112 Years On, Yangon’s General Post Office Still Links Myanmar With Wider World
By Wei Yan Aung 28 January 2020
Yangon – The place that connected Myanmar to the rest of the world during the colonial period was the Rangoon (now Yangon) General Post Office.
In pre-colonial times there were messengers who traveled on foot, horse or by boat. After the British annexation, post offices were established in most towns.
The original post office opened in 1854 at the corner of the Strand Road and 32nd Street. The building was severely damaged during the 1930 earthquake and the post office moved to the current building at the corner of the Strand Road and Bo Aung Kyaw Street in 1936. The 1908 building was previously the office of Bulloch Brothers and Co., a Scottish rice milling and trading firm.
The post office was dominated by British officials and Indian clerks as part of the Indian Raj. The majority of customers were British and Indian. British mail took priority.
The beaux-arts iron portico, neogothic arched windows and double-winged stairways in the foyer underline the building’s architectural significance. Delivery rates were very high and the punctuality of Indian postmen was often commented on in books published at the time.
The fact that lottery tickets and quinine were sold at post offices indicates the important role the postal service played for citizens. In 1938, the General Post Office worked with five airlines for express mail deliveries.
Only a small proportion of the indigenous population used the postal service while even illiterate Indian migrants sent letters and remittances back to their families in India. The amount of outgoing remittances far exceeded the incoming sums.
During World War II, the bomb-damaged building was repaired under Japanese rule. Postal clerks returned to work but damage to the transport network hampered efficiency.
After the war, most of the British and Indian employees retired with pensions and Lieutenant Colonel U Thein became the first postmaster after independence.
The independent state became a member of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) in 1949 but the immediate start of the civil war disrupted the postal service.
Express money transfers and parcel deliveries were introduced with links to more than 100 countries.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the General Post Office in 2014 and Japan has provided technical assistance. Yangon Heritage Trust installed a blue plaque on the building in 2015.
Despite its turbulent history, the 112-year-old red-brick building still connects Myanmar with the outside world.
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