YANGON—On this day in 1947 General Aung San, the architect of Myanmar’s independence, hosted a dinner for renowned British writer Maurice Collis, who had served as an administrator in colonial Myanmar (then Burma), at the Dorchester Hotel in London where he was lodging.
Gen. Aung San, nearly 32 at the time, had signed an agreement the day before with British Prime Minister Clement Attlee that granted independence for Myanmar in one year. The general said he had read all of the books written by Collis on Myanmar and expressed his admiration.
Collis, a former Yangon (then Rangoon) administrator, talked at the dinner about his attachment to Myanmar and the Burmese people, his keen interest in Myanmar’s culture and customs, and how he came to write “She Was a Queen”—a book about Queen Pwa Saw of the Bagan Dynasty. Gen. Aung San and his delegation were all ears despite the winter chill inside the hotel. Gen. Aung San asked Collis to write a book after Myanmar achieved its independence.
Collis asked whether Myanmar planned to remain in the Commonwealth. Gen. Aung San replied that he knew Myanmar would gain advantages from joining the Commonwealth, but the people could decide to secede. Unlike other parts of the Commonwealth, the people of Myanmar did not view Britain as the motherland. Myanmar had been invaded and occupied by Japan though it was part of the British Empire. He said he thought the damage to the country could have been reduced if Myanmar had been an independent nation like Thailand. He said Parliament would ultimately make the decision on whether to remain in the Commonwealth.
Gen. Aung San returned to Myanmar three days after the meeting. Six months later, he was assassinated along with his colleagues at the Secretariat Building in Yangon. He never had a chance to read “Last and First in Burma”, in which Collis discussed his independence efforts and the talks that night at the Dorchester Hotel.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko
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