Posts Reflections

The Last Journey for the Man of Peace

We walked away from the mausoleum, and as we waited for the casket to be brought to the Cantonment Garden, I felt thankful that the long process was nearly over. But then we heard more commotion, and there were cries of, “Victory! Victory!” I became alarmed. I learned then that the students had interned Father’s body in their Peace Mausoleum. This time, we were far more worried. The government had warned us that if their proposal was not honored, they would be forced to take action. We knew that meant violence. Feeling desperate, I continued to cry. The situation was out of control and there was nothing we could do. We then had to leave the University compound. As we were waiting for transportation, I could not stop crying, and one man there said to the students nearby, “Look at the face of the daughter.” I still remember the tenderness and softness on the faces of the students. There was nothing we could do but wait anxiously for three days. We could not imagine what the outcome would be.
On the morning of December 11, before dawn, we were awakened by a phone call from the lobby of our hotel. We were asked to come downstairs. Feeling suspicious of the caller, we
didn’t respond. A second call came, and the caller identified himself as a government official and said Father’s body had been retrieved and was now at the Cantonment Garden. They were at the hotel to take us there. We were still skeptical, so we called my uncle to get his opinion. He said there were government officials at his house too, delivering the same message, and that we should go, but wait for daylight.
At 6 o’clock we left our hotel room and met the officials downstairs. They informed us that the military had gone into the university compound and captured Father’s body. I was afraid to know whether or not there had been any violence. I simply asked, “How did it go?” One of the officials answered, “Fine, we only had to use teargas. See how wet my handkerchief is?” I felt somewhat relieved and said something like, “Oh, I am glad!”
Later, I would learn of many different conflicting accounts of what happened.
As for us, we were taken to the Cantonment Garden. My uncles were already there. Finally, we began the long-awaited funeral service. From the strain of all we had been through, I again began to cry. One of my uncles turned to me and whispered, “Don’t cry anymore. This time will be the last.” Then Father’s casket was lowered and cement was poured over Father’s tomb. It was then that I realized it was true. My father had finally been laid to rest.
There have been many articles written and recorded of what has become known as the“ U Thant Uprising” Many attributed the government’ refusal to provide my father a state funeral to Ne Win’s jealously of my father’s standing in the world.
I tried to make sense of the tragic event where so many lives were ruined and according to some accounts lost. Why did the Government decided not to honour Father after they had showed many signs of collaboration on his return trip to home after his death? Was it the outpouring of love and respect for my father by the public that made General Ne Win envious and apprehensive that my father, even after death, would somehow topple his government and take away his power? Many had noted that my father’s funeral crisis reflected a broader struggle for democracy and freedom in the country.
It was also written extensively that General Ne Win thought my father colluded with U Nu during his revolution against Ne Win’s Government. In 1969, while U Nu was in New York, he gave a press conference at the United Nations in which he announced that he was going to stage a revolution against Ne Win’s Government. General Ne Win thought that my father orchestrated that conference. My father, in fact, was in Africa at that time but since U Nu was a close friend of his, my father had asked my husband U Tyn Myint U to receive U Nu at the airport. I had personally explained this to Burmese Ambassador U Soe Tin with whom we were friendly.
U Soe Tin himself knew that my father was not involved in the press conference. He also knew that the UN Press Corps was and is an independent member organization.
Had he not clarified any of this to the government? Perhaps he did, but the officials at the Foreign Office in Burma did not forward it to the President? Were the officials reluctant to share this information for their own motives or they were scared to explain that to General Ne Win?
On his return from Africa, my father invited U Nu to our home for private dinner. He was accompanied by U Law Yone, the former editor of the English language newspaper, Nation. My father told U Nu that it was inappropriate to have held this conference at the UN. He told him that never before had the United Nations been used as a site for declaring a revolution. U Nu apologized for his indiscretion. I believe that U Law Yone, a seasoned journalist should have had better judgement about this. Was he ignorant about this or did he do it anyway to give the impression that my father was involved in the press conference? Regardless, the incident angered Ne Win. When my father traveled to Burma the following year to explain the situation and to assess whether our family could move back to Burma, Ne Win refused to see him.
In later years, Ne Win came to the understanding that my father was never involved with U Nu’s planned revolution. But he continued to give the impression that he wasn’t friendly with my father and he didn’t want anyone to show special favour or respect to my father.

By Myo

Myo Thant aka Michael Tin Hla during my MEHS years graduated in 1964. After graduation, I completed my medical school before I left for US. Currently, I reside in Maryland, retired from my hematology/oncology clinical practice but works at VA Hematology/Oncology clinic part time. My house at MEHS was Judson and I am proud to be a green martian.