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August 22, 2019

The Architect of Sovereignty, and Myanmar’s First Independence Day

An Interview with veteran journalist Hanthawaddy
U Ohn Kyaing

  • By Ye Gaung Nyunt,

    Nandar Win

    Photo: Phoe Htaung

(Continued from the article appeared in the 3 January issue)
Question: Please explain his simple way of life and his dress code.
Simple and modest Bogyoke
Answer: I am always careless in my clothing; however, Bogyoke was far more casual and humble in his dress code. When he stayed at home, he used to wear only military green vest with common cotton sarong. If there was no work to carry out, he did gardening and planting vegetables in the compound and lived a life of simple way. He dressed up only when Bo Tun Hla and Daw Khin Kyi urged him to do so.
On 17 June 1947, he dressed up clean and neat when he delivered a speech from the upper deck of portico at the City Hall to the public gathered at Maha Bandoola Park.
Sadly, on another occasion he was in neat attire when he was assassinated. He wore a double length men’s silk sarong in a shining black shoe with pink color Myanmar turban that matches with white silk shirt. I remembered only two days Bogyoke was in his best clothing, neat and clean.
As a leader of the nation, he had no time to choose fine clothing. Almost working for (24) hours, and when he was sitting in his chair, he was thinking something seriously for the country. He never felt unhappy or depressed, but contemplate and work on the plan that he thought appropriate.
His main focus of thinking was independence of the nation. He was in fact a national hero, a separate entity that a common individual could never take up. He made extreme scarifies for the country, and that he had no time for proper dress code.
Question: Once Bogyoke Aung San mentioned that he preferred to have boiled garden pea and round Indian flat bread. Please tell us in this regard.
Bogyoke who loved boiled garden pea and left over rice
Answer: Sure. I would like to talk about that matter for confirmation in the chronicle. He was born in upcountry of Myanmar, and led a very simple way of life. He never ever making fuss around for meals all of his life.
One day, Bogyoke Aung San and the British Governor had a discussion on the future of Myanmar. The intended future meeting was supposed to be taken up with Mr. Atlee in London. Bogyoke came back home and called for Cabinet and Executive Committee meeting in debriefing his colleagues.
On that day, he wrote to his wife Daw Khin Kyi on a simple sheet asking that he would like to have boiled garden pea and left over rice (customary staple breakfast for common people) sprinkled with ground nut oil. He signed on it, and asked Bo Tun Hla to deliver it to Daw Khin Kyi. I was there near him.
As had been requested, Daw Khin Kyi fulfilled the wish by placing left over rice with boiled pea, adding ground nut oil into an ordinary simple enamel bowl. At that time, the country had no proper cutlery, but homemade crude spoon made out of metals from crashed aircrafts during the war. There was no problem in using such homemade crude metal spoon for Bogyoke Aung San. Generally, he was sitting on a common and ordinary two seats settee made of cane, old and worn out piece. Nothing was grandeur or splendor.
Question: Tell us about the relationship with the journalists.
Answer: Bogyoke had high impression on journalists, and treated them like brothers. He always informed the journalist in advance about his schedules and plans. He always welcomed the journalists, as he believed and had faith in journalists. The journalists always informed the people with accurate news and that Bogyoke understood the condition. During the time of Bogyoke, there were only (12) to (13) official press conferences taken place. He always informed us offhandedly all his work plans.
Question: Please tell us any specific experience travelling along with Bogyoke.
Answer: While we were travelling to Panglong, U Pu Galay was with Bogyoke on the vehicle, a Bedford car complemented from US army, and that we had to follow them in another vehicle. On the way, the people from AFPFL and government officials from towns and cities welcomed Bogyoke and entertained with refreshments.
Bogyoke refused to be with them for longer period as he had to be in Panglong in time, and therefore, he did not waste time. He stopped the car where he preferred and ate the meals at his own expense. He also paid for the meals that we enjoyed.
Next, we arrived at Tauggyi where they had arranged a public meeting, but Bogyoke did not waste time as he was heading direct to Panglong. It showed the way of thinking of Bogyoke on his concentration and thoughts on one main subject to be implemented at the earliest. He moved straight to his destination. Throughout our dealing and relationship as journalist, he was always straight forward with us and candid.
One day, an incident had occurred that some arms and ammunition from COD compound in Bothataung Township were taken out by an unknown group of people.
Moreover, some weapons from Mingaladon Military Munitions Depot were taken away. We heard that it was the conspiracy of U Saw, and that the Bama Khit Newspaper reported it first to the public.
Our newspaper was late because we had been telling the news to Bogyoke, giving assumption that it might be the assassination attempt to Bogyoke. However, he responded that there was no conspiracy at all as he had no enemy, and added that he was working for the country and did not mind if anyone would like to kill him. If they intend to kill him, he said that he was ready to die. We insisted to keep security team, but he did not listen.

Risky situation
I would like to talk about the shadowy shooting incident that occurred at Myaynigone Ward. The British Governor invited Bogyoke in the morning and U Saw in the evening with regard to the invitation to London.
At that time, Bo Pe Chit and Yangon Ba Swe were in Myaynigone Ward after having heavy drinks from the local squatter there. Bo Pe Chit was earlier a member of Dedaye Thakin Soe Association, and later he became a member of Insurgent Suppression Military Unit holding the position of an officer with a revolver of point 45 caliber.
When Bo Pe Chit, in heavy drinks, saw the vehicle and U Saw, he took out the revolver and shot at U Saw. The bullet shattered the front windshield of the car and hit U Saw and severely injured the eye. This episode was very important in history. U Saw was hospitalized at Yangon General Hospital, where Bogyoke visited and cheered up the same evening.
However, U Saw assumed the assassination plot was carried out with the instruction of Bogyoke, as the location of People’s Power Journal and Burma Communist Party Headquarters of Thakin Than Tun was situated in Myaynigone Ward. That was the reason why U Saw assumed that the killing intrigue was the conspiracy of Bogyoke Aung San using the secret arms of People’s Yebaw (Comrades) Organization.
In fact, the real culprits were Ba Swe and Bo Pe Chit. In the book entitled “Who Killed Aung San?” written by Khin Aung, mentioned that General Ne Win was the conspirator, which was totally wrong. I am not going to clarify about that matter.

The remorse of Galon U Saw
When Galon U Saw was escorted to the death gallows, I was there. During that period, I was friendly with the warden, assistant wardens and staff members, and that the warden was Wunna Kyaw Htin U Tin Maung, who happened to be my second cousin.
I wanted to take a photograph and that I got a small camera as small as a lighter, and took the photos secretly. At that time, the Secretary of Justice Ministry was U Thaung Sein, who was also a Commissioner of Penitentiary Department.
Next, U Tin Maung and U Thaung Sein escorted Galon U Saw to the gallows. At the last moment, U Saw said that in 1938, he had acquired a standing Buddha statue made of Thitkanet black hard wood, and that he experienced all the bad omen and ill lucks from the very day he got the Buddha statue. He asked his wife Ma Than Khin to donate the Buddha statue to Shwedagon Pagoda.
He also told U Tin Maung that he had no grudge whatsoever over Bogyoke Aung San and also not an enemy, but he did not know and understand himself why he had committed such a conspiracy in the assassination of Bogyoke. U Saw wished this kind of killing be the last one in the cycle of life. This was the last confession of Galon U saw.
Question: Please tell us the situation of media in the past and the present.
Answer: During our era, the media enjoyed freedom. If we had written anything wrong, we are fined with three thousand Kyats. If we smear other persons, we were charge with the bind of law. Therefore, we abide by the media ethics. I had the opportunity in attending Bachelor of Arts (Journalism) in 1952-1953 at the Rangoon University. We maintained ethics. We were not the same with the media people of today.
Question: Please tell us more.
Answer: We have some differences in the past and the present. We followed the rules and law, and uphold ethics. In present era, the people in the media are young in age and I am of the view they lacked in the study of journalism and in professional way, which is compounded with the interferences of foreign intervention.
The foreign hands are providing the media with some sort of assistances, and that if our people worked for the sake of such cash, and then they might become the slaves of money. They did not care for being sent to prison with the hope and believe of the foreign relief and assistance, and then it is tantamount to destroying the country. It could be compared with the sad incident of King Thibaw Min being taken away to India. That was why, I had poured out my hard feelings on the day of respect paying ceremony to the veteran writers a few days ago.
The interviewers thanked the veteran journalist and the interview came to an end.

(Translated by UMT (Ahlon)

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