Rangoon Police Seeking Culprit Behind Independence Flag Hoist

By The Irrawaddy 2 January 2015

RANGOON — To the embarrassment of Burmese authorities, a flag representing the country’s aspirations to independence in the 1930s and ‘40s was hoisted on the mast of Burma’s former High Court building on Thursday afternoon.

The appearance of the flag coincided with a protest against the Letpadaung copper mining project at Maha Bandoola Garden Park, a few meters away from the court building and Sule Pagoda. Authorities lowered the flag a few minutes after it attracted the attention of those nearby.

The identity of the person responsible for raising the flag remains unknown, and officials at the building, which now houses the Rangoon Division High Court, were not available for comment.

The flag hoisted on Thursday is similar in appearance to the one currently mandated by the Burmese Constitution, with a yellow, green and red horizontal tricolor design, but a green peacock replaces the white five-pointed star in the flag’s center.

Used as an anti-colonial motif during the 1930s, the green peacock standard became the official flag of Burma during the final two years of World War II, during a time in which the country became nominally independent from the United Kingdom and was notionally governed by a Burmese cabinet, in tandem with the presence of the Imperial Japanese Army. The green peacock was a traditional symbol of the Burmese monarchy, which was abolished in 1885 after the Third Anglo-Burman War established British sovereignty over the entire country.

According to Kyauktada Police Station chief Tin Win, the deputy director of the Rangoon Division Legal Affairs Administration has filed a complaint at the station under Article 16 of the 2010 State Flag Law and the offender, if found, faces a three-year prison sentence and 300,000 kyats (US$290) fine.

“So far, we haven’t arrested anyone yet as we have just started looking for the culprit,” he told the Irrawaddy.

The State Flag Law prohibits defacing the official Burmese flag, allowing it to touch the ground, hoisting it half-mast without approval, hoisting another flag in a place designed for the official flag, and using the flag at funerals not deemed state or military occasions.

Additional reporting by Nan Lwin Hini Pwint.