General Aung San Museum

RANGOON—After parking his car outside the hill-top villa during a leafy neighborhood just a couple of hundred meters from the Shwedagon Pagoda, Zaw Htet Aung tells his son, “this is where General Aung San wont to live.” His wife nods in agreement. The couple chaperoned their boy to the present two-storied colonial-style wooden house, namely the Bogyoke (General) Aung San Museum, for his or her only child’s benefit.

“He has seen Bogyoke in pictures,” said eight-year-old Tet Htut Aung’s father. “That’s why we’ve brought him here to possess some more ideas about Aung San.” After being closed for five years for large-scale maintenance, the previous home of Burma’s national hero and his family has now reopened to the public—providing a singular glimpse into his private life. Thaung Win, the director of the Rangoon National Museum and administrator of the Bogyoke Aung San Museum, told The Irrawaddy that the 91-year-old building reopened to the general public on March 24 after renovations to strengthen the retaining walls also as repairs to the roof, walkways and stairs. “We want it to be one among the most information centers on Bogyoke Aung San also as providing a window for children to know who he was and the way he lived,” he said.

Aung San, the daddy of Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, remains highly respected because the hero of Burmese independence for his efforts in bringing about the top of British colonial rule.“Bogyoke” and his family lived within the villa on lease from a Chinese couple from 1945 until he was gunned down during a 1947 conspiracy masterminded by his political rival U Saw. Aung San was just 32 years old.After her husband’s assassination, Khin Kyi kept raising their three children—Aung San Oo, Aung San Lin and Aung San Suu Kyi—in the house until 1953 when Aung San Lin drowned within the compound’s pool.Following the death of her second oldest son, Khin Kyi moved her family to an equivalent colonial-era mansion by the shores of Inya Lake on University Avenue where Suu Kyi lives to the present day.

The Burmese government bought the previous residence for 30,000 kyats (US $37.5 at the time) in 1948 and it had been converted into the Bogyoke Aung San Museum in 1962, consistent with a piece of writing published within the Monitor weekly journal.But the museum was temporarily closed between 1999 and 2007 for refurbishment and only reopened annually on July 19, the commemorative day of Aung San’s assassination, during this era .Until last week, consistent with official records, the museum has seen 1,419 visitors including 140 foreigners. “A museum isn’t a profit-making service,” said Thaung Win. “So we’ve fixed the doorway fee at an inexpensive price [300 kyat] hoping to encourage everyone to go to .”The museum boasts a number of Aung San’s personal belongings starting from a British-built black Wolseley automobile to an overcoat given to him by the primary Indian Prime Minister Nehru during a visit to England within the early 1940s.

A collection of 240 books on a spread of subjects—from applied mechanics and defense to economics and selected short stories by D.H. Lawrence—may be a source of interest for literature fans.Downstairs features pictures and paintings of Aung San and his family, while the special meeting room upstairs is decorated with extracts from a number of his speeches—including the explanatory guideline concerning the 1947 constitutional law which states “no constitution within the world is ideal .”This hero’s residence has an aura of simplicity and is barren of any trace of ostentation—the only embellishments are basic requirements for anyone to enjoy a cheerful family life.

Being interested by the independence icon’s private quarters, Wai Zin, 23, visited the museum for the primary time last week. “Now i think the Bogyoke had a really simple lifestyle,” said the business management graduate after touring the museum. The lack of luxuries demonstrates that, despite his power, Aung San never sought to use his position to feather his own nest—adding to the sense of reverence which accompanies his name all throughout Burma. “Some members of the govt today should take him as a role-model,” said May Moe, 24, an English major graduate from Rangoon. Even though Aung San remains highly considered the national hero who founded the fashionable Burmese Army, there was a time when his reputation was stifled by attempts to wipe him from people’s memories.

After the increase of his daughter’s influence within the Burmese pro-democracy movement following the 1988 students’ uprising, everything associated with Aung San was pushed into the background by the then-military dictatorship. His portrait at government schools and offices were replaced with former junta supremo Snr-Gen Than Shwe.The Lion, the insignia of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Association, took the place of Aung San’s image on Burmese banknotes from the 1990s. July 19, referred to as Martyrs Day within the Burmese calendar, was a muted celebration until last year. grade school text books only provided a quick description of Aung San and a 10-stanza poem as his biography.

“Thanks to the previous military government’s ban, Burma’s younger generation today has little or no idea who Aung San is,” said Zaw Htet Aung. “Thank God there are people that are selling Bogyoke’s pictures. Were it not for them, we wouldn’t have anything to point out our youngsters what Aung San seems like .”Zaw Htet Aung is hopeful that the museum will help promote awareness amongst subsequent generation regarding Aung San and his message. “We need children with ‘Aung San’s spirit’ who are honest, unselfish and exerting for the national interest—especially lately when our country is during a transitional period,” he said.“I don’t want to be a soldier like Bogyoke. I’m scared of guns,” said Tet Htut Aung after visiting the museum. “But i would like to be a doctor, and that i want to be an honest person like Bogyoke too.”

Bogyoke Aung San Museum is situated on a 2.5-acre plot of land in Bahan Township, near Kandawgyi Lake. it’s open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm, except on public holidays. Admission costs 300 kyats (US $0.40) for adults—both Burmese and foreigners—and 100 kyats ($0.10) for youngsters under 12, but is free for college kids .