First and the Last democratically elected


 U Nu:     Born on May 25, 1907.
                Nayoan La Pyay. [Maharthamaya Nay.], 1269, Saturday.

                Died on Feb 14, 1995.
                Da Bho. Dwe: La Pyay., 1356, Tuesday.


Daw Mya Yi:   Born on Sept 3, 1910.
                        Wah Gaung La Gwe 14, 1272, Saturday.

                        Died on Feb 7, 1993.
                        Da Bho. Dwe: La Pyay. Gyaw 1, 1354 Sunday.



Seated left to right first row: Ko Thi Han, M. A. Raschid [Vice President], Ko Nu [President], Ko Ohn, Ko Aung San.
Seated left to right second row:   Ko Ba Set, Ko Tha Hla, Ko Tun Ohn, Ko Tun Tin.
Note: [1] Ko Thi Han became Minister of Foreign Affairs in the General Ne Win’s Revolutionary Council Government after the legally elected government of U Nu was toppled through coup detat on March 2, 1962; [2] M. A. Raschid became Minister in the AFPFL successive governments; [3] Ko Nu became the elected Prime Minister of Burma at the independence until he was toppled by the Chief of Staff of the Army in 1962; [4] Ko Ohn became Ambassador to the Court of St. James and later to Moscow; and, later became the Advisor to the Prime Minister U Nu; [5] Ko Aung San became the National Leader under the banner of Anti-Fascist Peoples Freedom League {AFPFL} that gained independence for Burma from the British. [6] Ko Ba Set became a Diplomat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; [7] Ko Tha Hla became Professor of Geology and later became Rector of the Rangoon University; [8] Ko Tun Ohn became the Mayor of Rangoon; [9] Ko Tun Tin became a Major in the Army and later returned to politics.


  Student Strike Leaders Ko Nu and Ko Raschid
At the Shwe Dagon Pagoda Rangoon University Strikers’ Camp.




The chronicle of Burma's Independence struggle would not be complete if Nagani Book Club or the Red Dragon Book Club is omitted and if the founder of the Nagani Book Club Thakin Nu is neglected to mention, then, the story of the Red Dragon Book Club would not be conclusive. Nagai inspired young and old alike to strive for freedom, free from the British yoke, and, Nagani put that torch aflame. 


in the Dr. Ba Maw’s Government under
the Japanese Occupying Forces

From Left to Right: Thakin Ba Hein, Foreign Minister Hon’ble Thakin Nu, U Nu’s youngest son Aung  on Nu’s lap, San San Nu [the girl on the right close to Daw Mya Yi], Daw Mya Yi [Mrs. Nu], Thakin Nu’s eldest son Thaung Htike on Daw Mya Yi’s lap, and a Japanese newspaperman.



Bogyoke Aung San, President of Anti-Fascist Peoples Freedom League [AFPFL] gave a speech from the balcony of the Mjou. do Khan:ma [The City Hall], Rangoon where Thakin Nu, Vice President of AFPFL presided over the meeting.  



Seated Left to Right: Hon’ble U Kyaw Nyein [Home and Judiciary], Sir Ba U [Chief Justice], Lady Rance, Hon’ble Thakin Nu [Prime Minister], HE Sir Hubert Rance [Governor], The Earl of Listowel [Secretary of State for Burma], Hon’ble Bo Let Ya [Defense], Sir Gilbert Laithwaite, Hon’ble U Tin Tut [Foreign Affairs].

Standing first row: second from left Hon’ble Mahn Win Maung, third from left Hon’ble Bo Po Kun, eight from left Hon’ble Thakin Tin, ninth from left Hon’ble Henzada U Mya, and tenth from left Hon’ble U Vun Ko Hau.

Standing second row: second from left Hon’ble Pyawbwe U Mya, and fourth from left Hon’ble U Ba Gyan.  



London, 1947.

The Nu-Attlee Agreement was signed on October 1, 1947 in London.
With this agreement Burma regained independence from Britain.
The Union of the Republic of Burma has become an Independent Sovereign State.


London, 17th October, 1947.

The Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Provisional Government of Burma;

Considering that it is the intention of the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to invite Parliament to pass legislation at an early date providing that Burma shall become an independent State;

Desiring to define their future relations as the Governments of independent States on the terms of complete freedom, equality and independence and to consolidate and perpetuate the cordial friendship and good understanding which subsist between them; and

Desiring also to provide for certain matters arising from the forthcoming change in the relations between them,

Have decided to conclude a treaty for this purpose and have appointed as their plenipotentiaries:-

The Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: The Right Hon. Clement Richard Attlee, C.H., M.P., Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury.

The Provisional Government of Burma: The Hon'ble Thakin Nu, Prime Minister

Who have agreed as follows:-

Article 1
The Government of the United Kingdom recognize the Republic of the Union of Burma as a fully Independent Sovereign State. The contracting Governments agree to the exchange of diplomatic representatives duly accredited.

Article 2
All obligations and responsibilities heretofore devolving on the Government of the United Kingdom which arise from any valid international instrument shall henceforth, in so far as such instrument may be held to have application to Burma, devolve upon the Provisional Government of Burma. The rights and benefits heretofore enjoyed by the Government of the United Kingdom in virtue of the application of any such international instrument to Burma shall henceforth be enjoyed by the Provisional Government of Burma.

Article 3
Any person who at the date of the coming into force of the present Treaty is, by virtue of the Constitution of the Union of Burma, a citizen thereof and who is, or by virtue of a subsequent election is deemed to be, also a British subject, may make a declaration of alienage in the manner prescribed by the law of the Union, and thereupon shall cease to be a citizen of the Union.

The Provisional Government of Burma undertake to introduce in the Parliament of the Union as early as possible, and in any case within a period of one year from the coming into force of the present Treaty, legislation for the purpose of implementing the provisions of this Article.

Article 4
The relations of the contracting Governments in the sphere of Defence shall be regulated by the Agreement concluded between them on 29th August, 1947, the provisions of which are set out in the Annex hereto and which shall have force and effect as integral parts of the present Treaty.

Article 5
The Provisional Government of Burma reaffirm their obligation to pay to British subjects domiciled on the date of the coming into force of the present Treaty in any country other than India and Pakistan all pensions, proportionate pensions, gratuities, family pension fund and provident fund payments and contributions, leave salaries and other sums payable to them from the revenues of Burma or other funds under the control of the executive authority of Burma, in virtue of all periods of service prior to that date under the rules applicable immediately prior thereto.

 Article 6
The contracting Governments agree that the following provisions shall constitute a final settlement of the financial questions dealt with in this Article:-

The Provisional Government of Burma reaffirm their agreement to pay over in full proceeds of the sale of Army [including Civil Affairs Service (Burma)] stores. The Government of the United Kingdom agree to make no claim on the Provisional Government of Burma for repayment of the cost of the Civil Affairs Administration prior to the restoration of civil government.

The Government of the United Kingdom agree to cancel 15 million of the sums advanced towards the deficits on the Ordinary Budget and the Frontier Areas Budget. The balance of the sums will be repaid by Burma in twenty equal yearly instalments beginning not later than 1st April, 1952, no interest being chargeable. The cancellation of this amount of Burma's indebtedness is accepted by the Provisional Government of Burma as a further contribution by the Government of the United Kingdom towards the restoration of Burma's financial position and as a final liquidation of their claim in respect of the cost of supplies and services furnished to the British Military Administration in Burma.

The Provisional Government of Burma agree to repay in full the sums advanced by the Government of the United Kingdom towards expenditure on Projects (including Public Utilities, etc.). In accordance with existing agreements, repayment will continue to be made from current receipts in excess of necessary outgoings and working capital and from the proceeds of liquidation, and the balance of advances outstanding will be repaid by the Provisional Government of Burma in twenty equal yearly instalments beginning not later than 1st April, 1952, no interest being chargeable.

The Government of the United Kingdom agree to continue to reimburse the Provisional Government of Burma for expenditure in respect of - claims for supplies and services rendered to the Burma Army in the Burma campaign of 1942; and release benefits payable on demobilisation to Burma Army personnel for war service.

Except in so far as they are specifically modified or superseded by the terms of this Agreement and of the Defence Agreement of 29th August, 1947, the provisions of the Financial Agreement of 30th April, 1947 [Hansard, 22nd May, 1947, Columns 276-7.] between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of Burma remain in force.

Article 7
(a) All contracts other than contracts for personal service made in the exercise of the executive authority of Burma before the coming into force of the Constitution of the Union of Burma to which any person being a British subject domiciled in the United Kingdom or any Company, wherever registered, which is mainly owned, or which is managed and controlled by British subjects so domiciled, was a party, or under which any such person or company was entitled to any right or benefit, shall as from that date, have effect as if made by the Provisional Government of Burma as constituted on and from that date; and all obligations that were binding on the Provisional Government of Burma immediately prior to the said date, and all liabilities, contractual or otherwise, to which that Government was then subject, shall, in so far as any such person or company as aforesaid is interested, devolve on the Provisional Government of Burma as so constituted.

(b) In so far as any property, or any interest in any property vested in any person or authority in Burma before the coming into force of the Constitution of the Union of Burma, or the benefit of any contract entered into by any such person or authority before that date, is thereafter transferred to, or vested in the Provisional or any successor Government of Burma, it shall be so transferred or vested subject to such rights as may previously have been created and still subsist therein, or in respect thereof, in favour of any person or company of the status or character described in the preceding sub-article.

Article 8
The contracting Governments being resolved to conclude at the earliest possible date a mutually satisfactory Treaty of Commerce and Navigation have agreed for a period of two years from the date of the coming into force of the present Treaty or until the conclusion of such a Treaty of Commerce and Navigation to conduct their commercial relations in the spirit of Nos. 1-3 of the Exchange of Notes annexed hereto, provided that, at any time after six months from the date of the coming into force of the present Treaty, either party may give three months' notice to terminate the undertaking set out therein.

Article 9
The contracting Governments agree to maintain postal services, including Air Mail services and Money Order services, on the existing basis, subject to any alteration in matters of detail which may be arranged between their respective Postal Administrations as occasion may arise.

Article 10
The Provisional Government of Burma agree to negotiate Treaty arrangements in respect of the care and upkeep of war cemeteries and/or war graves of the British Commonwealth and Empire in Burma with the Governments represented on the Imperial War Graves Commission and, pending negotiation of such arrangements, to recognize the Imperial War Graves Commission as the sole authority responsible for dealing with such war cemeteries and/or war graves and to accord to the Commission the privileges set out in Nos. 4 and 5 of the Exchange of Notes annexed to the present Treaty.

Article 11
The contracting Governments will accord to each other the same treatment in civil aviation matters as heretofore, pending the conclusion of an Agreement in regard to them, provided that this arrangement may be terminated on six months' notice given by either side.

Article 12
The contracting Governments agree to conclude at the earliest possible date an agreement for the avoidance of double taxation.

Article 13
Nothing in the present Treaty is intended to or shall in any way prejudice the rights and obligations which devolve or may devolve upon either of the contracting parties under the Charter of the United Nations or from any special agreements concluded in virtue of Article 43 of the Chapter.

Article 14
Should any difference arise relative to the application or the interpretation of the present Treaty, and should the contracting parties fail to settle such difference by direct negotiations, the difference shall be deferred to the International Court of Justice unless the parties agree to another mode of settlement.

Article 15
The present Treaty shall be ratified and shall come into force immediately upon the exchange of Instruments of Ratification, which shall take place on the day on which Burma becomes independent in accordance with the appropriate legislation to be introduced in the United Kingdom for that purpose.

In witness whereof the above-named plenipotentiaries have signed the present Treaty and have affixed thereto their Seals.

Done in duplicate in London this 17th day of October, 1947.

(Sd.) Clement Richard Attlee.


(Sd.) Thakin Nu.


Excerpt from Premier Nu’s
January 4, 1948.


From the dim and distant days shrouded in the mists of antiquity, born of the same mother the Shan, Kachin, Karen, Chin, Mon and the Burman brethren have lived in loving friendship, in unity that could not be shattered and in freedom that could not be shackled. The freedom we have won is not the freedom for a privileged few. This freedom is for all the indigenous peoples, for all the sons and daughters of our sacred soil to enjoy. No community, no tongues, no creed, no sect divide us and we are one.  The Union of the Republic of Burma has become an Independent Sovereign State.



U Nu was very much impressed with Mhattamaji’s down to earth life style as well as the mat hat which he observed during the visit. Upon his return Premier Nu ordered a special Burmese hat and sent U Ohn to represent him in presenting the hat to the national leader of India, Mahattamaji. Unfortunately, as U Ohn’s special plane was hovering over New Delhi’s airport Mahattamaji was short to death by a Hindi extremist.


In his younger days, Premier Nu took a vow that he would undergo to fulfill parami hpjei [strive to and help others attain the virtues] the necessary parami [the ten principal virtues]. They are: Dhanna [charity], Thihla [precepts], Neikhama [renunciation], Pyinnyar [knowledge], Wiriya [endeavor], Thitsar [veracity], Khanti [forbearance], Myittar [benevolence], Upyitkhar [detachment], and Adeikhtan [vow] to attain Buddha-hood to salvage all sentient beings. He had never lost sight of his resolution and tried to add more vows to improve his original resolution no matter in what preoccupation he was trapped in. 

When he became the Prime Minister he was just a little over 40 years old. Soon after he and his family settled in at the Windermere Park he ordered a new wooden house built in the same compound where he later stayed leaving the main household as well as the family behind. With one eye on the attainment of the Buddha-hood Premier Nu took a vow of celibacy at the age of 41. Daw Mya Yi also took the vow to help assist her husband in his endeavor to attain the Buddha-hood in every humanly possible way, a promise made not only in this present life but also in the Than dhaja [cycle of rebirths], many millions of lives to come.


Sometimes in 1949 when the Government of Burma started to have a little breather, Premier Nu received an urgent message requesting special assistance from Indonesia's nationalist freedom fighter Dr. Soekarno. Indonesia was at the last stage of its struggle against the Dutch and their independence movement was in dire need of such assistance to make the final putsch.

The Burmese Government scrounged through its arsenal and loaded whatever was available onto two Union of Burma Airways DC 3 planes. Minister of Commerce Thakin Thar Khin was assigned, under Cabinet decision to deliver the consignment to Indonesia's beleaguered leader. When Thakin Thar Khin’s two planes entered Indonesia air space two Dutch fighters approached and challenged. The Pilots hoisted the Burmese flag on top of the planes and responded that the Burmese Minister of Commerce and his trade delegation were on their way to visit Jakarta. The two Burmese planes landed and taxied to the other end as prearranged and unloaded the cargo into the hands of the freedom fighters. This arm delivery was one of the straws that broke the Dutches back in Indonesia. The Minister of Commerce of the Union of Burma had successfully carried out the official gun running business to help assist Indonesia to regain its independence.          



Seated from Left to Right: Hon’ble Mrs. Ba Maung Chain , Hon’ble Sao Khun Cho, H.E. Premier U Nu, H.E. President Dr. Ba U, Hon’ble U Ba Swe, Hon’ble U Tin and Hon’ble U Win.
Standing First Row:  [third from left] Hon’ble Sao Wunna, Hon’ble U Ba Saw, Hon’ble U Tun Phay, Hon’ble U Raschid, Hon’ble Bo Khin Maung Galay, Hon’ble Bo Minn Gaung, Hon’ble Thakin Thar Khin, and Hon’ble Thakin Tin.
Standing second row: Hon’ble U Tun Win, Hon’ble Sama Duwa Sinwah Naung, Hon’ble U Khin Maung Latt , Hon’ble Thakin San Myint, Hon’ble Saw Aung Pa, Hon’ble Mahn Win Maung, and Hon’ble Thakin Kyaw Dun. The rest were Presidential Staff members and Aides De Camps.



Premier Nu, following the example of the Government of Iran in employing foreign firm to compile a report on economic resources, instructed Secretary for the National Planning U Hla Muang to find a suitable firm for the similar task for Burma. U Hla Maung recruited Knappen-Tippetts-Abbett Engineering Company [KTA], which enlisted Pierce Management [mining specialists] and Robert R. Nathan Associates [RRNA] [a group of economists]. Robert Nathan had been a ‘lieutenant’ in the New Deal program of President Roosevelt and was dubbed as a ‘brain child of Roosevelt’ [I, for one, prefer the free enterprise democratic system and am convinced it can function successfully and for the benefit of all mankind."   — Robert R. Nathan, Mobilizing for Abundance, November 1943.]. KTA was first funded by the US and had arrived in Rangoon in 1951. The Government of the Union of Burma notified the US Government that the aid program ‘would be brought to an end on June 30, 1953’. The Burmese Government footed the bill and kept the KTA until they completed their studies.

From August 4 to 17 of 1952, the AFPFL government initiated a Conference in Rangoon, which was known as ‘Pyidawtha Conference’ with specific application as ‘local self-help’ or ‘community cooperation’. The Conference agenda was as follows: August 4: Prime Minister’s opening keynote speech ‘Towards a Welfare State’; August 7: Minister Bo Min Gaung – ‘Plan for the Devolution of Powers’; August 8: Minister U Ba Swe – ‘Democratization of Local Administration’; August 9: Minister Bo Khin Maung Gale – ‘Agricultural and Rural Development Five-Year Plan’; August 11: Minister U Kyaw Myint – ‘Target for Economic Development’; August 12 Minister Thakin Tin – ‘Land Nationalization Plan’; August 13: Minister U Ba Saw – ‘Development Plan for the Underdeveloped Areas’; August 14: Minister M. A. Raschid – ‘Housing Plan’; August 15:  Minister Mahn Win Maung – ‘Transport and Communications’; August 16: Minister U Than Aung – ‘Education Plan’; August 17: Minister U Khin Maung Latt – ‘Medical and Public Health Plans’. 

Premier Nu’s ‘Towards a Welfare State’ marathon speech lasted more than four and one half-hour in which he expressed strongly that he looked forward to the ‘time when every family in Burma would possess a house, a car, and an income of Kyats 800 per month’ and he stressed ‘your country is rich enough to provide these amenities’.



Throughout his tenure in office cow slaughter was banned by Premier Nu except for the armed forces on regular basis and Muslims for their special occasions. Detractors and opponents accused that cow in Burmese is Nwa and both Nwa and Nu are sanei nan [belong to Saturday planet] and therefore U Nu prevented it from killing. What nonsense? Premier Nu explained why he opposed and banned cow slaughter “If cattle were raised just for slaughtering for meat I would not have objected at all. But cows were used as beast of burden from whose hard labor we human beings benefited and when they grew old and could not carry on the burden, then, cows were slaughtered. It is not only utter cruelty but also ungrateful to our benefactors”.



The Naga from Burma, the Head Hunters cannibals, crossed into India and hunted several heads of the Indian Nagas. This saga had been going on for ages. Premier Nu took the initiative and pacified the indigenous Nagas. Premier Nehru of India was invited to attend the Peace Ceremony where the Nagas had laid down their arms to Burma’s Government and returned to peaceful co-existence. Premiers Nehru and Nu participated in the Naga victory dance.


After Independence was re-gained from the British the communists went underground. Some ethnic groups joined the rebellion and many areas within Burma had become killing fields. With the motto “Peace within a year” Premier Nu tried his level best to restore peaceful coexistence among the majority Burmese and the ethnic minorities. Premier Nu invited Karen national leader Saw Ba Oogyi to his official residence to discuss peace plan. Saw Ba Oogyi spent about three days and three nights staying as the house guest of Premier Nu.

The international press ridiculed Premier Nu’s government and dubbed as ‘Rangoon Government’.  As a matter of fact it was not wrong because the writ of government reached no further than the circumference of the Rangoon City limit. One city after another fell to the insurgents throughout the country. In 1949 Burma’s major cities and towns were under insurgents, for example: Mawchi, Papun, Thaton, Bassein, Insein, Twante, Pantanaw, Einme, Nyaunglebin, Taungoo, Meikhtila, Kyaukse, Maymyo, Mandalay, Loikaw, Taunggyi, Lashio, and Namkhan were under KNDO; Henzada, Tharawaddy, Pyinmana, Yamethin, Myingyan, and Pakoku were under Communists; Prome, Thayetmyo, Magwe, Minbu, Yenangyaung, Chauk, Thandwe and Kyaukphyu were under PVO and Army Mutineers. The Mujahids controlled Rathedaung and Buthidaung. 

International opinion on Burma was horrendous. By early 1950 the United States regarded Burma as ‘finished’. President Truman’s roving ambassador Philip Jessup summed up Burma’s situation as ‘well-nigh hopeless’. There was an American Mission to investigate the conditions to determine the possibility of granting US Aid in April 1950, and asked the Burmese Government ‘whether a necessary condition for the sanctioning of aid would be the adoption by Burma of an anti-Communist attitude’. The Burmese Government ‘tartly replied’ that ‘Our government will be satisfied if you can drive all over Rangoon and not see a single roadblock’.

The Government of the Union of Burma was facing a firsthand onslaught of colossal betrayal by its own armed forces as well as by some eerie ethnic minorities. The armed forces, whose fundamental duty was to defend the Constitution and the government elected in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution by the people, but, to the contrary, the armed forces of Burma mutinied against the legally elected government, breaking the oath of allegiance they took every morning. Burma Army was, from the very early days, capricious and had partiality to betraying the people.

First Burma Rifles [1st Burifs], one half of Third Burma Rifles [3rd Burifs], Sixth Burma Rifles [6th Burifs] defected to the Communist Party of Burma [CPB].  1st, 2nd, and 3rd Karen Rifles and 1st Kachin Rifles defected to the KNDO [Karen National Defense Organization]. A resounding 42% of its personnel and 45% of all equipment of the Burma Army were ‘estimated lost’ to the rebels.  There were approximately 2,000 soldiers defending the government of the Union in early 1949. But, within a couple of years Burma armed forces had raised to ‘the strength of more than 30,000 well-equipped’ soldiers by the relentless and unwrinkled efforts made by the civilian political as well as by the military leaders, who remained, so far, loyal to the Constitution. 

If Bogyoke Aung San was regarded as the father of the Burma Armed Forces, Premier Nu could be unmistakably regarded as the most benevolent Uncle who had helped reestablished the Burma Army to its stature and shape. Besides, Premier Nu had saved once the Army from becoming an illegitimate rebel force in 1958 by transferring state power through legal means in the Parliament when two top brass power-mongers Colonels Aung Gyi and Maung Maung planned to seize the State power.

If and once the Constitution is abrogated the armed forces that was formed under the stipulations of the Constitution becomes no more than a mere bunch of insurgents.




Sometimes in 1952 Premier Nu meditated a few days with a singular aspiration of focusing on the design of the edifice for the Synod. When he was satisfied with what he had envisioned during his meditation he gave instructions to U Hla Gyaw [Fire Brigade], elder brother of Minister Bo Min Gaung and gave detail design of a cave. A model was brought to Premier Nu within a few days. That was how the Mahapatharna Cave or Guha was implemented near Kaba Aye Pagoda

When Kaba Aye Pagoda was built it was solely built with donations from the people. The Cave for the Sixth Synod was built through government’s fund as well as donations from the public. Days after days, students and people, old and young alike from all walks of life, from near and afar gave free labor. Many organizations donated free food and drink to the people donating labor. 

On May 17, 1954, the world celebrated the 3-Day Opening Ceremony of the “Chatta Sangayana” at the Maha Pasana Guha [Sixth Buddhist Synod] commenced with pomp and pageantry. The First Great Council held at Rajagaha, India four months after His Mahaparinibbana with the aim to arrange, classify and recite; the Second Great Council held at Vesali, in India, in 100 B.E.; the Third Great Council at Pataliputta in India, 235 B.E.; the Fourth Great Council at Ceylon, circa 450 B.E.; the Fifth Great Council at Mandalay in Burma in 2415 B.E.

Now the Sixth was decided by the five Theravadin countries of Burma, Thailand, Ceylon, Cambodia and Laos to satisfy the following conditions:
[1] To revise the Texts which contain some mis-spellings and omissions due to repeatedly copying the Five Nikayas;
[2] To print these edited Pitakas in books, to recite them at the Sixth Great Buddhist Council, and to distribute them all over the world with the object of preserving the Dhamma;  and
[3] To enable the Union of Burma, in co-operation and collaboration with all Buddhist countries to promote the Buddha Sasana.

Messages were sent from His Holiness Somdet Phra Vajirayannavongs, Supreme Patriarch of Thailand; Lanka Uttaritara Saba, Supreme Executive Council of Ceylon; H.E. Dr. Rajendra Prasad, President of India; His Majesty the King of Nepal Tribuban Bira Bikram Shah Deva; His Majesty the King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej, Upholder of the Buddhist Faith in Thailand; Sangharaja of Cambodia His Holiness Samdach Preah Maha Sumedhadhipati; Rt. Hon’ble Sir John Kotelawala, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka; Hon’ble Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India; Hon’ble Mr. Shigeru Yoshida, Prime Minister of Japan; Hon’ble Shri M.P. Koirala, Prime Minister of Nepal; Hon’ble Mr. Shuhei Higa, Chief Executive of the Government of Ryukyu Islands; Hon’ble Field-Marshal P. Pibulsonggram, President of the Council of Ministers of Thailand; Her Majesty’s Government of United Kingdom of Great Britain, and many dignities.

Premier U Nu made the Address of Veneration, opened with: “Ciram titthatu sadhammo dhamme hontu sagarava”. Some excerpts of the address were as follows: “May the doctrine of the good which comprises three parts pariyatti [learning], patipatti [practice, and pativedha [insight] last for a long time – Buddhism flourishes in Burma not only now but has ever since the days of the Buddha’s life-time. May all be respectful and reverential towards the doctrine which teaches right living”.

Premier U Nu made the concluding remark: “The Union Buddha Sasana Council has, on behalf of the Government and the people of Burma, constituted 48 groups of Pali Editors and 116 boards of Revisers selected from amongst Mahatheras and monks of other Theravada Buddhist countries who are highly proficient in the Pali Scriptures. The scriptures were put into five main divisions and the words and characters in them have been edited and revised in comparison with the various editions of the Pali Texts of the Scriptures from Therava countries and also with commentaries, sub-commentaries, grammars and dictionaries of all sorts and this work has been finished. A good and correct text of the Vinaya Pitaka acceptable to the monks of Burma and other Theravadin countries was produced and its printing has been completed. The printing of the Sutta Pitaka and the Abhidhamma Pitaka will be taken in hand in continuation in a regular series.

It is now time for a righteous decision to be taken and a collective recital made of this good and correct text of the Pali Pitaka Scriptures which has been edited and revised again and again by 2,500 wise monks present at the great assembly of the Sixth Buddhist Council, who are virtuous and fond of discipline, well versed in the Scriptures and devoted to religious practices, in the same fashion as was done at the First Buddhist Council by 500 Arahats led by Venerable Mahakassapa, Upali, Ananda, Anuruddha and others.

In making preparations for the First Buddhist Council, King Ajatasattu, Supporter of the Sasana addressed the Arahats mahatheras, headed by Mahakassapa thus: [Sadhu bhante visattharkarotha mayam anacakkam tumhakam dhammacakkam] ‘Venerable Sirs, please give a righteous decision with regard to the doctrine without any fear or hesitancy, while I on my part will protect you with temporal power’.  Following that precedent, I shall address the Venerable abbots and monks now present at the holding of the Sixth Buddhist Council, on behalf of the Union Government and the people of Burma, headed by the Buddha Sasana Council and composed of various nationalities, such as the Burmans, Mon, Shan, Chin, Kachin, Karen, Arakanese and Kayah in this manner. Venerable Sirs, please give a righteous decision with regard to the good and correct form of Pitaka Scriptures, while the Union Government will protect you with legal authority. May I most respectfully request you, Venerable Sirs, who are virtuous, fond of discipline, well versed in the sacred scriptures and devoted to righteous practices, and who belong to the noble lineage of holy Arahats, to give a recital of the Scriptures without any fear or hesitancy”.   

Venerable Mahasi Sayardor Phyarji U Thawbita, on behalf of the Sangha congregation raised questions to find out whether the Lord Buddha himself gave such Suttas - when and why, etc? Venerable Ashin U Wisaittasara Vivemsa answered in details on what occasion and where the Lord Buddha gave such Sutta or sermon and reason of given such Sutta. The Sixth Synod did successfully close, exactly two years after it had commenced on the day coincided with Buddhist Calendar, the Day of Completion of Year 2,500 “After Death” of the Lord Buddha, May 24, 1956. 




Premier Nu made round the world trip visiting various countries in 1955. From left to right: Major Lwin, Chief of Military Intelligence, War Office; U Thant, Prime Minister’s Information Secretary who later became the Secretary General of the United Nations [UN]; U Hla, Second Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office; Daw Mya Yi [Mrs. Nu]; and, Premier Nu of Burma.




Politicking, or, socializing, or, doing meritorious deeds the two did them with one mind and one objective – He to become Buddha and she to provide any humanly possible support for him to attain the Omniscience throughout the Samsara: [cycle of rebirths].




To the US Congressional leaders Premier Nu of Burma urged to nurture friendly relationship with the Communist Peoples’ Republic of China among other international concerns. 

From left to right: Congressional leaders, third from left: Burma’s Ambassador to the United States of America James Barrington, Premier’s Information Secretary U Thant, Military Intelligence Chief Major Lwin, and Premier Nu.

H.E. Field Marshal Pibul Songram and Madame Liard Songram

Premier Nu made a public speech at Sanam Luang, near Emerald Buddha where he made a public apology to the people of Thailand on behalf of the people of Burma, and, added he along with the people of Burma of today were not responsible for the atrocities that the Burmese had incurred on the Thais because ‘we were not born then'.




Sometime in late December 1955 Soviet Communist party Secretary General Khrushchev and Premier Bulganin visited Burma. Premier Nu’s AFPFL government gave them rousing welcome by having young students lined up the Prome Road from the Mingaladon airport all the way to the President House where the two were residing. It was one of the biggest blows to the Burmese Communists that had followed directives from the Soviet Communist Party to go underground as Soviet’s CCCP advocated that the Independence Burma gained from the British was a sham. The independence must be fought to regain; then only it was a genuine independence, according to the Stalinist line. The only genuine independence was the one that gained through revolution. The Stalinist line had sent many Asian Communist parties to underground. Though all of them returned to the legal fold Burma’s Communists never returned. The Soviet leaders’ visit to Burma tantamount to full recognition to the so-called sham independence of Burma as the genuine one. 



From left to right: Foreign Minister of South Vietnam, Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, Premier Chou En-lai of Peoples’ Republic of China, President Dr. Ba U, Premier Nehru of India, President Nasser of Egypt, Foreign Minister Marshall Chen Yi of Peoples’ Republic of China, and, Premier U Nu of Burma.



At the farewell party for H.E. Israeli Ambassador to Burma, Prime Minister’s Residence.

Front row from left to right: Israeli Counselor, U Raschid, Israeli Ambassador in Burmese dress, Premier Nu, Deputy Prime Minister U Kyaw Nyein, and Chief Justice U Myint Thein.
Second row from left to right: Daw Khin Kyi [Madame Aung San], Daw Phwar May [Mrs. Myint Thein], Israeli Ambassador’s wife, Mrs. Fatima Raschid, Daw Nwe Yi [Mrs. Kyaw Nyein], and Prime Minister’s Information Secretary U Thant.  



Premier Nu celebrating Burmese New Year in Rangoon. He invited President Nasser of Egypt and the Chinese Premier Chou En-lai to participate. The foreign dignitaries enjoyed thoroughly and roamed around without any fanfare of armed soldiers escorting them. True leaders dare to take the security risk as they have faith in people and love of the people is assured. They believe in a democratic motto: For the People, By the People, and Of the People!



Premier Nu accompanied by Minister of Industry U Raschid visited Indonesia. Whether inside Burma or in foreign land Premier Nu was seen with national dress. As an ardent believer in democracy and have strong faith in the people Premier Nu easily strolled around without any or thousands of armed soldiers guarding him.



The government under Premier Nu held regular press conferences at the Conference Pavilion inside Windermere Park. A few days before a regular press conference, almost all the newspaper declared that under the Nu-Tin Government there was no freedom of press and expression. Therefore, from the day of the press conference there would be no editorial but only blackout as an expression that the editors could not express freely.

The Prime Minister, Dr. E Maung, Prime Minister’s Advisor U Ohn and few other ministers were in attendance at the press conference. Premier Nu opened the conference as follows:

Well, friends and respected masters of freedom of expression, all of today’s papers have blackouts editorials as an expression of lack of freedom of expression under this government. I welcome the expression heartily. But, let me examine with all of you that would it be possible to express or demonstrate in such a manner under a dictatorial government where freedom of expression is forbidden or unheard of thing?  I want you to reconsider seriously that the fact alone that you all are in attendance after expressing the editorial with blackouts columns, is it not to be considered as the freedom of expression prevails under this government?

All the journalists, publishers, editors in attendance were in stony silence, even a drop of a pin could be heard in the Pavilion. Both sides seemed to be sizing up each other. A few minutes had passed without a word. There, slowly, Ed Law Yone of the English Dailies, The Nation, stood up and rebutted: “Mr. Prime Minister, ministers and fellow journalists, we are here to protest against the Government, we had planned and we had even implemented our first step by publishing blackout editorial today. Now, we have to report tomorrow what the Prime Minister just now argued and I am sure after reading such explanation or argument I don’t think the masses would abide by our side. All things considered, may we call our protest - off?”  

The journalists moved a bit in their seats but no comment was made for a few more minutes. U Ohn Khin, Editor of Bamakhit  stood up, “I support U Law Yone’s move and I am satisfied with what Ko Nu had explained or argued. I called quit”.  Loud whispers among the journalists were heard and one of the junior journalists stood up after a while and announced: “the Protest against the government concerning the freedom of expression has been called - quit”.



Just before the State Power was legally transferred, Premier Nu as the Prime Minister formed an independent Inquiry Commission with Justice U Thein Maung as its head to inquire whether he, as the Prime Minister, had done any misappropriation or any wrong doing, and if so, the Commission is to advice the Caretaker Government to take action against him. The Commission after deliberation and investigation reported there was no wrong doing what so ever Premier Nu had committed.

Anyhow, the first act of the Caretaker Prime Minister Ne Win was ordering revocation of the ban on cow slaughter license.  Simultaneously, Ne Win formed an Inquiry Commission and appointed U Lun Baw, Chief of the Civil Service Commission as its head and instructed to investigate whether there was any misappropriation of the outgoing government especially in building the Kabar Aye [World Peace] Pagoda, the Withakhar Pavilion and the Cave that held Sixth Buddhist Synod. Lun Baw Commission reported that Kabar Aye Pagoda was built solely with the general public donation and there was not a single penny misappropriated from the government coffer; Daw Mya Yi [Mrs. Nu] built the Withakhar Pavilion with the funds donated by her friends, not even a penny was publicly collected let alone misappropriated the government funds. As for the Cave, both public donation and Cabinet approved budget for the construction were used and there was no misappropriation.


On May 1, 1959 Premier Nu, the President of the Clean AFPFL gave a speech on the Northern Ground of the Shwedagon Pagoda, Martyr’s Hill. To sum up the speech, what Premier Nu said was that if the mandated elections was not going to hold, which was already overdue, the Clean AFPFL would lead a non-cooperation civil disobedient movement. He commandeered the masses to get ready for the event.

Premier Nu propounded that “In a totalitarian system, the only thing that is taken into account is the accomplishment or completion of what the dictator or dictator-group wants”, and declared “As our Union of Burma is a democratic country, the power of the government is derived from the people. This is explicitly stated in the Constitution. Therefore, in this country the Government must exist for the people only; the people should not exist for the government. The government cannot or should not by force impose on the people all that it wants to do. The public should be first informed and educated.  The leaders of the people should be asked to discussions and consultations. If there are differences of opinion, compromises and concessions should be made on a give-and-take basis”. 

An analysis Premier Nu made was that “Firstly, the road of compliance, taking the attitude that nothing can be done in the present circumstances. Secondly, the road of violent retaliation, taking the attitude that force must be met by force. Thirdly, the road of Non-Violent Struggle for Democracy”,which is to meet“anger and hostility with love and amicableness on our side” the course of conduct “approved by the Buddha”.

The course of action was unfolded and explained that “some persons would participate in mass meetings, procession, and collective prayer-meetings; other would just pray according to their own religions for the preservation of democracy from threats and dangers; while still others would go about doing meritorious deeds, such as offering alms to monks, buying up live fish from the market and letting the fish go unharmed back to rivers and lakes”; and he arduously presented that “I myself am quite resolved and am firmly determined in the cause of democracy to face and endure without flinching any danger, any risk, whether it is arrest, torture, or death”. 



Premier Nu intensified his condemnation of the “vipers within the midst of the AFPFL --- Idlers, self-seekers, opportunists, and power maniacs”. Premier Nu used BSI to set an exemplary. In the Cabinet Premier Nu proposed BSI to investigate his wife Daw Mya Yi in buying an estate on Goodliffe Road. As an addendum he assigned Cabinet Secretary U Win Phay, an ICS, attached to the BSI in this particular case per se.

Daw Mya Yi was quite appalled when BSI Director U Chan Thar sought an appointment and added he would come along with the Cabinet Secretary U Win Phay. Daw Mya Yi was able to present the deeds and title that she bought from U Hla Gyaw, the original owner, at a total price of Kyat 8,000. The investigators were satisfied, as the case was pure business transaction between the two free consented adults. The case was cleared and reported to the Cabinet as it was decided at the Cabinet level.



The Constituent Assembly was opened on June 9, 1947. Though Thakin Nu was invited as the Vice President of the AFPFL he did not attend at all. It was quite apparent that Bogyoke Aung San, on principle could not accept any mentioning of religion in the Constitution. Some members “wished to include religion in some form or other, while others openly desired that Buddhism be made the state religion”. But no one dared to broach the subject because it would have to go against Bogyoke Aung San. It was ‘over my dead body’ type of situation between the hard surface and the rock.

Some “prominent monks and Buddhist leaders made an appeal in the newspapers that Buddhism be written into the Constitution” as the State Religion. The newspaper articles were slipped into Bo Aung San’s hand for perusal in the midst of a speech given before a conference. Bogyoke exploded “I can’t be getting up to look every time the dogs bark”. 

Bo Aung San’s snappish and uncouth remark had made monks as well as Buddhist leaders inconsolable so much so that British Governor Sir Hubert Rance requested Thakin Nu to intervene and provided a copy of the Irish Constitution. The Irish Constitution stated that“Catholicism was the religion professed by the majority but that Protestantism also had its adherents, and suggested Buddhism might be included in this guise in the Burma’s Constitution.  

Thakin Nu took the Irish Constitution and headed for Bogyoke’s residence, and, as a result, when the Draft Constitution was published, many were pleasantly surprised to see “Section 21: [1] The State recognizes the special position of Buddhism as the faith professed by the great majority of the citizens of the Union. [2] The State also recognizes Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Animism as some of the religions existing in the Union at the date of the coming into operation of this Constitution.

In a country where approximately 85% of the total population professed Buddhism, it would not be too presumptuous to take up Buddhism as the State Religion as long as there is no religious persecution and substantive tolerance of other religion prevails.

Premier Nu, with his insuppressible zeal and with more than two-third majority in the parliament after the 1960 elections was prepared to introduce the State Religion Bill to be amended in the Constitution.

Premier Nu could have done the task in the parliament; instead he formed an Inquiry Commission to sound out the public opinion. Except at a town in Kachin State, where the Commission met “rough reception”, the entire country gave resounding approval. No religious leaders filed “complaint that the intended bill in any way infringed their constitutional right but they all objected the bill” when they met Premier Nu in a special meeting. 

Freedom of worship was safeguarded by the Constitution: Section 21. [3] The State shall not impose any disabilities or make any discrimination on the ground of religious faith or belief.

Some Christian leaders expressed that though: Section 20. All persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess and practice religion subject to public order, and morality or health and to the other provisions of this Chapter; which conferred upon them the right to practice their religion. But, the Constitution did not specifically mention the “right to teach” and that was what they wanted as a Constitutional guarantee.

The Section 17. There shall be liberty for the exercise of the following rights subject to law, public order and morality: - [1] The right of the citizens to express freely their convictions and opinions; -- should have been covered the concern of the Christian leaders. But, the Prime Minister agreed to have “the right to teach their religion should be written into the Constitution”.

The plan to introduce the amendment Bill subsequently leaked out and the Buddhist monks were agitated and demanded such amendment of the right to teach should not be made at the current parliamentary session but wait until the Inquiry Commission’s report was submitted and reviewed. Premier Nu would not renege on his promise made to the Christian leaders. On the day the Bill was to be introduced the monks demonstrated against the Bill. Under police cordon the parliament was convened and the Prime Minister had to sneak in to get to the session as the throng of “yellow robes” encircled the Secretariat Building where the House of Representatives situated.

Muslim Cabinet Minister Mr. M. A. Raschid was allowed to object the bill without having to resign from the Cabinet, which is not a customary parliamentary procedure and practice; that is, if the minister could no longer support or act in line with the Prime Minister’s policy, he or she resigns. So were the Christian, Muslim and Hindu Pyidaungzau Party’s Members of Parliament were allowed to object the bill without having to resign. 

A couple of days after the bill was passed Duwa Zau Lawn, a Kachin leader and former Head of State visited Premier Nu to invite to a Christian Conference in Myitkyeena, the capital of the Kachin State. Duwaji expressed his gratification for the amended bill. At the Conference the Christian leaders expressed their opinion that “The State Religion issue had created serious misunderstanding which no amount of explanation could eliminate. But the amendment safeguarding the right to those of other religions to teach their respective religions had made for universal satisfaction”; thus all doubts and resentments were once and for all cleared. Hence, Buddhism became the State Religion of Burma.  




(1) With the exception of the area of Hpimaw, Gawlun and Kangfang, the entire undelimited boundary from the High Conical Peak to the Western extremity of the Burmese-Chinese boundary shall be delimited along the traditional customary line, that is to say, from the High Conical Peak northward along the watershed between the Taiping, the Shweli, the Nu (Salween) and the Tulung (Talon) Rivers on the one hand and the Nmai Nka River on the other, up to the place where it crosses the Tulung (Talon) River between Chingdam and Nhkumkang, and then along the watershed between the Tulung (Talon) and the Tsayul (Zayul) Rivers on the one hand and all the upper tributaries of the Irrawaddy River, except for the Tulung (Talon) River, on the other, up to the western extremity of the Burmese-Chinese boundary. The joint committee shall send out joint survey teams composed of an equal number of persons from each side to conduct surveys along the above mentioned watersheds so as to determine the specific alignment of this section of the boundary line and to set up boundary markers.

(2) The Burmese Government has agreed to return to China the area of Hpimaw, Gawlum and Kangfang which belongs to China. As to the extent of this area to be returned to China, it is to be discussed and determined by the joint committee in accordance with the proposals put forward and marked on maps by the Governments of Burma and China on February 4, 1957 and July 26, 1957, respectively. After determining the extent of this area to be returned to China, the joint committee shall send out joint survey teams composed of an equal number of persons from each side to conduct on-the-spot survey of the specific alignment of this section of the boundary line and to set up boundary markers.

(3) In order to abrogate the “perpetual lease” by Burma of the Meng-Mao triangular area (Namwan Assigned Tract) at the junction of the Namwan and the Shweli Rivers, which belongs to China, the Chinese Government has agreed to turn over this area to Burma to become part of the territory of the Union of Burma. In exchange the Burmese Government has agreed to turn over to China to become part of Chinese territory the areas under the jurisdiction of the Panhung and Panlao tribes, which are west of the boundary line from the junction of the Nam Ting and the Nampa Rivers to the No. 1 marker on the southcrn delimited section of the boundary as defined in the note exchanged between the Chinese and the British Governments on June 18, 1941. As to the extent of these areas to be turned over to China, the Chinese and the Burmese Governments put forward proposals marked on maps of July 26, 1957 and June 4, 1959, respectively. The area where the proposals of the two governments coincide will definitely be turned over to China. Where the proposals of the two Governments differ as to the area under the jurisdiction of the Panhung tribe, the joint committee will send out a team composed of an equal number of persons from each side to ascertain on the spot as to whether it is under the jurisdiction of the Panhung tribe, so as to determine whether it is to be turned over to China. After the extent of the areas under the jurisdiction of the Panlung and Panlao tribes to be turned over to China has been thus determined, the joint committee will send out joint survey teams composed of an equal number of persons from each side to conduct on-the-spot survey of the specific alignment of this section of the boundary line and to set up boundary markers.

(4) Except for the adjustment provided for in paragraph (3) of this Article, the section of the boundary from the junction of the Nam Ting and Nainpa Rivers to the No. 1 marker on the southern delimited section of the boundary shall be delimited as defined in the notes exchanged between the Chinese and British Governments on June 18, 1941. The joint committee shall send out joint survey teams composed of an equal number of persons from each side to carry out delimitation and demarcation along this section of the boundary line and set up boundary markers.



With overwhelming majority in the parliament Premier Nu felt beholden to redress the ethnic issues. During the independent struggle from the British, the ethnic leaders had supported fervently with esprit de corps of sink or swim together with the Burmese. At the Panglong Conference, the two leading Shan So Bwajis approached Premier Nu during the evening of the eve of the conference closing day and expressed that the Shan could not be part of the signatories as the suspicion on the Burmese was insurmountable. The three of them discussed amicably and inform Bogyoke Aung San what they had discussed.

After further deliberation, the Right of Secession was promised to include in the Union Constitution: Chapter 10 The Right of Secession: Section 201: Save as otherwise expressly provided in this Constitution or in any Act of Parliament made under section 199, [The Parliament may be an Act admit to the Union a new State upon such terms and conditions including the extent of representations of the State in the Parliament as may be specified in the Act.] every State shall have the right to secede from the Union in accordance with the conditions hereinafter prescribed.

And, Section 202: The right of secession shall not be exercise within ten years from the date on which this Constitution comes into operation.

The ethnic leaders had not exercised their Constitutional right even after ten years. They had worked hand in hand with the Central Government in nation’s building. But there were preponderant sentiment of ‘equality’ among the States and the slogan being that: “For every kyat the Burman gets, the Shan must get one kyat too” [Bamar ti’ kyat Shan ti’ kyat].

After the 1960 general elections Premier Nu took up the issue by inviting the Head of States and requested to “express any dissatisfaction they might feel over the annual budget grants”. After hearing their complaint that the finance minister had been granting arbitrarily Premier Nu told them “to draw up a scale and embody it in a system of future allocation” so that everybody would be satisfied. 

The States leaders drew the new system and presented to the Cabinet. Premier Nu promised them the new scheme would be adopted.  When the time came to make the grant, calculations were made according to the new system and the results had made the Head of States appalled. Under the new scale as proposed, “amounts equal to only two-thirds of the previous grants were payable to the Karen, Kayah, and Kachin with an exception of Shan, an increase of Kyat 500,000 was to be granted”. The Head of States earnestly requested their proposed scheme be scrapped.  A Cabinet decision was made that “Shan should get Kyat 500,000 in addition and the rest of the States should get the larger grants as before”.

With the mind setting in strengthening and solidifying the Union Premier Nu proposed to the Cabinet:

  1. The government now had more than a two-third majority in both chambers of Parliament. It was therefore a most propitious time to make necessary changes in the Constitution.
  2. While the government held this position, he wished to inquire of the state governments what changes, if any, they desired in the Union Constitution.
  3. On receipt of proposals from the state governments, a conference would be held to examine and discuss them in the widest possible terms. The conference would be attended by representatives of the Union and state governments as well as the Opposition parties.
  4. A family spirit would permeate the conference. Wherever consensus was reached immediate steps would be taken to give it effect; wherever a problem eluded solution it would continue to be discussed until agreement was reached.

With Cabinet approval the four-point proposal was circulated to the state governments and their responses and the arrangements for the conference were placed in the hands of the Minister of Justice Dr. E Maung.  

Through the military psychological warfare department as well as the MI that the ethnic leaders would “rebel against the government if their demand of having Burma proper as one of the equal states amongst them” at the Prime Minister’s Conference on Constitutional Reform was denied.

Premier Nu had no intimation to believe such rumor. The reason being that at the height of the insurgency the ethnic leaders could have squeezed the government by the “balls” but they showed their true color by abiding the constitution and have fought against the insurgencies side by side with Premier Nu. As a matter of fact, “it was the Burmese, not the ethnic, who winked at the insurgents when the writ of the government was confined only to Rangoon”.

The Federal Principles the ethnic leaders adopted at the Taung Gyi Conference, Shan States were:
[1] Burma proper would be turned into a constituent state of the Union, bringing it into parity with all other existing states.
[2] The two Chambers of Parliament, viz. The House of Nationalities and the House of Deputies would be invested with equal powers. 
[3] All constituent states of the Union {regardless of size and population} would have equal representation in the House of Nationalities. 

It was an adaptation of the constitution of the United States of America. If the ethnic leaders decided to exercise the Chapter 10 of the Constitution, which was the Right of Secession, there was no way Premier Nu or the parliament could disregard but had to put up and debate the issue through the parliamentary session. It was their constitutional right! 

The Prime Minister’s Conference on the Constitution Reform was commenced on March 1, 1962 evening at the Burma Broadcasting Station on Prome Road. The Prime Minister welcomed the delegates and many delegates had spoken. NUF representative Wudura Thakin Chit Maung made a very cogent argument why the Union should remain as it was. The conference adjourned around 9:00 PM.  Deputy Prime Minister Sao Hkun Hkio and Minister Sao Wunna, Head of States of Shan and Kareni States respectively accompanied Prime Minister Nu to the Prime Minister’s Office at No. 16 Windermere Park from the Conference.

Sao Hkun Hkio started the conversation:
Naun hpaja: rumors abound about us, have you heard of them? But, please do not believe them
You may set your mind at rest Hkio, I don’t, I trust you, besides, the rumor mill is ignorant of the fact that you all are here at my invitation
Thank you Naun hpaja: we are going to submit a resolution, which is to be discussed, that does not mean you must give in to us
I wonder Hkio who is spreading these rumors.  I can’t imagine what the purpose is
We can’t either Naun hpaja:

Within a few hours, on he early hours of March 2, 1962 Generl Ne Win usurped his position as the Chief of the Armed Forces made the coup de’tat  that pulled the country down the tube.

With message sending out through walkie-talkie by a group of soldiers from Premier Nu’s private residence:

Lau’ kaun mi. pji
Lau’ kaun mi. pji

The message was meant for the Prime Minister U Nu. The meaning of ‘Lau’ kaun’ literally is ‘maggot’ but it can also be interpreted as ‘traitor’.  “We‘ve got the maggot” - that was what the message sent. 

Brutus Ne Win had thus pulled a curtain down on a country where democracy was being nurtured and the national development was at the early stages of taking off. The country was on the road of no return since then until now. The prosperity of an emerging country was regrettably nipped in the bud. The President and the Chief Justice of the Union, the Prime Minister and the entire Cabinet, Shan national leaders were picked up and arrested “just like chickens and birds”.


[U Nu wrote the following letter from the prison]

 The Chairman  
 Revolutionary Council   

 6th November 1963


Dear General Ne Win,

On March 2, 1962, at 3 o’clock in the morning, a group of soldiers entered my house and took me to Mingaladon.

Along the whole way, and after my arrival at Mingaladon, for the rest of the morning, I was thinking: “Why have I been arrested like this? Have the other Ministers been arrested too? Is this a seizure of power by the military? Are there any special reasons why the military should have to seize power?”

After thinking thus, I could not, at that time, understand why there had been a seizure of power under your leadership.

While I was thinking, an idea entered my mind. My arrest is unknown to General Ne Win, but is the act of some adventurous officers within the army. As soon as General Ne Win learns of my arrest, he will chastise this group and come to release me, I thought. Up to 9 o’clock that morning, when I received the clothes sent from my house, I was thinking: “Why did my family send these clothes when I will be returning any time now”.

At 12 noon, an officer of the Army came into my room and informed me that the President wanted to see me. “There,” I thought, “it is as I suspected. The General has met with the officers responsible for my arrest and the situation has returned to normal. He cannot come personally, so he has sent the President to call me back”. I was filled with joy. Only when I met the President did I learn that he too had been arrested.

Completely ignorant of the situation outside, I had sat in my little room at Mingaladon, day—dreaming. Only after some time, when I had adjusted to the reality of the situation, did I have a secret laugh at my earlier thoughts.

The Revolutionary Council has declared that the seizure of power was undertaken for no other reason than to control the conditions of the country which had deteriorated almost to the point of collapse.

Which conditions did the Revolutionary Council mean by these deteriorated conditions? What exactly are “deteriorated conditions?”

I read in the newspapers that a spokesman for the Revolutionary Council, in a statement to the members of the foreign Press, went into some detail in explaining what was meant by these “deteriorated conditions”.

According to this person, while in other countries where the situation had deteriorated, only the political and economic conditions had deteriorated, Burma was a very special case. Not only the political and economic, but also the religious conditions had deteriorated. This is what I understood after reading the statements made at the Press Conference for foreign journalists.

You and your colleagues are nationalistic, sincerely devoted to the interests of the country. I respect your concern for the country in the light of your opinions.

I too, like you, am nationalistic and sincerely devoted to the country. I expect that you, General, believe this. So please let me put forward my views to the country. Let me declare all that is in my mind, freely.

First, I would like to put forward the questions. Later, I shall answer them myself.

The deteriorated conditions:
(1) Religious Conditions
(2) Economic Conditions
(3) Political Conditions

How much had they deteriorated? Had they reached proportions to warrant the seizure of power by the military? Were they so bad that they could no longer be controlled or remedied by any other means?

I shall take up these points one by one.

I. The Religious Conditions
I admit that by making Buddhism the State Religion, national solidarity, which was already in a weak state, was further weakened. But I had anticipated this point, and in order that this deterioration may be arrested in time, I immediately enacted the Fourth Amendment. Article 20 of the Constitution says – “All persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess and practice religion etc.” The non-Buddhist leaders wanted to add “and preach” between “practice” and “religion”, if we were going to make Buddhism the State Religion. I at once added the two words by means of an Amendment, which is known as the Fourth Amendment.

I knew that, by promulgating the Fourth Amendment, some Buddhist elements would be so angered as to want to crush me, but I decided that I could beg their patience and clarify matters later. It was enough that the process of deterioration in the unity of the country was being prevented as far as possible. It would be sufficient, I thought, if I could ensure that the religious animosities were not allowed to assume the proportions of the disruptive, destructive forces such as those of the Hindus and Muslims of India. And it is with this objective in mind that I promulgated the Fourth Amendment.

Before doing this, I was able to observe some very valuable developments in the fears and suspicions of the minority religious groups who had thought “Declaring Buddhism the State Religion is the first step. The next step will be for these Burmans to ensure gradually that no other religion can be practiced”; these fears were greatly dispelled by the Fourth Amendment. Many leaders of these minority religious groups came forward to express their thanks for the Fourth Amendment. Allow me to illustrate with a little anecdote to what extent the Fourth Amendment prevented the further deterioration.

Shortly after promulgating the Fourth Amendment, I paid a visit to the Kachin State. As soon as I arrived at Myitkyina, the Area Commander, the Secretary of the Kachin State, the District Officer and the Superintendent of Police, all approached me with the following explanation: “With the declaration of the State Religion, the condition in the Kachin State was considerably worsened. In other matters, our explanations were all accepted by the Kachin leaders. But we could not explain State Religion and all our attempts to do so were completely rejected. Only when you put out the Fourth Amendment did we regain our peace of mind. Only then did we regain the trust of the Kachin leaders”. This was put forward by the Area Commander himself and supported by the other officials.

This was not all. These officials arranged a meeting with some leaders of the Kachin people who had won the love and respect of the people through their integrity. These men also admitted that the Fourth Amendment came as a great relief to them.

After the meeting, I attended the Kachin Conference organized by Duwa [a Kachin title] Zaw Lun and party. At this point I would like to say a few words about Duwa Zaw Lun. Duwa Zaw Lun is the Chairman of the Kachin People’s Party. He also served for several years as the Chairman of the Kachin State. He was one of the leaders who violently opposed State Religion before and after it became law.

The words of Duwa Zaw Lun to the Conference convened by him are extremely clear and definite: “When Buddhism was declared the State Religion, my colleagues and I were very suspicious of the Union Government. For this reason, I personally led the opposition against State Religion. But the Union Government has now given us the Fourth Amendment. We are no longer suspicious of the Union Government. We are now satisfied”. These were, in effect, the words contained in his speech. Not content with clarifying these points in Burmese, he repeated them in Kachin. And, not content with saying so at the Conference, his party set about printing these points and distributing them throughout the Kachin State. Thus, I can declare definitely that the religious conditions in the country were not in a state of deterioration.

II. The Economic Conditions
There are many countries whose economic conditions are in a state of great deterioration. In such countries, the President, the Prime Minister and the Ministers are men who allow import licenses to be given to those members of the economic sector who can offer them the biggest bribes. The authorities can be bribed into letting them hoard luxury goods and later sell them at exorbitant rates in the black market. This causes discontent among the starving masses, and they rise up against them. From this general unrest may spring acts as serious as looting and rioting over food throughout the land.

During the two years’ tenure of power by the Pyidaungsu Government, such a situation has never come about. And economic situations have never approximated such a stage of deterioration.

This is not to claim that the prices of goods did not rise under the Pyidaungsu Government. They did rise. But they were rising all over the world. There is no country in the world where prices are falling. Although we were not able to bring down the prices to the level we wanted, we did succeed in keeping them from rising disproportionately. Under the Pyidaungsu regime, there was never any need to ask the price of a “rati” [a unit of measure for precious stones, gems] of dried shrimp. This mean that dried shrimp or other essential consumer good has not become as dear as the precious stones or gems.

As a first step towards lowering prices, we sought to abolish the black market by expanding the B.S.I. [Bureau of Special Investigation]. As a second step, we had prepared new legislation regarding export licenses and loans to the people. Beginning March 2, preparations had been made to form Councils for the purpose of combating the black market, bribery and other corrupt and dishonest economic practices. But even before we could set up these Councils, we were arrested on the morning of March 2.
Thus, I can say definitely that the deteriorated economic conditions did not exist in the Union.

III. The Political Conditions
Firstly, I would like to discuss the question of the Arakan State and the Mon State. I am one of those opposed to Federalism. But in politics, there are no set rules. Although I may have said that I will never confer or negotiate with the “multi—colored [of various political parties] rebels from the underground, there have been times when I was forced to confer and negotiate with them. The mighty British and French Empires both proclaimed that they would never relinquish a fraction of their territory. Yet, when the situation was ripe, they were forced to grant independence to a great many of their colonies. Those citizens of the Union of Burma who were opposed to the creation of the Arakan and Mon States were not as fanatic in opposition as some Frenchmen who opposed the granting of independence to Algeria. But inspite of this violent opposition, President de Gaulle, at the risk of his life and with great foresight, forced the French to give Algeria her independence. So also with the question of Arakan and Mon States we noticed that far from discouraging it, the opposition to the creation of the new states not only disseminated the desire for autonomy but also made it more intense. We also noticed that these feelings for autonomy grew into Burman—hatred. So, instead of a proper feeling of unity and common cause, a situation was fast developing where the various peoples of the Union were at one another’s throat. That is why I had serious misgivings about the political situation, and I wanted before I retired from political life and during the regime of the Pyidaungsu Government to ensure the realization of the original ideal of a family structure and family spirit within the nation through the following steps:

1) Giving priority to the problems of the minority groups and solving them to their satisfaction. For example, the issue of annual federal aid to the State governments, a volatile issue from the outset of the Union, was settled definitely. Every year the Finance Minister gave aid to the States, as he pleased, without any definite basis. On being misled by opposition, the States demanded more aid. I convened a conference with the State leaders and told them that, in order to be fair to both the Central and the States, aid should not be given as the Financed Minister pleased, but it should be made on a definite basis. I then asked the States themselves to work out a basis. This pleased the States very much. They worked out a basis and when aid was made on that basis, all the States, except the Shan States, got less than before. Therefore on their request, aid had to be given as in the past, without any set basis. In the case of the Shan State, balance due to it was given.

2) We held a Conference with minority leaders with the objective of engendering the family structure and spirit. After settling the federal issue, we had planned that this Conference would be used to settle other outstanding issues.

3) In February 1962, a Bill to set up the Arakan State was submitted. [At the request of some friends, the Arakan State Bill was recalled from the Parliament and it was decided to delay its enactment until August 1962. As for the Mon State, it was decided that as soon as the State boundaries had been defined, the Bill would be drafted at the next earliest meeting of the Parliament.]

Now I would like to clarify the federal issue. Some people claim that the federal issue reached a deplorable state because of my weakness and soft approach and that, had I been firm and definite in the beginning, there would have been no need for it to have deteriorated to such an extent.

Were I a man in the street, I might be tempted, in conferring with the Karens, Shans, Chins and Kachins, to speak and act with some degree of firmness. But, as a Prime Minister, I have to be very careful in my dealings with these minority groups. One mistake by the Prime Minister is not the same as a hundred committed by the ordinary man. But such things as caution, tolerance, patience and broadmindedness are taken for weakness by some people.

Concerning the problem of federalism I have been considering the following issues:

While the country was balancing precariously in 1948-50 on the brink of collapse into the abyss because of and rebellious acts of the Communists, the White Flag Communists, and the K.N.D.O’s [the Karen National Defense Organization], the majority of Shan, Chin, Kachin and Kayah leaders were loyal citizens, devoted to the country. Even when Rangoon was on the point of falling into rebel hands, these Shan, Kachin, Chin and Kayah leaders came to me and said: “Don’t lose heart, U Nu. If you have to retreat from Rangoon, there is always the Shan States, and should it become necessary to retreat from there, there is always the Kayah States, the Kachin State and the remote Chin State from which we can fight back”. And with these words of encouragement they gave their utmost support with courage and intelligence.

The fact that the country did not fall into the hands of the rebels was due in no small part to the loyalty of these leaders.

The K.N.D.O’s have tried very hard to bring about an alliance between these Shan, Chin, Kachin and Kayah leaders. If these had joined the K.N.D.O’s, the consequences would have been so terrible that I dread to think of them. In my evaluation of the federal problem it was impossible for me not to take into account these facts. There too, I had to consider that Burmese officials were, in fact, guilty of some wrongs in the Shan States. Then too, I had to admit that some of the demands put forth by the Shans were lawful and just ones.

Also, if I acted impetuously, I might have alienated every Shan who was still loyal to the Union, and led them into a Burman-hatred so intense that they would have been pushed into the extremist Burman—hatred group. I did not want to make this mistake and I took it into consideration.

Throughout our history, the Burmese kings have built up their nation by forceful means and these kingdoms have had small success in surviving for longer than one regime — succeeding generations being witness to decline and decay. Instead of continuing in this tradition, a Union which gains control by freedom, equality and justice is liable to be stronger and last longer, with more chances for prosperity and progress. This, also, I had to take into consideration.

Then too, I had to consider the fact that, based on historical precedent, the Shan State was even more liable to outside interference than the Congo and Laos.

Because of all these considerations, I had to promise that the federal issue would be settled amicably and in the spirit of a family nation.

The “family method” has four features:

1. To invite a clear declaration of the main demands of the leaders on the federal issue.      

2.  To declare our own viewpoint clearly and completely.      

 3.  To put into effect immediately points of agreement.

4. With regard to the points of disagreement, they should be solved in the spirit of a family relationship — with warmth, sympathy and affection.

This procedure was accepted by the leaders and a Conference was held at Rangoon, and we all strove to settle the problem. But as the saying “before the bottom of the rice basket is firm” while we were just beginning goes, we had only held two such conferences when we were suddenly arrested. So we did not get a chance to carry out the process of settlement.

In truth, the federal problem is not the central one. Just as there is a lump in the muscle as a reaction to a sore, so the federal problem is only the lump caused by the aggravation of Burman-hatred present in many minority groups. And that this aggravation of Burman—hatred resulted in worsened conditions in the country, I admit.

But no matter how worsened the political conditions were, they were child’s play compared with the state of the country at the outset of the Communist, White Flag rebels and K.N.D.O’s rebellion. When this rebellion broke out, was not the whole country calling on God for protection every day? Such deterioration as then existed, I have never known, before or since. Even when the country was in such a state you, General, did not seize power. Even when some treacherous elements persuaded you to do so, you confided in me and gave me your whole-hearted support in fighting and righting these deteriorated conditions.

But even if the situation was really in such a terrible state of deterioration as you and the Revolutionary Council imagined, there were many democratic ways of controlling it.

Had I known just one day before, that you intended to seize control, I would certainly have met you and put forward the following points:

[1] In order to control the deteriorated conditions, will it not be sufficient to declare martial law in certain relevant regions of the country?

[2] If this is not sufficient, will it not be sufficient if you, as you did at the outset of the Communist, White Flag and K.N.D.O. insurrection, entered my government as Deputy Prime Minister?

[3] If you objected to working together with certain politicians within my government, would it not have been sufficient to dismiss them?

[4] If you objected to working with me, would it not have been sufficient if I stepped down?

[5] And should the need really arise, would it not be sufficient to declare a State of Emergency?

[6] Would it not be sufficient to find another more lawful means of correcting the deteriorated conditions?

I hold in very high esteem and affection Burma’s Armed Forces which are so zealously guarding the people’s life and freedom. I also esteem very highly the leaders of the Armed Forces for their competence, courage, nationalism and discipline. But I cannot condone in the least a seizure of power by the Armed Forces. Whether it be a seizure of power from my government or any other government, I do not like it.

I will provide three reasons why I do not like it:

I. Even politicians, who claim that the right to govern is derived only from the people, and who have to strive constantly to retain the people’s favor, are sometimes tempted to resort to forceful means with complete disregard for the people.

The present military leaders were at one time the people’s leaders. Having left political life only recently, they are still close to the people and can show leniency. But should this system of armed force take root and breed a class of leaders who have no sympathy for the people, it will be a very difficult time indeed.

II. The man who does not love power is very rare. That is why, once the idea that armed seizure of power is possible takes root in the Burmese mind, the future of the state is too formidable to predict.

When such an attitude is rooted in the minds of the possessors of arms, the authorities have to place, within the ranks, officials called political commissars. These people are nothing but the spies of the authorities, placed there to see that the officers cannot unite and wrest power away from the authorities. And that is not all. In order to suppress possible uprisings from within the officer ranks, the authorities have to form special forces. In such countries there are always two forces — one is the regular force and one is the special force, kept to suppress any suspicious activities by the regular force. If this were all, it would not be so bad. But in order to ensure further that power is not wrested back, they have a pernicious system whereby it is better for a hundred innocent persons to be killed than for one guilty person to go free. In King Anawratha’s reign such a system was practiced. When the royal soothsayers predicted that the rival to the throne was conceived, every pregnant mother killed off; when it was predicted that the rival to the throne was at the breast, all the nurslings in the land were killed off. When the rival to the throne was predicted to have reached the age of a cowherd, all the cowherds in the land were killed off. I am sure that you, General, have visited lands where such a system exists. Did you ever meet the same people that you met the time before? Please consider it well. In the fourteen or fifteen years that we have worked together, how many times have I made to you an evil suggestion? Please don’t be misled, General. These things are not in keeping with your character. [The General has a very suspicious mind.]

When the country was on the brink of disaster, we kept the banner flying and succeeded in resisting rebels of every creed for no other reason then that we wanted to safeguard the future of the country from degenerating into that state of affairs. I am sure, General, that you are well aware of this.

III. A seizure of power such as you have exercised implies the uprooting and complete eradication of the fundamental birthright of every citizen namely, the freedom to elect the government of his choice by lawful means and, also, to work for the downfall of the government he dislikes by lawful means.

For these three main reasons, therefore, I dislike a seizure of power. But there are exceptions. If a government is:

1) Given to excessive bribery and corruption;

2) Guilty of excessively oppressing the people;

3) The people at large are disillusioned and disgusted with the government and are completely dependent on the military for their freedom;

4)There is no other means of bringing down the government than through a seizure of power by the Armed Forces.

There have been many instances of such treacherous governments in contemporary history, and they have had to be brought down by armed force. In such governments the King, the President or the Prime Minister have accumulated great wealth through unjust means, a large portion of this wealth being hoarded abroad. They lead lives of intrigue with women, alcoholic excesses and gambling. When the rulers of a country are capable of such decadent practices, the people become dissatisfied and rise up against them. When they rise up they are crushed by the Government, which has to be removed through armed force.

When such corrupt leaders are forcibly brought down, they immediately fly to the country where they have accumulated their wealth and proceed to live a life of ease. And with their removal, the people joyously proclaim their freedom and there is rejoicing in the land for seven days and seven nights.

Were we forcibly deprived of our power because we were guilty of such malpractices?

It is more possible for a tortoise to sprout horns than for me to be associated with corruption in money or kind, intrigue with women, drinking alcohol or gambling. [Captain Kyaw Zwa Myint, a young aide-de-camp to General Ne Win, became fed up with the General for his misconduct and went underground. From there he issued a booklet for secret circulation among the Armed Forces. In that booklet, the ex-ADC mentioned the General’s misuse of Government money – while the Horse Race was closed down in Rangoon as being immoral, the General gambled heavily with Government money at the races in England, in the presence of the young ADC. The General’s other moral lapses were also mentioned in that booklet.]

If I were to be accused of oppressing the people, it would be a case of the horse riding the man. For, far from oppressing my people, people have oppressed me constantly, seeking me out in my home, at my office, and even disturbing me at my prayers in the pagoda. Only when you, General, and your colleagues seized control did I find myself free of these burdens.

Moreover, was our government the kind of institution that refused to be dislodged through any other means than force? Did we not declare that there would be elections in 1964 and lay down the necessary steps for free and lawful elections? The calibre of the general election planned for 1964 could be predicted by observing the Butalin [a town near Monywa] elections of 1962. There had been in the past charges of unfairness and bias leveled against us by the N.U.F. as a result of the high incidence of interference with public speeches, beating and killing of leaders at election time. But Thakin Chit Maung, one of the leaders of the N.U.F. [National United Front] himself proclaimed after the Budalin elections: “I don’t care if we lose the elections. It will be enough if we can hold another one like that of Budalin”. Thus, it was obvious that my colleagues and I were trying our best to undertake the general elections in a spirit of genuine goodwill and honesty.

Hence, if the Pyidaungsu government was dishonest, or dirty, or corrupt, or soft, or oppressive, or incompetent to rule the country, it was quite possible to bring it down in the coming elections.

As every one knew, I had declared publicly that I would not stand for the elections in 1964. For this reason, I am not personally hurt by this seizure of power. But I regret very much the fact that this sudden course of events has prevented me from completing the plans to plant firmly the roots of democracy in the Union as promised in the last elections.

The “democracy” I talk about so often is not merely a pious word said for effect or to make a good impression. Just reflect upon our past history. Throughout the past two thousand years, the forceful seizure of power has caused great human distress.

In our own time, the attempt to seize power by forceful means, which began only three months after our independence, and which has beset the country until today, is a very deplorable fact. Only when democracy takes root in the Union can all these deplorable acts of violence be ended, and therefore any threat of forceful seizure of power fills me with consternation; and the more I am filled with consternation, the more zealous I become about a firmly rooted democracy.

In the two years of our government, I cannot claim that our efforts resulted in a firmly rooted democracy. I cannot even claim that in these two years our efforts resulted in the laying of the foundation for the institution of democracy. Even in England, the motherland of democracy, it took over a hundred years to build it. This is enough to show how long and difficult is the process of building democracy. How could we have even laid the foundation stone or planted the roots in two years? But I can claim, without conceit, that we did succeed in guiding the nation to a few small ways of achieving these roots and foundations.

So I beg you, General Ne Win, not to crush with one blow the little democratic shoots which are just about to sprout from the seeds which we have sown with such difficulty.

The process of building democracy requires great patience. But because the benefits derived from it are so many, some countries spend up to two centuries building it up with patience and care. So, because our democracy is still so tender in years, I beg of you not to lose patience and act impetuously toward it.

In truth, democracy is not entirely free of the Six Faults [a Buddhist classification]. In a democratic country, the people sometimes get carried away and abuse their democracy; and there are times when the unworthy man is elected instead of the worthy man. There are times when what could be decided in two hours takes two years; and there are times when you are forced to stand by with folded arms because the majority does not like a measure which would benefit the public.

But these flaws of democracy are inherent not only in the small developing nations such as ours. Even in England, where it is firmly rooted, they are still evident. That is why, the great English leader Mr. Churchill was once led to denounce democracy as a bad system. However, he went on to say that the human race has not yet come up with a better system. So, although there are many discouraging aspects in democracy, in the absence of a better system, we must endeavor to plant its roots in our country.

I would, therefore, like you to take the following steps:

1) Call the Parliament, which you had dissolved.

2) Let the country directly elect a Head of State, who will be the Chief Executive. We will change our existing laws to accommodate the new system. According to the Constitution, the Parliament elects the Prime Minister, who is the Chief Executive. On the recommendation of the Prime Minister, the Parliament elects the President, who is the figure Head.

3) However for the duration of five years from the date of effecting such a change, you are to be elected and installed by the Parliament as the Head of State. In that time of 5 years you should be able to put into effect all your plans for the country.

4) When you become the Head of State, you may appoint anyone you like, and form a government. As the Head of State you can stipulate that a member of the Parliament cannot be a Minister, so that if you appoint a member of the Parliament as Minister, he must resign from the Parliament. Or, you may form a government, which purposely includes the military leaders. Or, you may decide to include in your government leaders among the political groups whom you consider men of integrity. As for me, I would like you to include representatives of the political groups. In choosing ministers from the political groups, you could choose them at your discretion, for their individual ability and integrity, ignoring the basis of representation proportionate to the size of their political parties.

5) Immediately upon forming a government, please call a National Assembly with the purpose of promoting national stability and planting the roots of democracy.

6) When you have completed 5 years as Head of State elected by the Parliament, please hold an election for a new Head of State. Hold this election every four years.

7) After you have held office as Head of State for 5 years, as elected by the Parliament, you may stand for re—election for two more times consecutively. With your two years as Chairman of the Revolutionary Council, five years as Head of State elected by the Parliament, and 8 years more as the twice returned [by the people] Head of State, you will have a total of 15 years to carry out your plans for the country. A sufficient amount of time, I would think.

8) After the Parliament has appointed the Head of State and completed other sundry duties, a quarter of its total membership should be made to resign on the basis of drawing lots.

In their place, there should be fresh members chosen on the basis of a by—election in which the members who resigned should be allowed to stand for re—election.

Among those members who were not effected by the drawing of lots, half have to resign in their third year the basis of another drawing of lots. In their place fresh members have to be elected by a by—election in which the old members can stand again.

The remaining members must all resign in their fourth year. In their place fresh members will be elected by a by—election in which the old members can stand again.

If, instead of changing the members by dividing them into fours, you prefer to do it in halves, you could do so. By dividing the process into four parts, the number of seats contested is less and, therefore, the elections are easier to supervise, both the government and political organizations being able to devote more attention to keeping them systematic and fair.

After these elections have been held and the original batch of members all replaced, a quarter of the new Parliament should be dismissed by drawing lots every two years and by—elections held for fresh members, old members being allowed to take part. If you do not approve of this system, it is possible to devise a new one.

There are many flaws in a system whereby the whole country goes to the polls after a general election. The system of dividing the elections into parts is much better for, in this way, both the government and the politicians are able to concentrate their efforts on the election process and it is more liable to be fair.

9) The constitutional forms should protect the right of every citizen’s freedom to write, freedom to speak and freedom to organize.

If you consider these points carefully, without prejudice, it will become apparent that these 9 points are offered for these reasons only:

a. From my desire that democracy may take root in the country.

b. From a genuine concern for the external danger that threatens the country if democracy fails to take root.

I am sure you are aware of the many reasons why the presence of a Parliament is beneficial to the country.

1) It is much better for the government to keep the politicians in the Parliament than in the detention camp. By imprisoning large batches of politicians, political problems instead of being solved, tend to get more complicated.

2) A government, whether it is the Revolutionary Government or any other government, because of the control exercised by the Parliament, is prevented from taking extreme measures.

In order to find out what is really happening in the country, it is better for the government to listen to the voices in the Parliament than to the Secret Police.

3) Then, there is the feature, which is most valuable to the government: No matter how many beneficial things the Revolutionary Council has introduced for the people, they will continue to harbor secret fears and anxieties. If they are given a Parliament in which there are their representatives they will feel much more secure.

Please consider these points carefully and deeply, General.

After this discourse on politics, I would like to say a little about the other ministers who are imprisoned with me. I have written you two letters requesting their release. I ask a third time for their release. These ministers are not the types to engage in “rough” politics, or in “clandestine” politics. They are not likely to go underground or escape abroad, and they are not men who bear you any personal grudge or animosity. You have never had a quarrel, big or small, with them. I am sure that there are many among them who are demoralized and deteriorating rapidly in health. I don’t believe that by releasing them, the present peaceful state of politics will be upset. There is really no advantage in keeping them in prison. Actually, whether as a government or as politicians, I am their leader and it is sufficient security to imprison the leader alone. You may imprison me for as long as you like, do with me as you like. I am not the type to be afraid.

May I plead also for the cause of U Win Maung and U Myint Thein. They have no special connection with me, but permit me to plead for them as an old friend. There is really no advantage in keeping them locked up. The sooner they are released, the better, I feel.

After mentioning religious, political and economic affairs, I should like to mention one thing which I feel must be mentioned: it is the matter of preventing the slaughter of cows.

By sparing their lives, please believe that you will grow in spiritual power. I plead with you to spare their lives.

May you, General, from this day onwards, be safe from all danger, all fears, all distress, and find true peace.



 Maung Nu

7th November 1963



IN 1969.



1970 - 1973

As all venues were blocked to restore democracy U Nu staged a revolutionary movement by forming Parliamentary Democracy Party [PDP] and the Peoples’ Liberation Army [PLA] as its military arms. The different sizes of 99.999 % pure gold coins were minted and distributed to the PLA troops on their expeditions so that instead of making ‘revolutionary requisition’  PLA could buy necessities from the people with the gold coins. 



June 12, 1973.

Sitting left to right: U Nu, Pho Shane Min [Htike], Bridegroom Ko Nyein, Bride Than Than Nu, and Daw Mya Yi.
Standing left to right: Nyi Nyi, Kyaw Maw Oo, Ye Nyunt, Aung Gyi, Kyi Win, Khin Latt, U Moe Gyaw, Pan Hlaing, Ko Lay, Maung Maung, Kikuko Htike, and U Aung.




Time, Monday, August 30, 1954.
In Burma, men wear skirts. They wrap the skirts, which are called longyis, around the hips and gather them at the waist in one simple, unknotted hitch. The longyi has its advantages: one can bathe in it without undressing [by wrapping a dry longyi over the wet one and dropping the wet one in the bath], which is convenient since in Burma the poor usually bathe at public wells or faucets; one can also unhitch the longyi in Burma's uncomfortable humidity, spreading the cloth with an easy, billowing motion, letting in a refreshing draft of air without exposure. Longyis, like much else in Burma, may seem strange to Western eyes, but they are peculiarly suited to Burma.

Then there are the shirts, which in Burma are attachable-collar shirts — but without the collar. Men of station wear the collar band buttoned at the neck; lesser figures, especially in government offices, wear it open. The air of collarless informality is misleading; the Burmese are meticulous. It is considered improper for a Westerner to visit a Burmese in shorts or a tropical shirt; the Burmese, colonial subjects of Britain until 1948, are sensitive about Westerners who appear to take them for granted. Yet the proper Burmese are remarkably free with their language: Burmese women will astonish Westerners with vivid, physical references to males they do not like; Prime Minister U Nu, a Buddhist layman of unusual piety, will casually refer to Communists as "Kwe-Ma-Tha," meaning "dog-bitch-sons."

Spirits & Stars. In Burma, land of Buddhist calm, no one is ever far from a remote and terrible world, a world of spirits and stars, a world of violence. It is only 69 years since Burma's last King, Thibaw, ordered 500 of his subjects and 100 foreigners to be buried alive at the gates of his palace, believing that their spirits would protect his soul. Only the timely arrival of the British Empire troops prevented the mass executions.

In modern Rangoon [pop. 700,000].

Burma's stately, rectilinear capital, the visitor may still come by night upon lanterns or candles at dangerous street intersections; they are placed there by superstitious Burmese to attract by night the spirits of those killed in street accidents. In Rangoon too, the well-bred gentleman at dinner has probably consulted an astrologer over the timing of his current business deal, or of the next union with his wife, should an heir be desired. Burma's bustling Socialist government employs a "Board of Astrologers" which similarly advises the nation upon the timing of significant events. The respected Daw Mya Yi [Madame Loving Emerald] recently set the date of her daughter's wedding after consultations with her personal astrologer; her husband, Prime Minister U Nu, did not object.

Burma, this faraway land of strange customs, has suddenly become newly important to Americans, a few thousand of whom have fought there, most of whom know it only remotely through a haze of symbols — Terry and the Pirates, The Road to Mandalay, Errol Flynn striding triumphant down the Burma Road. By the light of the flames that roared up over Indo-China, the dark and distant land of Burma has become visible. Can Burma defend its 1,000-mile Red China frontier by itself? Can Burma be saved? Will it get help — or accept it?

Freedom & Chaos. Burma is a land that has not known peace for twelve years. The Japanese and the British twice fought over it during World War II. Burma won its independence and plunged into chaos, headlong and unready. Since then, the Burmese have been fighting disciplined Communist armies and a motley crew of guerrillas and bandits. But recently there have been hopeful changes. In the cold war's continental context, they are small changes; yet relative to the crumble and despair of Southeast Asia, they are significant, even sweeping: Burma has just about defeated its Communist insurrection — with no sizable help from the West.

Burma is launching an ambitious program of land reform, infant industrialization and social welfare — once more, with no sizable help from the West. Burma is inspiring perhaps the most remarkable Buddhist revival in centuries, that is becoming in itself the focus of a new and powerful anti-Communism. Burma, in short, is pulling itself out of its chaos. In its small-power context, it is working its own counterrevolution, employing a trinity of arms, ideology and religion that might prove to be a workable Asian alternative to Communism. The man responsible for this show of hope in the land of spirits and stars is Burma's Prime Minister. U Nu.

Talent & Inspiration. U Nu, a little-known yet extraordinary man of 47, is coming into the headlines with his country. He is coming with reluctance and grave misgivings. "I am a dreamer, a writer," he says. "Framing rules and so on makes my head ache." U Nu once confessed to himself that he might some day become the Bernard Shaw of Burma, for he had "the talent and the inspiration." Instead, U Nu became Free Burma's first Prime Minister, and has remained so — despite four attempts to resign — for the past 6 years. U Nu is a devout Buddhist who once hesitated to kill a cobra for fear of transgressing the Buddhist precept: “Thou shalt not kill ... All living creatures are subject to their destiny.” U Nu, man of peace, has had to direct a pentagonal civil war. U Nu is a man of infinite modesty and quietness; he likes to drive out, on afternoons when he can get free, to a “meditation house” built on stilts, a tall man's height from the ground. U Nu must now meditate upon the fate of Indo-China, and he does not shrink from its implication: "Most of the countries of Southeast Asia are like this house," U Nu tells his visitors. "As the wind blows, they go to and fro like this." U Nu flaps his hands.

“The Wolf of Man.” U Nu is a man of rough and unfamiliar plainness. His head is round, his mouth seems rather large for his face, and his brown eyes fix visitors with peculiar intentness. His manner is sedate; his piety is apparent, and sincere. He betrays no concern that a Rangoon magazine is currently serializing a novel called Man the Wolf of Man [written in 1943] with a remarkable autobiographical preface by its author, U Nu. "In his native town," Author U Nu wrote of himself in the third person, "the nickname of Tate Sanetha, Saturday-born street Arab, was well known to everybody . . .* By the age of twelve he was a heavy drinker. Often as a sequel to his drinking bouts, his stupefied little body might be seen carried home on someone's shoulder. His father, deeply ashamed and hopeless of reclaiming him, could only banish him to live as he would in a paddy godown outside the town. The boy brewed his own liquor there." This way of life continued until "something deep down inside him suddenly changed ... A cool moonlight night, a verdant prospect, pretty women, sweet music began to move him profoundly. Whenever he was moved by beauty, he wanted to be alone with his joy." The picture of a Burmese society girl, ripped from a newspaper, was U Nu's talisman, inspiring him "to do good deeds, champion the weak, subdue the oppressors."  At the University of Rangoon, where he graduated in philosophy, U Nu wrote sonnets, “mostly to lampoon rival football teams,” and read avidly — Shaw, Shakespeare, Havelock Ellis, Karl Marx. Then he became a schoolteacher, wrote some plays with Freudian themes, and directed his sonnets at Mya Yi, the school board chairman's daughter, with whom he later eloped. Under the spell of a learned Rangoon editor named U Ba Cho, the young playwright got interested in both Buddhism and his country's fight for independence. The zealotry of his politics and religion astonished his friends.

How to Win Friends. The fight for freedom was a young man's fight: Burma's middle class and middle-aged were standing aside, and the University of Rangoon's young radicals could go far. U Nu re-entered the university as a graduate law student. One year later he was leading the celebrated Students' Strike of 1936, burning the Union Jack before Rangoon's colonial Law Courts. U Nu joined the intensely nationalist “We Burmans” Society, whose members defiantly called each other “Thakin” [or "master"], the word the British expected subservient Burmese to call the white man. U Nu became Thakin Nu. One of his schoolmates and fellow rebels was Thakin Than Tun, who now commands the Communist army in Burma; another Thakin runs the rival Trotskyite or Red Flag Communist army. U Nu drank deeply of Marx, but he mixed his drinks. During these turbulent 1930s, he translated into Burmese another book that had influenced him: Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People. When World War II came, Burma's young Thakins offered to help the British if they would guarantee Burma's independence. The British coldly declined, so the Thakins supported the Japanese. The British later threw U Nu and his friends into jail for sedition.

In 1942 the Japanese invaded Burma, and the people, believing that the Japanese had come to liberate them, crowded out to greet the soldiers. "When the Japanese bombers came," said U Nu, "the people would not take cover. They tore their shirts, sang, danced, clapped their hands, shouted and turned somersaults as if they did not care a curse what happened." One day U Nu came upon a procession, led by monks, bearing gifts of rice, bananas and melons to the Japanese soldiers. Several hours later, U Nu met the same procession, limping home and disillusioned. "We expected the Japanese commander to be thankful," one of the marchers explained, "but all he did was to take his hand from his trousers pocket and give us a hard slap in the face." Thereupon, U Nu and the marchers, as Burmese often do in moments of desperation, spontaneously burst out laughing. The laughter did not last; the desperation did. In time, the Japanese gave Burma its first nominal all-Burmese government, with U Nu as Foreign Minister, but he wore, as he put it, a "Made-in-Japan stamp" on his forehead. In 1944 the disillusioned Burmese rose up against the Japanese as 250,000 Allied troops poured in through the jungles.

The Cabinet Is Dead. After liberation, Burma's course towards freedom ran swiftly in two confluent streams: the Thakins whipped up anti-British strikes against the returning colonial diehards; in London, the British nation was undergoing its historic change of heart. In 1946 Britain offered Burma self-government "either within or without the British Commonwealth."

Burma's stars at last seemed favorable: 31-year-old General Aung San, commander of the Burmese Defense army, agreed to lead the Cabinet; 39-year-old U Nu, anxious to return to his writing, became Speaker of Burma's brand-new Constituent Assembly. Yet behind Burma's stars lurked violence: on July 19, 1947, three assassins strolled casually into Rangoon's Secretariat, burst into the council chamber and sprayed the ministers with Sten-gun bullets; General Aung San and six of his colleagues were killed, and nowhere in all Burma, it seemed, could experienced men be found to replace them. Unwillingly, a would-be playwright laid aside his pen. "I am glad to inform you," the British governor told the saddened land, "that Thakin Nu has agreed to form a new council."

"This Is Our Land!" At 4:20 a.m., Jan. 4, 1948 [the hour considered auspicious by the astrologers], Burma's six-starred flag arose in total independence from the British Empire. Only two other nations had so quit the Empire before: Eire and the 13 American Colonies. The British governor drove off through the crowded streets to H.M.S. Birmingham, and that night in Rangoon, the nation rejoiced; musicians beat ancient drums with sticks made from lions' bones, and surging, golden-skinned Burmese chanted their national anthem: Until the end of time This is our land! But once more, it seemed, Burma's stars were unfavorable. In the new republic's first year of freedom, no fewer than 40% of Burma's elected M.P.s and their supporters came out in armed revolt against Prime Minister U Nu. Trade, commerce and government revenues slumped; the civil service fell away, demoralized. In police HQ, Pegu Province, a weary superintendent checked his dossier: “Of 21 stations in my district, I hold only six. The other 15 are held by five kinds of insurgents." In faraway London, Winston Churchill, then in opposition, rumbled: "Burma is descending into a state of anarchy, tempered by Communism."  The chain reaction of disaster: Red Flag Trotskyites, 6,000 strong, rebelled first, in protest against even negotiating for independence with Prime Minister Attlee. Their leader: Thakin Soe, 48, onetime clerk in the Burma Oil Co. and jailmate of Prime Minister U Nu. White Flag Communists, 13,000, ordered into rebellion March 1948, in Moscow's first postwar campaign to undermine Southeast Asia. Burmese Army Deserters, 8,000 professionals, rebelled in July 1948, protesting U Nu's decision to fight the Communists, who had been the army's old comrades in the struggle for independence. Karen National Defense Organization, 12,000 militants among Burma's 2,000,000 predominantly Christian Karen people, rebelled in August 1948, demanding a separate Karen state on the Thailand border.

Chinese Nationalists, remnants of Chiang Kai-shek's beaten army, driven into Burma from Red China in 1949. "The outbreaks were dealt with as best we could," said U Nu. "Only after some time did we realize our mistakes." He first tried to win the Communists back into “leftist unity” by appeasement; he referred to them as "ignoramuses" in their deviation from the true Marxism, and drafted a 15-point plan calling for the propagation of "Marxist doctrine" [a plan he now very much regrets]. The Communist answer was characteristic: they gathered their forces, and struck when they were ready. "Give us three years," cried Communist Than Tun in 1948, "and Burma will be ours!" Prime Minister Nu, the Buddhist who would not kill the cobra, had a battle on his hands.

War & Sympathy. U Nu regrouped Burma's shaky 12,000-man combat force, its three-fighter air force, and stopped the Communists seven miles from Rangoon. In the spring of 1949, U Nu flew north in his flowing longyi and organized the recapture of Mandalay. In 1950 and 1951, Burma's army gained the decisive Irrawaddy Plain. In 1952 the Burmese edged the Chinese Nationalists behind the deep-cut Salween gorges. For a man of peace, U Nu had accomplished a reasonable military job. U Nu was determined from the start, however, that Burma's civil war must become something more than a conventional deployment of military force. He could not see it all yet, but in his mind lay the vague shape of a counterrevolution, many-sided, thorough. U Nu turned first to diplomacy. He eased the Karen rebellion by appointing Karen leaders to his Cabinet, by promising the Karens an autonomous state within the Union of Burma. He eased the Chinese Nationalist crisis through the U.N.; the U.S. recently flew out more than half of the Nationalists to Formosa, and the rest are considered leaderless and confinable. U Nu persistently offered the Communists their lives and a course in democracy if they would turn in their arms and surrender; 4,000 did.

Benevolent State. As the influence of his youthful government moved out towards Burma's wild green frontiers, U Nu put in more work on his counterrevolution. U Nu is a Socialist who sometimes talks like a Marxist [his closest ideological neighbors seem to be the Yugoslav Reds]. U Nu's constitution proclaims that the state is the ultimate owner of all land; in collective-minded Burma, no one will eventually own more than 50 acres, a two-bullock plot. U Nu's principal associates, Defense Minister U Ba Swe and Industries Minister U Kyaw Nyein both talk as if Burma must be led towards total nationalization of industry, total cooperative ownership and working of the land. This program of Socialization, with its concomitant welfare state [the Burmese call it Pyidawtha, or "Good Benevolent Welfare"], is already so popular that Burma appears to be heading towards a one-party Socialist state. There is neither basis nor demand for a conservative opposition, for "capitalism" is considered synonymous with "colonialism" and is therefore damned. U Ba Swe. the Socialist Party boss, freely recognizes the total predominance of Socialism, "but what is one to do?" Prime Minister U Nu is hard put to reassure skeptical Westerners: "If there is only one party, it is because the people prefer that party . . . There is no danger as long as that one party believes in democracy."

"Cult of the Gun." U Nu will argue Marxism with Communists over a pot of plain tea, but he will not let them undermine free Burma with a gun. As Prime Minister, he goes to extraordinary lengths to ensure that his people understand this, the difference he considers vital. "For 2,000 years." he cried, "we in Burma had the tradition that he who can kill a King becomes a King . . . The conflict is not between government and rebels, but a conflict between . . . the rights of the people and the cult of the gun." He tells his people: "Beware of Pied Pipers."
To help make his definition stick. U Nu challenged the Communists to free elections; they declined. He put his old playwriting "talent and inspiration" to work, dashed off an eight-scene morality play called The People Win Through, in which villainous Communists shoot the hero at the end. In this play [required reading in Burma's secondary schools], U Nu lets his characters speak his message. A Civil Servant complains: "Communists mustn't breathe through their own noses . . . They know perfectly well that white is white, but their bosses tell them that white is black: black it is for them . . ." A Guerrilla explains: "I'm fighting the Communists ... to prevent the people from being led about on a nose rope like castrated cattle." And A Refugee returns to report: "The Communists have given us a New Order . .  Break wind and you're hauled off to the people's court . . ."

"Thadu, Thadu, Thadu." The unique factor of Burma's counterrevolution — and the one that owes most to U Nu — is its Buddhist revival. "Karl Marx had very limited knowledge." says U Nu, "which is not equivalent to one-tenth of a particle of dust beneath the feet of Lord Buddha." For more than 2,000 years, Buddhism has tended to unify Burma's different peoples; every Burmese village has its monastery, almost every hill its crowning pagoda, gold-leaf or whitewashed in the sun. "We will suffuse the whole world with loving thoughts," teaches Buddha the Guide, and the voices of authoritarians, like Mao Tse-tung, ring strangely in the Burmese consciousness. "We want to take the enemy's eyes and ears and seal them." cries Mao Tse-tung. "We want to throw them into utter confusion, driving them mad."

U Nu, son of a merchant who sold religious articles, brought sacred Buddhist relics back from Ceylon and sent them on a 20-city tour of Burma; he built a great Peace Pagoda seven miles from Rangoon, then spent $6,000,000 on two dozen more buildings, including a man-made cave, to accommodate the Sixth World Buddhist Council. He ordered department heads to dismiss civil servants 30 minutes ahead of time if they wished to meditate; he put his own Cabinet to work beside the laborers on pagoda construction. He remitted prison sentences of convicts who passed exams in Buddhism.

U Nu gets up each morning at 4 o'clock to meditate for a couple of hours. For a while he became a total vegetarian, but the effect of his denials grew so marked — his eyes almost failed him last year — that doctors persuaded him to take "a little fish." In 1950, then 43 and the father of five children, U Nu chose to enter the state of Bramachariya, or sexual abstinence, which is considered "extraordinary" in that Buddhism does not require such abstinence of its lay supporters. One day in Parliament, U Nu introduced a bill for the promotion of religion. Unanimously the M.P.s passed it; in unison they intoned. "Thadu, Thadu, Thadu," which amounted to a vote of confidence in U Nu's religious leadership. Thadu is the Burmese word for both "Amen" and "Well done."

Small-Power Success. Burma is still a land of violence, compounded now by some of the inevitable parasites of Socialism: graft, bureaucratic confusion, the arrogance of petty officials. Yet by its own measurable standards and in its own context, Burma is doing well. U Nu has dropped the prewar title, "Thakin." considering that the Burmese are now masters in their house [U means roughly "Respected Sir," or "Uncle"]. Burma's army, now grown to 60,000 men, appears to have the civil war in hand: the Trotskyites are through; the Communists, down to half-strength, have scattered into bands not 400 strong, and their leader Than Tun, is in flight; 22,000 rebels in all have surrendered. U Nu's Benevolent State is so popular that enterprising Burmese salesmen name good things after it [a cool, refreshing glass of "Benevolent" milk] and Rangoon buses proclaim their "Benevolent" destination. U Nu is starting slowly to redistribute 10 million acres of land, and he is paying the landlords dusty but democratic compensation — one year's rent.

Another Burmese item of note: a contract has been let for a steel rolling mill. The future looks so bright to them from Rangoon that the country's young Socialists tell Westerners they are more worried about the sagging world price of rice—Burma's principal source of revenue — than about the civil war. But in the context of a small power like Burma, U Nu's achievements can be delusive. Red China has been occupied elsewhere. Through the 11th and 12th centuries, Burma's great empire at Pagan shone glamorously in its own context; in the 13th century, Tartary's Kublai Khan casually ordered it snuffed out. As casually as Kublai Khan, Red China's Liu Shao-chi recently marked counterrevolutionary Burma for conquest by renewed infiltration. Red China is already pulling Burma's Communist remnants back toward its border, to a "Yenan" redoubt where they can be reinforced and rearmed. Chou En-lai is pressing U Nu to sign a non-aggression pact that will help sanctify Red China's "Asia for the Asians" doctrine. Chou has invited U Nu to visit Peking, and last week U Nu accepted — without saying when he could be free.

Big Power Concern. In the Pentagon's "big picture," Burma is an area of denial, something to be kept from the Communists if possible, but far from the fundamental strategic centers of power, e.g., the Urals, Manchuria; the Pentagon does not want to get bogged down there. The State Department would like to wheedle U Nu into an anti-Communist bloc - but U Nu shies instinctively from blocs. Like India's Nehru, he believes that blocs encourage war. Last year, U Nu cut off U.S. Point Four aid in token of his "non-alignment." During the Geneva Conference, U Nu learned further grounds for caution: 12 million neighboring Vietnamese were handed over to Communism; U.S. oratory did not save them. "It is criminal, unforgivable," complained Burma's U Kyaw Nyein, "that the super-power upon whom so much depends should be the amateur . . . the Soviet Union the professional." U Nu, long considered a docile member of the Nehru neutralist bloc, has recently developed an independence of his own. Though scrupulously determined not to be aligned, he once proclaimed: "Burma and America are in the same boat . . . We fight the same evils." And he recently gave this confident advice: "Western blood need not be shed countering aggression in this area. Just make the countries of Southeast Asia strong." But if Southeast Asia's rickety house on stilts should continue to lose its supports, and Burma is endangered, what then? Answers U Nu, a man of Buddhist peace: "We would fight."

*Nu is a Saturday name, meaning "soft" or "gentle." The name of a Burmese child usually begins with one of the letters deemed auspicious for the day upon which he was born (e.g., K or G for Monday, T, D or N for Saturday). There are rarely family names, if at all. The Burmese also believe that a child's personality is often determined by his birthday or by his demeanor at birth. "A man born on Monday will be jealous; on Tuesday, honest; on Wednesday, short-tempered but soon calm; on Thursday, mild; on Friday, talkative; on Saturday, hot-tempered and quarrelsome; on Sunday, parsimonious." *U Nu and 90% of the Burmese are Theravada Buddhists, accepting Buddhism as a way of life, not as a theocratic doctrine: they have no church, no God in the Western sense. U Nu is tolerant and approving of other "true" religions, e.g., Christianity. He insisted upon paying the expenses of Roman Catholic priests on a recent pilgrimage to Rome; his troops gave the Anglican Bishop of Rangoon, the Right Rev. George West, and a safe-conduct across the lines into the rebel Karen districts so that he could administer Communion to the villagers.


Mr. Hunter, a correspondent and writer, introduced the word “brainwashing” into the language and was the “first to analyze and reveal the strategy behind this worst of all wars – the war against the human mind”. 

Edward Hunter, author of “Brain-Washing in Red China” and “Brainwashing: The Story of the Man Who Defied It” writes in his long biographical introduction on a play written by Premier Nu “The People Win Through” [Lu-du Aun Than]: “U Nu baffles people who try to label others. He does not fit into any one, neat compartment. Is he a politician, or an author? Is he a lawyer or a priest? Is he a radical or a conservative? Is he a Westernized Burmese or a stubborn proponent of old Burmese traditions?  Without much difficulty, a good case could be made for any of these labels. Indeed, each is more or less correct. U Nu is a man of tones and blending colors, not of any single, solid hue – white, pink, red or what you will. This is part of character”.

Mr. Hunter added: “I showed U Nu’s photograph to a mature American who had spent many years in the Orient. After studying the picture for a minute, he hedged by saying, “He’s an Asian, and you know how they mask their feelings”. This was a superficial impression, but U Nu’s wartime career indicates that there is much truth in it; I doubt if the Japanese would deny it.
I also showed the photo to a discriminating young art student, who had had no time in which to absorb grown-up patterns of thought, and whose reactions would be unaffected by racial notions. She studied the picture for a minute, and then gave her reaction this way: “He looks sure of himself. He seems sympathetic and understanding. When he reaches an opinion, I don’t think he changes it for anything. He looks cultured and educated”. This was U Nu all right. Professional labels are only a superficial guide to the man; motivation is what counts in him

Another interesting observation of Edward Hunter was that: “In the industrialized West, where specialization has reached exaggerated heights, we have lost some of the wholesome traits of a less modernized society. These are what U Nu has retained.  They are what he is aiming at in his neutrality policy. He is trying to be practical and opportunistic, so as to achieve a harmony between his people’s languorous past and the requirements of the precise Twentieth Century.  He is trying to use the lushness of Burmese nature and character to modify the cold harshness of the industrial age. Such an idyllic formula would be a modern miracle. So the frustrations and the groping continue in U Nu’s lovely land of Burma and in the minds of his volative, simple-hearted people. U Nu cannot be understood apart from his people; he is intimately related to every phase of their past half-century of humiliation, turmoil, exploitation and bedevilment”. 

As is seemingly appropriate to add the Preface written by U Thant: “The People Win Through shows what actually happens when Burmese Communists decide to stage an insurrection.  On June 18, 1950, a meeting took place at the house of Prime Minister U Nu. U Thein Han [Zawgi], U Nya Na, U Myo Mih, Saya Hein and I discussed with U Nu the advisability of writing a play depicting the evils of attempting to wrest political power by means of force. After a lengthy discussion covering over three hours, it was decided that U Nya Na should write a play with the following themes:

  1. How King Narathu, who wrested power by force, fell at the hand of the assassin;
  2. How Phaung-gar-sarr Maung Maung, who wrested power by force, met with the same fate;
  3. A more up-to-date narrative with similar theme.



On August 5, 1950 a second meeting took place at the Prime Minister’s house, and U Nya Na’s play was examined. It was agreed that the original idea of incorporating three separate incidents in a single play would be unwieldy, and U Nu took over the task of writing a play on one single theme, in his leisure moments. The Prime Minister started writing in August of that year during his tour of the delta regions in his drive, “From Peace to Stability”. On return from his tour, he had finished the first two scenes and continued writing at odd moments when state duties were less pressing. In September the play was completed. After the necessary approval had been accorded by the Executive Committee of the AFPFL and the Council of Ministers to its proposed publication, the third meeting of the above gentlemen was held on November 4, 1950, and style, syntax, etc., were examined. U Nu then kindly made over the manuscript, together with the copyright, to the Society for the Extension of Democratic Ideals”.

Edward Hunter correctly observed that: “U Nu wrote this play out of a determination to put into words what history was teaching him, so his country could learn the same lessons”.

HERE is another review made by an academician, Professor Joseph A. Withey, Asian Studies, Hanover College, Hanover, Indiana on Premier Nu: “U Nu As Dramatist” and was published in August 1980 in the South East Asian Review, Vol. V, No. 1:

Professor Withey studied Premier Nu basically from the point of view of a playwrite and tried his best to review as well as introduce U Nu’s style of writing to the general readers. Professor Withey’s article is full of in-depth reviews both from political as well as social angles. For the benefit of the literary interest the whole piece without any editing is presented: 


U NU, born on Saturday, May 25, 1907 -- a time corresponding to the full moon of Nayon in the year 1269 of the Burmese calendar -- refers to himself as "Tartay" or "Saturday's Son" in his autobiography. According to Burmese belief, he writes, "a first child born on such a day stirs up woe like fire," and "if the first to arrive is a Saturday-born, the father must carry a sword and cross back and forth over the child seven times to ward off evil." Nu's father, San Tun, did indeed follow this ritual, but, even so, Nu has succeeded in stirring up some tempests in his lifetime as politician, social critic and playwright.

However, The People Win Through and The Wages of Sin, Nu's English language plays and the principal concern of this study, aimed not at unsettling Burmese society but at restoring it to a satisfactory equilibrium. More, they demonstrate a sensitivity to the flow of ideas from the West, ideas associated primarily with democracy and socialism, though the The Wages of Sin one clearly sees the influence of the Eastern ethic of Buddhism. Both plays, in fact, seek to solve political problems of a newly independent country by the application of ideas current in the society at the time of their writing.

Nu thought of his plays as representing the national structure of Burmese society, and intended them to affect this structure rather than simply reflect it. He spoke of the writer who "is capable of causing the welfare of his readers," of "serving as guide to the people," of providing "guidance and shelter". "Forces influencing the lives and thoughts of the people," he wrote, "are instrumental in the development of culture and the creation of the people's welfare." He thought of literature as one of these forces. He spoke of "building a new pattern of culture" which would include "cultivators, workers, government servants, police personnel, armed forces, technicians, teachers, and traders," an inexhaustible source from which the writer could draw his materials. Revealing to the people the part they can play in this new culture would contribute to the enlightened progress of Burmese society was his belief.

The West has had its didactic literature, but in general the modern writer has concerned himself more with characterization than with message, finding his principal problem the form by means of which he will reveal the character. After the Second World War, in countries concerned with building a nation, however, writers often took a political stance, thinking of themselves as polemicists rather than literary artists. In doing so most continued in the literary tradition of their countries, for that tradition was usually didactic, either in a religious or an ethical sense. True, some writers have written primarily for themselves or for an international audience, many of the latter using English rather than their native language as the medium of expression. Even these writers, however, have had to determine the locus of their concern -- regional, national, or universal. U Nu's testimony as a writer, taken together with his plays, provide evidence of his intent to shape the national culture of Burma by showing its political problems in dramatic form.

In 1927, while a student at Rangoon University, Nu encountered a professor who advised him to read the plays of Bernard Shaw. Particularly fascinated by the wit and social criticism abundantly displayed in Candida and Caesar and Cleopatra he found these plays to be "eyeopeners". Satisfied formerly with writing playlets and verses, he now discovered a social dialectic congenial to his taste, which prompted him to concentrate on play-writing, sometimes at the expense of his studies. Nu related that a fortnight before his examinations "his friend U Khin Zaw, thinking he was cramming, entered his room" only to discover him working on a play. "You'll fail because of this", Khin Zaw cautioned, but Nu kept to his task.

During vacations he continued writing, seeking seclusion by building a hut on the outskirts of his home town. Often his mother would visit to complain of the danger to his health. Eventually he completed a long play and submitted it in competition for the Prince of Wales prize, an award offered by the government in commemoration of the visit of Edward, then Prince of Wales. This was the highest literary award then available in Burma, carrying with it not only prestige but cash in the amount of a thousand rupees. Nu's entry did not win, and he was so upset that he "charged the selection board with jobbery."

During this period of youthful enthusiasm playwriting was to Nu a necessary form of self-expression, rather than the calculated attempt to reform society it later became. If for some reason he had to forego writing, he became depressed, even ill, "but the moment he started to write the distemper would leave him, the tautness disappeared, and he would be filled with a sense of well being." Looking back on the playwriting mania of his student days Nu acknowledges "the plays were not good ones." He finds them lacking in action, unable to sustain interest, and "as wearisome as an exchange of views." Doubt as to his ability to employ the Shaw model of intellectual point-counterpoint entered his mind, and, after a series of rejection slips, he read other plays which convinced him his work lacked the necessary qualities of acceptance.

Following a ten year hiatus in creative writing, ending with the Rangoon University student strike of 1936, it was a thoroughly politicized U Nu who went to work for The Deedok Journal, writing articles and short plays in Burmese. Nu's political concerns are reflected in these plays summarized by Richard Butwell. One of them, Thuraka, 'an Orwellian piece in which the leaders of a community of pigs basely ally themselves with a predatory tiger" symbolized the alliance of his political foes with the British. Another, Converting The Elder Brother, takes aim at adulterous Burmese politicians, posing the question, "If a man cannot be trusted with another man's wife, how can he be entrusted with the affairs of the Nation?" In a recent letter to this writer Nu explained that the one-act plays he contributed to The Deedok Journal were collected and published in 1938 under the title Khit-Hme-Pyazat. Shortly after, at the outbreak of the Second World War, Nu found himself jailed at Insein, then transferred to Mandalay, where he continued to write, though these plays have been lost.

At war's end, when Nu became Prime Minister of the Union of Burma after the assassination of Aung San, his most urgent problem was to effect a political union in fact as well as in name. In pursuit of this goal he launched in 1950-51 a drive "From Peace to Stability," touring the delta and speaking to the people. Among his speeches at this time is one delivered on the occasion of the awarding of the Sa-pay-beik-mun prize for the best Burmese novel. In it he described the writer as contributing to a cultural renaissance of a certain kind, in which he "effectively deals with the problems of human life," to produce an authentic work of art. "Such novels," he went on, "reflect the real condition of one's own society, and they help us to know our own selves, our own strength and our own weakness, and we get an opportunity to ponder over our own problems."

In an Introduction to Nu's play The People Win Through the late U Thant tells how Nu applied his expertise in playwriting to the solution of one of these problems, that of armed insurrection. In June of 1950 several of Nu's associates met with him to discuss the possibility of writing a play which would communicate to the people "the evils of attempting to wrest political power by means of force." At first the group decided U Nya Na should write the play, and that it should be a three act play with acts one and two devoted to events in the past where force produced unfortunate consequences, while the third act would show the Communist use of force equally deplorable. However, when the group met again two months later, they agreed it was more feasible to concentrate on the single theme of act three, and Nu was persuaded to do the writing himself. In September, according to Thant, Nu completed the play, it was approved by the necessary government agencies, and then passed on to the Society for the Extension of Democratic Ideals for publication. Among those who checked the final manuscript were J. S. Furnivall and Peter Murray, while U Khin Zaw undertook the task of translation into English.

Its episodic structure being well-suited to the medium The People Win Through was made into a Burmese film, then staged by the Pasadena Playhouse in the United States in October 1951, and finally published in English in Rangoon in 1952. Taplinger brought out an American edition in 1957 with an Introduction by Edward Hunter replacing Thant's. Testimony from those who viewed the film in Burma at the time suggests a generally favourable reception by Burmese audiences. More specific reaction comes from the Playhouse premiere, where the Pasadena Star News reviewer thought the play "a stimulus to patriot emotions, a challenge to the mind and delight to the eye," expressing the conviction that it "should be seen by every American who can squeeze in the theatre in the next three weeks. It will bring a better understanding of the people of Asia." In his comments on Nu's playwriting the same reviewer refers to the play's "dignity, coherence and suspense" and concludes that The People Win Through "puts over the high aims of proper self-government." In his Introduction for the Rangoon edition U Thant had noted that "writers like T. S. Eliot and Maurice Collis were equally impressed with the narrative of the play." In the context of the times spokesmen for the West praised both the staged and published versions of the English translation.

We have discussed Nu's general goal as a writer; now we can examine his specific intent in writing The People Win Through, and the means he employs. In a Prologue to be spoken before the dramatic action being Nu writes:

Our Union of Burma is standing at cross-roads. One way leads to the seizing of power by force. The other leads to the willing delegation of power by the people to their representatives elected by fair democratic methods. This evil (taking power by force) is now rearing its ugly head in Burma. If this wickedness…. takes hold of our fair country, it will reduce her to a state of abject misery and subjection to tyranny that would beggar description. So we have staged this play, which I hope, will help you decide which way to choose.

In the final sentence Nu not only expresses his intent but also predicts the form of the play -- argument or debate, followed by fictional evidence clothed as dramatic action. A summary of the dramatic action will clarify Nu's use of the medium to achieve his end.

Scene 1 introduces the central character, Aung Win, depicted as a family man with communist convictions. He argues with a friend about the political necessity of insurrection. The setting is his home.

Scene 2 takes place in the communist headquarters of a village in Pegu district. The scene contrasts the treatment of villagers by communist and government forces.

Scene 3 is in the headman's house of the same village. The insurrection has begun, with Aung Win participating as a cadre. A villager sympathetic to the government is executed over Aung Win's objections.

In Scene 4 we see a bunker on the outskirts of a village. Members of a White Band PVO force -- opposed to both the communists and the government -- discuss corruption among the communists and in their own forces.

Scene 5 takes place in a country lane filled with village refugees. They encounter volunteers who support the government and also a group of insurgents.

Scene 6 shows a communist People's Court in a village. The accused are not permitted to defend themselves. All are convicted.

Scene 7 is set in a village home. Several characters who have suffered ill treatment in previous scenes have organized a patriotic guerrilla force. One of them gives his life so the others may escape a communist attack.

The final scene takes place in Communist party divisional headquarters, where we see Aung Win again, but now disillusioned about communist methods. When he protests these practices, he is shot and killed by one of his own men.

Nu alternates scenes between those focused upon the speech and actions of the villagers and those focused upon the insurrectionists. Such an arrangement provides an overall contrast and a rhythm for the play, a form of epic structure suggested to Nu by his reading of Noel Coward's CAVALCADE. Also, since even those Burmese who live in cities have strong village ties, this structure enables the urban audience to identify with familiar figures as opposed to the Communist cadres and soldiers, who are shown in a milieu of political and military isolation from the villagers and their concerns.

Though Aung Win is the most important and most memorable character in the play because of his at first idealistic then disillusioned attitudes toward communism, he appears only in four scenes of the eight -- Scenes 1, 2, 3, and 8. In Western drama we generally see one or two characters prominent throughout the play, but, since similar character focus is common in the traditional Burmese zat pwe, we cannot attribute the lack of continuous focus on Aung Win to an East-West difference in playwriting technique. Nu needed two young intellectuals in the opening scene to argue the Government vs the Communist positions. In scene 2 he reveals Aung Win as a convinced Communist insurgent proselytizing among the villagers with the assistance of a Red platoon. In Scene 3 Nu plants doubt in the mind of Aung Win. The scenes intervening between 3 and 8 show the kinds of experiences of which he would be aware, without the need for his presence, and the concluding scene shows his final disillusionment and death. To focus on Aung Win throughout the play would prevent the audience from identifying so strongly with the plight of the simple villagers. In other words, the argument introduced in Scene 1 is continued by means of illustration, a dialectic in dramatic action of which Bernard Shaw could have approved. Early influences in Nu's playwriting persist in The People Win Through.

The Wages of Sin, completed by Nu in 1959, first appeared in English in the Burmese newspaper, The Nation, in 1961. Published later in the year by U Law Yone, editor of The Nation, as a playscript, in which Nu acknowledges assistance in translation by U Myo Min and U Thein Han, the play had its premiere in the United States at the East Carolina Playhouse in Greenville, North Carolina, in February of 1962. Prior to the production Time magazine assessed Nu's work as "still pounding away at the same theme (as in The People Win Through): the evil of communism and how to combat it." Time wrote: "As a statesman neutralist U Nu has sometimes professed to see little difference between the Communist powers and the West. But as a dramatist he is as forthright a champion of democracy as any democrat could wish."

In a review of the production the Raleigh, North Carolina News and Observer critic wrote:
Democracy's survival depends on the quality of its leadership. Communism is likely to become the choice of the people only if the leaders of democracy are corrupt. This is the notion of Prime Minister U Nu of Burma, who is also a playwright, dealing with the material of his time. He hammers his theme home in The Wages of Sin, a morality play….."

And later in the review:

     U Nu's chief character -- and the only fully developed role in the play -- Home Minister U Po Lone, is represented as the type of government official who endangers his country by breaking the moral law. Guilty of bribery, gambling, drunkenness, and seduction of women, he not only estranges his wife and son but comes dangerously near to effecting the ruin of his party and the government. Somewhat of an old-fashioned melodrama in its technique, the play nonetheless is an effective instrument in pointing up the grave stresses in the East and in revealing how the communists extend their influence, particularly over youth.

Unlike The People Win Through this play employs a conventional Western structure of three acts in which the focus remains on the central character of Po Lone, the Home Minister, throughout. Act I opens in the living room of a house in Rangoon used as a private hideaway by Po Lone. There we see him drinking in company with his prostitute-mistress, mixing with dissolute hangers-on, and engaging in telephone conversations that illustrate his corrupt politics. Po Lone's wife discovers him in this situation, they have a row, and neighbours protest by throwing old shoes and other refuse through the windows of the room. In this act Nu depicted Po Lone as a betrayer of the trust his high office demands.

In Act II the audience sees the front room of a house in suburban Rangoon, occupied by the communist organizer for the area, San Lin. Part of the room is arranged as a classroom for the instruction of young communist sympathizers, who acknowledge San Lin as their teacher. Here Nu demonstrates how San Lin is willing to use any means, including seduction and murder, to accomplish his ends. Part way through the act, after the cadets enter for their instruction, the young men and women salute photos of Marx, Lenin and Stalin, and sing the Internationale. Among them is Po Thoung, the son of Po Lone, who has turned to communism because of his father's corruptness. Po Lone and his wife enter to persuade the young man to return home, there is a confrontation, and Po Thoung denounces his father. In this act Nu generates considerable interest by showing San Lin's methods in dealing with and converting young people, and by involving father and son in an effective climax. By the end of Act II the audience realizes there is little to choose between the corrupt politician and the unscrupulous communist organizer.
Act III shows the office of Po Lone, the Home Minister. Through various visitors and Po Lone's reactions to them Nu reveals how the man is using his position to further his own ends. Finally a Buddhist monk enters. The goodness of this man shames Po Lone, and he decides to resign his position. However, not entirely repentant, he plans to run off with his attractive young secretary. At this point the son, Po Thoung, enters, denounces his father for persecuting San Lin and closing the school for Communist youth, and shoots Po Lone. Seemingly the wages of sin is not only death, but death in dishonour at the hands of a loved one.

As the reviewer wrote, this is a morality play in the sense that the playwright tells us democracy will work no better than communism unless there are leaders of virtue. In his foreword to the playscript Nu writes:

Parliamentary democracy cannot endure, and must sooner or later perish in a country where those entrusted with its governance are:

  1. addicted to spiritous liquor;
  2. given to over-indulgence in such things as the pleasures of women;
  3. in the habit of gambling;
  4. unable to rise above gambling and corruption;
  5. guilty of misusing power.

However, in another sense, a more profound sense The Wages of Sin is a play written by a leader of his country who was also a Buddhist. In response to a question by the writer Nu wrote of his convictions concerning the relationship of democratic-socialism and Buddhism as it affected his plays. He felt the leaders of the people must take vows (Sila) to abstain from such improprieties as those listed, vows which are among those prescribed for a Buddhist, though also accepted by the Christian, the Hindu, and the Moslem. These vows help men become noble men. Further, he advocated meditation upon death (Asubha bhavana) and its inevitability as a way of combating covetousness and ill will. Thirdly, since these two ways to nobility of thought and action may be ineffective, the leader must uproot the cause that give rise to those defects which threaten him (Panna). He must become a Buddhist Sotapanna who uproots his false views, false perceptions, and false beliefs, and who removes all doubts as to their falsehood. For Nu these three instruments were, and I assume from his statement, still are the Buddhist ways to becoming a noble leader. He believed the noble path of Buddhism must be followed in order to reach the noble goal of democratic-socialism.

Nu wrote The Wages of Sin to correspond to his vision of the Burmese reality in 1959. His judgments and the intensity with which he supported them came partly from Buddhist and partly from democratic-socialist convictions. These convictions coloured the creative effort of Nu as he drew his materials from the world in which he lived by a process of selection and arrangement. In drama this creative process is applied to dramatic actions which illustrate and explain the playwright's vision. He draws his choices from his thought and experience as conditioned by his time and place. In The Wages of Sin Nu's insistence that ethical imperatives must prevail in national politics was consistent with his place in history.

We can appreciate Nu's concern for socially relevant values in the Burmese context of the time. Dramatic literature has always had much to do with social justice, democracy and human welfare. Moreover, with reference to Nu's intent, considered earlier, we can conclude from our examination of his thoughts as a writer and from our review of his major plays that he, like writers in other developing countries, felt strongly the responsibility to not only reflect the historical experience of his nation but to influence it in the interests of his people.   


The abovementioned observations were made by foreigners on Premier Nu. Here is an indigenous close observation on Premier Nu, which is as follows:
Edward Law Yone,
the Nation’s Editor in Chief and the proprietor made the observation:


The Nation, Rangoon, March 2, 1957.

“The most publicized man in Burma today is U Nu. His name literally means, ‘Soft, tender or green,’ all of which belie his character. He once told Thakin Soe, ‘You be the Lenin of Burma, and I’ll be your Maxim Gorki.’ But U Nu has since shown himself to be more adept at politics than he ever was at play writing. The gentle dreamer who abhorred guns and could not kill a snake has developed into a fighter who revels in the rough game of politics. He will never be a Stalin, but there is a good deal of granite in his make-up. There is no particular triumph in his return to the Premiership today. He never really quit.

“U Nu is 50 years old, and looks about ten years younger. But I have seen him gaunt and unhappy. Then lie looks his age. The rest of the time he tries to keep his weight down [about 155 lbs.] and to present a brave exterior. His features are regular, his hands well shaped and his fingers well kept, and a smile sits naturally on his moon face. But he worries. When he worries lie gets sick, and the sickness gets him in the stomach.

“The secret of U Nu’s success is his keen sense of observation; that, and an almost uncanny intuition. The most grievous mistake that anyone can make is to think that he is a simple character. There is more complexity in his little finger than in the entire physiology of most people. In him naivete and shrewdness are so unevenly blended that one never knows which will be uppermost at any given moment. I am constantly amazed by his instant grasp of complicated matters and his inability to take in commonplace situations.

“U Nu is an easy person to talk to. He leads one along, keeps the conversation going smoothly, and contributes in an anecdotal way. When one comes away from a visit with U Nu, one has the distinct feeling of having talked too much. On his part, U Nu says much about the past, little about the present and nothing at all about his future plans. And he does all this without appearing cagey. In point of fact, most people get the impression that he is an unusually frank and uninhibited person. This is because they fail to recognize what a subtle individual he is.
“--- U Nu is accessible from the side of flattery and, to do him justice, from that of kindliness. The flattery works better if it is open, even blatant.

“But this in a leader is a dangerous weakness and leaves him open to the sycophants who always surround powerful men.
“None the less, the man is extremely human. It is possible to get a rise out of him, and when it is all over, to laugh together over it. On one of several occasions when something I published got under his skin, he wrote a rude letter and got his parliamentary secretary to sign it. We detected his hand and gave him tit for tat. In the end, he got so angry that he ordered my arrest. It needed the joint efforts of U Kyaw Nyein, U Tun Win and Bo Khin Maung Gale and several others to dissuade him. At the next press conference he still looked displeased at me. ‘Your friends saved you,’ he grumbled, but there was no more venom in him.

“Another time he spoke sharply to me for criticizing everything. ‘You can afford to tickle us withyour pen,’ he said, ‘you don’t have to do anything.’ ‘Mr. Prime Minister, that’s one of the privileges of my profession.’ Through the years, I think he has come to appreciate this fact. He must also learn that it is not sufficient for him to be convinced that what he is doing is right. It must appear so to others. In the very first chapter of “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” which he has translated, there occurs the story of the man who killed at a bank robbery, then killed an innocent policeman, and several others, before he was taken. Just before he died, he scribbled, ‘I am a kind man.’

“U Nu is often dubbed the leader of the mob, rather than of a party. That is not true. No party is going to retain a leader it can dispense with without loss to itself. The day he ceases to be useful to the party, it will have no compunction about jettisoning him. His ability to draw the crowd, his homespun tales, his salt-of-the-earth phraseology, are, of course, distinct assets, but over and above these is a warm personality and an intuitive short-cut to decision. When he went to China, I felt more or less certain he would come back a cropper. He came back with the ‘Package Deal’ a measure which could not be called a great feat of diplomacy, but which certainly confounded his critics. Another man would have been better prepared to wrangle with the Chinese, but could hardly have got off as lightly.

“U Nu has always prided himself on his ability to write books and plays. I am sure he could earn a comfortable living by writing, but I am afraid he would never be happy if he divorced himself from polities. It has got into his blood, until now he would be warped and frustrated if he tried to drain it out. Even his religion is mixed with politics. When he rises early to be at his devotions, the man is entirely sincere. His religion gives him great solace. But there have to be outward shows and manifestations to incite the people to take theirreligion seriously. So also, with honesty. He feels that it is not enough that he should be above bribery. It has to be proved, hence he makes a fetish of turning over the smallest gift to the nation. I think it is childish, but then I am not as fanatical as he in trying to make every minister into a Caesar’s wife, beyond reproach.

“I have talked with several of U Nu’s ‘inner circle’ and the consensus of opinion is strikingly like what Alanbrooke said of Churchill, --- ‘He has an unfortunate trick of picking up some isolated operation, and without ever really having it looked into, setting his heart upon it.’ When he once gets into these moods he feels everybody is trying to thwart him and to produce difficulties --- Perhaps the most remarkable failing of his is that he can never see a whole strategical problem at once. His gaze always settles on some definite part of the canvas and the rest of the picture is lost. Because of this failing, U Nu has often pulled a boner, which is not surprising, but he has the knack of recovering his stance, which astonishes his enemies as well as his friends.

“The complaint is sometimes heard that U Nu is tending to become more and more dictatorial. His past actions refute this charge. A dictator is made of sterner stuff. He does not compromise once his mind is made up. I can think of many occasions on which his colleagues have talked him round. As I said to a certain Minister once, ‘if U Nu ever becomes a dictator, you’ll be to blame.’ U Nu can be extremely touchy and he can say scathing words, but in any argument it is better to stand your groundwith him, even if he flares to the sky, rather than take umbrage yourself and mutter behind his back. He admires guts even in a political opponent. ‘Burma under the Japanese’ is nothing if not a tribute to Dr. Ba Maw’s courage.

“U Nu is first and last a popular leader. He is disqualified for the details of administration. That is where the weakness of his government is most apparent. From morning till night, he wears out his secretaries with notes and memoranda, but such is the system in Burma that few of his ideas get translated into action. And it is quite useless to prod him to fire a subordinate. A Burman judge shrinks at whipping a prisoner. U Nu, the Burman Prime Minister, is congenitally incapable of sacking a man for incompetence. Perhaps there is a reason for this, but short of doing a psychograph I cannot discover it. It may be that knowing himself to be a dreamer and a visionary, he feels he cannot be too hard on a subordinate for being unpractical. Before he eloped with his wife, U Nu planned the whole operation, then stood her up because he could not find the motor boat!

“But while he cannot hurt individuals, U Nu can fire whole outfits. He very nearly sacked the whole of the SAMB; he got rid of ECA at one fell swoop, and, at one time, after he had agreed to accept six million pounds from the Commonwealth, he bundled the Ambassadors out of his house. These things would have been avoided if the people concerned knew his real character. He hides his mounting irritation until the moment arrives when he erupts. That is why one has to be extremely careful in dealing with him. One may put up one’s feet in his presence, slap him on the back and address him as ‘old boy’ and he will stand it as long as he thinks one is not deliberately offensive, but the moment one tries to patronise him or offer a calculated insult, he reacts violently.

“Somebody who knows U Nu well once told me, ‘Don’t get friendly with U Nu. You’ll get nothing out of it except being dragged to the Indian movies.’ That is not altogether unsound advice. When U Nu goes to see a film he goes to be entertained. Weird phantasies suit him best because in that way the man of imagination tries to break away from the life of practical politics. He is a greater Walter Mitty than any man I know. Burma is his stage. The play that is being put on is his play, arid he is acting the main part. It is complicated enough to shatter the nerves of most living persons. He can hardly be expected to relax with more social problems at the cinema.

“Perhaps it is because his mind is so busy that his bodily needs are so few. With such big gaps in education and knowledge, he nevertheless has an accumulation of facts and quotations so neatly pigeon-holed in the recesses of his memory, that he is able to bedeck his speeches with aphorisms wherever he goes. And all the time he is observing and adding to his storehouse, his alert mind separating the weighty from the trivial. He seems to gain a little from each person he associates with, whoever he may be. But while sophisticated in his thinking, he is not so in his personal habits. He eats at 9 and again at 5. Not for him is the utterly un-Burman institution called lunch. Most times he eats whatever is placed before him, but let him be upset and he complains like a child. Cleanliness is, to him, next to godliness. ‘I don’t mind if my daughter marries a beggar,’ he said recently, ‘but he should be a clean beggar.’ He is, of course, a great health faddist and swallows vitamin tablets with every meal. He can stand the cold but shuns the draught like the very devil.

“Who are U Nu’s friends? We can parade in our mind’s eye a succession of ministers, religious leaders, politicians, businessmen and clowns. Now and again we hear of someone who is extra thick with him, but never lasts. The fact of the matter is that U Nu is a self-reliant person with a great sense of destiny. In his career, there are no Grey Eminences, no permanent court jesters. Perhaps the only exception is U Thant, and U Thant never talks about him, not because he does not know or because it would take too long. To all questioners, U Thant answers with one word, ‘mercurial,’ and that is a very apt description. I am not sure that this singular lack of attachment on U Nu’s part is not a virtue. When I recently told U Nu that U Thant was down with overwork, the reply I got was typical, ‘It’s a miracle he didn’t go down last year or the year before that.’ It was not a callous remark, but coming from U Nu the best tribute he could pay to a loyal friend. U Thant, too, knows how to speak his language.

‘What keeps you so busy these days, Ko Thant?’ U Nu once asked. ‘You,’ was the unhesitating retort.

“When it comes to strangers, however, U Nu can turn on the charm. He is such a believer in the ‘personal contact’ approach to problems and so alive to the possibilities of human relationships, that people who have watched him operate have been known to reply, ‘Did he translate Dale Carnegie, or did Dale Carnegie translate him?’

“I can best illustrate his uncanny habit of doing the right thing at the right time by an incident during his American tour. At that time the Majority Leader in the Senate was William Knowland, a man whom U Nu had deliberately snubbed in Burma because at the time Knowland came to Rangoon, the KMT incident was rankling in U Nu’s breast. But, when invited to address the American Congress, U Nu was received and introduced by Knowland as though he were a long lost friend. This disturbed U Nu afterwards, and he wrote a letter of apology for the cavalier treatment accorded him in Burma. When, later, U Nu dropped a brick over the ‘admission of China into the UN’ issue, we thought, ‘Now for the Knowland blast.’ It never came and now we know the reason why.

“This innate sense of fairness, and even humility, is what sets U Nu apart. The apology to Mr. Sloss, the great goodwill shown to Sir Archibald Cochrane (‘the Governor I used to abuse whenever I had nothing better to do’), the admission to Bo Tun Sein, (‘I am sorry I have not taken my parliamentary duties more seriously,’) and the ability to say to anybody, ‘I have been a fool, I apologise,’ are the best insurance against U Nu ever turning out to be a dictator.”











She was a kun: daun kain [village belle] so to speak of Pantanaw. Her parents were rich Country Gentry, proprietor of a Rice Mill, land owner of over 3,000 acres of paddy fields, and the owner of a high school. Her father worried that his young daughter Shwe Mya Yi would meet someone if she continued her schooling and therefore she was plucked out of the school after she completed her Six Standards.

She met Ko Nu, a head master of her parent’s high school, a different cut, and a different mold, which had enticed her quite well. With apparent disapproval, they eloped.  Daw Mya Yi followed her husband everywhere, down and out or up and about, she would march side by side with her husband Ko Nu.

Ko Nu wrote plays and novels but he was not able to bring back any royalty home because some one needed it or asked for it or the royalty was never paid. Of course, she did complain but never protested. When Ko Nu got back to Rangoon, the two set up their little abode. She prepared breakfast - fried rice, and coffee for about ten people every morning. The regulars were Thakins Soe, Ba Thein Tin, Aung San; and, Hla Pe [Bo Let Ya], Nyo Tun and Thi Han were ever present houseguests, the trio stayed with Thakin Nu and Daw Mya Yi. Less frequent visitor was Kyaw Nyein. Lunch was prepared in the same manner, and those regulars would help themselves and left, doing things what they had to do in their affairs of politicking.  

After the money she brought had exhausted, she returned to her parents to dig some more from her Grandma’s coffer and to gather some of her gold ornaments to sell off when needed. During her absent, Nu and Hla Pe, being sick of eating Baja gjo [fritter made of split yellow peas] day in and day out they fried fish. Fire caught in the pan and they fearfully lifted up the pan. The oil flew all over. The roof almost caught fire. Afterwards, they gave up cooking and back to the good old Baja gjo.

She had to put up with Thakin Soe’s intolerable habit, such as, feeding up all for him. If no one noticed, Thakin Soe would leave none for the rest. No matter how seriously she scolded, Thakin Soe never changed or heeded and kept eating the whole bunch of bananas or a pan full of friend rice or a pot of coffee many a time.

She had to put up with Thakin Aung San’s idiosyncrasies. At one time she caught Aung San, making faces to the mirror in her room. She asked what was he doing and he replied with a question “why was this mirror standing in front of me?” At another time she found pile of shit on the wooden plank on the side, which was to step on and squat. Later, she discovered it was Aung San who did it. She asked why he did not do it in a regular way, the replied was “I am testing a new side way”. Every morning, after breakfast, Aung San asked for Ta Moo [two annas] from her; Ta Bai or one anna for two cigarettes and one anna for a lan cha: [rickshaw]. He would not walk to the Dho Bama Asiayone, which was within a walking distance, where other walked, but for Aung San, it was only by lan cha:. At times it was two rupees, because Aung San would not want to miss the movies.    

Burma Freedom Block [BFB] was formed to further the struggle for independence with Dr. Ba Maw as the President and Thakin Aung San as the General Secretary. This group was basically an amalgamation of Dho Bama Asiayone and Sinyetha Party with a few smaller political parties. The students’ “union leaders were in support of the national united front of BFB in secrecy”. BFB made strong demand on the British Government to “turn over all power and authority in the country to its elected Government”. BFB movement’s outstanding leaders were Dr. Ba Maw, Thakins Nu, Aung San, Mya, Hla Pe and Than Tun. On June 9, 1940 the BFB made an open challenge “forbidding the Burmese to support the war effort [of the British] with either manpower or material”.     
Following the public meeting on June 9 at the Jubilee Hall more impressive meeting was held in Mandalay. Dr. Ba Maw was publicly acclaimed “Dictator” [a na shin]. The British Governor responded by arresting Thakin Nu on July 4 and Dr. Ba Maw on July 10.  Thakin Aung San evaded the warrant issued on July 12 and went under ground. Henzada District Police Superintendent Zavior with Rupees 5 reward issued the warrant for Thakin Aung San.

Nu was kept at the Central Jail [Rangoon Jail].  Daw Mya Yi went to see him through “htaun win za khan” [asked permission to see a prisoner]. She was ushered into the Warden’s office.

The Warden greeted her and pressured her to persuade her husband to quit politics with the promise that if she succeeded he would allow her to take her husband home.

When Thakin Nu, B Class political prisoner was brought out, the Warden kept talking to Nu to quit politics. There was not a chance for her to talk with her husband. Within a minute or two, she grabbed hold of her husband’s shoulders and turned him around and screamed: “I am here to talk with my husband, stop talking to him; I need to talk to my husband” was the command she screamed out.

That was the first htaun win za. She brought along Htike, wrapped up in hpajaun: pahsou [linoleum cerecloth], who was only four months old. That was the first time Nu had seen his son. When he was apprehended Htike was about a month shy of being born.

She visited the central jail next time but she was not allowed to see Nu. There was only htaun hmu [Jailer], an Anglo-Indian fellow by the name of Rosalie and two ba ja [it is a prison jargon, meaning: inmate appointed as orderly to prison officials] came to the door. From inside they opened a small window with a tiger head knob and read out a letter from Nu saying he would be taking Sabbath, would have only vegetarian meal and a short list of his requirements.  The Jailer refused to give the letter to her.

That was not acceptable to her. She pounced through the small window and snatched the letter. She got the letter. Rosalie and two ba ja came out, grabbed her and forcefully retook the letter. They walked back in and the door was slammed shut. 

She knew that Rosalie would be coming out for lunch and his house was just across the street behind khajei pin tan [row of Star flower]. She resolved to wait the guy to come out and prepared to smack right on the face. She sat right there with Htike under a Khajei tree. She had a backer, a woman from Thayettaw Monastery inquired what was the matter and when she found out that it was going to be a brawl against a Jail officer, the woman enthusiastically supported her: “Cha thar cha, Kya Ma lai: ku mai” [Take on, I will assist you].   

She treated the Thakins who had come across not only as her husband’s associates and comrades but also as her own brothers and comrades-in-arms. One day, Kyaw Nyein and Hla Pe asked her to prepare a good meal for Aung San who remained under ground. It was dinner; Aung San and his companion Hla Myaing took heartily, and from time to time Aung San was exclaiming: “Oh, what a ngapi yay, I have to take more for now, when would I have this ngapi yay again”. Hla Myaing had been in her house for a couple of days staying as houseguest arranged by Hla Pe. No one, Kyaw Nyein, Hla Pe, Nyo Tun, or Thi Han joined the dinner but looked on. After dinner, a Taxi driven by a Sino-Burmese Driver Ko Kyaw Myaing took Aung San and Hla Myaing away. Aung San had Rupees 100 in his pocket that was the total amount his comrades Hla Pe and Kyaw Nyein could muster. She got very suspicious about the behavior of the group as well as of Aung San’s. 

As she could sense abnormal behavior of Aung San she inquired but no one revealed anything but kept their mouths tight shut. She grabbed Hla Pe and started beating him up and demanded: “You son of a bitch, tell me what the hell is going on”, by so saying she kept beating. The only answer she got was: “I don’t know Mama Yi, hpaja su: [be punished for having wrong the Buddha] I don’t know Mama Yi”. She released Hla Pe as nothing would be coming out from him. She found another prey; this time was Kyaw Nyein.

You son of a bitch, I will beat you to death if you don’t tell me what the hell is going on with Aung San”.  So saying she cornered Kyaw Nyein and beat up uncontrollably. Eventually Kyaw Nyein revealed that Aung San is leaving the country to seek military assistance from China for independence struggle. She released Kyaw Nyein soon after. Tears rolled down and she slowly uttered: “You guys did not treat me as one of your comrades. If I had known Aung San would be leaving the country and did not even know for how long, I would have prepared much better meal for him. After all, he is one of my younger brothers, you all know that very well”.

Kyaw Nyein and Hla Pe, with tears in their eyes, apologized her for not treating her right, Nyo Tun and Thi Han joined in later with full of tears for their uncomradery they had shown on her and sorry for their friend Aung San who had gone to the unknown place.

At the time of independence there was an organization called ‘Women Welfare Association for the Armed Forces’ [Ta’ mado amjou: dhami: the’ tha chaun gji. jei: ahpwe.]. Its first President was ICS U Tin Htut’s [Minister of Foreign Affairs] wife, and later Daw Khin Hla, wife of the Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Brigadier General Let Ya, became the president. The government provided Kyat 50,000 annually for the organization’s activities and in addition there were subsidy of Kyat 250 per day to serve food or drink for the soldiers at the frontlines. 

The organization was at slumber. The country’s state of emergency affairs demanded the organization to be more dynamic. She suggested Bo Let Ya that the organization’s activities should be developed into nation wide. Bo Let Ya asked his wife to resign and asked Daw Mya Yi to take over the organization to which she refused at first. But she was not the type of person who would shun the national duty. When all office documents and funds were transferred to her there was only Kyat 3,000 for her to begin with. She started with a plan for Rangoon front with her friends.  She chose Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to go to the frontlines with food and drinks prepared, feeding soldiers right at their frontline positions. She needed more than Kyat 250 per day for the food and beverages preparations for the soldiers. 

She earnestly urged the people to donate. She and the members of the organization visited to give support to the soldiers at Point 112, U Set Kane monastery, etc. in Insein area where fierce battles between KNDO and loyal government forces fought. Daw Mya Yi with few soldiers from the contingent of the Chin Riffles attached to the Prime Minister and his family’s security visited the Artillery units in the evenings who were less mobile in Insein. She had to approach by shouting at them: ‘your auntie is here with food for you all’.

Many soldiers in the hospital were without limbs and some without eye balls but hollowed sockets. All were very happy to receive her and her organization that fed and nursed them. She spoon-fed soldiers and they were telling her their gallantries. 

During the rest of the week she went around in Rangoon and asked people to donate to her organization. She implemented a care package program by sending cloth-bags to various ministries, public organizations, schools, etc. to donate anything for the soldiers. The response was tremendous. Burma Air Force was requested to airdrop those care packages to various frontline units through out the country. Later, she organized State, Division, District, and Township level organizations by requesting wives of the Administrative Officers to join and took positions at various levels. On annual basis, the Headquarters and all its organizations throughout the country donated many items such as refrigerators, Bell and Howell 16-MM movie projectors, towels, blankets, etc. each according to needs and according to the affordability of the organization to various battalions. Mass participation was at its best. The battalions and the organization throughout the country receiving each other like hands and gloves. All these activities were planned and implemented without Premier Nu’s assistance at all. 

At the height of the organization’s popularity, Nu said:  ‘Ma Mya Yi, Bo Aung Gyi was telling me their forces are in better shape now and the assistance from your organization is no longer needed. He requested you stop your assistance activities with their forces’. 

She replied:  ‘No sweat Ko Shwe Nu, tell your Bo Aung Gyi we will close all our shops in no time’. 

Accordingly, she arranged the transfer of funds as well as goods the organizations had received from the public to the government and to the Base Military Hospital. Thus, the chapter of the Women Welfare Association for the Armed Forces was abruptly ceased at the instance of the Armed Forces Vice Chief of Staff for Army, Colonel Aung Gyi. Many soldiers cried after they heard that the organization they loved had dissolved.


Daw Mya Yi was quite keen on public works. She would not hesitate to participate in any event that was connected with the masses. It was her idea to form a non-profit charity organization, Wi. Tha Kha Women’s Organization. The organization collected donation from its members and with their own funds the Organization built a Wi Tha Kha Pavillion within the confines of Kabar Aye Pagoda where they had seven nights Satu. Di Tha [feast given in charity for all comers] at the annual Kabar Aye Pagoda Festival. On the seventh day, the organization invited 1,000 Monks for the annual Hsun: Gji: Laun: [offer provisions and various articles to the invited monks] which later became a communal offering of provisions by various other organizations.

Another main activity of the organization was offering Swen at the annual Tipitaka [The three repositories of Buddhist scriptures] Sa Pjan  Bew: [Examination in recitation of Buddhist Scripture] entered by the Monks.   






Acquiescing to requests made by our Patrons and Friends U Nu of Burma Group has decided to keep on floating the PEOPLEWINTHROUGH website and upgrade it from U Nu CENTENNIAL to U Nu MEMORIAL.

U Nu of Burma Group

August 23, 2007.


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