Lost Footsteps
Lost Footsteps

U Nu

U Nu with Gandhi in Delhi 1947

The photograph is from the last meeting between U Nu and Mahatma Gandhi, taken at Birla House, Delhi, on 4 December 1947, a little over a month before Gandhi was assassinated. Mahatma Gandhi was wearing a hat just given to him by soon to be Prime Minister U Nu (then Premier Thakin Nu). The struggle against British colonialism is a shared history of Burma and India. Mahatma Gandhi visited Rangoon three times: in 1902, 1915 and 1929. He had a...

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The 1948 Government of Burma Was Genuinely Multi-Ethnic

August 1948: With communist ("White Flag" and "Red Flag") PVO, and "Mujahideen" insurrections in full swing, President Sao Shwe Thaik and Army Chief General Smith Dun inspect the troops in front of the Rangoon Corporation building. Martial law had just been declared. At the time, Karen, Kachin, and Chin battalions were fighting Burmese communist and PVO militias up and down the Irrawaddy valley. It was also a time (the only time) when the government of Burma was genuinely multi-ethnic, with...

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Myth of Burma Independence

On 4 January 1948, at 4:20 am, Burma became an independent republic outside the British Commonwealth. The Union Jack was lowered for the final time at Government House in Rangoon and the last Governor Sir Hubert Rance formally handed over power to the Union of Burma's first president the Yawnghwe Sawbwa Sao Shwe Thaik. (U Thant was at Government House that morning too, escorting an elderly J.S. Furnivall). There is a myth that Burma at independence had all the attributes...

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Longest on-going civil war

The Burmese civil war is the longest-running armed conflict in the world and has continued, in one form or another, from independence to the present day. In a way Burma is a place where the Second World War never really stopped. Even since the first Japanese bombers hummed overhead and dropped their payloads over downtown Rangoon, the country has never known peace. For a brief period, between August 1945 and independence in January 1948, there were no open hostilities. And...

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Martyr's Day 1949: Civil War Raging, Economy in Ruins, Government Promises 'Peace Within a Year'

The commemoration of Martyr's Day 1949 was held at the Secretariat. Burma was then at the height of its civil war, with much of the country in the hands of the communists, the Karen National Defence Organisation, the Mujahedeen, the PVO, and dozens of other militia groups. The Karens held Insein and the communists controlled most of central Burma from their base at Pyinmana. Half the Burma Army had deserted and the army was down to 12,000 men (against far...

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Prime Minister U Nu, Daw Mya Yee and Daw Khin Kyi in England 1950

In May 1950, Prime Minister U Nu in England, accompanied by his wife Daw Mya Yee and General Aung San's widow Daw Khin Kyi. During his days in London, Oxford, and elsewhere, U Nu tried hard to paint as rosy a picture as possible of the situation in Burma. He said peace was likely 'within a year' and encouraged British aid and investment. An article in the Spectator magazine (link below) however painted a very different (and more realistic) picture....

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Reciprocal State Visits of Myanmar and Indian Leaders

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Myanmar in 2012 and it was one of the dozens of visits between Indian and Myanmar heads of government and state to each other's countries since independence in 1947-8. These are two photographs from an early visit (in 1951). The first shows Pandit Nehru coming greet U Nu at Palam Airport (now Indira Gandhi International Airport). U Nu is to the left, already surrounded by journalists. The second photograph is from the same trip, with...

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U Nu’s visit to China in 1954

Despite the many ups and downs of Sino-Myanmar relations in modern times (including Beijing backed the communist invasion of 1967), all Myanmar leaders since independence have made several visits to our giant eastern neighbour. This is a photo of U Nu with Mao Zedong during U Nu's first trip in December 1954. The Prime Minister's party included U Thant, Col Aung Kyi, U Myint Thein, and U Win Pe. Chairman Mao was likely surprised by U Nu's frankness on many...

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U Nu on the Cover of Time Magazine

The cover of Time Magazine published on 18 August 1954. U Nu's warning (at the bottom of the cover) - "Beware of Pied Pipers" is perhaps as apt today as in 1954.

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Prime Minister U Nu’s visit to the United States

Prime Minister U Nu made an official visit to the United States. The trip lasted more than three weeks, from 24 June to 16 July 1955, and included Washington D.C., New York, Ann Arbor (Michigan University), Knoxville (Tennessee), San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the Grand Canyon (Arizona). He was accompanied by his wife, Daw Mya Yi, U Thant (then Secretary, Prime Minister's Office), and Colonel Lwin (later head of Military Intelligence) as well as Burma's Ambassador to the US and...

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On the Way to the 1955 Bandung Conference

The April 1955 Bandung meetings were a testament to Burma's then dynamic international diplomacy. They were also a testament to Mingaladon airport's position as an international aviation hub - everyone had to stop in Rangoon anyway to travel to Indonesia. The photo was taken at Government House, from left to right: North Vietnamese Foreign Minister, later Prime Minister Pham Van Dong; Afghan Foreign Minister HH Sardar Muhammad Naim; Chinese Premier Chou En-lai; President Dr Ba U; Indian Prime Minister Nehru;...

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Nehru and Nasser in Rangoon

In 1955, Non-Aligned leaders Prime Minister Pandit Nehru of India and President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt (with U Nu in the background) walk down Merchant Street in Rangoon (Yangon). They were stopping over in Rangoon on their way to Bandung for the first Asian-African Summit.

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