Thakin Kodaw Hmaing (1876 -1964)
By The Irrawaddy
MARCH, 2000 - VOLUME 8 NO.3
Contemporary poet and literary scholar Min Thu Wun has commented that modern Burmese literature and political thought would be impossible to imagine without the works of Kodaw Hmaing.
Maung Lun, later known as Thakin Kodaw Hmaing, was born on March 23, 1876 in Wale Village, Shwedaung Township. In 1894 he moved to Rangoon, where he began his career as a playwright. Later turning to journalism, he published his first articles in a newspaper in Moulmein. But in 1911, just as the Burmese nationalist movement was gaining strength, he returned to the capital to work for the Suria newspaper.
“On Adultery”, an article published under the pen name “Mr. Maung Hmaing”, created an immediate sensation. Maung Hmaing, the Burmese equivalent of Casanova, was the name of a notorious character in a well-known contemporary novel. By affixing the English “Mr.” to such a disreputable name, Kodaw Hmaing was mocking an affectation common among young Burmese Anglophiles.
In 1935, Kodaw Hmaing became Thakin, or Master, Kodaw Hmaing after joining the Do Bamar Asiayon (“We Burmans Association”). As a well-known journalist and intellectual, Thakin Kodaw Hmaing brought respectability to this group of young radicals opposed to British rule. In 1941, however, his reputation as a nationalist earned him a place on the British authorities’ “Burma List”, making him an “enemy of the state”.
Following independence, Kodaw Hmaing went on to promote reconciliation as the country was plunged into civil war. Later, when Gen Ne Win seized power in 1962, Kodaw Hmaing’s writing served as the only legitimate expression of an alternative approach to politics.
On March 23, 1976, the 100th anniversary of Kodaw Hmaing’s birth, more than one hundred students were arrested for holding a peaceful ceremony at Kodaw Hmaing’s mausoleum in front of Shwedagon Pagoda.
This March 23rd, The Irrawaddy would like to express its deep admiration for this great man of Burmese history and its hope for the fulfillment of his dream of peace in Burma.