The Burmese Face of France’s Oriental Romance

Beginning the 18th century, France, flexing through the Compagnie des Indes Orientales, had begun to venture into Southeast Asian affairs.  Burma, abundant in teak and crude oil, seemed irresistible to the then Governor-General of French India, Joseph François Dupleix.  As a result, present day Thanlyin (Syriam) received a French shipyard in 1729, serving the Pondicherry across the Andaman.

With the revolt of the Mon, the Syriam shipyard came to an end.  The French, which came to the aid of the Mon against Burma’s then Toungoo dynasty (1486–1752), were bent on extending influence across the Irrawady delta.  Unfortunately reluctance by Paris to sanction the move ultimately limited this move.  That didn’t end well either, with Sieur de Bruno, head of the French expedition, and his men captured and tortured by a subsequent Burmese counter offensive, this time with British help.  Surviving French navy officers were later forced into Burmese troops, forming an elite corps and played decisive roles in defending Burmese integrity against Siamese and Chinese encroachments.

 It wasn’t past the Seven Year’s War in Europe that France again had her interests laid on Burma and beyond.  French interest in Burma were limited to arms deals, evident in 18th century ammunitions warehouses in Rangoon, sanctioned by the Konbaung King Hsinbyushin (1737-1776) himself.  Ultimately, French interest shifted eastwards towards Tonkin and China, leaving Burma to be absorbed into the British Raj‘s territory.

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About Kianglek Tan

Kianglek is a serial entrepreneur firmly committed to the free flow of quality content and service. He frequently writes about culture, technology and entrepreneurship, fields of his passion. He holds a bachelor's degree in Food Technology and Bioprocessing. He currently resides in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Reach out to him at kianglektan@gmail.com.
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