restricted access Dr Maung Maung’s Approach to Life
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27 Section II DR MAUNG MAUNG’S APPROACH TO LIFE All but one of the articles reprinted in this section are based on radio talks that Dr Maung Maung gave over the English-language service of Myanmar Athan, the Myanmar government radio station, in 1948 and 1949. Commissioned by U Khin Zaw, the poet “K”, and published at the insistence of U Thant, then head of Information in the government of Prime Minister U Nu, these texts probably were listened to at the time of their original broadcast by relatively few people. The published versions, however, were widely circulated during the 1950s, but have since largely fallen from view. Dr Maung Maung was still a young man at the time he wrote these articles, not yet having reached a quarter century of life. However, his experience of growing up rapidly in the midst of war and the political upheaval that nationalist politics brought with it in the wake of the war, had clearly given him maturity beyond his years. It is important to remember the historical context in which he was writing. The first article reprinted was broadcast on the 17 June 1948, the last on 31 July 1949. This year-long period saw Myanmar caught up in the civil war that commenced within three months of independence on 4 January 1948. 02 DrMaung.indd 27 1/24/08 10:19:29 AM 28 DR MAUNG MAUNG: Gentleman, Scholar, Patriot First the Communist Party of Burma, led by Thakin Than Tun, and joined by large numbers of Myanmar army troops that had Communistleaning officers in charge, as well as members of the para-military People’s Volunteer Organization (PVO), went underground and commenced their armed struggle with the government, a war which was not to end for another forty years. They joined other smaller groups, including Thakin Soe’s Red Flag Communists and Islamic separatists in northern Rakhine known as Mujahadeen, who had taken up arms against the British and their successors even before independence. Soon the civil war would take on an ethnic caste as Kayin (Karen) troops mutinied and joined with the armed forces of the Kayin National Defence Organisation (KNDO) in a doomed attempt to create a “Karenistan” out of Myanmar territory. The remnants of the KNDO, now the Karen National Union (KNU), persist in fighting against the government of Myanmar to today. For much of the year in which Dr Maung Maung was making his measured, philosophical comments, the government controlled only Yangon and only from just north of the university campus, as well as the heart of some of the other major towns and cities of the country. From time to time, Mawlamyaing, Mandalay, and other cities were seized by Communist, Kayin, and Mon rebel troops. At the line between government-controlled Yangon and KNU controlled territory to the north up to the then separate town of Insein, towns people came out to buy a chance to take a pot-shot at the “enemy” on other side. These were not normal or peaceful times.1 But Dr Maung Maung’s essays evoke more peaceful times and their references to the bloodshed, and its causes, which was on every side, are much muted and very subtle. The idyllic picture of village life described in “The Burma I Love”2 may be too good to be true, but it nonetheless captures the sensations that any city dweller, indigenous or foreign, undoubtedly feels when he or she enters a village in rural Myanmar. There is an outward air of peace, tranquility, and order which clearly was missing from Myanmar at the time this talk was first given. Given what was going on it the country at the time, his remarks contain a clear anti-Communist message along with its argument that Myanmar’s village life had already achieved a quality of classlessness that was far superior to that which the Communists were seeking, by force of arms, to create. 02 DrMaung.indd 28 1/24/08 10:19:29 AM Dr Maung Maung’s Approach to Life 29 The second essay, “My Politics”,3 is perhaps the most direct expression of Dr Maung Maung’s attitude toward serving his country and the obligations that come with that. Eschewing the ideologies and ethnonationalism which were driving so much of Myanmar’s post-independence politics, he argued for the appeal of a simple state-centric patriotism as his doctrine in life. He remained true to that doctrine throughout his...


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Subject Headings

  • Burma -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
  • Maung Maung, U, 1925-1994.
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