History of Myanmar

Burmese Independence
Burma's Independence Day. The British governor, Hubert Elvin Rance, left , and Burma's first president, Sao Shwe Thaik, stand at attention as the new nation's flag is raised on January 4, 1948. ©Anonymous
1948 Jan 4

Burmese Independence

Myanmar (Burma)

After World War II and the surrender of the Japanese, Burma underwent a period of political turbulence. Aung San, the leader who had allied with the Japanese but later turned against them, was at risk of being tried for a 1942 murder, but British authorities deemed it impossible due to his popularity.[77] British Governor Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith returned to Burma and prioritized physical reconstruction over independence, causing friction with Aung San and his Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League (AFPFL). Divisions arose within the AFPFL itself between Communists and Socialists. Dorman-Smith was later replaced by Sir Hubert Rance, who managed to quell an escalating strike situation by inviting Aung San and other AFPFL members to the Governor's Executive Council.


The Executive Council under Rance began negotiations for Burma's independence, resulting in the Aung San-Attlee Agreement on January 27, 1947.[77] However, this left factions within the AFPFL unsatisfied, pushing some into opposition or underground activities. Aung San also succeeded in bringing ethnic minorities into the fold through the Panglong Conference on February 12, 1947, which is celebrated as Union Day. The AFPFL’s popularity was confirmed when it won decisively in the April 1947 constituent assembly elections.


Tragedy struck on July 19, 1947, when Aung San and several of his cabinet members were assassinated,[77] an event now commemorated as Martyrs' Day. Following his death, rebellions broke out in several regions. Thakin Nu, a Socialist leader, was asked to form a new government and oversaw Burma’s independence on January 4, 1948. Unlike India and Pakistan, Burma chose not to join the Commonwealth of Nations, reflecting the strong anti-British sentiment in the country at the time.[77]

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Last Updated: Sun Jan 28 2024