A Tribute to the Martyrs Day
A Tribute to the Martyrs Day, 19 July 1999
Like Father like Son- The Shan who started Panglong
19 July for most Burmans marks the
assassination of Aung San and his colleagues. The fact is that in
the mind-set of the majority, Aung San looms large and distinct
while the rest of the martyrs are only a blur in the
Sao Sarm Htoon (1907 - 1947), Prince of Mongpawng state, who was never known to be a publicity-hunter, is certainly among those in the background.
He was the son of Sao Khun Hti, a leader of the Shan Confederacy, that finally freed the Shan States from Mandalay, then the capital of the Burmese kings, in 1882. He was also one of the few Shan princes that the British respected when the Shan States became a British protectorate five years later.
Fifty-eight years afterwards, it was his son, Sao Sarm Htun, who was among the Shan leaders that sought to free the Shan States from the British. At the funeral of his consort, Sao Khin Thaung, in 1945, the leaders that gathered there started a discussion that concluded in a decision to call the Panglong Conference, which was held first in 1946 and then in 1947 when Burma, Kachin, Chin and Shan representatives agreed to struggle for joint independence.
He was then elected by the Supreme Council of the United Hills Peoples (SCOUHP) as their chief representative to work with the Burmese interim government led by Aung San. Sao Sarm Htun was with Aung San when the assassins raided the Secretariat on that fateful day in July.
Khun Kya Bu, a signatory to the Panglong Agreement, reported: "If July 19, 1947, is the blackest day for both Burmese and Shans alike, the next day was no less blacker. Zao Zarm Htun (Sao Sarm Htun), the Prince of Mongpawn, who was among the wounded during the assassination of Aung San was taken with the others to the General Hospital in Rangoon. His Karen personal assistant personally carried him there. Apart from being unable to speak, because of the bullet wound in his chin, he was conscious and in good spirits when last seen. "But we were not allowed to visit him. They just told me he was all right, that there was nothing to worry about him. Then the next day, it was announced that he died from his wounds".
Sao Sarm Htun left two sons, Sao Hso Hom, who succeeded him and Sao Kaifah. Sao Hso Hom is reported as the President of the Shan Democratic Union formed by the overseas Shans in 1996.
Shans had joined Burma in 1947 under the treaty called Panglong Agreement which guaranteed Full Autonomy, Human Rights and Democracy for them. They have been fighting against successive Rangoon governments since the terms of agreement were violated. Their main party is the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy that won the General Elections in the Shan State in 1990 and their central armed movement is the Shan States Army.