Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Ba Maw (1893–1977)

Burmese political figure and one of the leaders of Burma's movement to gain independence from Britain, which was achieved soon after World War II. Born in Maubin, Burma, on 8 February 1893 into an aristocratic family, Ba Maw graduated from college in Rangoon in 1913. He also studied abroad at the Universities of Calcutta in India, Cambridge in England, and Bordeaux in France, obtaining both certification as a lawyer in England and a doctorate.

Ba Maw returned to Burma, a British Crown Colony, and began the practice of law, making a mark by defending Saya San, a leader of the Thayawaddy peasant uprising in 1930. In 1933, Ba Maw organized a moderate political party known as Simyetta (People's Party). He became a member of the Legislative Council of Burma and then minister of education for Burma. In April 1937, Ba Maw was appointed the first prime minister of the Burma Crown Colony government when Burma was officially separated from India. Facing radical labor and student unrest, he resigned in March 1939. He then formed a new political alignment, known as the Freedom Bloc, with the Thakin Party and became its chairman. Protesting British policies toward Burma, he quit the legislature in 1940.

Ba Maw was arrested and imprisoned by the British in August 1940 on charges of being in contact with the Japanese and advocating noncollaboration with the British war effort. Escaping from prison in August 1942, Ba Maw came under the protection of Japanese forces advancing to Rangoon. He collaborated with them and was appointed chief of the Burma Central Executive Council established by the Japanese authorities, adopting the title ahnashin (lord of authority). When Japan recognized Burma as an independent state in August 1943, Ba Maw became the chief of state of the new Republic of Burma and took the title adipati (chief), leading an authoritarian, one-party state.

In November 1943, Ba Maw attended the Greater East Asia Conference in Tokyo with other Asian leaders collaborating with Japan. But the Burmese army, led by Aung San, revolted in March 1945, and when Allied forces defeated the Japanese in Burma the next month, Ba Maw fled to Tokyo via Bangkok. In August 1945, when Japan surrendered, Ba Maw was arrested and interned in Sugamo Prison, Tokyo. Released in July 1946, he returned to Burma and resumed his political activities. He retired from politics in 1962 when the military, led by U Nu, carried out another coup d'état. Ba Maw published his autobiography in 1968. He died in Yangon (Rangoon) on 29 May 1977.

Tobe Ryoichi


Further Reading
Allen, Louis. Burma: The Longest War, 1941–1945. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1984.; Ba Maw. Breakthrough in Burma: Memoirs of a Revolution, 1939–1946. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1968.
 

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