On This Day

The Death of British Burma’s Anti-Colonial Monk

By Wei Yan Aung 9 September 2019

YANGON—On this day 80 years ago, U Ottama, the first monk to be imprisoned for non-violent political activities in colonial Burma, passed away.

Born in a village near Sittwe, the ethnic Rakhine U Ottama was known for his anti-colonial political activities.

He was the foremost monk in Myanmar to have studied abroad, travelling extensively across Asia as well as the United States and England. With his extensive knowledge about international affairs, he helped raise the political awareness of people in Myanmar.

He was arrested in 1921 for an infamous speech known as “Craddock, Get Out!”, a harangue against Sir Reginald Craddock, then the governor of British Burma, and his repressive policies.

At a time many people in Myanmar were afraid of even the lowest-ranking British officials, U Ottama’s fiery words had the power to motivate people and dispel fears in the face of imperialism. As a result, nationalist associations burgeoned in the country and monks started to preach anti-colonial speeches.

The monk was arrested again in 1924 for sedition and spent years in and out of prison. He died in 1939 at the age of 60 at Rangoon General Hospital.

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