Today would have been the 143rd birthday of Thakhin Kodaw Hmaing, archenemy of the British colonial government, father of nationalist movements, one of Myanmar’s poet laureates and the winner of the Stalin Peace Prize. It is also the 43rd anniversary of a student protest against the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) held to mark the centenary of his birth.
Maung Lun, later known as Thakhin Kodaw Hmaing, was born on March 23, 1876 in Wale village in Bago Region’s Shwedaung Township. In 1894 he moved to Rangoon, where he began his career as a playwright.
In 1941, his reputation as an anti-colonial nationalist and prominent figure in Doh Bamar Asiayon (the We Burmans Association) earned him a place on the British authorities’ “Burma List”, making him an “enemy of the state”.
On March 23, 1976, the 100th anniversary of Thakhin Kodaw Hmaing’s birth, students attended a commemorative service at Kodaw Hmaing’s mausoleum in front of Shwedagon Pagoda. They later occupied the convocation hall of Rangoon University and staged a sit-in protest against the BSPP government. The following day, the government announced the indefinite closure of universities and colleges, and the military raided the convocation hall and arrested the students.
The demonstration spread to other cities. More than 200 students were arrested and either expelled from their universities or given long prison sentences.