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200 Section III, N, Profile U BA SWE Reproduced from Maung Maung, “U Ba Swe” in The Guardian III, no. 5 (March 1956): 27–31, by permission of Daw Khin Myint, wife of the late Dr Maung Maung. When will U Ba Swe, Defence Minister, Socialist leader, president of the Trade Unions, the strong silent man whom his comrades call — with a touch of affection — “Tiger”, become Prime Minister of Burma? He has often been named as successor. He has, in the recent past, officiated as Prime Minister. In the normal course of events, U Ba Swe seems destined for that high office; but when? After the next elections when there is bound to be reshuffles in the high places even though AFPFL victory is certain? Or not so soon? Who knows? Who can fathom the depths of destiny in which these secrets lie securely hidden? Not I. But when I went to meet U Ba Swe and his family at their home some time ago, when I saw them, a loving couple surrounded by their eight children, laughing and living like any other loving couple in this country, the feeling came to me that U Ba Swe and Daw Nu Nu, the Tiger and his Mate, would be quite happy to play in their lair and let politics and ambition alone. Uncage him, and 03N DrMaung.indd 200 2/28/08 2:21:51 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 U Ba Swe 201 the Tiger would gladly run back into the free wild Nature from which he came, and his Mate would follow without a backward glance to the golden cage. That was what I thought after two or three hours of talking with U Ba Swe, after a late breakfast eaten at two in the afternoon. All the time that we talked, two gentle tigers looked down sweetly from the walls, and the Mate, waxing the floor like any ordinary maid, occasionally joined in the talks while panting for breath. x x x x x Ba Swe was born on October 7, 1915, at Onbinkwin village, 50 miles away from Tavoy. His father was U Tun Hlaing, and his mother Daw Pe Lay. There was a mineral boom in Tavoy and Onbinkwin about the time Ba Swe was born. Everyone was getting rich quick, and there was the mineral rush, and Onbinkwin was one of the converging points of the get-rich-quick seekers. The boom was on, but only for the privileged few. Those who were white, or those who had the blessing of the British ruler, they were the ones on whom fortune smiled. Others, like U Tun Hlaing, were the clerks, the coolies and such lowly things. The boom gave them employment, yes, but not wealth. The treasures of their soil were taken by foreigners, and they had to facilitate the taking. That was the way of politics where power ruled. Young Ba Swe grew up to get the injustice of it all imprinted indelibly on his young mind. He did not have to read Marx to become a socialist: all he needed to do was to look at the mines, and live his life in that boom town. The village monastery kept and contained young Ba Swe for a few years; then, he was launched into the lay world via the primary school at Tavoy where boys were allowed up to a reasonable age. With Ba Swe that reasonable age came quickly. He was growing fast into a big-made boy, and he felt a little shy to be with the girls at school, many of whom were already showing their natural fondness and preference for big-made boys. From the girls primary, Ba Swe went to the National Middle School, and after that he had to go to the one and only high school in Tavoy which was, much to his distaste, the government school. Ba Swe showed promise at school. He had literary tastes and he began to write articles for the papers and magazines quite early. But he was no mere poet and visionary. He was good in arithmatic and algebra, and...


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