The Languages of Pyidawtha and the Burmese Approach to Naitonal Development
Burma’s first well known welfare plan was entitled Pyidawtha or Happy Land, and it was launched in 1952. In vernacular terms, the literal meaning of Pyidawtha is ‘Prosperous Royal Country’. The government’s attempt to sustain tradition and culture and to instil modern aspirations in its citizens was reflected in its choice of the word Pyidawtha. The Plan failed and its implications still overshadow the development framework of Burma. This paper discusses how the country’s major decisions, including whether or not to join the Commonwealth, have been influenced by language; how the term and concept of ‘development’ were conceived; how the Burmese translation was coined to attract public support; and how the detailed planning was presented to the masses by the government. The paper also discusses the concerns and anxieties of the democratic government led by U Nu in introducing Burma’s first major development plan to a war-torn and bitterly divided country, and why it eventually failed.