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November 15, 2018

For his fight for independence, Bogyoke mastered the English language

  • By Maung Sein Ei (Na Bai Myay)

Although his life span was much too brief, the same person known as student leader Ko Aung San, national leader Thakin Aung San, Tatmadaw founder Bogyoke Aung San, and independence architect Bogyoke exerted tireless efforts for his nation and people. In the end, he sacrificed his life for the country.
During the struggle for independence, Bogyoke read a lot of books, including political literature written in English. While attending university, he had written articles in Myanmar as well as in English and also delivered speeches in the English language.

Outstanding in English
At the seventh standard examination held in March 1929 at Yenangyaung National High School, three students, including Bogyoke Aung San, were awarded with academic scholarships. At that juncture, Maung Aung San was the English section editor of the handwritten school magazine. Even though he was only in the ninth grade, his articles written in English were excellent. Sayar Gyi U Khin Than, his English teacher, shared an example of his writing that showed Bogyoke Aung San was fluent and skillful in the English language.

Life as a university student
Bogyoke came to Yangon University in 1932, after passing the matriculation examination. With high ambitions and aspirations, he was keen only in literature. During university debates, Bogyoke competed in events in the English language. Although his accent, tone and intonation were not perfect, Bogyoke could comfortably convey to the audience what he wanted to say. Some students and observers criticised the imperfect pronunciation, but Bogyoke ignored their disapproval. Whatever the situation may be, Bogyoke moved forward with his own beliefs and convictions.
As a university student, Bogyoke contributed English articles, such as “Burma and Buddhism”, and “Freedom of Dress in Schools”. At all the meetings held at the University Students’ Union, Bogyoke participated in English, despite some students shouting at him in protest to speak in the Myanmar language. Bogyoke strongly believed that good conversation in English was the sure gateway to excellent English writing. With this belief, he was also convinced that the English language was critical and instrumental in the arena of international relations.
Taken for granted, he profusely accepted as true that the English language might surely be useful in the struggle for independence of Myanmar. With firm conviction, Bogyoke worked hard, and hoped that his endeavours would be emulated by the new generation.

Writing speeches in English
During the hard struggle for independence, Bogyoke wrote his speeches in English, including his well-known speeches titled: The Resistance Movement; Problems for Burma’s Freedom; Critique on British Imperialism; Welcome India; The Situation and Tasks; and An Address to the Anglo-Burma. The collection of these six English speeches were compiled and printed in 1971 from Sar Pay Beik Man Publishing House. The book is ideal for the young English learners in which the outlook, philosophy and characteristics of the Arzarni (martyred)leader could be studied.
During the struggle for independence, he had conversations with British dignitaries in English, and eventually signed the Aung San-Atlee Agreement, which was written in English. Bogyoke worked very hard until the day he was assassinated.
The author of this article has the pleasure of sharing with the new generation some portions of Bogyoke’s conversations with Clement Richard Attlee, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, at No. 10 Downing Street in London on 13 January 1947.
“I would like to say on behalf of the delegation that whatever differences we may have in Burma, though indeed they are few and unimportant, we are one in our demand for full and unfettered freedom. We want that freedom soon, and we want to have the opportunity to prepare for it now”, Bogyoke said.’

This should be emulated.
Despite his young age of 32, his insight and wisdom was multifaceted and still lively. Since childhood, Bogyoke was unlike other kids. He never lied, but spoke candidly and courageously what he wanted. These are the characteristics for the new generation to be followed.
Without the slightest sign of arrogance or boastfulness, Bogyoke remained in the realm of hard study. He was not a pleasing personality who said ‘yes’ and nodded to everyone, but he responded whenever he deemed it was appropriate and suitable among his peers. Bogyoke was regarded as a person who was hard to make a friend with. As he was a straightforward person, he was chosen the leader among university students.

Took the risk of sacrifice
With the strongest determination, he left his beloved university and sacrificed his life in the struggle for independence. Indeed, the spirit of sacrifice of Bogyoke was so deep that the normal person could never endure such strength of mind. His maturity of mind was unparalleled, as he knew very well that a strong and tough armed force was necessary to fight the imperialists in gaining back independence.
Bogyoke faced a variety of hardships when he secretly went abroad to get help and assistance in the formation of the armed force. Firm conviction and determination made it possible for him to acquire military training along with the Thirty Comrades. Next, they took a solemn vow to sacrifice their lives in the struggle for independence. This was symbolised by a blood oath, and thus was formed the Burma Independence Army (BIA).
Leading forces such as the BIA, the Burma Defence Army (BDA) and Patriotic Burmese Forces (PBF), Bogyoke drove out the imperialists and fascists from Myanmar soil.
Bogyoke demanded independence from the imperialists in straightforward terms and achieved what he wanted. Free and fair elections were held, and the National Parliament was convened, where important decisions for the nation were decided. Due to the wisdom of Bogyoke, a sovereign nation was born on 4 January 1948.
It was sad to say that he lived for only 33 years, having given his life for his country and his people. His patriotism should be emulated by all. He successfully achieved his ultimate aim of independence, and fulfilled what was needed. He knew in advance that the country needed to negotiate with the colonialists, and that was why he studied English very hard since his student days.

Translated by UMT (HK)

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