RANGOON — On Friday, Burma will commemorate Martyrs’ Day to honor the nation’s founding father and independence hero Bogyoke Aung San, who was assassinated along with his eight cabinet members on July 19, 1947.
Burma is experiencing a revival of interest in the general, after the former military regime tried to downgrade his national hero status when it took power in 1988.
Those who want to learn about his life can visit Gen Aung San (and Aung San Suu Kyi)’s former residence in Rangoon, which was turned into Bogyoke Aung San Museum a long time ago.
“Bogyoke” (which means general in Burmese) lived with his wife Khin Kyi and their three children, Aung San Oo, Aung San Lin and Suu Kyi, in the hill-top villa in Bahan Township near Kandawgyi Lake. Suu Kyi — Burma’s current pro-democracy leader — was two years old when her father was killed in an assassination plot masterminded by his political rival U Saw.
After his death, Khin Kyi and the children lived in the villa until 1953 when Aung San Lin drowned in the compound’s pool. The family then moved to a colonial-era mansion on the shores of Inya Lake on Rangoon’s University Avenue, where Suu Kyi still lives to this day.
The Burmese government bought the general’s former Kandawgyi Lake residence for 30,000 kyats in 1948 and converted it into Bogyoke Aung San Museum in 1962.
The splendid villa turned museum boasts a host of Aung San’s personal belongings, ranging from his British-built black Wolseley 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 240 books on a variety of subjects — from applied mechanics and air defense to political economy and selected short stories by D.H. Lawrence — may be a source of interest for literature fans, too.
Downstairs features pictures and paintings of Aung San and his family, while the special meeting room upstairs is decorated with extracts from some of his speeches — including the explanatory guideline relating to the 1947 constitutional law which states “no constitution in the world is perfect.”
The museum is open from 8 am to 4 pm and entry fees are 300 kyat for Burmese and foreign visitors, and 100 kyat for children under 12. On Martyrs’ Day the museum is open free of charge.
Make sure not to bring your camera, mobile phones and MP4 players for they are strictly banned. “It’s just for museum security,” explained Kyaw Aye, the curator of the museum.