U Thant Incident


U Thant Incident
   (1974)
   After former UN Secretary-General U Thant died in November 1974, President Ne Win denied him a formal state funeral, ordering that his body be buried at the Rangoon (Yangon) city cemetery at Kyandaw. U Thant was a close associate of U Nu, the former prime minister who led an antiregime movement based in Thailand between 1969 and 1973. Ne Win also apparently begrudged U Thant the international stature he enjoyed. Thousands of people came to the Kyaikkasan grounds in Rangoon to pay respects to his remains, and on December 5, 1974, university students took possession of his coffin, bringing it to the Main Campus of Rangoon (Yangon) University. It was housed in the Convocation Hall, where tens of thousands came to pay respects and Buddhist monks offered chants.
   Negotiations between the government and students might have prevented a confrontation. Ne Win conceded that U Thant's remains could be buried in a cemetery park near the Shwe Dagon Pagoda. But militant students took control of the situation, constructing a mausoleum for the late secretary-general on the site of the demolished Rangoon University Students' Union building. It became the focus for intense antiregime protest, including speeches critical of Ne Win. Threatened by what seemed to be a popular as well as student uprising, Ne Win ordered the Tatmadaw to storm the campus in the early morning of December 11. They seized the coffin, which was buried at the site near the Shwe Dagon, and killed an undetermined number of students. Many other students were arrested. Demonstrations and riots broke out around the city, and the authorities reportedly killed hundreds of protesters. The U Thant incident was the largest example of student militancy since the July 7, 1962 incident. In many ways, it was a precursor of Democracy Summer and the protests in early 1988 that led up to it.
   See also Labor Strikes.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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