British Officer (Sentence)

Oral Answers to Questions — Burma – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th September 1948.

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Mr. E. P. Smith:

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been drawn to the sentence of five years' rigorous imprisonment passed upon Captain David Vivian in Rangoon for smuggling arms into Burma; when, where and at what date Captain Vivian was arrested; by what type of court he was tried; and until when he held His Majesty's Commission.

Photo of Mr David Gammans Mr David Gammans , Hornsey

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has any statement to make about the handing over of a British subject, Captain David Vivian, R.E.M.E., to be tried by the Burmese Government which has resulted in a sentence of five years imprisonment for alleged gun smuggling.

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Norfolk Southern

Captain Vivian is a British officer of the old Indian Army, who was seconded for service with the Rangoon Police. Shortly before the assassination of members of the Burmese Cabinet on 19th July, 1947, he, according to his own admission, arranged the illegal issue of 200 Bren guns and a quantity of ammunition from an Army Ordnance Depot to U Saw, who was afterwards convicted and executed for the assassinations. The offence of which he was accused was clearly a civil matter of great political importance, and no question arose of his trial by a military court. He subsequently confessed to the offence with which he had been charged, and was convicted and sentenced by a regular Burmese civil court on 9th August, 1948, to five years' rigorous imprisonment.

Mr. Smith:

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a sentence of rigorous imprisonment in a climate like Burma is virtually a death sentence on a European, and since this man was not convicted on a capital charge, will the right hon. Gentleman do everything he can to mitigate this imprisonment?

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Norfolk Southern

No, Sir. I am not convinced that the sentence was out of proportion to the crime accused.

Photo of Colonel Sir Alan Gomme-Duncan Colonel Sir Alan Gomme-Duncan , Perth

Can the hon. Gentleman assure the House that there is such a thing as a regular Burmese civil court today?

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Norfolk Southern

There was nothing irregular about the proceedings.

Photo of Colonel Sir Alan Gomme-Duncan Colonel Sir Alan Gomme-Duncan , Perth

But is there such a thing as a civil government in Burma today? There is no sign of it.

Photo of Mr Luke Teeling Mr Luke Teeling , Brighton

Can the hon. Gentleman assure us that the Consular staff in Burma is quite satisfied that conditions in Burmese prisons are at all possible for Europeans?

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Norfolk Southern

Captain Vivian will, I have no doubt, have access to our Consul-General. I have no reason to suppose that Captain Vivian will not have the ordinary access to His Majesty's Consul-General, and that should cover that point.

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

I know nothing about this case, but surely the hon. Gentleman can tell us if Captain Vivian has already had access to the Consulate? It is the normal practice in cases of this kind in what is now a foreign country.

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Norfolk Southern

I have no doubt that he has access. Without notice—I think perhaps there is some misunderstanding— I should not like to say that he has seen the British Consul, but I have no reason to suppose that he has not access to the British Consulate.

Mr. Smith:

Will the hon. Gentleman ascertain, yea or nay, whether Captain Vivian has that access?