- By Maha Saddhamma Jotikadhaja,
Sithu Dr. Khin Maung Nyunt
The choice of the 2nd Day of March to commemorate Myanmar Peasants, Revolution was not historically right though creating that commemorative day of Myanmar Peasants’ Day was historically right and significant.
It was General Ney Win of Myanmar Armed Forces who staged a successful military coup on 2nd March 1962 “to tamely save Myanmar Union from disintegration”. He set up an interim government called the Revolutionary Council led by him while finding a new type of Government with a new political system with a new constitution that would never cause the breakup of the Union.
To commemorate the event of his military coup on 2nd March 1962 he designated that date as Myanmar’s Peasants Day. It was not the day and date of Peasants’ uprisings or revolution. But it is historically right and import and that General Ney Win named the day and date of his military coup as Peasants’ Day. We have already accepted May Day, International Workers’ Day as Myanmar Worker’ Day. Thakhin Pho Hla Gyi led the oilfields’ Workers’ Strike of 1938 and made a long march of protest against the British and the foreign owners of oilfields in Upper Myanmar. There was no commemorative day marked for Myanmar Peasants’ risings or revolution. Hence General Ney Win marked the day and date of his military coup as Myanmar Peasants’ Day, historically right.
The background history of Myanmar Peasants’ Revolution needs to be retold for the new generations of Myanmar and for the reminiscence of the old and Middle Ages.
Myanmar is and has always been an agricultural country, growing all kinds of grain paddy, wheat, millet, barley, crops, fruits, vegetable for men and animal producing more than enough for home consumption as well as export. Long history of exports of agricultural products by Myanmar traders by sea and across border can be found in all legends of Myanmar ethnic peoples.
One of the major reasons of the British annexing Myanmar to the British India Empire was to take hold of Myanmar agriculture. In the 19th century, with the opening of the Suez Canal, the export of Myanmar agricultural products abroad boomed. The British capitalists and their under dogs Indian money lenders called cheteers exploited Myanmar agriculturists to the utmost.
In the year 1929 the great economic depression came about first in Wall Street in America, then it spread like a wild fire reaching Myanmar. All the economic benefits of the years before and during the World War I were dashed to the grown. While prices of agricultural products at home and abroad went down to the flat floor, those of industrial products rocketted sky high. Myanmar land owners were bankrupt, Myanmar peasants were destituted. Heaps of agricultural products remained unsold. Being unable to return debt of money borrowed at great interest from Indian money lender cheteers, their lands, houses, farm cattles were confiscated. The British Colonial Government was unable to tackle that deteriorating economic situation of the time. It turned a deaf ear to it.
Senior member of G.C.B.A [General Council of Burma Association] Saya San was sent by to look into the matter and report his findings. Saya San was a native of Thayawaddy District, so he visited that district to get the first-hand knowledge of the war Suring economic conditions of Myanmar peasants. To his great alarm he witnessed the desperate conditions of Myanmar peasants. He submitted to the G.C.B.A and his proposal for armed uprisings against the British Rule. As G.C.B.A was taking only delaying tactics, Saya San right away started armed up-risings.
In Myanmar tradition the mythical bird garuda was a mighty winged creature that can destroy any enemy even elephant can be taken away and caten by it. Naga or great snake always falls prey to the garuda. The British or all alien exploiters are traditional designed and represented by Naga snakes. So to defeat Nagas or the foreign exploiters, Saya San assumed himself as Garuda Saya San [Galone Saya San] and began armed risings against the British Authorities. Saya San was also an alchemist. Alchemy has three categories. The first is the science of compounding a mercury ball [philosopher’s stone] by which all base metals can be converted to gold. The second is ayusotta a panacea to cure all diseases and to get longevity of life. The third is to make an amulet to keep you immune from all dangers and all attacks by all arms. It was said Saya San possessed that amulet kept hidden on his body.
In day light Saya San and his followers attacked police outposts, army patrols and even the residence of British Township Officers. Though they killed the British and their soldiers and burnt down their buildings, not a single bullet hit ether Saya San or any of his followers. Saya San moved about incognito raising uprisings from one place to another. The British Colonial Government thought that Saya San uprisings were only a storm in the tea cup was soon alarmed to the point of bringing in well trained with morden weapons Sepoys Indian soldiers from India. In Mandalay, in the Temple of Maha Muni Image. Saya San was seen praying and taking vows. But when the British soldiers came in to capture him, he disappeared into their air he became invicible by the megical power of the emulet he was wearing on his body so reported in the media for nearly 2 and a half years Saya San rebellion was wide spread and well known at home and abroad. Finally in the remote village in Shan States, one of his followers betrayed him by stealing the protective amulet from his body as he the great prize of money from the British. His trial lasted very long many media men from across the world came to witness the proceedings of the trial. Saya San refused to wear the uniform of the prisoner. He denied the charges of betrayal or rebellion against State. He insisted he was working for the liberation of peasants from the economic woes under the alien rule. He was right in doing for the welfare of the peasants. When on the very moment of hanging him, it is said that “he yells out” Never give up to liberate your country from foreign enemines. It is Garuda, the Galone that wins Naga the snake.
During his hideouts in the district of Thayawaddy Saya San assumed the regal title of Supanaka Garuda Rajah and he was ceremonially enthroned King of Myanmar the majorly of Myanmar people of that time recognized him as a successor of Konebaung dynasty after King Thibaw.
Though Saya San was hanged and no more the consequences of his rebellion were far reaching. The spirit of patriotism did not burn out but remained flickaring only to blow up at any opportune moment.