On This Day

The Day Myanmar’s Last King Died in Exile

By Wei Yan Aung 16 December 2019

Yangon – On this day 103 years ago, Myanmar’s last monarch King Thibaw died aged 58 in exile in Ratnagiri, on the west coast of India, under British house arrest.

Seven years into his reign, the king was forced to abdicate the throne and sent to India by the British in 1885. He was not allowed to return during the remaining 31 years until his death.

The king had a hard life in Ratnagiri after leaving the grandeur of Mandalay’s royal palace, living in a house close to a plague and leper colony.

The royal family was in reduced circumstances and the king had to sell his jewels to make ends meet. Indian officials also treated the royal family with disrespect. And two princesses married against the wishes of the king.

The British authorities rejected Queen Supayalat’s request for a Buddhist burial for the late king.

The colonial government also refused to allow his body to be returned home for fear that it might lead to calls for independence. Queen Supayalat was allowed to return to Myanmar in 1919.

In December 2012, the eighth president of Myanmar, U Thein Sein, visited the run-down tomb of the king in Ratnagiri and met the monarch’s descendants. He was the first head of state from Myanmar to visit the grave.

Vice-President U Myint Swe and Myanmar military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing marked the centenary of his death in 2016.

King Thibaw’s granddaughter, Hteik Su Phaya Gyi, 97, now lives in Yangon and Pyin Oo Lwin, Mandalay Region. She is the daughter of the king’s fourth daughter, Myat Phaya Galay.