Nu, U


Nu, U
   (Thakin Nu)
   (1907-1995)
   Independent Burma's first prime minister, who began his political career as a student activist during the 1930s. Born on May 25, 1907, in Wakema, Myaungmya (Myoungmya) District south of Bassein (Pathein), he was a graduate of Rangoon (Yangon) University. His election to the presidency of the Rangoon University Students Union (RUSU) in 1935 ensured control of the organization by radicals. The following year, his expulsion from the school, along with Aung San, led to the student strike of FebruaryMay. This made both Nu and Aung San figures of importance on the national political scene. In 1937, he joined the Dobama Asiayone or Thakin Party (thus, he was widely known as "Thakin Nu") and was also a founder of the Nagani Book Club. Interned by the British between 1940 and 1942, he served as foreign minister in the pro-Japanese wartime government of Dr. Ba Maw from 1943 to 1945. At war's end, he was vice president of the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League (AFPFL) and succeeded to the presidency following the assassination of Aung San on July 19, 1947, negotiating the Nu-Attlee Agreement with the British government in October of that year.
   U Nu was prime minister during the periods 1948-1956, 1957-1958, and 1960-1962. His political vision encompassed nonMarxist socialism, construction of a modern welfare state, and Buddhism. Though he ceded power to General Ne Win's Caretaker Government in October 1958, his Pyidaungsu (Union) Party won the February 1960 election, and Burma had two more years of civilian government under his prime ministership.
   Between 1954 and 1956, U Nu sponsored the Sixth Great Buddhist Council, on the 2,500th anniversary of the Buddha's attainment of nibbana (nirvana), in which Buddhist monks and lay scholars produced an authoritative version of the Tipitaka (Buddhist scriptures). Though a strong backer of religious tolerance, U Nu proposed that Buddhism be made the state religion, a measure popular with the Burman (Bamar) voters that probably assured his 1960 election victory. Aconstitutional amendment to this effect was passed in August 1961, but it alienated religious minorities, including Christians among the Kachins and other border area nationalities. U Nu's hosting of the Federal Seminar in February 1962, however, reflected his willingness to talk with ethnic minority leaders about granting the border area states more autonomy. U Nu's government was overthrown in the coup d'état of March 2, 1962, and he and other political leaders were imprisoned.
   U Nu was able to leave Burma in 1969 after his participation in the Internal Unity Advisory Board (IUAB), and headed an anti-Ne Win insurgency, the National United Liberation Front, based in Thailand. This proved ineffectual, and he quit as chairman in 1972, returning to Burma in 1980 following Ne Win's announcement of a general amnesty. Though retired from political life and devoting himself to religion, he announced a "parallel government" on September 9, 1988, establishing his own cabinet with himself as prime minister, on the grounds that following the 1962 coup d'état the Constitution of 1947 had never been formally abrogated. Because of his refusal to dissolve the parallel government, the State Law and Order Restoration Council kept him under house arrest from December 1989 to April 1992. His party, the League for Democracy and Peace, failed to win a seat in the General Election of May 27, 1990. He died on February 14, 1995.
   U Nu was internationally respected as one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement. At home, he always preferred discussion to the use of brute force, and his government, though not without its flaws, was the most democratic Burma ever experienced.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.