Chiangmai Shans mark Martyrs Day
For the second consecutive year, young Shans in Chiangmai came together yesterday, 20 July, a day later than the official Martyrs Day, to mark the fatal shooting that shook Burma in 1947.
21 July 2008
“We honor all the martyrs,” said a young organizer of the event. “But we also wish to remember that our Shan leader Sao Sam Tun died from his wounds a day after the shooting.”
Sao Sam Tun, the prince of Mongpawn, who was chosen to represent the hill peoples, as the non-Burman ethnic groups were then known, in the interim government, was murdered on 19 July 1947 along with Aung San and five other colleagues during a cabinet meeting. He had just turned 40 in May.
Sao Sam Tun
“General Aung San richly deserved the honor because even knowing his life was in danger, he went ahead with the mission he had been assigned,” said Khuensai Jaiyen, one of the speakers at the ceremony. “So did Sao Sam Tun who, in spite of all the warnings – the continuous roar of the tiger in the night, the muddying of the Mongpawn lake and the falling of the ceremonial swords and spears at his palace, all without apparent reason – went on to fulfill his duties.”
The exhibition at Wat Kutao temple, where the ceremony took place, also featured photos of other leaders of Shan State regarded as heroes and martyrs such as Sao Hkun Kyi, Prince of Hsihseng; Sao Hkun Pan Sing, Prince of Namhsan-Tawngpeng; Sao Noi Saw Yanda, founder of the first resistance movement Noom Seuk Harn; and Chao Tzang Yawnghwe, well-known scholar and resistance leader. “Sao Sam Tun is the main reason we all gather here,” said Sao Gunjade, 70, retired Shan general, who himself was known far and wide as an intrepid fighter during his active years, 1960 – 1995. “But we are taking this opportunity to honor all those who had courageously endured sufferings and death for the cause of freedom.”
“We should never follow the Burmese junta leaders’ example of not showing gratitude to those who had rendered outstanding services to the country,” said another speaker Saengchuen Soikhamhuang.
There has been only token observance of Martyrs Day since the country came under military rule in 1962.
Two Shan female visitors from Burma agreed. “Some school children, when the photo of Gen Aung San was shown to them, said it was Sai Sai Khamleng (one of Burma’s famous singers today),” said one. “If they don’t even know Aung San, how can we expect them to know the others. This is certainly one of Burma’s greatest tragedies.”
Not everyone thinks the same way about Sao Sam Tun. While hundreds attended the ceremony, many other invited VIPs had failed to show up. “There is nothing to be proud of him,” one was quoted as saying after receiving the invitation. “He’s one of those who had sold Shan State to the Burmans.”
Shan State, Burma and other non-Burman states had agreed to form a union on the basis of Full Autonomy for internal affairs of states, Human Rights and Democracy on 12 February 1947. The treaty became known as the Panglong Agreement.