Re: “Britain is no land of saints and gentlemen”, Have Your Say, February 18.
Vint Chavala is right: like most countries, including Thailand, we British do not have an unblemished historical record, and we could not have built our empire if we had all been saints and gentlemen. Our policy of bringing in labourers from what is now Bangladesh into Burma was ill-conceived and left a legacy of ethnic tension, as have similar policies in other former colonial possessions, but escalating ethnic tensions into savagery is entirely the fault of the Burmese authorities, and, it would seem, extremist Rohingya gangs. It is particularly reprehensible that Buddhist monks were among those whipping up hatred against this minority group. Seeking to apportion even partial blame for these atrocities to Britain’s imperial legacy diverts attention from the real culprits.
I also dispute Chavala’s implied claim that Britain’s armies can be compared to, say, Nazi Germany’s Wehrmacht, or the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II, to cite just two examples of armies which carried out almost unbelievable savagery against local populations in the territories they conquered. We were no shrinking violets, and our military exploits were sometimes brutal, but we never perpetrated anywhere near the same level of bestiality as these vile creations.