|February 13, 1915 – July 19, 1947|
|Place of birth||Natmauk, Magwe, Burma|
|Place of death||Yangon, Myanmar|
|Allegiance||Burma National Army|
Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League
|Battles/wars||World War II|
General Aung San (Bogyoke Aung San) (Burmese: ; MLCTS: buil hkyup aung hcan:; IPA: [bòʊdʒoʊʔ àʊn sʰán]); February 13, 1915 – July 19 1947) was a Burmese revolutionary, nationalist, general, and politician. Aung San entered Rangoon University in 1933 and quickly became a student leader. After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature, Modern History, and Political Science in 1938, he left law school to enter politics. He joined the Dobama Asiayone (Our Burma Union), and acted as their general secretary until August, 1940. He also helped found another nationalist organization, Bama-htwet-yat Gaing (the Freedom Bloc). With the support of the Japanese government, Aung San founded the modern Burmese military (the Tatmadaw) in Thailand in 1942. The Tatmadaw helped Japan to take Burma in 1942, and Aung was invited to Japan, where he was presented with the Order of the Rising Sun by the Emperor. In 1943, however, doubting Japan’s assurances that Burma would be given independence, he began cooperation with the British. On March 27, 1945, he led the Burmese National Army in a revolt against the Japanese occupiers and helped the Allies defeat the Japanese.
Aung San was instrumental in bringing about Burma's independence, but was assassinated on July 19, 1947, six months before its final achievement. He is recognized as the leading architect of Burmese independence, and the founder of Union of Burma. Affectionately known as "Bogyoke" (General), Aung San is still widely admired by Burmese people, and his name is still invoked in Burmese politics to this day.
|This article is part of|
the History of Burma series
|Early history of Burma|
|Pyu city-states (c. 100 B.C.E.–c. 840 C.E.)|
|Mon kingdoms (9th–11th, 13th–16th, 18th c.)|
|Bagan Dynasty (849–1287, 1st Empire)|
|Pegu (1287-1539, 1747-1757)|
|Mrauk U (1434-1784)|
|Taungoo Dynasty (1486–1752, 2nd Empire)|
|Konbaung Dynasty (1752–1885, 3rd Empire)|
|Wars with Britain (1824–1826, 1852, 1885)|
|British Arakan (1824-1852)|
|British Tenasserim (1824–1852)|
|British Lower Burma (1852–1886)|
|British Upper Burma (1885–1886)|
|British rule in Burma (1824–1942, 1945-1948)|
|Nationalist movement in Burma (after 1886)|
|Japanese occupation of Burma (1942–1945)|
|Democratic period, 1948-1962|
|U Nu and U Thant|
|1st military rule (1962–1989)|
|8888 Uprising (1988)|
|Aung San Suu Kyi|
|2nd military rule (1989–present)|
|Saffron Revolution (2007)|
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Aung San was born to U Pha, a lawyer, and his wife Daw Suu in Natmauk, Magwe district, in central Burma on February 13, 1915. His well-to-do family was already well known in the Burmese resistance movement; his great uncle Bo Min Yaung fought the British annexation in 1886.
Aung San received his primary education at a Buddhist monastic school in Natmauk, and secondary education Yenangyaung High School.
Struggle for Independence
Aung San entered Rangoon University in 1933 and 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 an article titled Hell Hound At Large, which criticized a senior University official. This led to the Second University Students' strike, and the university subsequently retracted their expulsion orders. In 1938, Aung San was elected president of both the Rangoon University Students Union (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.
Aung San received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature, Modern History, and Political Science in 1938.
In October 1938, Aung San left his law classes and entered nationalist 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, instead of 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 founding 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 communist Chinese, but he was intercepted by the Japanese military occupiers in Amoy, and was convinced by them to go to Japan instead.
While he was Minister of Defense in 1942, Aung San met and married Daw Khin Kyi, and around the same time her sister met and married Thakin Than Tun, the Communist leader. Aung San and Daw Khin Kyi had three children. Aung San's youngest daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi, is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and leader of the Burmese pro-democracy party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), which is opposed to the current military regime. His second son, Aung San Lin, died at age eight, when he drowned in an ornamental lake in the grounds of the house. The eldest, Aung San Oo, is an engineer working in the United States and opposed to his sister's political activities. Daw Khin Kyi died on December 27, 1988.
World War II Period
While he was in Japan, the Blue Print for a Free Burma was drafted, which has been widely, but mistakenly, attributed to Aung San. 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 the Thirty Comrades. In December, 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). He became chief of staff, and took on the rank of Major-General.
The capital of Burma, Rangoon, fell to the Japanese in March 1942 (as part of the Burma Campaign in World War II), and the Japanese military administration took over the country. In July, Aung San re-organized the BIA as the Burma Defense Army (BDA). He remained its commander in chief—this time as Colonel Aung San. In March 1943, he was once again promoted to the rank of Major-General. Soon afterwards, he was invited to Japan, and was presented with the Order of the Rising Sun by the Emperor.
On August 1, 1943, the Japanese declared Burma to be an independent nation. Aung San was appointed War Minister, and his army was again renamed, this time as the Burma National Army (BNA). His cooperation with the Japanese authorities was to be short-lived: Aung San became skeptical of their promises of true independence and was displeased with their treatment of the Burmese people. He made secret plans to drive the Japanese out of Burma and made contact with the British authorities in India, with the help of Communist leaders Thakin Than Tun and Thakin Soe who had anticipated and warned the independence movement of the more urgent threat of fascism before the Japanese invasion. On March 27, 1945, he led the BNA in a revolt against the Japanese occupiers and helped the Allies defeat the Japanese. March 27 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 Organization (AFO), formed in August 1944, was transformed into a united front, comprising the BNA, the Communists and the Socialists, and was 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 made with Lord Mountbatten in Ceylon in September, 1945. Some of the veterans had been formed into the Pyithu yèbaw tat (People's Volunteer Organization or PVO) under Aung San, a paramilitary force in uniform and openly drilling in public, which may have overcome the initial reluctance on the part of the British authorities. 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.
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 defense 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 which had already developed inside the AFPFL between the Communists, and Aung San leading the nationalists and Socialists, 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 of Myanmar, 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; he 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, based on 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 execution of a village headman during the war.
Two weeks later, on February 12, 1947, Aung San signed an agreement at the Panglong Conference, with leaders from other national groups, expressing solidarity and support for a united Burma. In April, the AFPFL won 196 of 202 seats in the election for a constituent assembly. In July, Aung San convened a series of conferences at the Sorrenta Villa in Rangoon to discuss the rehabilitation of Burma.
On July 19, 1947, around 10:37 AM, 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. A cabinet secretary and a bodyguard were also killed. The assassination was supposedly carried out on the orders of U Saw, a rival politician, who subsequently was tried and hanged.
However, there are aspects of U Saw's trial that give rise to doubt. There were rumors 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 fiftieth anniversary of the assassination in 1997.
Aung San's legacy provided a reference point for Burmese governments, until the military regime in the 1990s tried to eradicate signs of Aung San's memory. Nevertheless, several statues of him adorn the capital, and his picture still has pride of place in many homes and offices throughout the country. Scott Market, Yangon's most famous market, was renamed Bogyoke Market in his memory, and Commissioner Road was retitled Bogyoke Aung San Road after independence. These names have been retained. Many towns and cities in Burma have thoroughfares and parks named after him. His portrait was held up everywhere during the 8888 Uprising and used as a rallying point. Following the 1988 Uprising, the government redesigned the national currency, the kyat, removing his picture and replaced it with scenes of Burmese life. He was only 32 when he was assassinated; a martyrs' mausoleum was built at the foot of the Shwedagon Pagoda, and July 19 was designated Martyr's Day (Azani nei). His place in history as the Father of Burmese Independence and a national hero continues to the present day both due to his own legacy and due to the activities of his daughter.
- Aung San Suu Kyi, Aung San of Burma. (Edinburgh: Kiscadale, 1991), 1, 10, 14, 17, 20, 22, 26, 27, 41, 44.
- Martin Smith, Burma - Insurgency and the Politics of Ethnicity. (London and New Jersey: Zed Books, 1991), 90, 54, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 65, 69, 66, 68, 62-63, 65, 77, 78, 6.
- Maung Maung, Aung San of Burma. (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff for Yale University, 1962), 22, 23
- Gustaaf Houtman, Aung San’s lan-zin, the Blue Print and the Japanese occupation of Burma. In Kei Nemoto (ed) 2007. Reconsidering the Japanese military occupation in Burma (1942-45). Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa (ILCAA). (Tokyo: Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.), 179-227.
- The Panglong Agreement, 1947 Online Burma/Myanmar Library. Retrieved December 11, 2007.
- The Irrawaddy, Who Killed Aung San? - an interview with Gen. Kyaw Zaw August 1997. www.irrawaddy.org. Retrieved December 11, 2007.
ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
- Aung San Suu Kyi. Aung San. Leaders of Asia. St Lucia, Qld., Australia: University of Queensland Press, 1984. ISBN 0702218642
- Aung San Suu Kyi. Aung San of Burma: A Biographical Portrait by His Daughter. Kiscadale Pub, 1995. ISBN 978-1870838801
- Cady, John Frank. A History of Modern Burma. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1958. ISBN 978-0801400599
- Htin Aung. A History of Burma. New York: Columbia University Press, 1967. ISBN 978-1135355760
- Maung Maung. Aung San of Burma. The Hague: Published for Yale University, Southeast Asia Studies by M. Nijhoff, 1962. ASIN B006XFWUXQ
- Naw, Angelene. Aung San and the Struggle for Burmese Independence. Chiang Mai, Thailand: Silkworm Books, 2001. ISBN 9747551543
- Nemoto, Kei (ed). Reconsidering the Japanese Military Occupation in Burma (1942-45). Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa (ILCAA). Tokyo: Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, 2007. ISBN 978-4872979640
- Smith, Martin. Burma - Insurgency and the Politics of Ethnicity. (Politics in Contemporary Asia) London and New Jersey: Zed Books, 1991. ISBN 0862328691
- Wise, David and Thomas B. Ross. The invisible government. New York: Random House, 1964. ISBN 0394430778
All links retrieved November 30, 2021.
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