Lost Footsteps
Lost Footsteps

Independence and Civil War (1945-1951)

1 October 1947
Burma Independence Treaty

October 1 is the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Provisional Government of the Union of Burma on the independence of Burma (the "Nu-Attlee Agreement"). The agreement came after months of negotiations led by U Nu (Premier of the Burma Provisional Government), U Tin Tut (Finance Minister) and others. The signing by U Nu and UK Prime Minister Clement Attlee was witnessed by Bo Let Ya (Defense Minister), U Tin...

13 July 1947
Myanmar and the rest of the world after WWII

On July 13 1947, U Aung San gave his last speech from the balcony of City Hall to supporters in Fytche Square (now Maha Bandula Park). In his speech, he urged Burmese to be more disciplined in the face of challenges ahead. The country, less than two years from the Japanese surrender and the devastations of war, was already in the grip of multiple armed rebellions, including by communist militia and the pro-Pakistan Mujahideen in north Arakan (now Rakhine State)....

The Palladium and the Globe theatres along Sule Pagoda Road, 1947

Playing in the months before independence were "The Exile" with Douglas Fairbanks and "Blood and Sand" with Rita Hayworth and Tyrone Powers. Next door was the fabled Smart & Mookerdum bookshop, a favourite of Eric Blair (George Orwell) and many others. In 1942 U Po Sein had performed at the Palladium for over 2,000 guests, including Colonel Suzuki and other top Japanese officers. Rangoon is one of the oldest movie-making and movie-watching cities in all of Asia. And its' cinema...

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...

A photograph of the Shwedagon Pagoda in 1948

A photograph 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 is taken in the morning of Independence day 4 January 1948.

The Shwedagon 1948 - another favourite photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

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

Burmese foreign minister U E Maung’s 1949 India Visit

This is a photograph of Burmese foreign minister U E Maung arriving at Delhi airport in September 1949, together with 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 don't 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 in 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...

The Y.E. Modan Bros Gun House inYangon 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 (19 July) 1949.

The commemoration 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 larger insurgent forces). If...

19 July 1949
Martyr's Day 19 July 1949

The Secretariat, Martyr's Day 19 July 1949: civil war raging, economy in ruins, Burma government promises "peace within a year".

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...