House Speaker Urged to Return Aung San Book

By Zarni Mann 31 July 2013

Residents of Yaynanchaung in Magwe Division are urging the speaker of Parliament’s Upper House to return a book owned by the late Gen Aung San, which the lawmaker reportedly took from a school in the central Burma town.

According to locals, the book contains handwritten Pali language lesson notes from Aung San, who once studied at No. 1 State High School in Yaynanchaung.

“We would like to urge U Khin Aung Myint to return the book by August 10. If not, we will protest and show our disapproval,” said Myint Ngwe, secretary of a committee formed to bring back the text.

Myint Ngwe told The Irrawaddy that the committee had been collecting signatures since July 25, in cooperation with civil society groups and local politicians. They will submit the petition to the Upper House, President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“We want the book back, to be kept only where it belongs, which is at this school,” Myint Ngwe said. “Since the book is originally owned by the school and kept at the school, the town would like to take it back and own this precious heritage as our own.”

The well-known Buddhist monk Ashin Sadadika, who once studied at the school, also condemned the parliamentary leader’s actions, and said he would boycott travel to the town.

“I will not go to Yaynanchaung until the book reaches its original place. I’d like to urge the responsible person to return the book to where it belongs,” he said in a speech that has spread through the online social network Facebook.

The book was being kept at the school library in Yaynanchaung but was taken by Upper House Speaker Khin Aung Myint during a visit the politician made to the school on July 19—Martyrs’ Day, which commemorates the assassination of Aung San on July 19, 1947.

Word of the book’s removal first broke when state media reported that the school’s headmistress had willingly handed it over to the Upper House speaker.

Khin Aung Myint reportedly told local media last week that the book was taken to preserve it and determine whether the notes are the authentic handwriting of Aung San.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of Aung San, reportedly gave Khin Aung Myint the benefit of the doubt regarding his commandeering of the book, but also said she understood Yaynanchaung residents’ anger.

“I think there are misunderstandings in this matter,” local news journal The Voice quoted Suu Kyi as saying after a parliamentary session in Naypyidaw on Wednesday.

“I’m afraid the book may be ruined because I noticed there is already some damage. We don’t yet know where to keep the book. I understand the feeling of residents of the town and the aim of Khin Aung Myint as well. There is a solution that is best for everyone,” she added, without elaborating on what that solution might be.

According to local residents, the book was donated to the school by the writer U Ba Phay in 1962 and the school has kept the historical document in its library for more than 50 years.