a distance of 178 m.

The Sagaing-Mônywa-Alôn branch and the Meiktila-Myingyan branch were opened to traffic during 1900. In 1902 a railway from Henzada to Bassein was formed and a connecting link with the Prome line from Henzada to Letpadan was opened in 1903. Railways were also constructed from Pegu to Martaban, 121 m. in length, and from Henzada to Kyang-in, 66 m. in length; and construction was contemplated of a railway from Thazi towards Taung-gyi, the headquarters of the southern Shan States. The total length of lines open in 1904-1905 was 1340 m., but railway communication in Burma is still very incomplete. Five of the eight commissionerships and Lashio, the capital of the northern Shan States, have communication with each other by railway, but Taung-gyi and the southern Shan States can still only be reached by a hill-road through difficult country for cart traffic, and the headquarters of three commissionerships, Moulmein, Akyab and Minbu, have no railway communication with Rangoon. Arakan is in the worst position of all, for it is connected with Burma by neither railway nor river, nor even by a metalled road, and the only way to reach Akyab from Rangoon is once a week by sea.


The British government has administered the law in Burma on principles identical with those which have been adopted elsewhere in the British dominions in India. That portion of the law which is usually described as Anglo-Indian law (see Indian Law) is generally applicable to Burma, though there are certain districts inhabited by tribes in a backward state of civilization which are excepted from its operation. Acts of the British parliament relating to India generally would be applicable to Burma, whether passed before or after its annexation, these acts being considered applicable to all the dominions of the crown in India. As regards the acts of the governor-general in council passed for India generally - they, too, were from the first applicable to Lower Burma; and they have all been declared applicable to Upper Burma also by the Burma Laws Act of 1898. That portion of the English law which has been introduced into India without legislation, and all the rules of law resting upon the authority of the courts, are made applicable to Burma by the same act. But consistently with the practice which has always prevailed in India, there is a large field of law in Burma which the British government has not attempted to disturb.

It is expressly directed by the act of 1898 above referred to, that in regard to succession, inheritance, marriage, caste or any religious usage or institution, the law to be administered in Burma is (a) the Buddhist law in cases where the parties are Buddhists, (b) the Mahommedan law in cases where the parties are Mahommedans, (c) the Hindu law in cases where the parties are Hindus, except so far as the same may have been modified by the legislature. The reservation thus made in favour of the native laws is precisely analogous to the similar reservation made in India (see Indian Law, where the Hindu law and the Mahommedan Law are described). The Buddhist law is contained in certain sacred books called Dhammathats. The laws themselves are derived from one of the collections which Hindus attribute to Manu, but in some respects they now widely differ from the ancient Hindu law so far as it is known to us. There is no certainty as to the date or method of their introduction. The whole of the law administered now in Burma rests ultimately upon statutory authority; and all the Indian acts relating to Burma, whether of the governor-general or the lieutenant-governor of Burma in council, will be found in the Burma Code (Calcutta, 1899), and in the supplements to that volume which are published from time to time at Rangoon. There is no complete translation of the Dhammathats, but a good many of them have been translated.

An account of these translations will be found in The Principles of Buddhist Law by Chan Toon (Rangoon, 1894), which is the first attempt to present those principles in something approaching to a systematic form.