The House That Shaped Myanmar's History
By Wei Yan Aung 13 February 2020
The house-turned-museum of General Aung San, Myanmar’s independence hero, in Yangon’s Bahan Township is known in the city as Bogyoke’s Home. But the general himself lived there for only two years during his final fight to claim independence from the British who ruled the country for more than 100 years.
Built in 1921, the Western-style wooden house sits on an oval-shaped hectare of land.
The two-story house commands a hill above the steep Tower Lane. A prayer room, bedrooms, study, meeting room and nursery make up the upper floor with a living room, dining room, kitchen and garage downstairs. Although it looks comfortable from outside, the general had many sleepless nights in the house, preoccupied with the struggle for independence.
Records at the Gen. Aung San Museum in Bahan Township say a committee to manage funds for the general bought the house from a Chinese couple for 30,000 kyats (a considerable sum at the time) in 1948, after his assassination the previous year.
After 1945, the house served as a political hub, hosting meetings on state-building, drafting a constitution and the establishment of the military. Press conferences were also held there.
His children, Aung San Oo, Aung San Lin and Aung San Suu Kyi, played in the house during the political storm. On the rare occasions when the general had free time, he enjoyed spending time in his garden.
In the house, he wrote inspiring political speeches and prepared the historic Aung San-Attlee Agreement of January 1947, which paved the way for independence. Gen. Aung San also prepared the Panglong Agreement, which he signed with the leaders of different ethnic groups on Feb. 12, 1947. He announced at the house that the first president would be an ethnic Shan, Sao Shwe Thaik.
On the morning of July 19, 1947, he left the house only to be returned dead hours later.
His 35-year-old widow, Daw Khin Kyi, and their three children continued to live in the house with the general’s friends and relatives visiting periodically.
Her middle child, Aung San Lin, drowned aged eight in an ornamental pool at the house in 1953. President Sao Shwe Thaik visited the house to comfort the family. After her son’s death, Daw Khin Kyi decided to leave the house.
The government of the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League started to collect memorabilia from Daw Khin Kyi in 1957 for a museum. After renovations, the museum opened in 1960.
The museum was renovated under the military regimes of the Revolutionary Council, State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) and State Peace and Development Council.
The Yangon authorities asked the SLORC to change the ward’s name from Jamal No. 1 to Bo Teza but the generals rejected the suggestion as it was one of the names used by Gen. Aung San during the independence struggle. The ward was eventually named after Bo Cho, a leader in the independence movement.
The museum became more active following the movement towards democracy in 2011. State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi showed visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi around the house in 2017.
The museum is usually busiest on the birthday of Gen. Aung San of Feb. 13 and Martyrs’ Day on July 19.
It displays pictures of family life and the general’s independence struggle.
The museum is included on the Yangon City Heritage List.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko
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