On Jan. 4, 1948, Burma (now officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar) ended 60 years of colonial rule when it officially declared independence from Britain. In 2019, it will celebrate 71 years of independence.

Burma's Struggle for Autonomy

In June 1945, Burmese soldiers fought with the British to expel Japanese invaders from Burma during World War II. By the war’s end, nationalist leader Aung San, whose anti-fascist movement had been prominent in the struggle against Japan, had established a political and military power base from which to negotiate with Great Britain. He took office in the provisional Burmese government that was formed in 1946.

Gen. San’s rule was troubled by conflicts between Burma’s rival ethnic groups, but he proved a unifying force for the nationalist movement. In January 1947, he signed the Panglong agreement with ethnic leaders that guaranteed the independence of Burma as a unified state.

In 1948, the nation became an independent republic, named the Union of Burma, with Sao Shwe Thaik as its first president and U Nu as its first prime minister.

Before the agreement came to fruition, in July 1947, Aung San and six other members of the Cabinet were gunned down. The deaths were mourned throughout the country and for decades after.

The assassinations failed to halt the country’s advance toward political autonomy, which officially arrived on Jan. 4, 1948. “Thousands of Burmans caroused amiably along Rangoon's steamy, tropical waterfront,” wrote Time. “Some still recalled the day in 1885 when Burma's last king, brash Thibaw, sailed into exile and the British took over. Now, British rule was at an end.”

Historical Context: Colonial Burma

The British conquered part of Burma during the Anglo-Burmese war of 1824–26, but they did not establish full control of the region until 1886. For a time, Burma was part of British India, but it became a separate colony in 1937.

Japan invaded Burma during World War II and conducted a difficult struggle against British forces for years. For a time, Japan won many victories against the British—and even the support of Aung San's Burmese National Army—but ultimately Japan lost San's support and its hold in Burma. Aung San's supporters rode a wave of nationalism and were positioned to take over British control when the war was over.

2019 Celebrations

(Myanmar News Agency, 16 October 2018) The 71st Independence Day will be observed nationwide on 4th January next year in accordance with the five national objectives, according to the first coordination meeting of the Central Committee for Holding the 71st Independence Day ceremony.

Speaking at the meeting held in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday, Vice President U Myint Swe, in his capacity as the chairman of the committee, said nine sub-committees will be formed with a view to successfully holding the Independence Day Ceremony and related events in a politically meaningful way with the five objectives.

The five national objectives are: to safeguard and protect the non-disintegration of the Union and the non-disintegration of National Solidarity and Perpetuation of Sovereignty by all ethnic people with their collective strength; to work hard for emergence of a constitution which meets the democratic norms and can guarantee a democratic federal union; to effectively fight and prevent against the use drugs which damage the health and morality of the citizens; to strive continually for equitable development of all regions and states and to support the Union Government’s efforts for the development of a market oriented system and private sector.

Myanmar gained her independence on 4th January, 1948.

“All the entire mass of the people are obliged to strive in unity for perpetuation of our independence which we gained through the unity of the all national races led by Bogyoke Aung San and for development of the Union,” said the vice president.

“The independence day is held every year with a view to keeping up the patriotic spirit of our next generation after they understand that we gained our independence due to the sacrifice of our people,” he said.

As per annually-held formalities, there will be morning and evening events attended by State Leaders, Government Leaders, diplomats, local and international non-governmental organizations, and invited guests.

The ceremony will be held in two sessions, and in the morning session ceremony for hoisting the national flag, ceremony for saluting the national flag will be held and the Independence Day message sent from the President will be read. In the evening session, a State-level dinner party will be hosted.

Festive games will be held in regions and states on Independence Day and public buildings will be illuminated on the day. The Ministry of Information will broadcast stories and songs related to the country’s Independence Day and historic songs and make sure that cover articles and special commemorative articles are put in the newspapers and journals, said the Vice President. “It is necessary for sub-committees to coordinate with each other in implementing the assigned duties,” he said. There was a need to avoid weaknesses and shortcomings by proper coordination among the sub-committees based on past years’ experiences and sub-committee heads need to monitor and oversee sector-wide works, said the Vice President.

Following his remarks, leaders of the nine sub-committees gave power-point presentations of their respective tasks.


  1. Finding Dulcinea (2017). On this Day, Burma Declares Independence from Britain. Retrieved on http://www.findingdulcinea.com/news/on-this-day/On-this-Day--Burma-Declares-Independence-from-Britain.html
  2. Myanmar News Agency (16 October 2018). 71st Independence Day to be Observed with five objectives. Retrieved from http://www.globalnewlightofmyanmar.com/71st-independence-day-to-be-observed-with-five-objectives/
  3. The Republic of the Union of Myanmar Presidents Office (11 November 2017). Independence Day to Have Five Objectives. Retrieved from: http://www.president-office.gov.mm/en/?q=briefing-room/news/2017/11/11/id-7934
  4. Wikipedia (2017). Independence Day- Myanmar. Retrieved on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independence_Day_(Myanmar)


Burmese National Anthem:
Burma Celebrates Independence (1948)
Peaceful old Burma 60 years ago