On This Day

After Four Years in a British Prison in Uganda, Myanmar’s ex-Premier Came Home

By Wei Yan Aung 27 January 2020

YANGON—On this day 74 years ago, Burma’s Premier U Saw arrived back in his homeland after four years as a prisoner of the British Government in Uganda. He was arrested for allegedly telling Japanese officials that Myanmar would support Japan, which was then fighting with the allied forces led by Britain, if it invaded Burma.

In 1941, following the outbreak of World War II, U Saw, then prime minister of British Burma, traveled to London to ask British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to grant Myanmar dominion status.

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.

After a two-hour talk, Churchill made a vague promise regarding Myanmar’s independence and said Britain would consider the matter if it won the war. Disappointed, U Saw went on to the US and asked President Franklin D. Roosevelt to urge Churchill to listen to Myanmar.

Roosevelt replied that he would not intervene in Britain’s decision and U Saw decided to return to Myanmar. On his way back home, U Saw visited the Japanese ambassador in Lisbon, Portugal, where he supposedly expressed support for a Japanese invasion of Myanmar.

He was arrested by the British in Haifa, in what is now Israel and was imprisoned in Uganda for the duration of World War II. After he arrived back in Myanmar, he became embroiled in a series of disputes with General Aung San, the Burmese national hero of Myanmar. In 1947, he conspired with a group of British officials to assassinate Gen. Aung San and his cabinet. U Saw’s life ended at the gallows.

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