Ba Maw, Dr.

   Prewar prime minister and head of state of "independent" Burma during World War II. Educated at Rangoon College (later Rangoon [Yangon] University), Cambridge University, Grey's Inn, and the University of Bordeaux in France, where he completed a doctorate, he opened a legal practice in Rangoon (Yangon) in 1924 and first came to prominence as a defense lawyer for rebel leader Saya San in 1931. The following year, he began his political career as a leader of the Anti-Separation League, and in 1936 he founded his own party, the Sinyetha (Proletarian or Poor Man's) Party. In 1937, he became the first prime minister under the Government of Burma Act, but his government fell in February 1939. In October of that year, he became president of the Freedom Bloc (in Burmese, Htwet Yat Gaing, or "Association of the Way Out"), a nationalist alliance of the Sinyetha Party, the Dobama Asiayone, and the All Burma Students' Union. Secretary general of the Bloc was Thakin Aung San, with whom he had a close if not necessarily smooth working relationship during the war. Before he was tried and imprisoned by the British for sedition (August 1940-April 1942), Ba Maw met Japanese diplomats and secret agents in the hope that Tokyo would aid the struggle for independence, facilitating Aung San's departure from Burma and contact with Colonel Suzuki Keiji. After the Japanese Army occupied Burma, the Military Administration (Gunseikanbu) designated him head of the Burmese Executive Administration. When Burma's "independence" under Japanese rule was proclaimed on August 1, 1943, he became head of state (Nain-ngandaw Adipadi). Seeking to impose "totalitarian" rule under the slogan "One blood, one voice, one leader," he established a single state party, the Dobama Sinyetha Asiayone (later known as the Maha Bama Party) in 1942, and mass organizations of workers (the Chwe Tat or "Sweat Army"), civil servants, and ordinary citizens. Viewed by many of the Thakins as a Japanese puppet, he was in fact so jealous of his independence that a clique in the Japanese army arranged an unsuccessful assassination attempt against him in February 1944. At the end of the war, he escaped to Japan and was imprisoned at Sugamo Prison in Tokyo before being allowed to return home in 1946. Although he reassumed leadership of the Maha Bama Party, his wartime association with the Japanese discredited him in Burmese eyes, and he never again played a major political role. In 1966, he was imprisoned for a time by the Ne Win regime. Ba Maw's Breakthrough in Burma: Memoirs of a Revolution, 1939-1946 is a well-written and authoritative, though not unbiased, account of this historically important period.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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