Bogyoke Aung San Museum
Bogyoke Aung San Museum in Yangon
In Yangon’s Bahan district stands a small museum that pays homage to the greatest hero in Myanmar’s struggle for independence, Bogyoke Aung San. This great man may not be well-known among some of Myanmar’s younger generation, but he is a household name to those who remember the country in the days before military rule and when Burma was still a British colony.
Most people will recognize the name Aung San because of his daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi. She is the most recognizable figure in Myanmar’s struggle for democracy, and spent the greater part of two decades under house arrest for her efforts. Before she became a familiar face on the world stage, her father, General Aung San, carried out the acts that earned him the title, “Father of Modern Burma.”
Aung San’s life was cut short by an assassin’s bullets in 1947, when he was 32 years old, but in that short time, he accomplished what might require the lifetimes of several ordinary men to complete. He was the leading figure in Burma’s struggle for independence from Britain, although he never lived to see the freedom he struggled to obtain for his people.
Aung San received his early education in a Buddhist monastery school in Natmauk. This was followed by secondary school in Yanangyaung, and matriculation at Rangoon University (University of Yangon), from which he received a bachelor degree in English Literature, Political Science, and Modern History.
He was a standout in his student days, being elected president of the university’s student union (whose magazine he edited), and a member of the All-Burma Student Union. Because of the leadership qualities he exhibited, the central government named him as a representative on the Rangoon University Act Amendment Committee.
Aung San began law studies, but left them in favor of beginning a career in the political arena. He was an outspoken opponent of British imperialism and became the head of Our Burma Union (Dobama Asiayone), founded the Communist Party of Burma, and co-founded the nation’s socialist party. His role in planning a revolt against the British led to his flight from Burma and to Japan where he first received military training.
As with his other efforts, Aung San excelled as a leader during his military career, rising through the ranks to become War Minister in 1943. Although he at first sided with the Japan, which initially supported Burmese independence, he eventually became disillusioned with the Japanese vision for his country and became involved in plans to remove them.
Aung San continued his efforts to establish a free and independent Burma in a largely civilian context, essentially becoming prime minister and signing an agreement with British Prime Minister Clement Atlee to that effect. Within half a year, he would be dead at the hands of paramilitary assassins associated with former prime minister U Saw. Suspicions and conspiracy theories surround Aung San’s untimely death.
When he died, Aung San left behind a wife and three young children. His famous daughter was barely old enough to know him. Successive military governments downplayed the memory of the man. Yet statues and streets named in his honor still remind the people of Myanmar (Burma) of the life, as well as the martyrdom, of Bogyoke Aung San.
The Bogyoke Aung San Museum was established some 15 years after his death, but everything is still displayed as if the general, his wife Daw Khin Kyi and the three kids were living there. Everyday memorabilia such as books, handwritten correspondences, furniture and family photos decorate the home, Daw Khin Kyi’s dresses can be admired and one of Aung San’s cars still stands in the garage. While the personal effects are interesting to see, the most impressive part of this home turned museum is actually the house it is located in. Apparently, Aung San was a frugal man and the museums interior reflects this by being very sparse, but he did live in a beautiful two-story colonial villa. This museum offers a glimpse into the life of Myanmar’s national hero, who, despite his power was apparently a very honest and selfless man who preferred a simple lifestyle.