Independence Hero Aung San: His Integrity is Sorely Needed
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Wednesday, December 19, 2018


Independence Hero Aung San: His Integrity is Sorely Needed

By Aung Zaw JUNE, 2004 - VOLUME 12 NO.6


On July 19, 1947, independence hero Aung San and eight others were gunned down by a rival faction at the Secretariat. Aung San’s honesty and straightforwardness are missed by friends and colleagues who knew him. However, current military leaders in Burma want to take his name out of history books.

The name of student leader Aung San always aroused excitement in high school student Htay Myaing. His dream was to meet Aung San, who was at that time editor of Oway magazine, published by Rangoon University.

General Aung San

In 1936, Htay Myaing, who lived in Irrawaddy division, attended Burma’s first student conference in Rangoon, where the All Burma Federation of Student Unions was established. There he found his dream tinged with disappointment.

Htay Myaing watched Aung San, then 21, speaking to a disorderly crowd, and he found his hero rather rough, impolite, and emotional. Worse, Htay Myaing saw no trace of the manner he expected from an educated university student.

Htay Myaing, who later became a highly respected writer and poet, wrote of that first encounter: “Aung San is neither handsome nor eloquent.”

He did concede, however: “I was still young; thus, in my thoughts, I want him to be handsome and articulate.”

Htay Myaing, whose pen name is Dagon Taya, went on to write historical critiques about Aung San, observing him from a critical perspective.

Taya is now a living legend in Burma as his friends in the 1930s and 1940s included not only independence hero General Aung San and U Nu (who later became prime minister), but also Than Tun (the communist leader killed in the jungle), Ba Hein and many other prominent leaders in the country’s independence struggle.

Now a venerated writer and artist in his eighties, Taya lives in Kalaw, Shan State.

Taya never became a “close friend” of Aung San, who was four years his senior. But in that he wasn’t alone—it was never easy to get close to Aung San.

Taya thought Aung San was eccentric and unfriendly. He was a man who shunned entertainment and maintained a surly appearance. His thoughts focused on only one thing: Burma’s independence.

Taya and friends tried unsuccessfully to persuade Aung San to relax and occasionally enjoy himself. “He wouldn’t come out to the movies when we invited him,” Taya recalled.

Aung San doesn’t pretend, he is very honest—his speeches are not from books but from his own experiences and heart
—Dagon Taya

Other young Thakin leaders, such as Than Tun, Ba Hein and Nu, sought distractions such as theater visits as brief respites from politics. (Many Burmese nationalist leaders named themselves Thakin or master during the independence struggle. Thakin Aung San, for instance.)

While his friends relaxed, Aung San remained in his room with his books. “Aung San was a political animal,” recalled Taya. “He was always thinking of politics and independence.”

Aung San’s daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi, who is now under house arrest, wrote in her book Aung San of Burma: “His honesty, single-mindedness and capacity for work won him considerable respect, albeit reluctant, but he was a difficult personality and stood apart from his more courteous and easygoing colleagues.”

However, Taya, who admired Than Tun, Ba Hein and U Nu rather than Aung San, said the independence hero had later changed and had emerged as a national leader.

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