INDEPENDENCE, AUNG SAN AND BURMA AFTER WORLD WAR II

BURMA AFTER WORLD WAR II

Frustrated by Burma, with its warring tribes, nationalist leanings and shifting loyalties, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt wrote Winston Churchill in 1942: "I wish you could put the whole bunch of them into a frying pan with a wall around it and let them stew in their own juice." [Source: Ben Macintyre, The Times, April 10, 2012]

Burma declared its independence in 1948, The popular sentiment to part with the British was so strong at the time that Burma opted not to join the Commonwealth. Later it became the only country in the world to combine Buddhism with socialism.

Kurt M. Campbell wrote in Foreign Policy: “Burma before World War II served as one of the rice bowls of Asia, and its people aspired to the region's best standards of health, education, and prosperity. But the country's darker post-colonial legacies included bitter ethnic divides and an unfortunate role in the center of the neighborhood's Cold War intrigue, as the Soviet Union, China, and the United States each vied for strategic position and ideological cohorts. Following a 1962 coup, the military justified the decades of misrule to come by the need to hold the country together with whatever force necessary and resist any form of foreign domination -- real or imagined. The generals drove the country to ruin. [Source: Kurt M. Campbell, Foreign Policy, December 2012]

After World War II, Britain realized it could establish colonial rule only by force while Aung San promised the possibility of a unified Burma to it fractious tribes. In January 1947, Britain agreed to give Burma independence after negotiations with Aung San. According to Lonely Planet: “Bogyoke Aung San emerged from the haze of war as the country’s natural leader. An early activist for nationalism, then defence minister in the Burma National Army, Aung San was the man to hold the country together through the transition to independence. When elections were held in 1947, Aung San’s party won an overwhelming majority. But before he could take office, he was assassinated by a rival, along with most of his cabinet. Independence followed in 1948, with Aung San’s protégé U Nu at the helm. Ethnic conflicts raged and chaos ensued.” [Source: Lonely Planet]

Road to Independence After World War II

The surrender of the Japanese brought a military administration to Burma and demands to try Aung San for his involvement in a murder during military operations in 1942. Lord Mountbatten realized that this was an impossibility considering Aung San's popular appeal. After the war ended, the British Governor, Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith returned. The restored government established a political program that focused on physical reconstruction of the country and delayed discussion of independence. After the Britain government returned some demanded that Aung San be tried as a traitor for his early collaboration with the Japanese. After the former civilian governor returned Aung San was arrested. This nearly touched off a rebellion. The British backed off and set Aung San free.

The AFPFL opposed the government, leading to political instability in the country. A rift had also developed in the AFPFL between the Communists and Aung San together with the Socialists over strategy, which led to Than Tun being forced to resign as general secretary in July 1946 and the expulsion of the CPB from the AFPFL the following October. Dorman-Smith was replaced by Sir Hubert Rance as the new governor, and almost immediately after his appointment the Rangoon Police went on strike. The strike, starting in September 1946, then spread from the police to government employees and came close to becoming a general strike. Rance calmed the situation by meeting with Aung San and convincing him to join the Governor's Executive Council along with other members of the AFPFL.

The new executive council, which now had increased credibility in the country, began negotiations for Burmese independence, which were concluded successfully in London as the Aung San-Attlee Agreement on 27 January 1947. The agreement left parts of the communist and conservative branches of the AFPFL dissatisfied, however, sending the Red Flag Communists led by Thakin Soe underground and the conservatives into opposition.Aung San also succeeded in concluding an agreement with ethnic minorities for a unified Burma at the Panglong Conference on 12 February, celebrated since as 'Union Day'.

U Aung Zan Wai, U Pe Khin, Major Aung, Sir Maung Gyi and Dr. Sein Mya Maung were the most important negotiators and leaders of the historical pinlon (panglong) Conference negotiated with Burma national top leader General Aung San and other top leaders in 1947.All these leaders decided to join together to form the Union of Burma. Union day celebration is one of the greatest in the history of Burma.

Shortly afterwards, rebellion broke out in the Arakan led by the veteran monk U Seinda, and it began to spread to other districts. The popularity of the AFPFL, now dominated by Aung San and the Socialists, was eventually confirmed when it won an overwhelming victory in the April 1947 constituent assembly elections. Another who was dissatisfied by the agreement was U Saw. who felt that Aung San had conceded too much in the negotiations. Consequently. he engineered the assassination of Aung San and nearly his entire cabinet in July, 1947. Thakin Nu was asked to form a new cabinet. and he presided over Burmese independence on January 4. 1948.

General Aung San

Aung San (1915-1947) was Myanmar’s nationalist leader and assassinated hero who was instrumental in securing Myanmar's independence from Great Britain. Before World War II Aung San was actively anti-British; he then allied with the Japanese during World War II, but switched to the Allies before leading the Myanmar drive for autonomy.

The boyish-looking Aung San was a charismatic young leader. He founded Burma's army, negotiated the term’s of Myanmar’s independence and attempted to create a government including all groups. Six month before Myanmar’s independence, he was assassinated when he was only 32 in July 1947.

Aung San is Myanmar’s most venerated figure: the George Washington of Myanmar. He was very popular in his time and is very popular today. Quotes form his speech and his writing have been used to support to the military government. Sometimes it seems like half the named streets in Myanmar are named after him and there is a museum devoted to him in Yangon.

Joshua Hammer wrote in The New Yorker, “ A charismatic student leader in the nineteen-thirties, Aung San agitated against British rule and was trained as a soldier in Japan by the Japanese Army. He and twenty-nine other Burmese nationalists formed the Burma Independence Army in Thailand, then marched into Burma in 1942, with Japanese support, and set up a government in Rangoon parallel with the Japanese administration. Near the end of the war, wary of the intentions of the Japanese, and sensing their imminent defeat, he switched sides, and eventually helped negotiate Burma’s independence.” [Source: Joshua Hammer, The New Yorker, January 24, 2011]

Book: Aung San and the Struggle for Burmese Independence by Angelen Naw (Silkworm Books, the University of Washington Press,

Aung San’s Early Life, Religion and Political Activity

Aung San Suu Kyi was born on February 13, 1915 in Natmauk, Myanmar. Born of a family distinguished in the resistance movement after the British annexation of 1886, Aung San became secretary of the students' union at Rangoon University and, with U Nu, led the students' strike there in February 1936. After Myanmar's separation from India in 1937 and his graduation in 1938, he worked for the nationalist Dobama Asi-ayone ("We-Burmans Association"), becoming its secretary-general in 1939.

The second university students strike in 1936 was triggered by the expulsion of Aung San and Ko Nu, leaders of the Rangoon University Students Union (RUSU), for refusing to reveal the name of the author who had written an article in their university magazine, making a scathing attack on one of the senior university officials. It spread to Mandalay leading to the formation of the All Burma Students Union (ABSU). Aung San and Nu subsequently joined the Thakin movement progressing from student to national politics. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Joshua Hammer wrote in Smithsonian magazine, “Aung San grew up in a devout Buddhist household and attended a monastic school where monks inculcated the Buddhist values of “duty and diligence.” In 1946, not long before his assassination by political rivals in Yangon, Aung San delivered a fiery pro-independence speech on the steps of Shwedagon Pagoda, a 2,500-year-old, gold-leaf-covered temple revered for a reliquary believed to contain strands of the Buddha’s hair. On those same steps, during the bloody crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in 1988, Aung San Suu Kyi was catapulted to the opposition leadership by giving a passionate speech embracing the Buddhist principle of nonviolent protest. [Source: Joshua Hammer, Smithsonian magazine, September 2012]

Aung San During World War II

Around the time of World War II, U Aung San became the leader of a nationalist group called the Thirty Comrades. Trained secretly at a secret Japanese camp on the occupied Chinese island of Hainan to fight against their British colonial rulers, the group was sent to Bangkok after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and participated in the invasion of Burma. Later Aung San's group switched side when Japan broke its promise to make Burma an independent state.

While seeking foreign support for Myanmar's independence in 1940, Aung San was contacted in China by the Japanese. They then assisted him in raising a Myanmar military force to aid them in their 1942 invasion of Myanmar. Known as the "Myanmar Independence Army," it grew with the advance of the Japanese and tended to take over the local administration of occupied areas. Serving as minister of defense in Ba Maw's puppet government (1943-45), Aung San became skeptical of Japanese promises of Myanmar independence, even if an unlikely Japanese victory were to occur, and was displeased with their treatment of Myanmar forces.

Thus, in March 1945, Major General Aung San switched his Myanmar National Army to the Allied cause. On March 27, 1945, Aung San rallied Burmese fighters to drive out the Japanese occupations forces. Aung San helped the allies when they invaded Burma and drove the Japanese out.

Joshua Hammer wrote in The New Yorker: Aung San Suu Kyi “was fascinated by her father’s life; when she was a student she travelled to Tokyo and tracked down his military instructors. “I asked one of the officers who trained him, ‘What did you think was different about my father compared to the others you trained?’ ” she told me. “He mentioned two things: One, my father read as much as he could, while the others were so tired by the end of the day they just went to sleep.” The other, she said, was that when the trainer was giving classes on military matters “my father would always come to his own conclusions, whereas the others would learn everything by rote.” [Source: Joshua Hammer, The New Yorker, January 24, 2011]

Aung San and the Effort to Win Independence After World War II

After the Japanese surrender in August 1945, the British sought to incorporate his forces into the regular army, but he held key members back, forming the People's Volunteer Organization. This was ostensibly a veterans' association interested in social service, but it was in fact a private political army designed to take the place of his Myanmar National Army and to be used as a major weapon in the struggle for independence.

Having helped form the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League (AFPFL), an underground movement of nationalists, in 1944, Aung San used that united front to become deputy chairman of Myanmar's Executive Council in late 1946. In effect he was prime minister but remained subject to the British governor's veto. After conferring with the British prime minister Clement Attlee in London, he announced an agreement (Jan. 27, 1947) that provided for Myanmar's independence within one year. In the election for a constitutional assembly in April 1947, his AFPFL won 196 of 202 seats. Though communists had denounced him as a "tool of British imperialism," he supported a resolution for Myanmar independence outside the British Commonwealth.

After Aung San was assassinated, Churchill said that Aung San, his thirty comrades and the Thakhins were rebels who fought against the British, so why should he contact and help them? Historian King Oung told The Irrawaddy, “Churchill meant they didn’t need to help Burma because it had fought against the British. Lord Mountbatten, however, favored Burma. After the war these issues needed to be debated, and there were debates in the British House of Common about how to handle Burmese affairs. Nothing would have happened if Lord Mountbatten was not there. He helped Burma much. He told Aung San that he must give up his military position if he wanted to be a politician. Then Aung San resigned from the military. [Source: The Irrawaddy. July 19, 2010]

Also See Road to Independence After World War II

Assassination of Aung San

On July 19, 1947, when Aung San was only 32 years old, he and nearly his entire cabinet were assassinated in a hail of machine gun bullets at a cabinet meeting where a new constitution was being drawn up. The attack was orchestrated by political rival U Saw and British intelligence officers. His daughter Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader today of Myanmar's pro-democracy movement, was two. Today, the assassination is remembered with Martyr’s Day. U Saw, who was interred in Uganda during the war, was later executed for his part in the killings.

Eight people—Aung Santhe prime minister and six colleagues, including his eldest brother Ba Win, father of Sein Win leader of the government-in-exile, the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB)—were assassinated in the council chamber in Rangoon while the executive council was in session. U Saw was a conservative pre-war Prime Minister of Burma. He felt that Aung San had conceded too much in the negotiations with the British. Thakin Nu, the Socialist leader, was asked to form a new cabinet, and he presided over Burmese independence on 4 January 1948.

The assassination was carried out by a gang of armed paramilitaries of U Saw who broke into the Secretariat Building in downtown Rangoon during a meeting of the Executive Council (the shadow government established by the British in preparation for the transfer of power). A cabinet secretary and a bodyguard were also killed. U Saw was subsequently tried and hanged.

Mysteries Surrounding the Assassination of Aung San

Many mysteries still surround the assassination. There were rumours of a conspiracy involving the British — a variation on this theory was given new life in an influential, but sensationalist, documentary broadcast by the BBC on the 50th anniversary of the assassination in 1997. What did emerge in the course of the investigations at the time of the trial, however, was that several low-ranking British officers had sold guns to a number of Burmese politicians, including U Saw. Shortly after U Saw's conviction, Captain David Vivian, a British Army officer, was sentenced to five years imprisonment for supplying U Saw with weapons. Captain Vivian escaped from prison during the Karen uprising in Insein in early 1949. Little information about his motives was revealed during his trial or after the trial. [Source: Wikipedia]

Kin Oung is the author of the book “Who Killed Aung San?” He is the son of Tun Hla Oung, who was the Deputy Inspector General of Police, CID Department, and who was credited with the rapid capture and arrest of U Saw and his men after the assassination, San, and the son-in-law of Justice Thaung Sein, who played a vital role in bringing the assassins to justice. When asked if the British were be involved in the assassination of Aung San, King Oung said, “Aung San wanted independence and wanted the Burmese to be wealthy. He also wanted the Burmese and ethnic nationals in hill areas to be united and friendly. Then some British companies got involved because it was important for them to stay on in Burma and for Burma not to gain its independence. Aung San's ideology was close to socialism and he gave some speeches about it and hinted that nationalization should take place for the sake of the Burmese people. But whether they [the British] had an intention to kill Gen. Aung San and his ministers is unclear.” [Source: The Irrawaddy. July 19, 2010]

“Among the British there were differing points of view. It's possible that some British companies financially supported the ambitious politicians who disliked Aung San. But British governments, first [Winston] Churchill's and then [Clement] Attlee's, were not able to provide such support. The government could not give openly, but the British companies could give clandestinely. They did provide financial support to U Saw [the rival of Aung San who plotted to kill him]. At that time, Maung Maung Gyi, the brother of U Saw was in London. U Saw would take as much as they were willing to give. And there was a black market after the war. At that time I was in Burma's navy and knew such things well. People tried to sell or trade everything they got—just like you see high-ranking officials of the current military government involved in the businesses of opium, jade and so on. In those days some smuggled in even small items such as flint. What I mean is people did business in whatever was accessible to them. As for British military officers, they had to send their weapons to Singapore because Burma was soon to be given independence. They also sold their machine guns, Tommy guns and other weapons. So U Saw bought them.

“There were four assassins. Three of them used Tommy guns. The youngest assassin, Yan Gyi Aung, used a Sten gun. After the assassination, the weapons were taken to India and thoroughly examined. They found that the weapons had come from the British army, and they found out who sold them. Young was arrested. But later, the suppliers were secretly freed.

On the leader of assassination, Kin Oung said, “U Saw was very ambitious and selfish. Although he was an uneducated person, he achieved a high position due to his political ambition. Probably some British in the government liked him and used him.”U Saw went to London with Aung San to make an agreement with the British prime minister. As you know, an agreement must consist of many points, so one can easily find fault and withdraw. U Saw tried to find fault in the Nu-Attlee agreement and the then the Aung San-Attlee agreement. Thakhin Ba Sein as well. Thakhin Tun Oak accused Aung San of killing a village headman and attempted to have him jailed.

Legacy of Aung San

Aung San Suu Kyi told the Washington Post, “When the military regime first took over, my father’s face was on the currency. It was gradually removed and replaced by the symbol of the USDP [Union Solidarity and Development Party]. All the photos of my father were taken down from schools and government offices. You were not allowed to put photos of my father in journals or magazines.”

Joshua Hammer wrote in The New Yorker, “I followed a narrow road that climbed steeply past the German Embassy and a Buddhist monastery, passing monks and noodle venders, until I arrived at a turreted two-story villa surrounded by a green fence. A sign on the locked front gate identified the house as the Bogyoke (General) Aung San Museum, the former home of post-colonial Burma’s founding father and his family, including his then infant daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi. Aung San is revered by most Burmese, but, because of his famous offspring, the junta has tried to obliterate his memory. A caretaker in a tin shack on the overgrown grounds indicated that the museum was closed and that I should leave. “I’m forty-five years old, and I have never entered—never,” a food-stall keeper beside the front gate said, explaining that the museum has been shut for as long as she could remember. The museum now opens its doors for only three hours every July 19th, the anniversary of Aung San’s assassination, in 1947, by gunmen loyal to a rival politician. [Source: Joshua Hammer, The New Yorker, January 24, 2011]

Hannah Beech wrote in Time: “Suu Kyi’s father, Aung San, was one of the few Bamar to earn the trust of ethnic groups. He spearheaded the 1947 Panglong Conference, in which five ethnic groups, including the Kachin, agreed to join the Union of Burma in exchange for a certain amount of autonomy in a federalized system. Aung San, however, was assassinated soon after the Panglong agreement was signed, and civil war quickly descended over a nation that had only recently wrested itself from the British Empire.” [Source: Hannah Beech, Time, January 28, 2013]

When asked what would have happened in Burma if Aung San and his cabinet ministers had not been assassinated, Kin Oung said, “It would have been much better. He was not a god. He himself said that he was not a god. U Nu was the only person who listened to him when he said that U Kyaw Nyein, Thakhin Than Tun, U Ba Swe and Thakhin Soe needed to be controlled. The military respected him. There were people who admired him. Although our Navy was small, we had many well-trained and well-disciplined men. And did the Air Force. The Air force and Navy supported him. Our men knew all about them. Communists started organizing the military personnel, but well-disciplined personnel could not be organized. Those personnel supported Aung San. Karen and Kachin Army personnel also supported Aung San.” Do you see any significant differences between Aung San and his daughter, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi? “His daughter returned to Burma for her ill mother. When her mother died, she decided to lead the people in their struggle for democracy. She resembles her father. She has a good nature and is intelligent as well. People like what she has spoken and done. I say she is very smart and wise.

Independence and Early Democracy in Burma

On January 4th, 1948, Burma won independence from Britain. Ben Macintyre wrote in The Times: “Burma’s intensely superstitious rulers have long been guided by a belief in portents and prophecies, cosmology, numerology and magic. The time and date of the ceremony marking independence from Britain was also chosen according to astrological dictates: 4.20am on January 4, 1948. [Source: Ben Macintyre, The Times, September 2007]

Burma was the first nation to successfully break free from the British Empire since the U.S. did so in 1776. So bad was the colonial aftertaste in Burma's mouth, it flatly refused Britain's offer of membership in the Commonwealth of Nations.

After independence a civilian government was formed. Burma had a democracy from independence in 1948 to 1962. In the 1950s, Burma was one of the richest countries in Asia. It had a high literacy rate and an excellent health care system.With substantial oil reserves Burma grew quickly after independence through the exports of primary products.

Burmese democracy was weak. The 1950s was also marked by fighting between factions and civil turmoil. There were some battles between government forces and White Flag Communists along the Chinese border. In some places the government reduced the autonomy the ethnic states enjoyed.

Burma accepted foreign assistance in rebuilding the country in these early years, but continued American support for the Chinese Nationalist military presence in Burma finally resulted in the country rejecting most foreign aid, refusing to join the South-East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and supporting the Bandung Conference of 1955. Burma generally strove to be impartial in world affairs and was one of the first countries in the world to recognize Israel and the People's Republic of China.

U Nu was Burma's first democratically elected prime minister. After he was ousted by he was Aung-San-Suu-Kyi-like figure after the military took over. He advocated passive resistence against the Gen. Ne Wine government. He called the struggle for democracy to involve meeting “anger and hostility with love and amicability on your side” and advocated following “a course of conduct approved by the Buddha.” He suggested that people participate in mass meetings, processions and prayer groups. He died in 1996 at the age of 87.

See India

Conflicts and Violence in Burma After Independence

Upon attaining independence, Burma was plagued by ethnic unrest and separatist movements, particularly from the Karens. and Communist groups.. There was also vicious infighting among the Thakins and other Burmese leaders.

The first years of Burmese independence were marked by successive insurgencies by the Red Flag Communists led by Thakin Soe, the White Flag Communists led by Thakin Than Tun, the Yèbaw Hpyu (White-band PVO) led by Bo La Yaung, a member of the Thirty Comrades, army rebels calling themselves the Revolutionary Burma Army (RBA) led by Communist officers Bo Zeya, Bo Yan Aung and Bo Yè Htut – all three of them members of the Thirty Comrades, Arakanese Muslims or the Mujahid, and the Karen National Union (KNU). After the Communist victory in China in 1949 remote areas of Northern Burma were for many years controlled by an army of Kuomintang (KMT) forces under the command of General Li Mi. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Minorities After the Independence of Burma

Unrest among ethnic minorities, mostly along the eastern border with Thailand and China, have plagued Burma since independence. Before Burma became independent in 1948, Burmese general and national hero Aung San negotiated and succeeded in concluding an agreement with ethnic minorities for a unified Burma at the Panglong Conference on February 12, 1947 which today is celebrated as as 'Union Day'. But Aung San was assassinated in 1947 and none of those agreements was ever honored. Instead, the new Burmese government refused any autonomy to non-Burman ethnic regions. Facing a communist insurgency from the beginning, the government soon found itself also facing an increasing number of armed ethnicity-based resistance groups all over the country, most of which were seeking their own independence.

Negotiations for independence after World War II brought suspicions among the political leaders of several ethnic minorities that their status would be undermined. Immediately after independence in 1948, serious divisions emerged between Burmese and non-Burmese political leaders, who favored a less unified state. After independence in 1948, the Burman armed forces of the new Burmese state entered the ethnic regions, militarised the government, and plundered the country’s natural resources, much of which is located in the minority regions. [Source: Min Zin, Foreign Policy, October 8, 2012]

Between 1948 and 1962, armed conflicts broke out between some of these minority groups and the central government. Although some groups signed peace accords with the central government in the late 1980s and early 1990s, others are still engaged in armed conflict. The Wa have signed a peace agreement but have retained a great deal of autonomy and control of much of the drug trade in northern Burma.

Military operations in ethnic minority areas and government policies of forced resettlement and forced labor have dislocated many ethnic groups, and have caused large numbers of refugees to flee to neighboring countries. At present there are around three hundred thousand refugees in Thailand, Bangladesh, and India, mostly from ethnic minorities.

Before independence, Indians were a dominant presence in urban-centered commercial activities. With the outbreak of World War II, a large number of Indians left for India before the Japanese occupation. Through the 1950s, Indians continued to leave in the face of ethnic antagonism and antibusiness policies. The Indians remaining in Burma have been treated with suspicion but have avoided overt opposition to the regime.

Many of the ethnic wars in Myanmar have the roots in the breaching of the Panglong Agreement of 1947. Hannah Beech wrote in Time, “Suu Kyi’s father, Aung San, was one of the few Bamar to earn the trust of ethnic groups. He spearheaded the 1947 Panglong Conference, in which five ethnic groups, including the Kachin, agreed to join the Union of Burma in exchange for a certain amount of autonomy in a federalized system. Aung San, however, was assassinated soon after the Panglong agreement was signed, and civil war quickly descended over a nation that had only recently wrested itself from the British Empire. [Source: Hannah Beech, Time, January 28, 2013]

Military Rule in the Late 1950s

Military leaders took over Burma in the late 1950s and kicked nearly all the foreigners out of the country. In 1958, the main political party split—the original Anti-Fascist People’s League (AFPFL)—splintered into two parties—the Stable AFPFL and Clean AFPFL—and military ousted a weak civilian government and named Gen. Ne Win as the head of the caretaker government that remained in power until 1962. A number of top military people sided with the Stable AFPFL but the Clean AFPFL won a landslide victory in the election in February 1960.

An account from the period went: “In some localities, the authorities call up local leaders of the Clean AFPFL and ask them to switch over to the Stable AFPFL. If they comply because of fear, that’s the end of the matter. But if the request is refused, they are asked to leave the Clean AFPFL and to remain neutral and inactive. If that request is not complied with, the leaders concerned are arrested and detained after a time on some pretext or other...In some places, the Clean AFPFL leaders are taken out of their homes and ruthlessly shot.”

By 1958, the country was largely beginning to recover economically, but was beginning to fall apart politically due to a split in the AFPFL into two factions, one led by Thakins Nu and Tin, the other by Ba Swe and Kyaw Nyein. And this despite the unexpected success of U Nu's 'Arms for Democracy' offer taken up by U Seinda in the Arakan, the Pa-O, some Mon and Shan groups, but more significantly by the PVO surrendering their arms. The situation however became very unstable in parliament, with U Nu surviving a no-confidence vote only with the support of the opposition National United Front (NUF), believed to have 'crypto-communists' amongst them. Army hardliners now saw the 'threat' of the CPB coming to an agreement with U Nu through the NUF, and in the end U Nu 'invited' Army Chief of Staff General Ne Win to take over the country. Over 400 'communist sympathisers' were arrested, of which 153 were deported to the Coco Island in the Andaman Sea. Among them was the NUF leader Aung Than, older brother of Aung San. The Botataung, Kyemon and Rangoon Daily were also closed down. [Source: Wikipedia +]

In 1960, new elections were held and a prime minister was elected. Ne Win's caretaker government successfully established the situation and paved the way for new general elections in 1960 that returned U Nu's Union Party with a large majority. The situation did not remain stable for long, when the Shan Federal Movement, started by Nyaung Shwe Sawbwa Sao Shwe Thaik (the first President of independent Burma 1948–52) and aspiring to a 'loose' federation, was seen as a separatist movement insisting on the government honouring the right to secession in 10 years provided for by the 1947 Constitution. Ne Win had already succeeded in stripping the Shan Sawbwas of their feudal powers in exchange for comfortable pensions for life in 1959.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, The Irrawaddy, Myanmar Travel Information Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, burmalibrary.org, burmanet.org, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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