The role of pen and sword in regaining Myanmar Independence

By Maha Saddhamma Jotika Dhaja, Sithu Dr. Khin Maung Nyunt

FB IMG 1475083628092On the 70th anniversary of Myanmar Independence today the 4th January 2018, the writer’s stray thoughts linger back into Myanmar long history. There is a saying in English, “The pen is mightier than the sword”. In many cases of other nations that saying is true. But as far as Myanmar history is concerned the dual role of the pen and the sword in the building of Myanmar nation and the retention of it has multiple evidences.
Turning briefly the pages of Myanmar history we will get the following picture:-King Anawrahta [1044-1077 A.D] who founded the First Myanmar nation [Kingdom, Union, or Empire] used both pen and sword in his nation buildings. He introduced and established Theravada Buddhism and the Buddhist monasteries and Pariyatti schools which produced men of learning whose pens served religion, state and people. Four languages Pali, Pyu, Mon and Myanmar flourished in Bagan Kingdom through which learned pens trained good citizens of excellent brain and brawn. His military strength composed of four regiments viz…

1. Elephantry
2. Cavalry
3. Chariotry and
4. Infantry under the commands of five knights errant
1. Kyanzitha the spear man,
2. Byatta the equestrian,
3. Nga Htwe Yu, the skilled toddy palm climber
4. Nga Lone Lephe the ploughs man and
5. Nyaung U Hpe, the peerless swimmer.

They all were products of monastic schools of both Pariyatti and Pwe Kyaung types. Pariyatti schools gave only literary learning and character training whereas Pwe Kyaung schools run by ex-monks gave training not only in vocational subjects but also in martial arts.
Similarly in the building of second Myanmar Nation [Union, Kingdom or Empire] in the 16th Century A.D well-known as Taungoo, similar monastic schools produced men of letters and might. The unifier kings —Min Kyi Nyo, his son Tabin Shwe Hti and his son-in-law Bayint Naung were men of letters and might trained at the Pariyatti and Pwe Kyaung monastic schools. Poet laureate Nawade I and peerless ratu verse composer Prince Nat Shin Naung were both writer-cum-fighters of that times.
We find similar evidences in the case of the building of the Third Myanmar Union or Empire Its founder, Alaungpaya was hailed from a farmer’s family, trained at the monastic schools of both Pariyatti and Pwe Kyaung type. His ancestors’ had some royal blood in the remote past. When he began his re-unifying campaigns he first formed 68 comrades-in arms of high military caliber. Their names proved their ethnic nationalities’ origin such as Rakhine, Mon, Chin, Kachin, Shan and Bamar. They also were the products of monastic schools both Pariyatti and Pwe Kyaung types. They did not have modern arms. They only avertable locally was thick bamboo sticks 0g;&if;wkwf. With these primitive weapons they could successfully carry out national unification military campaigns and establishing the Third Myanmar Empire. Some of his 68 comrades-in-arms rose to the position of military commanders such as Maha Siha Sura, Tein gya Min Khaung and Bala Min Htin. In the Second Konbaung Period emerged Maha Bandula Myawaddy Min Gyi U Sa, Kin Wun Mingyi U Kaung and Yaw Mingyi U Pho Hlaing. They served their country’s cause both by pens and swords.
After Myanmar was annexed to the British India and Myanmar last King Thibaw was deposed and the entire royal family was deported to Ratanagiri, India, there arose a series of anti-British Colonial rule resistances in armed rebellions. For nearly 3 to 4 years the British had to “pacify the country”. Details of these armed risings can be found in the Book “The Pacification of Burma’’ by Charles Crosswaith.
For a few years there seemed that peace was restored under Pax Britanica as the policy of anglicanization for creating black Englishmen so-called liberal education. English liberal education had the impact of raror blades that cut both ways. If did make colonial people black Englishmen who were used in the colonial services in English bureaucratic machinery. On the other hand it served as an eye-opener to the colonial peoples. Through English education, they got the chance of contact with the outside word, changes being taken place in the neighbourhood and beyond. So temporarily dormant patriotism began to erupt.
But erupting patriotism took the line of peaceful dialogue with the colonial masters. Education was the first initiative. The 1920 Yangon University Boycott was the clear evidence of the role of pens used by the leaders and followers of University Students Union who were ethnic nationalities of all religious and faiths. They won the first round of success in their struggle for national freedom by introducing National education at National University and National Schools and boycotting the University and schools which trained only servicemen with slavish mentality.
Parallel with such movements, there were also literary movements for freedom from colonial rule. The formation of Burma Research Society with its publications Journal of Burma Research Society JBRS and later new literary movement well known as Khit San Sarpay promoted a greater role of pen in our national freedom struggle. The magazine called Ganda loka had the motto aNrtkwfrsm; NydKav&m? ausmuftkwfrsm;NzifU wnfaqmufthH Bricks are fallen down, but we shall build with hewn stones. This movement produced the first batch of modern Myanmar writers Zawgyi, Min Thu Wun, Dagon Taya, Shwe U Daung, Dagon Shwe Hmya, Tet Toe, P. Monin, etc… Later followed by younger generations, Thakhin Nu, Thakhin Aung San, Thakhin Tin, Thakhin Ba Swe, Thakhin Ba Nyaing, Thakhin Ba Sein, Thakhin Thein Pe [Thein Pe Myint] headed and guided by the veteran boycotter Thakhin Ko daw Hmaing.
More literary activities followed Translation Society, Naga Ni Journal Red dragon journals etc… led by Thakhin Nu, Thakhin Aung San, Pantanaw U Thant etc… These pens not only translated world’s famous fictions by Shakespear, Charles Dickens, Deniel Defoe, Alexander Dumas, Jules Veen, Leo Tolstoy etc…. but also non-fiction especially political literature —Karl Marx’s work, HG. Wells, etc… Fabian socialism of English brand and radical socialism or communism of Stalin and Lenin lar and were translated, read and admired Thakhins, new Myanmar national leaders were writing on Myanmar situation and current international affairs, alerting Myanmar people to catch the opportunity to liberate the country by any means. Just as Journal of Burma Society Gandaloka, Translation Society and Naga Ni Journal had far-reaching reading effects on Myanmar reading public due to the pens of new generation of writers. The 0 way magazine The Voice of the fighting Peacock was the mouth piece of University Students’ Union. Thakhin Aung San proved his ethical principle as the editor of the 0 way Magazine by not disclosing the identity of the writer of “Hell hound at large” a sarcastic piece of writing in the said magazine by U Nyo Mya even though the then University Principal Mr. Sloss was threatening Thakhin Nu and Thakhin Aung San to expel if they refused.
These young pens turned young swords with the outbreak of Second World War first in the West, then later spread to the East. Young Thakhins had learnt in English history the Irish struggle for independence. In the war with Nazi Germany Ireland did not join UK but remained aloof. England’s difficulty is Irelands opportunity. Now for young Thakhin’s “British Colonist difficulty is Myanmar struggle freedom’s opportunity”. So, they went out of the country for allies. First they went to China which was already confronting Japanese aggression. Japanese military got hold of that moment’s chance of Myanmar young Thakhin by promising them grant of independence to Myanmar, the moment Japanese army stepped on Myanmar sail. They gave military training on the island of Henan to the young Thakhin to drive out the British Colonial Government.
One by one, starting with Thakhin Aung San, altogether 30 Thakhins went out incognito to be trained in modern warfare. They became Yebaw Thonegyaik 30 Comrades-in-arms after the fashion of 68 comrades-in-arms of Alaungpaya. Thanks to that training Myanmar modern army was formed by Thakhin Aung San [now Bogoke Aung San]. Here is the clear evidence of the dual role of pen and sword in our national struggle for independence.
Again when the time for resisting Japanese Fascists and co-operating with the Western Alliances, these 30 comrades-in arms played well their dual role of pen and sword. Myanmar literature of Japanese Occupation Period had a wealth of the stories of dual role of pen and sword in driving out the Japanese fascists.
When the Second World War ended another round of dual role of pen and sword was called upon to play. The Simila White Paper and Myanmar rejection of it on threat of armed rebellion, dialogue with element. A flee of the British Labour Government for the grant of independence, the Pinlong Conference for the making of Burma Union and the drafting of the Federal constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar outside the British Common wealth of Nations and the adoption of the policy of neutralism in the cold war were the collective achievements of the pen and the sword. Today that dual role of the pen and sword is still needed for our present and future. The objectives of 70th anniversary of Myanmar Independence spotlight that dual role.
The pen and the sword, the brain and the brawn must always go togather in our country.

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