“Machine gun fire could be heard from Bogyoke’s meeting room, but he decided to fight back armed only with a six-cylinder revolver. He knew he might die, but even if he could get one shot he would take it. That’s the reason he was also martyred,” said Yebaw Ko Htwe’s nephew Lt-Col Aung Ko Ko (retd) (second son of Yebaw Ko Htwe’s third elder brother U Thar Cho).
He continued, “Six days after I was born, the martyred leaders were gunned down. I only became aware of these things when I was older. I was very sad when I found out about it.”
Yebaw Ko Htwe was born in Mandalay to U Ko Ko Kalay, a retired officer at the Department of Agriculture, and his wife Daw Min Yi, a school teacher. He was their sixth son. He attended school till the ninth grade, and then at the age of 18 he served as a bodyguard to U Razak, the Minister for Education and National Planning. He was shot and killed along with Bogyoke Aung San and the national leaders.
U Aung Ko Ko said, “Yebaw Ko Htwe is unusual among the martyred leaders. He was the youngest, only finishing the ninth grade, and it was only three to four months since he began his duty. He was a people’s comrade when he was in school, and that was his only experience. His uniqueness is being a martyr, despite his education and limited experience.”
He continued, “The other eight martyrs were targeted and shot at the meeting room. But Yebaw Ko Htwe was not on their list. He left his post in U Razak’s room and waited for the assailants at the foot of the stairs. He only had a .32 six-cylinder revolver and was well aware he would be shot if he opened fire. He was brave and courageous, but he didn’t get to fire a single shot.” While Bogyoke Aung San and the other leaders were in the meeting, Yebaw Ko Htwe was in Minister U Razak’s office, across Bogyoke Aung San’s office. In the room next to Bogyoke’s were Bo Htun Hla (Tetkatho Nay Win) and Bo Than Win (English General’s bodyguard). U Aung Ko Ko thinks the two officers did not have a chance to intervene when the assassination happened.
“When Bo Than Win was running down the stairs, he ran into four of the gunmen. When they yelled at him to stop, he stayed put and they left him unharmed. Likewise, when reporter Maung Than was trying to escape the gunmen yelled at him. He ducked himself and they left him untouched. This showed that the gunmen had a plan only to specifically target Bogyoke and the people in the meeting room. They weren’t interested in anyone else. But Ko Htwe was unlucky. The door was a western saloon door and it made a noise when he opened it. It alerted the assailants and they shot him before he had time to react,” said U Aung Ko Ko.
Yebaw Ko Htwe’s death was heartbreaking. One of the assailants (Yan Gyi Aung) shot him with a Sten gun. He suffered four shots in the abdomen and passed away at the hospital at 2:15pm on the same day.
Yebaw Ko Htwe was fond of playing at fighting at a young age and detested the colonial British. He was kind-hearted but harbored a strong sense of nationalism. He enjoyed swimming and growing plants but would want to throw stones at the British when he saw them. His father himself entrusted him to U Razak to mentor him.
U Aung Ko Ko said, “U Chit Swe was with Yebaw Ko Htwe in U Razak’s office on that day. U Chit Swe told him to go take his police uniform and revolver. At that time, Ko Htwe was wearing a people’s comrade uniform and armed with a .32 six-cylinder revolver. He had been officially given a two-star police uniform and .38 six-cylinder revolver, but he hadn’t taken them yet. U Chit Swe himself, later, wrote that Ko Htwe didn’t go withdraw his uniform and firearm as he wanted to be ready for when U Razak needed him.” He continued, “There are written documents from U Razak’s family, too, from which we can deduce that Ko Htwe had a strong sense of duty. A little while later, U Razak came out and told them that Bogyoke will be present at the upper and lower Myanmar boxing match that evening at Myoma school. He asked U Chit Swe to go help set up the venue, since there was only an adult, Ba Nyein, there.
U Chit Swe left for Myoma school and Ko Htwe was left alone reading a newspaper in U Razak’s office.” A little known fact about Yebaw Ko Htwe is that even though he was a bodyguard he wasn’t a commissioned officer. While he was attending U Razak’s Mandalay National High School, he became a people’s comrade and learnt some military warfare. He was politically active as well. At the time of his death he had earned a Naypyitaw two-star officer position, but he never had the chance to take his uniform.
“Yebaw Ko Htwe lived with his elder sister Daw Kyi Kyi Kalay at No. 72, 31st Street Lower Block, Yangon, while he was serving U Razak. The rest of his family were in Mandalay. When the news of the assassination spread, his elder brother U Aung Than Sein and his brother-in-law U Saw Pe rushed to the hospital. Yebaw Ko Htwe tried to smile when he saw them and asked them where U Razak was. He was wounded, but he seemed to be contented with fulfilling his duty.”
The families of the martyrs were given export/import permits from the government and gas stations from the BOC company, and Yebaw Ko Htwe’s family received Ks 5,000 from the public fund for Bogyoke. His family received a monthly grant of Ks 300 but they donated it to national development projects. U Aung Ko Ko said Ko Htwe’s parents were offered a store at Bogalay Zay market but they refused to take it, as their son had paid for it with his life.
When asked about the Secretariat, U Aung Ko Ko said, “The remaining families of the martyrs were invited in 2016 to view the Martyrs’ Day exhibit at the Secretariat. It had just been renovated. I had thought it would be completed by 2017. When I visited it last year, I saw a new wall was built between Bo Htun Hla’s and Bogyoke’s rooms. There used to be a door connecting their rooms, but now it’s gone. I wish they could have preserved the original designs and layout. I also wish the exhibit would be completed soon.”
When asked what the younger generation should look up to in Yebaw Ko Htwe, U Aung Ko Ko said, “Ko Htwe was born on 5 December 1929 but the date at the Martyrs’ Mausoleum mentions his birth date as 3 March. This was done so that he could be registered as 18 years old. But really, he was only 17 years and eight months old when he passed away.
He was very young. So young that on normal circumstances there is no reason for him to be listed as a martyr. But his strong sense of duty and habit of carrying out what was on his mind earned him his place among the respected martyrs. Young people don’t need to feel undermined because of their age or inexperience. The country will laud you if you do what needs to be done for your country and its people. When he passed away, Yebaw Ko Htwe left behind his parents, three elder brothers and two elder sisters, but now all of them have passed away and only his nieces and nephews are alive and settled in Yangon and Mandalay.
* Yebaw Ko Htwe was born in Mandalay to U Ko Ko Kalay, a retired officer at the Department of Agriculture, and his wife Daw Min Yi, a school teacher, on 3 March 1929. He was their sixth son.
* He attended school till the ninth grade, and then at the age of 18 he served as a bodyguard to U Razak, the Minister for Education and National Planning during the pre-independence government.
* Yebaw Ko Htwe was fond of playing at fighting at a young age and detested the colonial British. He was kind-hearted but harbored a strong sense of nationalism. He enjoyed swimming and growing plants. His father himself entrusted him to U Razak to mentor him.
* A little known fact about Yebaw Ko Htwe is that even though he was a bodyguard he wasn’t a commissioned officer. While he was attending U Razak’s Mandalay National High School, he became a people’s comrade and learnt some military warfare. He was politically active as well. At the time of his death he had earned a Naypyitaw two-star officer position, but he never had the chance to take his uniform.
* He was shot along with Bogyoke Aung San and other national leaders, at 10:37am on 19 July 1947. He died at 2:15pm the same day.