The Irrawaddy

Obituary: Junta Insider Dies at 92

U Chit Hlaing / Yan Paing/The Irrawaddy

YANGON — U Chit Hlaing, the author of the ideology of the Burma Socialist Program Party (BSPP), which ruled the country for 26 years, died of natural causes at the age of 92 at Yangon General Hospital on Saturday.

After former dictator General Ne Win staged a coup on March 2, 1962, he needed a political ideology, and U Chit Hlaing composed the “Burmese Way to Socialism,” which became the political ideology of the socialist government that ruled the country from 1962 to 1988.

He was also the author of the political treatise of the BSPP—“The System of Correlation between Man and His Environment” simply known in Burmese as Innya myinnya. U Chit Hlaing worked alongside General Ne Win throughout the 1960s and remained close to later junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe during the 1990s.

The assignment to write Innya myinnya came directly from Gen Ne Win. U Chit Hlaing worked closely with the former dictator throughout the 1950s and 1960s and was constantly ready to defend the late dictator as a pragmatist.

He was one of the founders of the Central School of Political Science—the first of its kind in the country at the time, in July 1963. In the 1970s, U Chit Hlaing left the BSPP but still often met U Ne Win whenever summoned by the general.

Born in Sagaing Region’s Katha, the Marxist was inspired during the Second World War by books written by Thakhin Soe, who led the Red Flag faction of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB).

He joined the Burma Independence Army in 1942 and became a communist after reading communist communique of Lieutenant Thein Ta, who later became the commander of the CPB Red Flag faction.

He later served as an underground soldier in the revolt against Japanese fascists, working as the messenger between Gen Aung San, Thakhin Soe, and other communist leaders like Thakhin Than Tun and Thakhin Ba Hein.

Among the three leaders of Myanmar’s independence struggle who he knew best—Gen Aung San, Gen Ne Win and Thakin Soe—he respected Gen Aung San the most. “Aung San is just Aung San and there is no comparison,” said U Chit Hlaing in his Yangon residence during an interview with The Irrawaddy in 2012.

After the CPB split into the Red Flag faction and the White Flag faction, he was in favor of the former faction because of Thakhin Soe, but later he had a falling out with him as he could not stand his criticism of Gen Aung San.

After Myanmar gained independence in 1948, U Chit Hlaing worked in the People’s Literature Committee led by leading politician U Ba Swe. In 1951, he visited Eastern European countries and was stranded in France.

He studied philosophy at the Sorbonne in France, and in 1954 he came back to Myanmar after Brig-Gen Aung Gyi, who was the second top brass in the Revolutionary Council, called him back.

He wrote a long article entitled “While stranded in Paris” about his experience in France in The Myawady Magazine.

Arranged by Brig-Gen Aung Gyi, he joined the Defense Directorate of Psychological Warfare as a civilian military official with the same rank as lieutenant-colonel in 1955, as the directorate was assigned to counter the propaganda of CPB. This marked the beginning of his ties with former dictator Ne Win.

In July 1995, U Chit Hlaing and former judge U Tin Aung Hein, a student activist who became a prominent member of the BSPP, visited former dictator U Ne Win’s house.

U Ne Win was alone in his residence and U Chit Hlaing and U Tin Aung Hein wanted to bring up the current state of political affairs in the country but were unable to do so since U Ne Win did not want to discuss anything related to politics. They politely listened to the former dictator as he spoke about religion and Buddhism.

They were surprised when U Ne Win confessed that he would not have staged the coup in 1962 if he had studied Buddhism and meditation earlier in life. Ne Win elaborated further if he had known Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta—the three Dharma aspects of life—at the time, he would not have seized power.

“I was taken aback when he said that,” wrote U Chit Hlaing, also known by his pen name Ko Ko Maung Gyi, in his autobiography.

The funeral of U Chit Hlaing will be held on Tuesday, March 27, which is Anti-Fascist Revolution Day.