Burmese Martyrs’ Mausoleum to Open Soon

By Zarni Mann 29 May 2013

RANGOON—A mausoleum filled with Burmese martyrs will soon be open to the public, after two decades of tightly restricted access, according to Rangoon’s municipal authorities.

The mausoleum, where independence hero Gen Aung San and eight others martyrs were entombed, was closed to the public by the former military regime, which sought to downplay Aung San’s legacy and the popularity of his daughter, democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

In past years, the site has only been open to visitors on July 19, the anniversary of the martyrs’ assassination, but even then, the gates were closely guarded by security officials who only allowed government officials, family members and special guests to enter.

“With permission from the national government and the Rangoon divisional government, the mausoleum will be open to the public starting in June,” Rangoon municipal authorities announced in state-run media recently. The mausoleum, once controlled by the Ministry of Culture, was handed over to the Rangoon municipal department in February.

Members of the public can visit the site daily except on Mondays and public holidays, according to the announcement. The entrance fee will be 300 kyats (30 cents) for adults, 100 kyats for children and US $3 for foreigners. Students with valid ID cards can visit without charge. Entry will also be free for everyone on July 19.

Aung San, who fought for Burma’s independence from British rule, was gunned downed by a political rival in July 1947. Eight of his comrades were also killed, and their bodies were buried six months later.

The mausoleum was destroyed in 1983, in a bomb attack by North Korean agents trying to assassinate former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan. While Chun Doo-hwan escaped, 20 others were killed in the plot, including South Korean officials and Burmese journalists.

After the attack, the mausoleum was rebuilt and stands today near Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon, with a white star painted on a red.

Burma’s former military regime downgraded the annual national ceremony to honor the Burmese martyrs after the pro-democracy uprising in 1988. The site was then closed to the public, as the junta feared a gathering there could spark further unrest.