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 2020, it will celebrate 72 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.

2020 Celebrations

(Global New Light of Myanmar, 11 October 2019) ent U Myint Swe, Chairman of Central Committee for organizing 72nd Independence Day celebrations attended the first coordination meeting of the committee held at the Union Government Office meeting hall in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday morning.

Speaking at the meeting, the Vice President said that in order to hold the Independence Day nationwide with the five national objectives set by the government a 37-member Central Committee for holding the Independence Day was formed. Ten sub-committees will be formed under the Central Committee as done in past years.

The five national objectives set for 72nd Independence Day ceremony-2020 and related events are:

  1. 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;
  2. To give priority to the rule of law and reform of justice sector as an important work process for the stability, peace and development of the country;
  3. To work hard for emergence of a constitution that was the basic foundation of establishing a democratic federal union;
  4. Creating a good environment to raise the capability and duty consciousness of the citizens toward establishing a democratic federal union;
  5. Emergence of a democratic federal union through Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan.

As per annually-held formalities, there will be morning and evening sessions. In the morning session ceremony for hoisting the national flag and ceremony for saluting the national flag will be held. In the evening session, a State-level event and a dinner party will be hosted. For all events and sessions, both Plan A and Plan B must be drawn up and prepared.

Independence Day events will be held in Union territory Nay Pyi Taw, States and Regions. Festive games and sports events will be held and public buildings will be illuminated in the evening. Such events were to be held in schools and sports grounds and public roads must not be used or closed for the event.

Furthermore prior to the Independence Day, talks, essay and poem competition and quiz competition were to be held based on the national objectives so that the people remember the efforts made toward gaining independence. The five national objectives were also to be displayed at designated places.

The Ministry of Information was to broadcast stories, historical songs and songs related to the country’s Independence Day and ensure that articles and special commemorative articles are put in the newspapers and journals.

Guest lists for morning and evening sessions were to be submitted in a timely manner. Sub-committees are to coordinate and prepare the necessary and sub-committee wise expenditures were to be systematically spent according to financial regulations.

After holding 71st Independence Day ceremony and events on 4 January 2019, a coordination meeting was held to review the celebrations on 1 April 2019. 29 areas of improvements were discussed and decided at that meeting and sub-committees wise improvements and implementation must be carried out.

As it is a State-level event, sub-committees need to ensure that there are no shortcomings and weaknesses. Sub-committee wise works were to be implemented based on past year experiences. Central Committee members and officials from sub-committees are urged to openly discuss completed and ongoing works, other requirements and difficulties said the Vice President.

Central Committee secretary and sub-committees members then explained about their respective works.

Afterwards, Central Committee Chairman Vice President U Myint Swe coordinated on the explanations and discussions and concluded the meeting with a closing speech.

The meeting was attended by Union Minister for Information Dr Pe Myint, Union Minister for Education Dr Myo Thein Gyi, Union Minister for International Cooperation U Kyaw Tin, Nay Pyi Taw Council Chairman Dr Myo Aung, Nay Pyi Taw Command Commander Maj-Gen Myint Maw, Deputy Ministers Maj-Gen Aung Thu, Maj-Gen Than Htut and Dr Tun Naing, senior military officers, Permanent Secretaries, heads of departments and officials. — MNA


  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 (11 October 2019). 72nd Independence Day to be Observed with five objectives. Retrieved from https://www.globalnewlightofmyanmar.com/72nd-independence-day-to-be-celebrated-nationwide-with-five-national-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)



Burma Celebrates Independence (1948)

Peaceful old Burma 60 years ago