Lost Footsteps
Lost Footsteps

Independence and Civil War (1945-1951)

27 January 1947
Aung San-Attlee Agreement

The Aung San - Attlee Agreement which paved the way for Burmese independence less a year later was signed on 27 January 1947. Amongst other things, the agreement included as an objective "the early unification of the Frontier Areas and Ministerial Burma with the free consent of the inhabitants of those areas". 

By late 1946 the Clement Attlee government had decided that with the looming independence of India, Burma would soon lose its strategic value on the empire's eastern flank....

19 July 1948
The First Martyr's Day 1948

August 1948
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 a...

Image of Once Elegant Burma

A photograph was taken shortly after independence in 1948 by the great French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson at the Shwedagon Pagoda. It shows a Burma, perhaps a more elegant Burma, that I think we have lost forever.

22 March 1948
Lord Mountbatten and the children of General Aung San

Another photograph of Lord Mountbatten, with Lady Mountbatten, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (left) and U Aung San Oo (right), in New Delhi 22 March 1948. Lord Mountbatten was then independent India's first Governor-General. (India was a Dominion from August 1947 - January 1950).

4 January 1948
Rangoon Street Styles 1948

This photograph was taken in the morning of Independence day 4 January 1948.

Shwedagon Pagoda 1948

One of the beautiful photographs of war-ravaged, newly independent, Burma, taken by the world-renowned French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson was published in America’s Harper’s Bazaar magazine.

August 1948
Hopong, Shan states, August 1948

(photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson)

28 February 1948
When Myanmar became a UN member

October 24 is United Nations Day. UN Day marks the day in 1947 when the UN Charter first came into force (after ratification by all the five big powers: China, France, UK, US, and USSR). Burma became independent a little more than two months later. The first image is the letter from ICS U So Nyun (then ambassador in Washington) formally applying to Secretary General Trygvie Lie for Burma's membership in the United Nations. Burma from 1948-62 was a very...

4 January 1948
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...

March 1949
U Ohn Khin and Bo Ne Win at the Rangoon Turf Club 1949

The Rangoon Turf Club March 1949: "Bama-khit" publisher U Ohn Khin and the new Army Chief of Staff Bo Ne Win enjoying a day at the races.(Photograph from Life Magazine)

September 1949
Foreign minister U E Maung’s Visit to India 1949

This is a photograph of Burmese foreign minister U E Maung arriving at Delhi airport in September 1949, together with the ambassador to India Sir M.A. Maung Gyi and other Burmese and Indian officials. U E Maung and Sir M.A. Maung Gyi are both smoking cheroots or cigars, something you do not see much at VIP airport arrivals any more.

March 1949
The height of the civil war in March 1949

A photograph from the height of the civil war in March 1949, when the government barely controlled Rangoon, showing troops of the Burma Army preparing for battle against communist forces to the north (it was around the time a combined Communist - Karen assault had overrun Mandalay and several other towns in Upper Burma and the front lines around the capital had reached Insein and Mingaladon).

July 1949
General Ne Win in UK 1949

In July 1949, General Ne Win at the UK Foreign Office together with U Hla Maung (then Burmese Ambassador to Thailand) Bo Setkya, and Burmese Ambassador to the UK ("San Shay") U Ohn (who translated for General Ne Win). They were there to meet British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin as part of a week-long visit. General Ne Win then went on to Washington. In 1949, General Ne Win was Deputy Prime Minister as well Commander-in-Chief of the Burma Armed Forces....

Y.E. Modan Bros Gun House in Yangon c. 1949

The old Y.E. Modan Bros. shop at 128 Phayre Street (Pansodan) c. 1949, selling "Arms and Ammunition" amongst other things.

An anti-government demonstration in 1949

An anti-government demonstration in 1949 - at the corner of Sule Pagoda Road and Montgomery Street (now Bogyoke Aung San Street). The government then controlled little outside Rangoon and much of the country was in the hands of the Communist Party of Burma, the Karen National Defense Organisation, and various militia.Le Maison Continental (a leading French restaurant) is partly visible on the left, the offices Burma Railways on the right.

Rangoon in Civil War

In 1949, President Sao Shwe Thaik hosts a lunch at Government House in Rangoon. The civil war was then at its height, with the Burma Army battling to regain control of Insein, Twante, Bassein, Henzada, Toungoo, Prome, Mandalay and Maymyo and many other towns from the KNDO, PVOs, Communists, Mujahideen and others. Peace talks with the KNU had just broken down the day before and in a few days time WW2 hero Naw Seng with an irregular column would strike...

19 July 1949
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...

January 1949
Insein January 1949: the civil war at its height.

The Karen National Union had just begun its insurrection against the AFPFL government. The Communist Party of Burma under Thakin Than Tun, the "Red Flag" Communists under Thakin Soe, the Mujahideen in northern Arakan, the Arakanese rebels under U Seinda, the "White Band" PVO under Bo La Yaung, and various other militia were already in rebellion. Nearly all major towns were in insurgent hands. In March a combined KNU-Communist force captured Mandalay; by the summer a substantial part of the...

3 July 1956
The first ever meeting between Burmese and American leaders in 1956

Burma presenting aid to the US. On 3 July 1956 Prime Minister U Nu met with President Dwight Eisenhower at the White House. The meeting was at the start of U Nu's two-week tour of the US. U Nu and President Eisenhower said that the two countries "share two fundamental goals, a peaceful world and a democratic way of life" and reaffirmed their "loyal steadfast support for the Charter of the United Nations". Relations had recently been difficult because of...