Dobama Asiayone


Dobama Asiayone
   (We Burmans Association)
   Also known as the Thakin Party, the most important political organization demanding independence from British colonial rule before World War II. It was established following the Anti-Indian Riots of May 1930 by young urban intellectuals, including graduates of Rangoon (Yangon) University. Members addressed each other as thakin, meaning "master," a term (like sahib, used in British-ruled India) that had customarily been employed by Burmese in everyday communications to address the British. Their use of the term to refer to themselves was subversive to British authority, but many older, conservative Burmese thought it inappropriate because the young "Thakins" were generally obscure and of low social status.
   Ideologically, the Dobama Asiayone is described by historians as "modernist," but also eclectic, drawing on divergent ideologies popular in Asia and Europe during the 1930s: the ideas of the Indian National Congress, the Fascism-Nazism of Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler, Japanese "Pan-Asianism," Sun Yat-sen's San Min Chu-I (Three Principles of the People), revolutionary Marxism-Leninism, and nonMarxist "Fabian" socialism. In Dr. Ba Maw's words, "
ost of those who accepted [revolutionary ideas] did not care much whether the ideas were black or red or yellow, whether they were from Russia or Germany or China or Japan. It was enough that they promised something new and were on their side, as against the colonial rulers, and held out a future that would be totally their own" (Breakthrough in Burma, 1968). Along with many other Burmese, the Thakins admired the courage of those who participated in the 1930 Saya San Rebellion, but they were not attracted to Saya San's use of traditional Burman (Bamar) royal symbolism and had no intention of supporting the reestablishment of a Burmese monarchy.
   In 1931, the Dobama Asiayone organized a paramilitary wing, the
   Dobama Let-yone Tat (Our Burmans Army of Braves), a widespread practice among political groups at the time (even the Rangoon University Student Union had such a wing), demonstrating that the Thakins had little enthusiasm for Gandhi's principle of nonviolent resistance. Their demonstrations during the 1930s tended to be rowdy attacks on established authority, especially old-line politicians who cooperated with British colonial rule. Vehemently opposed to the Government of Burma Act, they set up their own party, the Komin Kochin Aphwe ("One's own King, One's own Kind Association"), to contest the parliamentary elections held following implementation of the new constitution. Three of its candidates were elected, largely for the purpose of disrupting parliamentary proceedings.
   In the late 1930s, prominent student activists, including Aung San and Nu, joined the Dobama Asiayone, which played a prominent role in the Oil Field Workers' Strike of 1938. In that same year, the organization split into two factions, headed by Thakin Thein Maung and Thakin Ba Sein. The two factions are often described as different in ideology: Thein Maung's, which included Thakins Aung San and Nu, was "left wing," while Ba Sein's was "right-wing" (the latter included Thakin Shu Maung, later known as Ne Win). The split, however, had more to do with personalities and power politics than with political philosophies. A party executive meeting in June 1938 at the Shwe Dagon Pagoda almost ended in a violent confrontation. The Thakins' mentor, Thakin Kodaw Hmaing, sought to reconcile the two groups, but was unsuccessful. In 1939, the Dobama Asiayone joined Dr. Ba Maw's Sinyetha Party in the Freedom Bloc, and the two groups were merged into the Dobama Sinyetha Asiayone during the Japanese Occupation. Though factionalism and ideological vagueness undermined its effectiveness, all of Burma's leaders before 1988-Aung San, U Nu, and Ne Win-came from its ranks.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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