Item Code: 148/mm-1
Portrait of General Aung San and chinthe.
Portrait of General Aung San.
146 x 82 mm
Major General Aung San
Bogyoke (Major General) Aung San (13 February 1915 – 19 July 1947) served as the 5th Premier of the British Crown Colony of Burma from 1946 to 1947. Initially he was a communist and later a social democratic politician. He was known as a revolutionary, nationalist, and as the founder of the Tatmadaw, and is considered the Father of the Nation of modern-day Myanmar. He was the founder of the Communist Party of Burma.
He was responsible for bringing about Burma's independence from British rule, but was assassinated six months before independence. He is recognized as the leading architect of independence, and the founder of the Union of Burma. Affectionately known as "Bogyoke" (Major General), Aung San is still widely admired by the Burmese people, and his name is still invoked in Burmese politics to this day.
Struggle for independence: 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).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; the university authorities subsequently retracted the expulsions. In 1938 Aung San was elected president of both the Rangoon University Student 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.
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 (We Burmans Association). He acted as its general secretary until August 1940. While in this role, he helped organize a series of countrywide strikes that became known as ME 1300 Revolution, based on the Burmese calendar year.
Dobama Asiayone protests
He also helped found another nationalist organization, the Freedom Bloc, by forming an alliance between the Dobama, the ABSU, politically active monks and Dr Ba Maw's Poor Man's Party, and became its General Secretary. He also became a founder member and the 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 nationalist government of the Kuomintang, but he was intercepted by the Japanese military occupiers in Amoy, and was convinced by them to go to Japan instead.
Aung San during the Second World War
Aung San in Japan, flanked by Bo Letya (Thakin Hla Pe) to his left and Bo Sekkya (Thakin Aung Than) to his left.
Whilst Aung San was in Japan, the Blue Print for a Free Burma, which has been widely but mistakenly attributed to him, was drafted. In February 1941, Aung San returned to Burma, with an offer of arms and financial support from the Fumimaro Konoe government of Japan. 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 that was formed to close the Burma Road and to support a national uprising and that was headed by Suzuki Keiji, he founded the Burma Independence Army (BIA) in Bangkok, Thailand. It was aligned with Japan for most of World War II.
The former capital of Burma, Rangoon (also known as Yangon), fell to the Japanese in March 1942 (as part of the Burma Campaign). 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 Emperor Hirohito.
On 1 August 1943, the Japanese declared Burma 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 soon became doubtful about Japanese promises of true independence and of Japan's ability to win the war.
After the war: After the return of the British, who 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. 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 or 5th Premier of British-Burma Crown Colony by the new British Governor Sir Hubert Rance, and was made responsible for defence and external affairs.
Aung San was to all intents and purposes Prime Minister, although he was still subject to a British veto. On 27 January 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.
Two weeks after the signing of the agreement with Britain, Aung San signed an agreement at the Panglong Conference on 12 February 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. U Aung Zan Wai, U Pe Khin, Major Aung, Sir Maung Gyi, Dr Sein Mya Maung, and Myoma U Than Kywe were among the negotiators of the historic Panglong Conference negotiated with Aung San and other ethnic leaders in 1947. All these leaders unanimously decided to join the Union of Burma.