Aung Myint Soe (Ye Sa Kyo)
Since time immemorial, all the ethnic races who are nationals of the Union have lived in the country in unity, through thick and thin.
They have lived in the country with a spirit of brotherhood through empires such as Tagaung, Sri Ksetra, Bagan, Pinya, Sagaing, Innwa, Toungoo, Nyaung Yang and Kongbaung. Many old kingdoms and capitals like Beikthano, Sri Ksetra, Han Lin, Suvarnabhumi, Ming Maw, Tagaung, Bagan, Innwa and Hantharwady represent the greatness and glory of the nation.
Myanmar is one of the great countries which is situated in the South-east Asia region.
Being a sovereign country, there are 135 ethnic races and they live in their respective regions through weal and woe.
Myanmar is bordered by India and Bangladesh to the west, Thailand and Laos to the east and the People’s Republic of China to its north and northeast.
Myanmar encompasses a total area of 261,228 square miles, and from south to north is 1,300 miles long and from east to west, at the widest part, is 600 miles wide respectively.
Pre-historic and ancient Myanmar
Primate fossils found in the Pondaung Region in Sagaing Division, Upper Myanmar have furnished evidences that at one time primates, from which evolved homo sapiens, walked the land known as Myanmar over 40 million years ago.
It has been postulated that Myanmar had their very origins in this land. From this, Myanmar civilisation arose and flourished through the ages.
Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic cultures
Paleolithic and Neolithic cultures flourished in many parts of Myanmar about 20,000 years ago. The Paleolithic Culture is called the Anyathian Culture in Myanmar, because all the relics were found only in the Anya area.
Anyathian culture may be divided into Early Anyathian and Later Anyathian Culture. The Early Anyathians were similar to the Java and Peking Man and the late Anyathians were close to the Neanderthal.
One remarkable thing about the Anyathian Culture is that there were polished hand tools found in the western Paleolithic. The hand axes were similar to those found in southern China. Fossilised wood and silicified turf were used to make the tools.
Early Anyathians probably lived from the first to the third Pluvial period. The late Anyathians lived during the third Inter-pluvial and Fourth Pluvial Period. The tools were all located in the Central Myanmar and this suggests that they had chosen to live in a rain shadow area. The Ayeyarwady was reduced to the present bed by cutting the river bank into five successive terraces.
Early City States
“Myanmar begins with Tagaung”, goes a Myanmar saying. It is believed that the establishment of the Tagaung Dynasty heralded the beginning of Myanmar history. A settlement was established at Tagaung in about the 6th century BC. Tagaung was also known as Thindwe. When the Tagaung Dynasty was established, there were in Upper Myanmar Pyu people in the east, Kanyan in the west and Thet in the north, and Mon in the Ayeyarwady, Sittaung and Thanlwin river valleys.
Not much has been discovered about the political, economic and social life of the Tagaung period. Pyu funerary urns have been found at Tagaung. The Tagaung Dynasty was probably a Pyu Dynasty. Tagaung stood as an early city-state of Myanmar.
Bagan lies on the left bank of the Ayeyarwady in the dry zone of Central Myanmar. Myanmar civilization achieved a high level of development at Bagan from the 11th century to the end of the 13th century.
Theravada Buddhism flourished in Bagan. The art and architecture of Bagan is unique. The kings and people of Bagan constructed many religious buildings such as pagodas, monasteries, temples, ordination halls and meditation caves in Bagan.
The second Myanmar Empire was founded by King Bayint Naung, who ascended the throne in 1551. His 30-year reign (1551-81) was the most energetic period in Myanmar history. He was a dynamic leader and effective military commander who built Myanmar into the most powerful state in South-east Asia.
The Third Myanmar Empire was founded by King Alaung Phaya. King Alaung Phaya successfully united Upper and Lower Myanmar. He was known as the best leader for guerrilla warfare.
In the 19th century, Myanmar was annexed by the British Imperialists after three Anglo-Myanmar Wars in 1824, 1852 and 1885.
Myanmar during the Colonial Period
Under British occupation, attempts were made to throw off the yoke of colonialism almost everywhere in Myanmar, but these attempts failed due to lack of modern firearms to fight the British. The pacification of the country took five years to complete. However, Myanmar nationalism was brought about by the colonial education laws.
The economic system was resented because the Myanmar people had lost their place as the businessmen of their country.
A national movement that emerged during the 20th century was to defend Buddhism from the effects of British colonial rule. A group of educated young men founded the Young Men’s Buddhist Association (YMBA) in 1906.
Growing out of the YMBA, the GCBA (The General Council of Burmese Association) substituted “Burmese” for “Buddhist” in its English name.
Struggle for Independence
A group of 30 comrades led by Thakin Aung San formed the Burma Independence Army (BIA) in 1941. The BIA, with the Japanese Army, invaded Myanmar at the end of 1941. Then Japanese occupation began in 1942.
In December 1946, Attlee invited a Myanmar delegation, headed by Bogyoke Aung San, to come to London to negotiate a political settlement.
On January 27, 1947, the Aung San-Attlee Agreement was signed, committing the parties to full independence for Myanmar within a year.
This agreement called for integration of the Frontier Areas with Myanmar proper (Ministerial Burma). A conference was held on 7-12 February 1947 in Panglong, southern Shan State. At the conference, Bogyoke Aung San and leaders of ethnic races agreed to a framework for the Union of Myanmar. The anniversary of the Panglong Agreement is celebrated as Union Day.
Union Day is highly anticipated by the Myanmar people across the country. As the date approaches, school children will write patriotic poems, essays and speeches on the importance of national unity will be given.
It is evident that the essence of Union Day can awaken the Union Spirit and this auspicious day can foster the establishment of a Democratic Federal Union.
Translated by Win Ko Ko Aung