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Aung San was born in the town of Natmauk , in the district of Magwe, in central Burma. His family was already known in the resistance movement, having fought the British annexation in 1886. At the time, Burma was still part of British India. He was educated at Rangoon University, and was soon elected to the executive committee of the university student union. He then became editor of their magazine.
In February, 1936, he was expelled from the university, along with a colleague, for refusing to reveal the name of the author who wrote an article entitled "Hell Hound At Large" directed at a senior University official. This led to a university strike, and the university subsequently retracted their expulsion orders. In 1938, Aung San was elected president of both the Rangoon University Student Union and the All-Burma Students Union. In the same year, the government appointed him as a student representative on the Rangoon University Act Amendment Committee.
In October 1938, Aung San moved from student politics to nationalist politics. At this point, he was quite anti-British. He joined the Dohbama Asi-ayone organization (which translates as "We-Burmese"), and acted as their general secretary until August, 1940. While in this role, he helped organize the series of strikes that became known as the Revolution of Year 1300. He also helped to found another nationalist organization, Bama-htwet-yat Ghine (Freedom Bloc), and became its general secretary. In March, 1940, he attended the Indian National Congress Assembly in Rangar , India. However, the government issued a warrant for his arrest, and he had to flee Burma. He went first to China, and then on to Japan.
In February, 1941, Aung San returned to Burma, with an offer of arms and financial support from the Japanese government. He returned briefly to Japan, in order to receive military training, along with the first batch of the Thirty Comrades . In December, with the help of the Minami Kikan , he founded the Burmese Independence Army in Bangkok, Thailand, with Japanese assistance. He became chief-of-staff and took on the rank of Major-General.
The capital of Burma, Rangoon, fell to the Japanese in March, 1942, and the Japanese military admistration took over the country. In July, Aung San re-organised the BIA as the Burma Defence Army (BDA). He remained its commander-in-chief, and was now Colonel Aung San. In March, 1943, he was once again promoted to the rank of Major-General. Soon after, he was invited to Japan, and was presented with the Order of the Rising Sun.
On August 1, 1943, the Japanese declared Burma to be an independent nation. Aung San was appointed war minister, and his army underwent another rename, to the Burma National Army. However, his cooperation with the Japanese authorities was to be short-lived. He became skeptical about their promises of true independence, and was displeased with their treatment of Burmese forces.
In November, he conveyed a message to the British troops that he was planning to turn his forces against the Japanese. On August 1, 1944, in his speech for the first anniversary of Japan's declaration of Burma's independence, Aung San denounced Burma's independence as being fake. Later in August, he founded the Anti-Fascist Organization, and became its military leader.
However, it was not until the following March that the military resistance began. On March 27, 1945, Burmese troops rose up against the Japanese, in combination with Allied forces. On June 15, they celebrated victory. The Anti-Fascist Organization was expanded and renamed the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League, or AFPFL. His army was renamed the Patriotic Burmese Forces, and then merged with the Burma Army, which was under British command.
In January, 1946, Aung San became the President of the AFPFL. This followed the return of civil government to Burma the previous October. In September, he was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Executive Council of Burma, and was made responsible for defence and external affairs. In effect, he was Prime Minister, although he was still subject to a British veto. On January 27, 1947, Aung San and Clement Attlee signed an agreement guaranteeing Burma's independence within a year. He had been responsible for its negotiation.
Two weeks later, Aung San signed the Panglong Agreement , with leaders from other national groups, expressing solidarity and support for a united Burma. In April, the AFPFL won 196 of 202 seats in the election of a constituent assembly. In June, he convened a series of conferences in Rangoon, looking at methods of rehabilitating the country. On July 13, 1947, he gave what was to become his last public speech, urging Burmese people to mend their ways and have more discipline.
During an Executive Council meeting on July 19, 1947, Aung San was assassinated, together with six other Councillors, including his elder brother, U Ba Win . U Saw , a former Prime Minister and political rival of Aung San, was found guilty of the crime and executed. He had died at the age of only thirty-two. On January 4, 1948, Burma gained its independence.
Aung San's daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi, is now the leader of the Burmese opposition to the current military regime. Although the military regime have tried to eradicate some signs of Aung San's memory, several statues of him adorn the capital, and a market is named in his honor.
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