- By Thi Thi Min
Photo: Aye Min Thu (Kyemon)
“My father passed away on 20 July, the day after the assassination. He died of over bleeding at the Yangon General Hospital,” said U Sao Kai Pha, the third son of Mongpon Sawbwa (Chieftain) Sao San Tun.
Mongpon Sawbwa Sao San Tun was shot along with other martyred leaders at the Secretariat on 19 July 1947. He died at noon the next day from the gunshot wounds.
“I was ten years old when he died. My mother had already passed away, and now my father had left this world too. We were living in Taunggyi when my maternal uncle Momeik Sawbwa Sao Khun Cho took me and my siblings to Yangon to live under his care,” said U Sao Kai Pha.
Mongpon Sawbwa Sao San Tun was born to Mongpon Sawbwa Sao Khun Htee and Maha Devi Nang Sein U on 31 May 1907.
Sao San Tun attended a high school for the children of Shan Sawbwas, where he passed his matriculation examination. He also attended a police officer training school.
He became a Sawbwa in 1928 and married Sao Khin Thaung, a daughter of Momeik Sawbwa, in 1932.
Mongpon Sawbwa Sao San Tun was interested in literature and music and could play the accordion and bamboo xylophone. He loved his ethnic literature and championed Shan and Bamar solidarity.
The Mongpon Sawbwa was very health-conscious and abstained from drinking, smoking and chewing betel. He would take early morning walks, practice martial arts, go horse-riding, swimming and other sports.
The Mongpon Sawbwa also promoted the rise of scientific agricultural practices in Shan State. He would order books on agriculture, modern devices and crop seeds from England.
“He established the Sanpya (Model) Garden in Mongpon to spread the knowledge from these books to the community. As a result, the local people grew fine, healthy crops,” said U Sao Kai Pha.
The Mongpon Sawbwa opposed the White Paper administration, brought with the British after the Second World War. He viewed this as an attempt to divide the hilly regions and central Myanmar, and so he took it upon himself to unite these areas instead.
“He held many meetings and discussions. The other Sawbwas weren’t very enthusiastic because my father was the youngest among them,” said U Sao Kai Pha.
Mongpon Sawbwa Sao San Tun was one of the Shan Sawbwas who signed the historical Panglong agreement.
“When negotiations at the Panglong conference were not going smooth. my father got involved with Shan Youth Association and together with Shan youth leaders U Tin Aye, U Tun Myint and U Khun Htee, and hand in hand with Bogyoke (Aung San), tried to create a Union,” said U Sao Kai Pha.
The Mongpon Sawbwa became the Minister of Hill Region Affairs and an advisor in Bogyoke Aung San’s interim government. He also served as a member of Union and states subcommittee, the subcommittee for ethnic minorities, and the Constitution Drafting Committee at the Union Parliament.
The Mongpon Sawbwa’s wife, Sao Khin Thaung, passed away in the forests of Mongpon in 1945, while fleeing from the encroaching Japanese fascists. His daughter passed away the next year.
When the Mongpon Sawbwa passed away in 1947, his daughters Sao Thu Nandar, Sao Myint Kyi, sons Sao Say Hone and Sao Kai Pha were left.
The government supported the remaining family members of the martyred leaders with a monthly grant of Ks 100,000 for each family, but since the Mongpon Sawbwa’s children were underage at that time, the grant was safeguarded by co-executors, including Myanma Alinn U Tin.
“Other martyred leader family members received gas stations and motor vehicles, but we didn’t receive anything. Myanma Alinn U Tin dispersed the grant money when the revolutionary government came to power,” said U Sao Kai Pha.
“In the same year I graduated, during the Union government’s term, I got a job as a secretary to my uncle at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But I lost the job after the coup on 2 March 1962,” said U Sao Kai Pha. “I couldn’t find a job anywhere so I kept pursuing further education. Eventually, I applied for the position of third secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was shortlisted in the top 5. Yet, they gave many excuses not to hire me.”
After his death, the Mongpon Sawbwa’s body was carried to his hometown where he was cremated, according to local customs. Half of his ash was kept at the Martyr’s Mausoleum in Yangon and the rest at a mausoleum in southern Mongpon.
It is learnt that, General Ne Win would not only attend Martyrs’ Day celebrations together with the remaining families, he would also do the same on Independence Day and Union Day, but the practice was later discontinued.
“We always hand-made the flower wreaths for Martyrs’ Day. We will still do it this year. We have to send the wreaths before 18 July. We usually offer soon (meals) to monks at the Sawbwa school, but we haven’t decided on what to do this year,” said U Sao Kai Pha.
When asked his views about the reemergence of Martyrs’ Day celebrations in the current administration, U Sao Kai Pha said, “I feel they’re doing what needs to be done. Other countries also commemorate their leaders who worked for the good of their country.”
U Sao Kai Pha and his elder brother are the last remaining children of Mongpon Sawbwa Sao San Tun. U Sao Kai Pha lives with his wife Daw Thaung Thaung, children and grandchildren.
“My brother is settled abroad, and he’s not coming back to Myanmar,” said U Sao Kai Pha.
U Sao Kai Pha worked at the state-owned English daily, The Working People’s Daily, and the Burmese daily, Lokethar Pyithu Nezin, under the Ministry of Information, and climbed to the ranks of a chief editor. Later, he workded as a foreign correspondent at a Japanese news agency for 15 years.
“In my view, journalists should prioritize national affairs. To tell it plainly, news must be written with care, since the newspaper has the potential to defame one’s country,” he said.
U Sao Kai Pha, son of the martyred leader Mongpon Sawbwa Sao San Tun, concluded, “Great leaders have given their lives to unify the nation,
so it’s up to everyone to cooperate for the development of the nation. The countries that we used to assist have surpassed us. Only when we work together in unity and strength, can our nation and our people follow suit and reap the benefits of development.”
- Mongpon Sawbwa
Sao San Tun
- (31 May 1907 – 20 July 1947)
- * Mongpon Sawbwa Sao San Tun became the Minister of Hill Region Affairs and an advisor in Bogyoke Aung San’s pre-independence government. He also served as a member of Union and states subcommittee, the subcommittee for ethnic minorities, and the Constitution Drafting Committee at the Union Parliament.
- * He was born to Mongpon Sawbwa Sao Khun Htee, a chieftain of Mongpon Town, and Maha Devi Nang Sein U on 31 May 1907.
- * Sao San Tun attended a high school for the children of Shan Sawbwas, where he passed his matriculation examination. He also attended a police officer training school.
- * He became a Sawbwa in 1928 and married Sao Khin Thaung, a daughter of Momeik Sawbwa, in 1932.
- * He endeavored to achieve cooperation between hilly regions and central Myanmar and attempted to ensure national unity made by General Aung San.
- * He was assassinated at 10:37 am on 19 July 1947 together with other martyred leaders. He passed away at noon the next day.