On This Day

Death of a Kachin Leader Who Narrowly Missed Myanmar’s Presidency Due to a Coup

By Wei Yan Aung 18 October 2019

YANGON – On this day 48 years ago, Kachin leader Sima Duwa Sinwa Naung, who would have been the fourth president of Myanmar had it not been for the Myanmar military’s 1962 coup, died aged 57.

Sima worked with General Aung San in Myanmar’s independence struggle after World War II and was a signatory to the historic Panglong Agreement.

He served as minister for Kachin affairs in the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL) government led by U Nu.

When the civil war broke out after independence due to issues over the ethnic groups’ rights to secede, he supported the AFPFL government in the hope that it would discourage communities from pushing for independence.

With a strong commitment to industrialization, he called for the development of domestic industries. However, without support from the AFPFL government, his plans to produce electronics and vehicles could not become a reality.

In 1962, Sima was elected by the parliament to become the fourth president of Myanmar and he would have been the last member of an ethnic minority to hold the role.

However, the military staged a coup a few days before he was due to be sworn in. Following the coup, he met military leader General Ne Win and expressed his strong criticism of the general’s violation of the constitution, which was drafted with the agreement of different ethnic groups.

Two years after the coup, Sinwa Naung was appointed ambassador to China, and he later served as envoy to Sri Lanka, before his death in 1971.