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August 08, 2020

A visit to Bogyoke Aung San Museum (Yangon)

By Khin Cho Cho Han (Mann Myay)

With tragic, disastrous and gloomy event, Bogyoke Aung San and seven other Arzarni leaders were assassinated on 19 July 1947 and it has now reached 71 years.
Martyrs’ Day is a Myanmar national holiday observed on 19 July to commemorate Bogyoke and other leaders, namely, Thakin Mya, U Ba Cho, U Abdul Razak,U Ba Win, U Mahn Ba Khaing, U Sao San Tun, and U Ohn Maung who were gunned down.
Although it was raining lightly on the morning of 6 June 2018, the author could not suppress the urge to visit and have a look at the Bogyoke Aung San Museum (Yangon).
Looking at the direction guide, I saw all the detailed markers leading to the museum.
On the green and shady Natmauk Road, there is a lane direction marked with “Bogyoke Pya Tike Lann”, where I walked briskly with rain drops hitting my umbrella. Finally, I arrived at the two-story museum, Bogyoke’s last residence before his assassination in July 1947. It is a colonial-era villa, built in 1921.
The time was ten minutes past twelve.

Entrance to museum
At the entrance, the opening and closing time of the museum is written in English and Myanmar language. It is free entry for Myanmar citizens and the admission for a foreigner costs Ks 5,000. A large beautiful teak board welcomed me with the words “BOGYOKE AUNG SAN MUSEUM”.
I slowly strolled on the concrete pavement towards the hill-top villa in a leafy neighborhood, just a few hundred meters from the Shwedagon Pagoda.
My heart leaped up with joy and sorrow in viewing Bogyoke Museum from a distance, marking an unforgettable memory.
I took off my footwear at the portico of the museum, which is customary for all the visitors. First, I noticed ‘all the restrictions to be complied by visitors’ written in red signs.
For ease and convenience of the visitors, the direction signs are displayed, such as maps for ground floor and upper floor. A large teak board marked that Bogyoke had stayed at the residence until July 1945, which I made a snapshot with my camera.

Ground floor displays
The majority of the displays are located at the family room, dining room and living room on the ground floor.
• Photos of his youth at Natmauk, including those of the Buddhist monastery where he received primary education and other certificates of educational achievements
• Photos at various political activities and during travels abroad
• Displays of his famous speeches
• Family photos
• Other personal mementos such as handwritten notes to his wife Daw Khin Kyi, personal lighter engraved (Bogyoke) ‘Aung San’ and ash tray, etc.
• Car used for official transport until the day of his assassination
With much surprise and admiration on his simplicity, I witnessed the words written to his wife saying he wanted to enjoy boiled beans and Indian naan bread. It shows the empathy and humanitarian outlooks of Bogyoke.
Moreover, memorabilia and records between 6 September 1942 to 22 September 1946 are displayed at the museum.
Historical records are also displayed, such as that of the independence struggle; that of proceeding to Amoy of China ,and then to Japan, along with Thirty Comrades; that of entering Myanmar with the BIA forces; and that of the retreat of the British forces.
Some other chronicles are displayed, such as that of anti-fascist struggle; that of visiting Britain to sign the Aung San – Atlee Agreement; that of signing Panglong Agreement; that of AFPFL victory at Hluttaw; and that of the gloomy day assassination of Bogyoke and Arzarni leaders.
I have met some students from Thailand at the museum who came to study the life of Bogyoke, considering him as the youngest leader who fought for the country’s independence and with the intent to emulate his morale. A man from India also came to study the life of Bogyoke to include in a primary class school curriculum.
All the information is displayed on the ground floor.

Upper floor displays
• Bedroom of Bogyoke Aung San and Daw Khin Kyi
• Bedrooms of their children
• Library
• Meeting room

In the garden
In the garden of the house, there is a bronze statue of Bogyoke Aung San doing gardening work, and also the swimming pool, where his second son Ko Aung San Lin drowned.
With slow and soft pace, I climbed through the colonial era stairways to the upper floor.
There are three verandahs on the upper floor, and the western verandah was inaccessible.
I entered the bedroom of Bogyoke and saw a prayer room there.
The museum boasts a host of Bogyoke Aung San’s personal belongings, ranging from a British-built black motor vehicle to an overcoat given to him by the first Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, during a trip to England in the early 1940s.
A collection of 246 books on a variety of subjects written in English are displayed—from applied mechanics and air defense to political economy and selected short stories by D.H. Lawrence—possibly the delights for book worms.
Surprisingly, I saw a bed there with safety covers on the side, written with the word (Daw) Aung San Suu Kyi.
There are family photographs in the room. In the book almirah or free standing cupboard, there are children’s books written in English and printed in an era when the education status of the kids was impressive.
All the displays were being arranged by Daw Khin Kyi.
Adjacent to the bedroom, there exists a special meeting room with relevant furniture and other related objects.
As I was desirous to view the kitchen, I stepped down from the inside stairways and landed in the kitchen.

All simple household utensils
All the items displayed at the museum are plain, unsophisticated and simple. The most attractive part of the museum is the living room of Bogyoke. This residence has an atmosphere of simplicity and is devoid of any trace of flamboyance.
I took a snapshot of the vehicle on display which was used by Bogyoke.

Past and present
On my way back home, my mind rushed back to a poem composed by Sayar Gyi Minn Thu Wun about Bogyoke entitled “Past and Present”, praising his extraordinary characteristics.
Our nation is composed of different national races into a Union who love and cherish independence. Each and every citizen embraces tranquility and peace, and are desirous and determined to step towards a modern and developed peaceful union.
We regained our independence through hard struggle since 1885, in unity with the participation of people from highland and plains from every nook and cranny of the country. We all have the responsibility to prevent and defend the nation which was liberated by Bogyoke, Arzarni leaders and the leaders of national races.
Special arrangement is made for the crowded visitors to study only the ground floor of the Bogyoke Museum from 19 to 21 July 2018, with the aim and objective to maintain and preserve it, and that the normal opening time will continue beginning 22 July 2018.
In conclusion, the writer of this article paid tribute to show gratitude and respect to Bogyoke and Arzarni leaders on the eve of 71st Anniversary Arzarni Day.

Translated by UMT (HK)

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