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A Special Martyrs’ Day in Yangon


For the 70th anniversary of the assassination of General Aung San, the City of Yangon has done its outmost to please visitors.

PEOPLE are standing still. Cars horn for an entire minute. In the country side a farmer drops his mattock. Time has stopped. It is 10:37 on July 19th.

That very day, at this very hour, 70 years ago, General Aung San and other leaders of the independence movement were assassinated.

The crime took place during a cabinet meeting at The Secretariat, the red-brick old colonial building situated downtown at the junction of Thein Phyu Road, Maha Bandula Road, Bo Aung Kyaw Street and Anawyahta Road.

The secretariat was the administrative seat of the colonial rulers, it was then used as the seat of the first independent Burmese government.

Burmese pay tribute to the father of the Nation – and the father of today’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi – by taking a day of rest.

Everybody can use its day as he sees fit, but most will go to the martyrs’ mausoleum, Bogyoke Aung San Museum or the Secretariat to commemorate the heroes of our country.

For this 70th anniversary, the Yangon City Development Council has some surprises in store.

The Secretariat

The whole of the Secretariat is still under renovation and only a few sections will be opened to the public on Martyr's Day.

The first Burmese Parliament is also being renovated and will be opened to the public. Today, the Union Parliament, or Hluttaw, sits in Nay Pyi Taw, but this is Yangon that Burmese parliamentary democracy was born.

The then capital-city was the seat of the legislative from 1935 to 1962.

An early constitution was drafted in that building which has been turned into a history museum for the occasion.

The site will be open to the public from 8:30am to 4:30pm, but at 7:30am, the flag raising ceremony will be held in front of the Parliament House with officials and special guests.

This is where the British’s Union Jack used to flap, and where the first Burmese flag was raised after the independence in 1948.

Exceptionally, the public will be able to view the cabinet room where Aung San was assassinated, but only from the entrance of the room.

The national museum has lent the original furniture and artifacts that were in the room during the time of the assassination.

Several activities will be conducted.

“We have invited students between the age 10 and 14 to submit their art work “ said May Thandar Win, the spokeperson of The Secretariat Conservation Group.

“We received more than 270 pieces, 40 were shortlisted and displayed in the gallery of The Secretariat “.

The top three will receive a price in cash.

The Museum

Currently, the Aung San museum is closed. But brace yourself for its re-opening on Martyr’s Day

“Last year, we showed Bogyoke’s photos. This year, we will show his dictums on boards. The security will be at its maximum,” said Daw Thi Thi Thaung, officer in charge of the museum.

“The clothes of Bogyoke and his long coat were sent for preservation in the laboratory of the National Museum. Visitors will have a chance to see the work that has been done on them,” he added. The coat was a present of the late Prime Ministre of India Jawaharlal Nehru.

This year, visitors will also have a chance to look at the personal effects of Bogyoke’s middle son, Aung San Lin who drowned and died in the swimming pool of the house. His text books, cards and the English lessons he was taught on the day of his death will also be on display.

The museum usually opens at 9:30am to 4:30pm and closes on Monday but on Martyrs’ Day, the museum will be opened from 6am to 5pm.

From July 19 to 23, the City of Yangon has generously decided to treat the foreigners on par with the local and let them in for free. Usually, the admission fee for foreigner is K5,000.

The Mausoleum

Last year, tens of thousands visited the Martyrs’ Mausoleum on July 19th.

Located near the northern gate of Shwedagon Pagoda, access to the mausoleum has been made easier for all.

“This year a special measures have been taken for the disable “ said U Saw Naing, head of sub-department of YCDC Engineering Department.

Biographies and speeches of Martyrs will be displayed on vinyl boards, he added.

The opening hours for visitors will be 12 to 5pm; from the Gate number 1 at the junction of west Shwe Gone Daing Road and Ar Zar Ni Street. They will be invited to leave from Gate number, near the Shwe Dagon Pagoda’s northern gate.

Security and restrictions will be running high again. This, after all, is a day of remembrance, not a tourist attraction.