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Centennial birthday of Myanmar’s former UN chief marked – Summary

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Centennial birthday of Myanmar’s former UN chief marked – Summary

Posted : Thu, 22 Jan 2009 14:17:58 GMT Author : DPA

Yangon – Relatives of Myanmar’s former United Nations secretary general U Thant commemorated the centennial birthday of the controversial Burmese national hero on Thursday, amid reports that UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari will visit the country soon.

The birthday anniversary celebration was organized by the U Thant Institute and Aye Aye Thant, daughter of U Thant, who is also the president of the institute. UN representatives, foreign diplomats, a Myanmar foreign ministry representative attended the event, sources said.

Bishow Parajuli, the resident UN humanitarian coordinator, read out a message from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the ceremony. Such events require official permission in Myanmar, which is ruled by a military junta.

The permission to hold a party commemorating U Thant’s centennial anniversary came amid reports that UN special envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari has planning a four-day visit to the country starting January 31.

Western diplomats at the U Thant ceremony confirmed the visit. Gambari’s last visit in August, 2008, proved a diplomatic disappointment, as he was denied meetings with both junta chief Senior General Than Shwe and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest since May, 2003.

The UN has made little progress in pushing the junta towards freeing Suu Kyi and over 2,000 political prisoners and introducing democratic reforms.

U Thant, one of the few Burmese to reach international stature, remains a controversial figure in military-controlled Myanmar, also known as Burma.

U Thant served as the third secretary general of the United Nations, from 1961 to 1971.

He was widely credited for his successful efforts for defusing Cuba’s Missile Crisis and ending Congo’s civil war during his term.

Born in Pantanaw town, in the Irrawaddy delta region, on January 22, 1909, U Thant died on November 25, 1974, while living abroad in self-imposed exile.

When his body was brought back to Yangon, then called Rangoon, for burial former military dictator General Ne Win refused it national honours.

University students snatched U Thant’s coffin as it was heading for an ordinary burial on December 5, 1974, and took it to the Rangoon University Student Union grounds, turning the funeral into an anti-Ne Win uprising.

On December 11, 1974, troops stormed the university campus, dug out U Thant’s coffin and reburied it at the current mausoleum at the foot of famous Shwedagon pagoda.

Many students were killed in the incident, marking one of the first serious uprisings against Ne Win.

The current military regime remains loyal to the memory of Ne Win, whose coup in 1962 overthrew the country’s first elected prime minister U Nu and put the country under the military’s grip, where it remains today.

http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/251955,centennial-birthday-of-myanmars-former-un-chief-marked–summary.html

Activists mark U Thant’s centenary birthday

Democratic Voice of Burma

Jan 23, 2009 (DVB)–Political activists inside and outside Burma marked the centenary of former United Nations secretary-general U Thant’s birth on 22 January and called for today’s UN leaders to take action on Burma.

At the National League for Democracy headquarters in Rangoon, around 50 NLD youth members attended a talk on the life of U Thant led by senior party members Win Tin and Khin Maung Swe, Rangoon division youth leader Aye Naing said.

“Win Tin started the discussion by talking about the peaceful nature of U Thant and his love of tradition. I read the biography of U Thant,” he said.

The youth leader also urged current UN leaders to honour the achievements of U Thant by urgently working to solve the political crisis in Burma.

“U Thant dealt with many problems in his work for world peace – problems in Congo, the Cuban crisis, North Yemen and many more,” Aye Naing said.

“Similarly, the current UN secretary-general and other officials should sort out the problem of Burma.”

A ceremony marking the U Thant’s centenary birthday was also held in Malaysia by members of the NLD-Liberated Area in Malaysia.

“We mark the event because the military junta has been trying to wipe out the memory of the Burmese and world leader U Thant from the consciousness of the people of Burma, and because we want to sing his praises,” branch chairman Kyaw Kyaw said.

U Thant was born in 1909 in Pantanaw township in lower Burma to Phoe Hnint and Nan Thaw, the oldest of four children.

He was appointed the third secretary-general of the UN in 1961, serving two terms before retiring on 31 December 1971.

He died of lung cancer in New York on 25 November 1974.

The UN is planning to issue commemorative stamps in honour of U Thant on 6 February.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

http://english.dvb.no/news.php?id=2132

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

January 29, 2009 at 12:25 am

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