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Assassination of Aung San - July 19, 1947

Aung SanOn the morning of July 19, 1947, gunmen entered the Secretariat building in central Rangoon and murdered Aung San and seven of his ministers. U Saw, left out of the political process after the January 1947 Attlee-Aung San agreement, had plotted the assassination, apparently nurturing the desperate hope that with Aung San out of the way, the British governor would turn to him to lead the country. He may also have been plotting a takeover by force. The crime was poorly planned, however; the gunmen were traced to his house by police, and he and his accomplices were immediately arrested.

The violent death of Aung San, at age 32 the architect of Burma's independence, stunned the nation. All that had been carefully constructed now seemed on the verge of collapse. Governor Rance, however, showed no inclination to use the assassination as a pretext to delay the independence process; he immediately appointed Thakin Nu, president of the Constituent Assembly and vice president of the AFPFL, prime minister. At a special tribunal held in October-December 1947, U Saw and his accomplices were convicted; they were executed in May 1948.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese pro-democracy leader who heads the National League for Democracy (NLD), is also a Nobel Peace laureate. At the 1990 general elections, the NLD scored an outright landslide victory. It was Suu Kyis personal sacrifice and her defence of human rights that made her an iconic symbol for the Burmese people in their struggle for freedom. Her father was Burmas independence hero, Aung San, who was assassinated in 1947, when Suu Kyi was just two years old.

The assassination of the guiding genius and revered leader of the Burmese independence movement, Aung San, together with six other high Burmese officials, deprived Burma of its most promising leadership. Even after a year of independence, no effective leadership had emerged. The three major problems which had faced the new government maintenance of law and order,development of an effective administration, and hastening of economic recovery - remained unsolved.

A complete break-down of governmental authority was threatened by political factionalism expressed through armed revolt, chronic lawlessness, racial violence between Karens and Burmans, inexperience of high government officials, and political nepotism. Cabinet ministers lived behind barbed wire and were never without bodyguards. The government, dominated by the Socialist Party which was the only important entity remaining in the AFPFL, maintained itself only through the support of its armed forces and by increasing use of police state methods. Even so, the police and army controlled only the larger centers of population in dissident areas,and had great difficulty maintaining communications. Some army and police units had deserted to the insurgents, and more were expected to follow. This instability was accompanied by a steady deterioration of the country's economy. Under these conditions, the government lost considerable prestige and support.



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Page last modified: 08-10-2011 12:16:48 ZULU