By Than Htike, Photo: Than Soe
“My mother was 24 when my father passed away. My two elder brothers were 7 and 5, and I was 2. We lived in Ba Gyi U Poe Hla’s house at 28/A Inya Road. My father would take my brother and me on a ride in his car around our yard before going to work. My mother told me he did the same on the day of his assassination,” said Prof. U Min Myat (retd), the youngest son of martyred leader U Ohn Maung, about his father.
“The martyred leaders risked their lives for peace and independence. The 21st Century Panglong being held now is similar to Bogyoke (General) Aung San’s Panglong Conference for national unity. He went to the hilly regions and plains, but I think he had some difficulties in Kachin State. My father used to serve as Myitkyina’s Commissioner so he was close to the Samar Duwar Khun Sin War Naung. One day, Minister U Kyaw Nyein and Bo Letya came to our house and told my father he was to go to Kachin State on Bogyoke’s order. I used to have gastral pains at night and my father would carry me around and cradle me to sleep. I was ill that day, too, and Bogyoke knew this, so he told my father that they would arrange a flight for him back home if anything crops up. My father left the next day, and I was told I cried that night.
“On arriving in Myitkyina, my father met with Samar Duwar Khun Sin War Naung and delivered Bogyoke’s message. He came back with my father to Yangon and stayed at our house for ten days before meeting with Bogyoke. My father received a sword and a spear as a gift when he moved from Myitkyina to Yangon. When Bogyoke Aung San arrived in Kachin State, things went well and you could say we achieved the ethnic solidarity to sign the Panglong Agreement.
“Martyrs’ Day was first celebrated in President Mahn Win Maung’s administration at the old mausoleum. Daw Khin Kyi (widowed wife of Bogyoke Aung San) would bring her children there, too. She and her family would be at the front with the other remaining families of martyred leaders around them. President Mahn Win Maung would start from Daw Khin Kyi and offer condolences to each family. We met the president at 7:30am and laid the flower wreaths at 8am. I would feel elated to see all remaining family members laying their respective flower wreaths at the same time,” he said. U Ohn Maung had three sons who are still alive. The eldest, U Tin Maung Thein, is 79 years old, the second, U Ko Ko Hla, 77, and the youngest, U Min Myat, 73. U Ohn Maung’s wife Daw Thein Kywe is the last surviving widow among other martyred leader widows. She is now at the grand age of 95, and her sons are taking take care of her wellbeing.
U Ohn Maung was 34 years old when he passed away and Bogyoke was 32. As their ages were not that different, they would discuss national affairs openly with each other.
Daw Thein Kywe, the widow, said, “He moved to Yangon from Myitkyina after he was appointed as Secretary of Transport. He lived his whole life in that house in Inya Road. On that day of the assassination, he told me he was expecting guests at noon, and that I was to start entertaining them while he was at the meeting with Bogyoke. He told me he would come back early after his presentation.
“The meeting with Bogyoke was at 10am so he drove off around 9am. At about 10:30am, a lawyer friend of my brother in Barr Street (now Maha Bandula Garden Street) came and informed us that there was shooting at the Secretariat and the people at the meeting were wounded too. When I arrived at the hospital, I found out that he was among those who were shot, but they didn’t let me enter the emergency room. I cried and cried, there were so many people there. My friends took me back home. “Back at my home, there were already people coming to ask the news. The news of the assassination had spread quickly. I am the third out of four sisters. My eldest sister tried to help me upstairs since I was unable to talk. I cried all day and night. It was the saddest event in our family’s history.”
U Ohn Maung was born in Minbu to Mr. H.W. Tretwayne and Daw Shwe Myint on Sunday, 2 February 1913. He was their second son. He attended Yangon University and served as a quartermaster in the University’s Training Corps. In 1934, he completed his Bachelor of Arts course, and in 1937, he came out first among three persons taking the Indian Civil Service (ICS) examination. He served as a deputy commissioner in Mandalay in 1939 and went to Myitkyina in 1947. Next, he became the Secretary of Transport.
U Min Myat said, “I feel energized after seeing the changes in the Martyrs’ Day celebrations last year. I feel ethnic and national solidarity are becoming more important. The 21st Century Panglong is interesting. The word arzarni (martyr) doesn’t have a set definition. It’s meaning changes depending on the situation, time and day, and the nature of the incident. A martyr like Bogyoke Aung San is uncommon. He was a Thakhin since his student days, educated, courageous, determined and skilled in unification.
“That’s why, the remaining leaders and ethnic leaders all respect him. We looked up to him since childhood, too. I want to tell the young generation that the past had a great leader in Bogyoke Aung San. Reform and learn from history. Every nationality should be involved in the 21st Century Panglong. Everyone must work to ensure the freedom, our martyred leaders sacrificed themselves for, is everlasting. Don’t forget what has happened in history. Everyone has the responsibility to make sure history doesn’t repeat. Whatever your role may be in the peace process, be patient and understanding of each other and create a wonderful history to look back.”
Since U Ohn Maung completed his ICS from England, his wife receives a pension to this day. His three sons also received scholarships from England until they completed age 24.
Martyrs’ Day is upon us. Many lives were lost for Myanmar’s independence. The martyred leaders worked hard for national solidarity. With fondness and in memory of the martyred leaders, I would like to conclude by urging every citizen of Myanmar to take up the duty to build a peaceful and developed country that the martyred leaders had envisioned.
* U Ohn Maung was born in Minbu to Mr. H.W. Tretwayne and Daw Shwe Myint on Sunday, 2 February 1913. He was their second son.
* He attended Yangon University and served as a quartermaster in the University’s Training Corps.
* In 1934, he completed his Bachelor of Arts course, and in 1937, he came out first among three persons taking the Indian Civil Service (ICS) examination.
* He served as a deputy commissioner in Mandalay in 1939.
* He was appointed as commissioner of Myitkyina in 1947, before becoming the Secretary of Transport in the pre-independence government.
* He was assassinated at 10:37 am on 19 July 1947.
* U Ohn Maung’s wife Daw Thein Kywe is the last surviving widow among other martyred leader widows. She is now at the grand age of 95.
* He had three sons who are still alive. The eldest, U Tin Maung Thein, is 79 years old, the second, U Ko Ko Hla, 77, and the youngest, U Min Myat, 73.