ARCHITECT OF BURMA’S INDEPENDENCE – BOGYOKE AUNG SAN
Aung San – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Bogyoke (General) Aung San (Burmese: အောငျဆနျး; MLCTS: buil hkyup aung hcan:; IPA: [bòʊdʒoʊʔ àʊn sʰán]); 13 February 1915 – 19 July 1947) was a Burmese revolutionary, nationalist, and founder of the modern Burmese army, the Tatmadaw.
He was instrumental in bringing about Burma’s independence from British colonial rule, but was assassinated six months before its final achievement. He is recognized as the leading architect of independence, and the founder of the Union of Burma. Affectionately known as “Bogyoke” (General), Aung San is still widely admired by the Burmese people, and his name is still invoked in Burmese politics to this day.
Aung San was the father of Nobel Peace laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Aung San was born to U Pha, a lawyer, and his wife Daw Suu in Natmauk, Magwe district, in central Burma in 1915. His family was already well known in the Burmese resistance movement; his great uncle Bo Min Yaung fought against the British annexation of Burma in 1886.
Aung San received his primary education at a Buddhist monastic school in Natmauk, and secondary education at Yenangyaung High School. He went to Rangoon University (now the University of Yangon) and received a B.A. degree in English Literature, Modern History, and Political Science in 1938.
Names of Aung San
- Name at birth: Htain Lin
- As student leader and a thakin: Aung San
- Nom de guerre: Bo Tayza
- Japanese Name: Omoda Monchi
- Chinese Name: Tan Lu Sho
- Resistance period code name: U Naung Cho
- Contact code name with General Ne Win: Ko Set Pe.
Struggle for independence
After Aung San entered Rangoon University in 1933, he quickly became a student leader. He was elected to the executive committee of the Rangoon University Students’ Union (RUSU). He then became editor of their magazine Oway (Peacock’s Call).
In February 1936, he was threatened with expulsion from the university, along with U Nu, for refusing to reveal the name of the author of the article Hell Hound At Large, which criticized a senior University official. This led to the Second University Students’ Strike and the university authorities subsequently retracted their expulsion orders. In 1938, Aung San was elected president of both the RUSU and the All-Burma Students Union (ABSU), formed after the strike spread to Mandalay. In the same year, the government appointed him as a student representative on the Rangoon University Act Amendment Committee.
In October 1938, Aung San left his law classes and entered national politics. At this point, he was anti-British, and staunchly anti-imperialist. He became a Thakin (lord or master — a politically motivated title that proclaimed that the Burmese people were the true masters of their country, not the colonial rulers who had usurped the title for their exclusive use) when he joined the Dobama Asiayone (Our Burma Union), and acted as their general secretary until August 1940. While in this role, he helped organize a series of countrywide strikes that became known as Htaung thoun ya byei ayeidawbon (the ‘1300 Revolution’, named after the Burmese calendar year).
He also helped found another nationalist organization, Bama-htwet-yat Gaing (the Freedom Bloc), by forming an alliance between the Dobama, the ABSU, politically active monks and Dr Ba Maw‘s Sinyètha (Poor Man’s) Party, and became its general secretary. What remains relatively unknown is the fact that he also became a founder member and first secretary-general of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) in August 1939. Shortly afterwards he co-founded the People’s Revolutionary Party, renamed the Socialist Party after the Second World War. In March 1940, he attended the Indian National Congress Assembly in Ramgarh, India. However, the government issued a warrant for his arrest due to Thakin attempts to organize a revolt against the British and he had to flee Burma. He went first to China, seeking assistance from the government there (China was still under nationalist government during WWII), but he was intercepted by the Japanese military occupiers in Amoy, and was convinced by them to go to Japan instead.
World War II period
Whilst in Japan, the Blue Print for a Free Burma, which has been widely, but mistakenly, attributed to Aung San, was drafted. In February 1941, Aung San returned to Burma, with an offer of arms and financial support from the Fumimaro Konoe government. He returned briefly to Japan to receive more military training, along with the first batch of young revolutionaries who came to be known as the Thirty Comrades. On 26 December, 1941, with the help of the Minami Kikan, a secret intelligence unit formed to close the Burma Road and to support a national uprising and headed by Colonel Suzuki, he founded the Burma Independence Army (BIA) in Bangkok, Thailand (under Japanese occupation at the time).
The capital of Burma, Rangoon (now Yangon), fell to the Japanese in March 1942 (as part of the Burma Campaign in World War II). The BIA formed an administration for the country under Thakin Tun Oke that operated in parallel with the Japanese military administration until the Japanese disbanded it. In July, the disbanded BIA was re-formed as the Burma Defense Army (BDA). Aung San was made a colonel and put in charge of the force. He was later invited to Japan, and was presented with the Order of the Rising Sun by the Emperor.
On 1 August 1943, the Japanese declared Burma to be an independent nation. Aung San was appointed War Minister, and the army was again renamed, this time as the Burma National Army (BNA). Aung San became skeptical of their promises of true independence and their ability to win the war. He made plans to organize an uprising in Burma and made contact with the British authorities in India, in cooperation with Communist leaders Thakin Than Tun and Thakin Soe. On 27 March 1945, he led the BNA in a revolt against the Japanese occupiers and helped the Allies defeat the Japanese. 27 March came to be commemorated as ‘Resistance Day’ until the military regime later renamed it ‘Tatmadaw (Armed Forces) Day’.
Post-World War II
After the return of the British, who had established a military administration, the Anti-Fascist Organisation (AFO), formed in August 1944, was transformed into a united front, comprising the BNA, the Communists and the Socialists, and renamed the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL). The Burma National Army was renamed the Patriotic Burmese Forces (PBF) and then gradually disarmed by the British as the Japanese were driven out of various parts of the country. The Patriotic Burmese Forces, while disbanded, were offered positions in the Burma Army under British command according to the Kandy conference agreement with Lord Louis Mountbatten in Ceylon in September 1945. Aung San was offered the rank of Deputy Inspector General of the Burma Army, but he declined it in favor of becoming a civilian political leader and the military leader of the Pyithu yèbaw tat (People’s Volunteer Organisation or PVO).
In January 1946, Aung San became the President of the AFPFL following the return of civil government to Burma the previous October. In September, he was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Executive Council of Burma by the new British Governor Sir Hubert Rance, and was made responsible for defence and external affairs. Rance and Mountbatten took a very different view from the former British Governor, Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith, and also Winston Churchill, who had called Aung San a ‘traitor rebel leader’. A rift had already developed inside the AFPFL between the Communists and Aung San, leading the nationalists and Socialists, which came to a head when Aung San and others accepted seats on the Executive Council, culminating in the expulsion of Thakin Than Tun and the CPB from the AFPFL.
Aung San was to all intents and purposes Prime Minister, although he was still subject to a British veto. On January 27, 1947, Aung San and the British Prime Minister Clement Attlee signed an agreement in London guaranteeing Burma’s independence within a year; Aung San had been responsible for its negotiation. During the stopover in Delhi at a press conference, he stated that the Burmese wanted ‘complete independence’ not dominion status and that they had ‘no inhibitions of any kind’ about ‘contemplating a violent or non-violent struggle or both’ in order to achieve this, and concluded that he hoped for the best but he was prepared for the worst.
He is also believed to have been responsible, in part, for the persecution of the Karen people on account of their loyalty to the British and having fought the Japanese and the BIA. Dorman-Smith had in fact rejected a request for an AFPFL delegation to visit London and tried to bring Aung San to trial for his role in the murder of a village headman in 1942. Two weeks after the signing of the agreement with Britain, Aung San signed an agreement at the Panglong Conference on February 12, 1947 with leaders from other national groups, expressing solidarity and support for a united Burma. Karen representatives played a relatively minor role in the conference and, as subsequent rebellions revealed, remained alienated from the new state.
In April, the AFPFL won 196 out of 202 seats in the election for a Constituent Assembly. In July, Aung San convened a series of conferences at Sorrenta Villa in Rangoon to discuss the rehabilitation of Burma.
On 19 July 1947, a gang of armed paramilitaries broke into the Secretariat Building in downtown Yangon during a meeting of the Executive Council (the shadow government established by the British in preparation for the transfer of power) and assassinated Aung San and six of his cabinet ministers, including his older brother Ba Win, father of Sein Win leader of the government-in-exile, the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB). A cabinet secretary and a bodyguard were also killed. The assassination was supposedly carried out on the orders of U Saw, a rival politician and former prime minister, who was subsequently tried and hanged. However there are aspects of U Saw’s trial that give rise to doubt.
While he was War Minister in 1942, Aung San met and married Khin Kyi, and around the same time her sister met and married Thakin Than Tun, the Communist leader. Aung San and Khin Kyi had three children. Their youngest child, Aung San Suu Kyi, is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and leader of the Burmese Opposition, the National League for Democracy (NLD), and held under house arrest by the military regime. Their second son, Aung San Lin, died at age eight, when he drowned in an ornamental lake in the grounds of the house. The elder, Aung San Oo, is an engineer working in the United States and has disagreed with his sister’s political activities. Daw Khin Kyi died on 27 December 1988.
Bogyoke Aung San of Burma(Myanmar)
13th February 1915
Born at Natmauk, a township in Magwe district, central Burma.
Matriculated in the “A” category with distinctions in Burmese and Pali.
Elected to the executive committee of the Rangoon University Students’ Union and became the editor of the Students’ Union Magazine.
Expelled from the university for publication of the article “Hell Hound at Large” in the union magazine. Expulsion of Ko Aung San and Ko Nu from the university led to the university strike. Later, the government conceded strikers’ demands and retracted expulsion orders.
Elected as president of the Rangoon University Students’ Union and the All Burma Student’s Union. Appointed as a student representative in “Rangoon University Act Amendment Committee” by the government.
Joined Dohbama Asi-ayone (“We-Burmese” Organization) and became Thakin Aung San.
1938 to August 1940
Acted as the Head Office General Secretary of Dohbama Asi-ayone.
Countrywide strikes known as Revolution of Year 1300 (Burmese calendar year).
1939 to 1940
Helped to found Bama-htwet-yat Ghine (Freedom Bloc) and became the general secretary.
Attended Indian National Congress Assembly in Rangar?, India.
Went underground due to arrest warrant issued by the British government.
Left for Burma and reached Amoy, China and later to Tokyo, Japan.
Came back to Burma with offer of arms and money support from the Japanese for uprising.
Arrived in Japan for military training together with the first batch of the Thirty Comrades.
Founded Burmese Independence Army (BIA) in Bangkok, Thailand with the help of the Japanese and became chief-of-staff Major-General Aung San (a.k.a. Bo Teza).
Rangoon, capital of Burma, fell to the Japanese Army. The Japanese military administration took over Burma.
Reorganized BIA and become Burma Defence Army (BDA). Appointed as Commander-in-Chief Colonel Aung San.
6th September 1942
Married with Daw Khin Kyi.
Promoted to become Major-General Aung San of BDA.
Invited to Japan and decorated by the Emperor with “Order of the Rising Sun”.
1st August 1943
Burma was declared an independent nation and Major-General Aung San became the War Minister.
BDA was renamed as Burma National Army (BNA).
The British troops hiding in hills of Burma received Aung San’s plan to turn his forces against the Japanese.
1st August 1944
Declared Burma’s independence status as fake in independence day anniversary speech.
Founded Anti-Fascist Organization (AFO) and became the military leader of the organization.
27th March 1945
Burmese troops throughout the country rose up against the Japanese.
15th May 1945
Met with William Slim of the Fourteenth Army.
15th June 1945
Victory parade was held in Rangoon. The Burmese forces participated alongside the British and Allied forces.
The Japanese forces surrendered.
AFO was expanded and renamed as Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL).
BNA was renamed as Patriotic Burmese Forces (PBF).
Signed an agreement to merge PBF with Burma Army under British command during a meeting in Kandy, Ceylon.
Civil government was restored with Dorman-Smith as the governor of Burma.
Elected as president of the AFPFL.
Appointed as Deputy Chairman of the Executive Council of Burma with portfolios for defence and external affairs.
2nd January 1947
Met with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India in New Delhi, India during his way to London.
27th January 1947
Signed “Aung San–Attlee Agreement” in London guaranteeing Burma’s independence within a year.
12th February 1947
Signed “Panglong Agreement” with leaders from national groups expressing solidarity and support for united Burma in Panglong, Shan State, Burma.
AFPFL won 196 of 202 seats in the election for a constituent assembly.
Convened series of conferences at the Sorrenta Villa in Rangoon for rehabilitation of the country.
13th July 1947
Gave last public speech urging Burmese people to mend their ways and urge them for more discipline.
19th July 1947
Assassinated during the Executive Council meeting together with six other Councillors, including his elder brother, U Ba Win.
U Saw, a former Prime Minister, was found guilty of the abetment and executed.
4th January 1948
Burma regained its independence.
….Defining the attitude of his party to “excluded and partially excluded areas” of Burma regarding Burma’s future constitution, he said, “We do not want to impose my settlement on the peoples of the frontier areas. We offer them the option of joining with a GREAT DEAL OF AUTONOMY. That is the POLICY of the BURMESE GOVERNMENT. But the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League is prepared to go further. If these people in the frontier areas like to exercise a FULL RIGHT OF SELF-DETERMINATION, they CAN do so.”
“I have been to some parts of the frontier areas myself,” he said, “and met some of their leaders, and I can say that the much-boosted propaganda about the loyalty of these frontier peoples to the British Government is not true. If this time there is a struggle for independence in Burma, I shall not be surprised if there is a wide and deep stir among these people.”…..
February 14, 2010 at 11:22 am
Life-sketch of the Author
Born on the 13th February, 1915, at Natmauk, the headquarters of a township in Magwe district, the author is a scion of well-to-do rural gentry and a distinguished line of patriotic ancestors. Educated first in the Vernacular High School, Natmauk, then in National High School, Yenangyaung, he was a graduate of the Rangoon University in the Arts, taking English Literature, Modern History and Political Science and read for some time in Law in the same University. Though he gave promise of brilliant academic career in his early days winning prizes and scholarships, political interests and activities as a nationally prominent student leader in his university days affected his academic career. For agitation for his fellow students’ rights and grievances, he was threatened twice with expulsion from his college and actually under order of rustication from the Rangoon University for three years which was an immediate cause of the students’ country-wide strikes in Burma early in 1936, of which he was also one of the prominent leaders. He lost one year in his academic career for that event.
As a student in the Rangoon University, he served on various students’ organizations and bodies, notably as Editor, Vice-President and President of the Rangoon University Students’ Union, and as one of the founders and President of All-Burma Students’ Union. He also served, even as a student, along with another student representative, on the University Act Amendment Committee appointed by Government of the day early in 1938 and succeeded in getting a fairly progressive University Act passed by the Burma Legislature, and Act which had been the source of so much country-wide students’ agitations and strikes in 1920 and 1936. He also contributed articles to local English and Burmese press as a student and served for a time on the editorial staff of New Burma the only Burman-owned and managed, nationalist, tri-weekly in English in those days. In October 1938, he ended his law studies abruptly, in order to place his services for the patriotic cause of national freedom, by joining the Dohbama Asi-ayone (Thakins), at that time the only militant and intensely nationalistic political party in Burma.
He was General Secretary of that party since about his joining of the party till August 1940 when he evaded arrest and went underground to continue the fight for his country’ freedom. As a Thakin leader, he was arrested and detained early in 1939 for being one of those leading “a conspiracy to overthrow Government by force” according to Government communique of the day but was released shortly after. As General Secretary of the Thakin Party, “there was no doubt that he worked hard…..” and was one of the triumvirate who made Dohbama Asi-ayone (the official title of Thakin Party) “such a subversive movement it today is” as written in Government records of that time, responsible for formulation of a number of important decisions and policies of the party. He served also on the Working Committee of the All-Burma Peasants’ League and was one of the principal figures initiating a Freedom Bloc of parties and elements interested in the struggle for Burma’s freedom, along with Dr. Ba Maw, during 1939-40. He also acted as Secretary of that Freedom Bloc till he went underground. In March 1940, he led a Thakin delegation to the Ramgarh Session of the Indian National Congress at the latter’s invitation and visited Gaya, Benares, Allahabad, Agra, Delhi, Peshawar, Khyber Pass, Lahore, Amritsar, Ahmedabad, Bombay and Calcutta in India. After he came back from India, he served for a short time on the Governing Body of University College, Rangoon, as a representative of the Rangoon University Students’ Union while conducting an intensive anti-imperialist, anti-war campaign in Burma. A warrant for his arrest came out, and he evaded the warrant and went underground, even though the warrant had to be withdrawn later owing to signs of unrest created amongst the youth in Burma on account of the warrant.
He then went to Amoy, China, to seek international contacts and aid for his country’s freedom struggle and stayed for about two months in the International Settlement there, when the Japanese came and took him to Tokyo as the contact was arranged by his comrades in Burma. In Tokyo, he stayed for about three months and came back to Burma early in 1941, to communicate the plans given by the Japanese to his comrades in Burma. He went back to Tokyo soon after, taking with him the first batch of young men to be given military training by the Japanese for the purpose of leading an insurrection in Burma.
Early in 1942, he came to Bangkok and there organised the Burma Independence Army with the help of the Japanese. He marched into Burma, along with the latter, when they invaded Burma. Ever since he and his comrades were in Japan, they had conflicts with the Japanese which became more and more intensified as the Japanese marched into Burma and persecuted the people more and more. He even tried to organise an anti-Japanese movement before he came into Burma and after the Japanese occupation of Rangoon without success. But the fact of anti-Japanese sentiments in the Burma Independence Army were well known in the country, and for that reason and because of the machinations of anti-B.I.A. political opponents taking advantage of certain excesses committed by some “B.I.A. administrations” formed in the rear under the authority of the then Japanese Commander of B.I.A. etcetera, the B.I.A. was reorganised into a much more retrenched Burma Defence Army(B.D.A) when he became Commander of that Army with the rank of full colonel.
In March, 1943, he and Dr. Ba Maw along with two others were invited to Tokyo by the Japanese Government, was promoted to the rank of Major-General, had an audience with the Japanese Emperor and decorated with the Third Class Order of the Rising Sun. When he came back from Tokyo, he gave a broad hint at a reception given in honour of the Tokyo visitors that the independence coming to Burma was more or less “nominal”. He then was appointed on the Independence Preparatory Commission for presenting questions relating to Burma’s defence and the B.D.A. of which he was commander. Later, with the inauguration of the so-called Burma Independent State, he became defence Minister, with the rank of major-general, was decorated again on its anniversary with the First Class Order of Sacred Treasure by the Japanese Government along with several others, but he made an open anti-Japanese speech at the ceremony celebrating the anniversary of Burma’s independence, attacking the nominal independence of Burma. That speech was reported to have repercussions even in Tokyo government circles.
He attempted again to form an anti-Japanese Resistance Movement from 1943 and succeeded in forming the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League in August 1944. He came into contact with the Allied Headquarters towards the close of 1943. Finally he led the open general rising against the Japanese militarists on 27th March 1945. In September 1945, he and ten other colleagues went to Kandy to conclude a military agreement for the amalgamation of the Patriotic Burmese Forces (as the Resistance Forces were then called) with the Burma Army under British control. He was offered the post of Deputy Inspector-General of the Burma Army with the rank of brigadier by Lord Louis Mountbatten on behalf of the British Government, but he nominated one of his deputies to that post, while he himself left the Army to continue to strive for the independence of his country. He became President of the Anti-fascist People’s Freedom League in August 1945 and was re-elected in that office at the first congress of the AFPFL held in January 1946, attended by over one thousand three hundred delegates from all over Burma and attended by nearly one hundred thousand people on its opening day. In October 1946, he was asked to put up eleven names for participation in the Governors Executive Council. But as he could not obtain satisfactory terms from the Governor, he withdrew his nominations. But such was and has been the popular sanction behind him and AFPFL of which he is President that even the British Government in Britain was compelled to admit in their Parliament the popularity of AFPFL and keep the doors “still open” for AFPFL to come into the Governor’s Executive Council.
February 14, 2010 at 11:25 am
The Resistance Movement
Until the beginning of 1942, Burma remained under British Rule for so many decades. When Britain and France declared war against Germany in 1939, Burma also was declared to be a belligerent country by the Governor without consulting the Burma Legislature at all. Mr. Chamberlain declared then to the world that Britain was fighting for democracy and freedom or words to that effect. You will remember perhaps then that the Indian National Congress asked for the clarification of the British war aims-whether those aims applied to India at all. Burma also did similarly. At that time I was in what is popularly known as the Thakin Party or Dohbama Asi-ayone as it was officially styled and I was its General Secretary. After taking stock of the situation in our country and the world, we finally decided to form a Freedom Bloc of all parties desiring to strive for the emancipation of our country and for democratic freedom. I had also to act as Secretary of this Freedom Bloc for some time. This Freedom Bloc also declared its aim to be democratic freedom for which Britain was said to be fighting. We declared to the British Government- I am speaking from memory of course- that it would be consistent and proper for us to join the war for democratic freedom, only if we would likewise be assured that democratic freedom in theory as well as in practice.
So we asked that beginning with the declaration of war, principles of democratic freedom should be applied in our case too. We demanded, I remember, Constituent Assembly for the framing of our constitution and certain transitional measures which I cannot properly recall to memory. The Burma Legislature as well as the legislature in India passed resolutions to this effect. But our voice went unheeded. To us then the war in Europe was plainly a war between two sets of imperialists and could have no appeal of any kind. We therefore finally resorted to an anti-imperialist, anti-war campaign. Even before this the Defence of Burma Ordinance had come out, meant to choke out even the meagre democratic liberties extant in Burma. Some of you who came out to the East only in this war for the first time may not know fully how our country was ruled by Britain before the war; so I should like to dwell upon this point at some length.
Burma was conquered by British imperialism in three Anglo-Burmese wars – the first in 1823, the second in 1852, and the third and last in 1885. I shall not here go into the question of whether British imperialism was justified in subjugating our country. Suffice it to say in the words of President Abraham Lincoln that no nation has the right to rule another nation. Anyway, Burma has since lost her sovereignty and independence…..
February 14, 2010 at 11:27 am
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April 17, 2010 at 2:33 pm
လွတ်လပ်ရေးဖခင်ကြီးရဲ့ ပုံဟောင်းတွေကို တစ်နေရာထဲမှာ တစုတဝေးတည်း ပြန်စုပေးထားလို့ သာကြည့်ခွင့်ရတာပါ
May 2, 2010 at 4:30 pm
ကျေးဇူးပါပဲ ခင်ဗျာ ပုံလေးတွေ လဲ အရမ်းရှားပါကုန်တဲ့ချိန်မှာ ခုလိုမြင်ခွင်ရတာ အရမ်းဝမ်းသာမိပါတယ်. .။