On This Day

The Day Myanmar’s PM Arrived in London on a Failed Quest for Independence

By Wei Yan Aung 10 October 2019

YANGON—On this day 78 years ago, Prime Minister of British Burma U Saw arrived in London to seek independence for Myanmar from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

U Saw asked Churchill to promise dominion status for Myanmar after World War II in exchange for helping Britain during the war. Dominions were the semi-independent polities under the British Crown that constituted the British Empire. Canada became the first dominion upon its confederation in 1867.

Churchill received U Saw for two hours, but told him Britain’s response to his request would depend on the outcome of the war. He promised that Britain would decide with magnanimity if it won the war.

Dismayed, U Saw went to the US and asked President Franklin D. Roosevelt to urge Churchill to grant dominion status to Myanmar. When Roosevelt replied that he would not intervene in Britain’s decision, U Saw decided to return to Myanmar.

On his way home, he was arrested by the British in Haifa (in what is now Israel) after making contact with officials in Japan, which was then at war with Britain and the US. The British imprisoned U Saw in Uganda during World War II, and he did not return to his home country until the war was over.

U Saw became embroiled in a series of disputes with General Aung San, and in 1947, hand-in-glove with British officers, he assassinated the national hero along with his cabinet. Charged with high treason, his life ended on the gallows the following year.

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