On This Day

A Burmese Dictator’s Final Visit to Japan

By Wei Yan Aung 11 April 2020

YANGON—On this day in 1981, Myanmar’s military dictator General Ne Win, at the invitation of the Japanese government, made his last official visit to Japan. The then-70-year-old dictator first traveled to Japan some 40 years earlier, along with independence hero General Aung San, as a member of the Thirty Comrades, a group of young Burmese men who trained in Japan to fight for independence from Britain.

On his 13-day visit in 1981, Gen. Ne Win met Japanese Emperor Hirohito and Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki. He was trained by former members of the Minami Kikan, a special Japanese intelligence unit formed to support Myanmar’s fight against the British, and was also visited by former Japanese soldiers who served in Myanmar and former Japanese prime ministers who had visited Myanmar. He also visited electronics and automobile factories and shipyards.

Gen. Ne Win had officially visited Japan as Myanmar’s head of state three times before, in 1966, 1970 and 1973. The two countries maintained close ties and four Japanese prime ministers visited Myanmar during Ne Win’s rule.

Two months before his fourth and final visit to Japan in 1981, Gen. Ne Win awarded to his Japanese military trainers the Aung San Tagun title, the second-highest honor for those who have served the interests of Myanmar.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.