- U Nu
- In this Burmese name, U is an honorific. For other people with the Burmese name Nu, see Nu (Burmese name).
U Nu with Moshe Dayan during his visit to Israel in 1955 1st Prime Minister of Burma In office
4 January 1948 – 12 June 1956
President Sao Shwe Thaik
Preceded by Office created Succeeded by Ba Swe In office
28 February 1957 – 28 October 1958
President Ba U Preceded by Ba Swe Succeeded by Ne Win In office
4 April 1960 – 2 March 1962
President Win Maung Preceded by Ne Win Succeeded by Ne Win Personal details Born 25 May 1907
Wakema, Myaungmya District, British Burma
Died 14 February 1995(aged 87)
Nationality Burmese Political party AFPFL Spouse(s) Mya Yi Children San San Nu
Than Than Nu
Khin Aye Nu
Alma mater University of Rangoon Religion Theravada Buddhism
U Nu (Burmese: ဦးနု; pronounced [ʔú nṵ]; also Thakin Nu; 25 May 1907 – 14 February 1995) was a leading Burmese nationalist and political figure of the 20th century. He was the first Prime Minister of Burma under the provisions of the 1947 Constitution of the Union of Burma, from 4 January 1948 to 12 June 1956, again from 28 February 1957 to 28 October 1958, and finally from 4 April 1960 to 2 March 1962.
He was born to U San Tun and Daw Saw Khin of Wakema, Myaungmya District, British Burma. He attended Myoma High School in Yangon. In 1929 he got a B.A. from Rangoon University. In 1935 he married Mya Yi while entering the exam of LLB.
Struggle for independence
His political life started as president of the Rangoon University Students Union (RUSU) with Aung San as the secretary. They were both expelled from the university after writing an article, Hell Hound Turned Loose, that appeared in the union magazine. Their expulsion sparked off the second university students' strike in February 1936. Both became members of the nationalist Dobama Asiayone (We Burmans Association) which had been formed in 1930 and henceforth gained the prefix Thakin ('Master'), proclaiming they were the true masters of their own land. For a few years after independence in 1948 Nu retained the prefix 'Thakin', but around 1952 he announced that since Burma was already independent the prefix of 'Thakin' was no longer needed and henceforth he would be known as U ('Mr') Nu. In 1937 he co-founded with Thakin Than Tun the Nagani (Red Dragon) Book Club which for the first time widely circulated Burmese-language translations of the Marxist classics. He also became a leader and co-founder of the People's Revolutionary Party (PRP), which later became the Socialist Party, and the umbrella organisation the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League (AFPFL), which advocated Burmese independence from both Japanese and British occupation during the 1940s. He was detained by the colonial government in 1940 along with Thakin Soe, Thakin Than Tun, Kyaw Nyein, U Măd, and Dr. Ba Maw. After the assassination of its political and military leader Aung San along with his cabinet ministers on 19 July 1947, U Nu led the AFPFL and signed an independent agreement (the Nu-Attlee Treaty) with the British Premier Clement Attlee in October 1947.
Burma gained independence from Britain on 4 January 1948.U Nu became the chairman of the Old Myoma Students Association in Yangon. U Nu became the first Prime Minister of independent Burma, and he had to deal with armed rebellion, The rebels included various ethnic groups, White Flag and Red Flag communist factions, and some regiments in the Army. Yet another challenge was the exiled Kuomintang (KMT). After being chased out of China by the victorious Communists, they had established bases in eastern Burma, and it took several years in the early 1950s to drive them out. A democratic system was instituted, however, and parliamentary elections were held several times. He voluntarily relinquished the Prime Ministerial position in 1956.Myoma U Than Kywe was one of the leaders of theAnti-Fascist People's Freedom League (AFPFL ) from 1942 to 1963. AFPFL member U Ba Swe served as Prime Minister from June 1956 to June 1957. On 26 September 1958, he asked the Army Chief of Staff General Ne Win to take over as a "caretaker government", and Ne Win was sworn in as Prime Minister on 27 October 1958. In the February 1960 general election, U Nu's "Clean" faction of the AFPFL won in a landslide victory over the "Stable" faction led by U Ba Swe and U Kyaw Nyein. U Nu returned to power forming the Pyidaungzu (Union) government on 4 April 1960.
Less than two years after his election victory, Nu was overthrown by a coup d’état led by General Ne Win on 2 March 1962. After the 1962 coup, U Nu was put in what was euphemistically called 'protective custody' in an army camp outside Rangoon. He was released more than four years later on 27 October 1966 [see the (Rangoon) Guardian and The Working People's Daily of 28 October 1966 concerning the news items of U Nu's release from custody]. Among others, on the day of the military coup on 2 March 1962 President Mahn Win Maung as well as Chief Justice U Myint Thein (22 February 1900 – 3 October 1994) was also put in 'protective custody'. Win Maung was released from detention in October 1967 and Myint Thein not until 28 February 1968.
On 2 December 1968, Ne Win, Chairman of the Revolutionary Council (RC), established a 33 man 'Internal Unity Advisory Board' (IUAB; known more informally as 'the thirty-three') of former politicians some of whom he had jailed (or put in protective custody) several years earlier. The Board was assigned with the task of advising the RC for possible suggestions to enhance internal unity and to make suggestions for possible political changes. U Nu was one of the 'thirty-three'. In February 1969, U Nu submitted an 'interim report' recommending that Ne Win hand over power back to him; that the Parliament abolished by Ne Win in March 1962 be reconvened. He proposed that the Parliament would meet and formally appoint Ne Win as president. In his proposal he stated that he made these suggestions in good faith after repeatedly mulling over alternative arrangements. He also stated that he made this proposal in absolute sincerity so that the Revolutionary Council not remain as 'usurpers' ('those who came to power through force') and the 'taint of illegality' of Ne Win's takeover be erased. (The English translation of U Nu's 'interim report' or proposals could be read in the 3 June 1969 issues of the Rangoon Guardian and the Working People's Daily).
Soon after submitting his 'report' or recommendations, U Nu, feigning illness, and under the pretext of a pilgrimage to India left Burma for India. When Ne Win made no response to his report, U Nu left India for London. In a speech given at the opening day of the Fourth Seminar of the ruling Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) on 6 November 1969, Ne Win formally rejected U Nu's proposal, saying that he took over power — and held on to it — not because he craved power but to uplift the welfare of the 'workers and peasants' and that U Nu's proposals amounted to 'turning back the wheel'. (The full translation of Ne Win's speech to the BSPP seminar can be read in 7 and 8 November 1969 issues of the Rangoon Guardian and the Working People's Daily. U Nu had by now already declared in London that he was still 'the legal Prime Minister').
In a press conference held in London on 27 August 1969, U Nu announced that he was the 'legal Prime Minister' and 'pledged to the people of Burma' that he would not give up his struggle for democracy in Burma and that Burma was under the 'same kind of fascism' which (Burma's independence hero) 'General Aung San had fought' (during the freedom struggle and the resistance against the Japanese occupation of Burma during the Second World War). The full text of U Nu's press conference in London can be read in the 1 September 1969 issues of the Rangoon Guardian and the Working People's Daily. The text of U Nu's press conference announcement, made in English, in London, was also translated into Burmese in full and was published in all the State-controlled Burmese language newspapers of 1 September 1969.
U Nu later formed the Parliamentary Democracy Party (PDP) and led an armed resistance group. U Nu's 'resistance group' consisted of no more than several hundred or at most a few thousand at its peak and his avowal to fight and overthrow Ne Win from the Thai border met with abject failure. He subsequently accepted an offer of amnesty granted by Ne Win and returned to Burma on 29 July 1980. (The news item that 'former Prime Minister U Nu and wife Mya Yi arrving back at Rangoon airport at 3:30 pm in the afternoon of 29 July 1980' can be read in the 30 July 1980 issues of the Rangoon Guardian and the Working People's Daily).
After keeping a low profile, teaching Buddhism in Burma and the United States - U Nu visited Northern Illinois University in the US to lecture on Buddhism in 1987 - U Nu became once again politically active during the 8888 Uprising forming the first new political party, the League for Democracy and Peace (LDP). Echoing his assertion that he was the 'legal Prime Minister' of August 1969 in London, U Nu reiterated on 9 September 1988 in Rangoon that he was still the 'legal Prime Minister'. His invitation to Aung San Suu Kyi and to ex-Brigadier Aung Gyi (another opposition politician at the time of the 8888 crisis) to form an interim government was rejected. Nonetheless he formed his own 'government' reappointing Mahn Win Maung who was overthrown in the 1962 coup as 'President'. After the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) took over power on 18 September 1988, the SLORC repeatedly asked U Nu to formally 'abolish' his 'interim government', but U Nu refused to do so. As a result Nu was put under house arrest on 29 December 1989. SLORC spokesmen at that time stated that although U Nu could have been tried for 'treason', due to his advanced age and his contribution to the freedom struggle, he was not charged with that offence. He was released on 23 April 1992 the same day the SLORC Chairman Senior General Saw Maung was forced to relinquish power and replaced by military junta (officially named the State Peace and Development Council) chief Senior General Than Shwe.
A devout Theravada Buddhist, U Nu had long been the popular spiritual leader of his country. He had the Kaba Aye Pagoda and the Maha Pasana Guha (Great Cave) built in 1952 in preparation for the Sixth Buddhist Synod that he convened and hosted in 1954–1956 as prime minister. In a 1957 interview with American news broadcast See It Now, he stated that:
“ Had it not been for my faith, I would have been finished in 1948, 1949, and 1950, when the insurrection was in its height. ”
He also stated that although he was born Buddhist, he was particularly attracted by the Kalama Sutta, a Buddhist doctrine that challenges believers to actively question their beliefs and views instead of passively accepting them:
“ You must not believe anything which you cannot test yourself. ”
On 29 August 1961, Parliament passed the State Religion Promotion Act of 1961, initiated by U Nu himself. This act made Buddhism the official state religion of the country, one of his election campaign promises as well as instated the Buddhist lunar calendar by official observance of the so-called Buddhist sabbath days, or Uposatha, in lieu of the Christian Sabbath day, Sunday. On Uposatha days, state broadcasting radio was required to dedicate its airtime to religious programs, while state schools and government offices were closed, and liquor was not allowed to be served in public spaces. The act also required government schools to teach Buddhist students the Buddhist scriptures, banned the slaughtering of cattle (beef became known as todo tha (တိုးတိုးသား); lit. hush hush meat), and commuted death sentences for parolees.
When General Ne Win took over in 1962, one of his first acts was to repeal the Buddhist acts that had passed under U Nu's administration, including the ban on cow slaughtering and declaration of Buddhism as the state religion, as they had alienated largely Christian ethnic minorities such as the Kachins and the Karens, and perhaps was symbolic of a personality clash between Nu and Ne Win.
U Nu authored several books some of which have been translated into English. Among his works are The People Win Through (1951), Burma under the Japanese (1954), An Asian Speaks (1955), and Burma Looks Ahead (1951). His autobiography (1907–1962) Ta-Tei Sanei Tha (Ta-Tei - Saturday Son) was published in India by Irrawaddy Publishing (U Maw Thiri) in 1975. An earlier version had been published in 1974; it was translated into English by U Law Yone, Editor of the (Rangoon) Nation till 1963 and who, like U Nu, was jailed by the Revolutionary Council in the 1960s. Before U Nu became Prime Minister, he had translated, in the late 1930s, Dale Carnegie's book, How to Win Friends and Influence People (Lupaw Luzaw Louknee in Burmese - in retranslaton it roughly meant 'How to Take Advantage of Man by Man'); later the translated name was changed to the more palatable 'Meikta Bala Htika' which can be retranslated as A Treatise on Friendly Social Contract. The translated work under the second title became a prescribed text in schools in the 1950s as was U Nu's original work in Burmese, The People Win Through or The Sound of the People Victorious (Ludu Aungthan). He organized a Burma Translation Society and first volume of Burmese Encyclopedia published in 1954. The Sarpay Beikhman continued those works.
Novelist and playwright
Besides serving as Prime Minister, U Nu was also an accomplished novelist and playwright. In a work from the colonial period titled Yesset pabeikwe or It's So Cruel (Man, the Wolf of Man) U Nu describes how during the colonial period rich landlords were able to get away with just about any crime they wished to perpetrate.
The play The Sound of the People Victorious (Ludu Aungthan) that U Nu wrote while he was Prime Minister is about the havoc that Communist ideologies can wreak in a family. Strangely enough the first production of the play seems to have been in Pasadena, California. It later became a popular comic book in Burma, was translated into English, and made into a feature film at the height of the Cold War in the 1950s. The older generation in Burma can still remember having studied the play in their schooldays.
In the play Thaka Ala, published just before the 1962 coup, U Nu paints an extremely ugly picture of corruption both amongst the high-ranking politicians in power at the time as well as among the communist leaders who were gaining ascendancy. This is a play in the vernacular, a genre that hardly exists in Burmese literature. A translation into English was published in instalments in the Guardian newspaper. The play was critical of the current state of politics in Burma at the time (around 1960) and in this critical stance it resembles Thein Pe Myint's The Modern Monk (Tet Hpongyi in Burmese). Like The Modern Monk, it deals with scandalous sexual liaisons not much in keeping with traditional modes of Burmese behaviour.One of the greatest female writers of the Post-colonial period is Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay. Khin Myo Chit was another important writer, who wrote, among her works, The 13-Carat Diamond (1955), which was translated into many languages. The journalist Ludu U Hla was the author of numerous volumes of ethnic minority folklore, novels about inmates in U Nu-era jails, and biographies of people working in different occupations. The Prime Minister U Nu himself wrote several politically oriented plays and novels.
Other prolific writers of the post-colonial era include Thein Pe Myint (and his The Ocean Traveller and the Pearl Queen, considered a Burmese classic), Mya Than Tint (known for his translations of Western classics like War and Peace), Thawda Swe and Myat Htun. Aung San Suu Kyi, Chit Maung, Dagon Khin Khin Lay, Hmawbi Saya Thein, Htin Aung, James Hla Kyaw, Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay, Khin Hnin Yu, Khin Khin Htoo, Khin Myo Chit, Ludu Daw Amar, Ludu U Hla, Mg Khin Min (Danuphyu), Min Thu Wun, Minfong Ho, Mya Than Tint, Myoma Myint Kywe, P Moe Nin, Pascal Khoo Thwe, Pe Maung Tin, Richard Bartholomew, San San Nweh, Saw Wai, Saya Zawgyi, Taw Phayar Galay, Tekkatho Phone Naing, Thakin Kodaw Hmaing, Thein Pe Myint, Theippan Maung Wa, Thukha, Tin Moe, U Ottama,U Nu and U Pho Kyar were famous in Burma. Burmese Historians: Ba Shin, Than Tun, Thant Myint-U, Htin Aung, Sao Saimong, Myoma Myint Kywe ,and San C. Po were famous in Burma.Distinguished women writers, who have also been an ever-present force in Burmese literary history, include Kyi Aye, Khin Hnin Yu, and San San Nweh. This time the scandalous sexual liaisons are among politicians both of the left and the right.
Nu died of natural causes on 14 February 1995 in Yangon at the age of 87, after his wife Mya Yi died. They had five children, San San (daughter), Thaung Htaik (son), Maung Aung (son), Than Than (daughter) and Cho Cho (daughter).
- ^ U Nu of Burma - The First and Last Democratically Elected Leader of Burma
- ^ a b "Burma, Buddhism, and Neutralism". See It Now. Youtube. 3 February 1957. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myi_Vg5vu9I. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
- ^ a b Sahliyeh, Emile F. (1990). Religious resurgence and politics in the contemporary world. SUNY Press. pp. 39–40. ISBN 9780791403822.
- ^ King, Winston L. (2001). In the hope of Nibbana: the ethics of Theravada Buddhism. 2. Pariyatti. pp. 295. ISBN 9781928706083.
- ^ U Nu Dies, Reuters, February 14, 1995
- Butwell, Richard (1969). U Nu of Burma. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
- Tinker, Hugh (1957). The Union of Burma. Oxford University Press.
- Cady, John (1960). A History of Modern Burma. Cornell University Press.
- Smith, Martin (1999). Burma: Insurgency and the Politics of Ethnicity. Dhaka: University Press. ISBN 1856496597.
- Time Magazine cover
- The House on Stilts Time magazine cover story, August 30, 1954
- U Nu's speech on Burmese independence, January 4, 1948
- U Nu - Centennial Birthday May 25, 2007
- The Columbia Encyclopedia
- Encyclopædia Britannica article
- Burma Looks Ahead
- Thaka-Ala, a political satire by U Nu
- BookRags - U Nu
- U Nu's hundred of photo gallery at www.pbase.com
Prime Ministers of Burma (Myanmar)Small caps indicate military officeholders
184.108.40.206 (talk) 13:26, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
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