Monument to Late Colonel, Fallen Soldiers Demolished in Shan State

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 29 March 2019

YANGON — A monument to the late Col. Ba Htoo and fallen soldiers was demolished earlier this week in the town of Aungban in southern Shan State in order to widen the Asian Highway.

“It is not that we have destroyed it. Some parts [of town] need to be removed in order to modernize transportation. Because it is acceptable to the majority, the Shan State government approved it and proceeded with it,” Sai Hseng Tip Long, the state government’s finance minister and spokesman, told The Irrawaddy.

Work crews have been widening the roadway, known locally as the Union Highway, into four lanes since last year and are expected to finish next month.

In addition to the monument, some residential homes, banks and other buildings have also been removed to make way for the extra lanes.

Col. Ba Htoo, a senior member of the Burma Independence Army, is best known for his lead role in the fight against Japanese forces in Upper Myanmar while Gen. Aung San commanded the resistance in Lower Myanmar.

When Col. Ba Htoo declared war against Japanese forces on March 8, 1945, he successfully distracted their attention away from Gen. Aung San, who launched the military campaign against the occupation as planned on March 27, a date that has come to be celebrated annually as Armed Forces Day.

Col. Ba Htoo died of malaria in a small village in Aungban three months later.

According to locals, the column demolished last week had been built over the original monument, which was erected before independence in 1948.

“We feel sad about losing a piece of history. But the homes of local residents also had to be removed. More homes would have had to be removed if the monument were not removed. It was removed with the agreement of community elders,” said Daw Nilar, a Ward 4 resident who lived near the monument.

Another local resident, Sai Maung Tint, said he was also sorry to see the monument demolished.

“Besides the monument, the clock tower, which is 100 years old, will also be removed. We didn’t know about it in advance. We only knew about it when it was demolished,” he said.

Shan State lawmaker U Than Htike, who represents Kalaw Township, said a committee consisting of state government officials, lawmakers, party representatives and community elders from Aungban was formed to oversee the roadwork and approved the monument’s demolition by consensus.

“Criticism is normal. Because it was historic, we consulted with senior citizens before we decided to remove it. If we hadn’t touched it, more houses on the other side [of the road] would had to have been removed. We had to consider various perspectives. We took systematic action through the committee,” he said.

The committee decided that the urn holding the colonel’s ashes would be spared and placed inside a new monument to be built in his honor. But the urn has not been located, so the committee will meet again to prepare for more digging to find it.

The highway is an important border trade route, one section of which connects with China and Thailand through Tachileik, Kengtung, Mongla, Taunggyi and Meiktila townships. Another section connects with India through Meiktila, Mandalay and Tamu.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.