On This Day

Independent Burma Gets Its 1st Democratically Elected Prime Minister

By Wei Yan Aung 14 March 2019

On this day in 1952, U Nu, the chairman of the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL), was elected prime minister following the party’s victory in Burma’s first general election since independence. In his capacity as prime minister, he faced an array of challenges including an internal insurgency and an incursion by the Kuomintang.

U Nu won respect from the international community for adopting a non-aligned foreign policy. However, the AFPFL government’s popularity declined significantly in 1954 due to frictions within the party, and it eventually split into two in 1958.

With the party divided by factions and personality cults surrounding U Nu and other leaders, the military attempted to stage a coup. But U Nu handed power to military leader General Ne Win, who later returned power to U Nu with the latter going on to win the 1960 general election. However, the general seized power back on March 2, 1962, and U Nu was detained.

U Nu was released four years later in October 1966. He left for London and later formed the Parliamentary Democracy Party (PDP) and led an armed resistance group from the Thai border to overthrow the Gen. Ne Win regime. But it failed and he subsequently accepted an offer of amnesty from Gen. Ne Win. He returned to Burma in July 1980.

He led the League for Democracy and Peace after the 1988 pro-democracy uprising and died in 1995 at the age of 88.