On This Day

The Day Dag Hammarskjöld Visited Myanmar

By Wei Yan Aung 6 February 2020

Yangon—Sixty-four years ago on this day, the second secretary-general of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld, who has often been referred to as the most successful UN secretary-general, arrived in Yangon (then Rangoon).

President Dr. Ba Oo welcomed him at the President’s residence and hosted a dinner. The Swedish diplomat watched a performance of traditional dance and music at the dinner, puffing a cigar.

Praised as a great statesman, Hammarskjöld tried to improve relations between Israel and the Arab states after he took the UN job in 1953. In 1955, he visited China to negotiate the release of 11 captured US pilots who had served in the Korean War.

He intervened in the Suez crisis the following year by forming the UN Emergency Force, the first UN military force of its kind.

UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold visits Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon during his visit to Myanmar in February 1956.

In his visit to Myanmar, he visited the Martyrs’ Mausoleum in Yangon and laid a wreath. Later, pilgrims saw him wearing sunglasses and taking photos at Shwedagon Pagoda, one of the most sacred religious sites in Myanmar. He also visited the Kaba Aye Pagoda, the state broadcaster Myanma Radio and various factories.

It appeared that he had an attachment to the country as he visited Yangon for the second time during his Asia tour in 1959. He greeted people through Myanma Radio. Two years later in 1961, he died in a plane crash while traveling to the Congo to broker peace talks.

He was succeeded by U Thant from Myanmar, who was the first Asian to hold the post. The two reportedly had good relations. U Thant was known for his role in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and bringing about peace in Congo.

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