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190 Section III, M, Profile VUM KO HAU OF SIYIN Reproduced from Maung Maung, “Vum Ko Hau of Siyin” in The Guardian III, no. 4 (February 1956): 29–34, by permission of Daw Khin Myint, wife of the late Dr Maung Maung. It was autumn in London, 1947. The dead leaves rode the wind past the windows of the Dorchester Hotel. Across the Street, Hyde Park was gold with fallen leaves. Autumn in London is sad, mellow, mild, but for the Burmese delegation occupying some suites in the Hotel in that autumn of 1947, it was not sad. Thakin Nu had come to sign the Burma Independence Treaty with Mr Clement Attlee, the Prime Minister of the British Labour Government. The Burmese had come to meet their destiny in London. Kinwunmingyi had come to London in 1872 to seek recognition of the independence of the Burmese Kingdom, and to get an agreement for the exchange of diplomatic relations between Queen Victoria and King Mindon. Kinwunmingyi failed in both missions, for the fate of the Burmese kingdom was already sealed, and his mission was already doomed, his mission was already too late. Later, after a few decades, many Burmese missions had come 03M DrMaung.indd 190 1/24/08 1:13:50 PM Reproduced from Dr Maung Maung: Gentleman, Scholar, Patriot by Robert H. Taylor (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2008). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at Vum Ko Hau of Siyin 191 to London, to plead for Burma’s “Home Rule”, or Dominion Status, or even for Dyarchy — that very diluted form of self-government. Those missions met with only varying degrees of success, but this mission of 1947 was the crowning mission of them all. This mission was to negotiate on equal terms with the British Government and by solemn treaty declare the independence of Burma, and her withdrawal from the Commonwealth. With the mission of 1947 was a young Chin, shy, and a little unsure, but serious and eager, always hovering in the discreet background, but always there when the vital discussions were held and the vital decisions were made. For him the journey had been long: from Thuklai, Fort White in the Chin hills to the Dorchester in distant London; it had been a long and rough journey but the main thing was that he made it, and he was there. There at the signing of the treaty of Burma’s independence, of the Chins’ independence, there at the culmination of the struggle in which his grandfather Thuk Kham had taken distinguished part, in which his granduncle had taken part, and being a modest person he would mention this last in which he himself had taken such active part. Now at the signing of the treaty in London’s Whitehall, in a conference hall which had served centuries of history, the young Chin leader saw not the bald-headed, bespectacled Mr Attlee who was delivering his speech of congratulations, not the inspired and dedicated face of Premier Nu swathed in silk gaungbaung, not the flashlights of the press cameras, not the bustle of the historic moment…but the Chin hills, and the resistance in those grey hills through the grey ages, his father and grandfather and those of his Siyin tribe, fighting with primitive weapons, dying their patriotic deaths as they were mown down by the civilized guns of the British. Now it was all over. The fight was won, victory was theirs. And that day after the treaty was signed, Vum Ko Hau, the Chin leader in U Nu’s delegation, quietly slipped off to his usual London haunt: Foyle’s bookshop off Leicester Square, where he had been spending most of his jealously snatched leisure hours. At Foyle’s bookshop there were books, he had discovered. Books, millions of them. Books on politics and government, war and history, the arts and the sciences. Vum Ko Hau found Foyle’s the most exciting place of all in London, even more so than the Follies where he did go once just to polish his modern education. He browsed among the books and read them; he bought what he could. 03M DrMaung.indd 191 1/24/08 1:13:51 PM 192 DR MAUNG MAUNG: Gentleman, Scholar, Patriot There was so much...


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