The Architect of Sovereignty, and Myanmar’s First Independence Day

  • An Interview with veteran journalist Hanthawaddy U Ohn Kyaing
    Written by Ye Gaung Nyunt and Nandar Win
    Photo: Phoe Htaung
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Hanthawaddy U Ohn Kyaing.

Question: Please tell us about Bogyoke Aung San and his wisdom as seen by a veteran journalist.
Answer: Without Bogyoke Aung San, the country would not have had to gain independence, and may remain in servitude. He was born in this country to liberate the nation. Even in all simple living and way of life, he was selfless. What he wanted was just for the country, and I knew that because I was with him very closely for many years.
At that time, I was twenty years and Bogyoke Aung San was twenty seven, a gap of seven years. He was a straightforward and candid speaker, but very soft and gentle communications in relationship and in personal dealing. Despite, I was very junior to him; he talked to me in esteemed manner, and that was why we loved him and respect him.

Everything is working for Independence
Always worked in openness, he has no secret agenda at all, telling us the work schedules. For us, it was convenient and smooth in writing news for the papers accurately, and all the information was instrumental for the independence.
Shooting and killing case that occurred at Htantabin Township of Insein District was very much shocking and that most brutal incident committed by the lackeys of the colonialists. In the bizarre shooting, many farmers of the People’s Yebaw Organization were killed and many sustained injuries.
Bogyoke Aung San personally graced the funeral ceremony in Htantabin, where thousands of people from Yangon, Kyimyindine, Kamayut and Insein joined together. The tragic event might happened in March of 1946 and the funeral ceremony was joined by the peasants and farmers from Hmawbi, Shwe Hlay Gyi, Einclon Kyun, Bawlei Kyun, and that the traditional and religious rites were carried out at Mya Thein Tan Monastery of Htantabin Township.
A stage was set for Bogyoke to deliver a speech, where the audience was full. A very small boat of six seats was arranged for Bogyoke Aung San in crossing the river, where I and Thandawsint Newspaper reporter Ko Aye Myint were allowed to join by Bogyoke himself. In post -Independence era, Ko Aye Myint joined the Myanmar movie world in the name of Pyidaungsu Kyaw Naing.
There Bogyoke delivered a historical speech; and unfortunately, this episode was not seen in documents and memoires. He said that we would not achieve independence through begging, instead, we need to fight back for liberty, and therefore, prepare to mobilize the arms and ammunitions. Ko Aye Myint and I covered the news and shared with other newspapers. At that time, there were many newspapers in Yangon.
Two days later, the British Governor invited Bogyoke Aung San and offered the post of Deputy Chairman of Burma’s Executive Council, which Bogyoke accepted and became a member in the government. He was appointed deputy chairman of Burma’s Executive Council in late 1946, a position which still remained subject to the British governor’s veto.

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Discussions about the future
In the early part of 1947, Bogyoke Aung San received an invitation letter from England for discussions on the future of Myanmar, and subsequently, he left for England on 9 January 1947. At that time, he had no warm outfits for cold weather, and Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru from India provided warm clothes. On 27 January 1947, Bogyoke Aung San signed Aung San – Atlee agreement with the British Prime Minister Clement Atlee that envisioned Myanmar becoming independent within one year. With that agreement, Myanmar regained independence.
Bogyoke worked in detailed plan for the independence, and called a Hluttaw to draft a constitution, and subsequently held election, where AFPFL won in the polls.
I would like to say something about the polling. Bogyoke Aung San asked his team to put up his portrait on the ballot box with white star on red paper. He also sought votes from the public and promised in getting independence at the earliest, and advised not to vote for opportunists. The AFPFL won votes in majority, and the communist party stood second, and three and four independent candidates were seen in the winning list. Next, the constitution was drafted.
The preliminary preparatory meeting of AFPFL was held in Jubilee Hall of Yangon and (111) members’ team for drafting constitution was formed, and the committee drafted the constitution.
It could be simply said that Bogyoke Aung San had perfectly and neatly worked out in achieving independence for the people, and handed the fruit of independence to the people, as if feeding the ready to eat foods with the spoon. We have been enjoying the luxury of independence that Bogyoke Aung San had reaped for us, and therefore, we are lauding and praising Bogyoke as father of independence in the chronicle of Myanmar.
Being a national leader, the stories and performances of Bogyoke were so profuse that needs many days to talk about. Suppose we had taken the road as advice by Bogyoke in unity and harmony, we might have already reached to a certain stage of development.
Looking back to the time immediately after independence, Myanmar was better placed than Thailand and Singapore to lead South East Asia. But, the splitting up of the AFPFL, followed by the military regime, hurt development, and its impact can still be felt, even today. We constructed the nation with the democratic system as desired by Bogyoke Aung San, and that we are on the democratic path in momentum. When the National League for Democracy won the election and formed the government, they are also moving on the path of democracy. They have prioritized in the tasks such as the peace process, the building of national unity, the creation of national reconciliation.

Taste of independence
The nation would develop only when we achieved these conditions, and that the taste of independence could be enjoyed when the noises of gunfire are stopped, and the rule of law prevails without dacoits and pick pockets.
I am of the view that the government is endeavoring to achieve these tasks. However, to arrive at the destination entirely depends on us, and if we are not united and going in wrong steps, then we would not be able to build the nation.
For (63) years from 1885 to 1948, we had to fight for independence. We saw our country in disarray and mess before 1885, and the people were going on the path of disunity.
When King Thibaw Min was exiled from the country all the nationalities started to unite and then the Shan, Kayin, Kachin and other ethnic nationalities came together and fought against the British colonialists, sacrificing thousands of lives. Sadly, Bogyoke and national leaders were assassinated on 19 July 1947, and later we regained our lost independence.
We were under servitude for more than (120) years, and that we were totally humiliated as the British officers called us in childish terms such as “Maung Min” and put the derogatory word such as “Nga” preceding our name such as “Nga Ohn Kyaing”.
Moreover, we had to respond with the term “My Lord” and we had to appear before them in barefoot as we had been prohibited to wear foot gear when entering the office rooms. At the time of all depression, desolation and disaster of the Myanmar people, Bogyoke Aung San was born in our country to be a patriot and sacrificed for the people and the country.
(To be continued)
Translated by UMT (Ahlon)

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