Aung Gyi


Aung Gyi

Aung Gyi ( _my. အောင်ကြီး; 1919-) was a member of General Ne Win’s 4th Burma Rifles rising to Brigadier General. Aung Gyi was a Chinese descendant and he had a very typical Chinese name Chen Tianwang ( _zh. 陈天旺) in addition to the more commonly used Ang Ji ( _zh. 昂季). He played a role in the caretaker government of 1958-60 led by Ne Win. In his memoirs, "Saturday's Son", published in 1974, U Nu, then Prime Minister of Myanmar, claimed that his handover of power to the caretaker government was not voluntary but that a group of Army Officers led by Brigadier Aung Gyi and Brigadier Maung Maung threatened him with a “straight military coup” should he refuse to handover power to Ne Win. Aung Gyi was number two in the Revolutionary Council set up after the 1962 coup, serving as vice-chief of staff and Minister of Trade and Industry. He was once known as Ne Win's heir apparent.

Aung Gyi's role in suppressing the anti-government student protests in 1962 is not clear. In his resignation speech of 23 July 1988 Ne Win blamed Aung Gyi as “the real culprit” in the destruction of the Rangoon University Student Union Building on 8 July 1962. Aung Gyi was ousted in 1963, when he criticised the Council’s economic policies, and for statements made in Japan about the cause of the 1962 coup. He was imprisoned in 1965-68, and again in 1973-74. However, Aung Gyi remained loyal to the "Tatmadaw" (Armed Forces), and his connection with Ne Win remained intact despite his later blunt criticism of the government.

Prior to the 8888 Uprising Aung Gyi had written several long open letters, widely distributed throughout the country, to Ne Win, critical of the government, and these became an important supporting factor to opposition movement. On 7 March 1988 Aung Gyi wrote his first letter to Ne Win, suggesting economic reforms and a new cabinet. He strongly criticised the government's Burmese Way to Socialism and warned of possible social unrest. On 9 May 1988 he wrote a second 40-page open letter, reiterating the need for economic reforms.

In 1988, he emerged as prominent opposition leader and was imprisoned between 29 July and 25 August 1988. However, he remained a supporter of Ne Win and the army. Just before the army staged its coup on 18 September 1988, he told a crowd that he guaranteed that the army would not stage a coup and the interim government will be formed very soon: "I will kill myself, [if the army staged a coup] ". After the coup, Aung Gyi told people who came to listen his speech that they "must not think bad (or 'sin' against) the army even in your minds".

The National League for Democracy was formed on 27 September 1988, with Aung Gyi as Chairman , former General Thura Tin Oo as Vice-Chairman and Aung San Suu Kyi as General Secretary. He resigned on 3 December 1988 from the NLD, alleging communist infiltration, to form the Union National Democracy Party (UNDP) on 16 December 1988. Only one candidate from the UNDP was elected in the Myanmar general elections that were held in May 1990. At those elections, there were 485 constituencies. The NDP fielded 447 candidates, and 392 were elected.

In 1993 Aung Gyi was sentenced to six months imprisonment for not paying a bill for eggs.

In 1998 he visited the USA and recorded an extensive interview with Radio Free Asia. When asked about the army, he said: "People despise the Tatmadaw. This is a bad sign. The people of Burma have lost faith in the Tatmadaw." While he acknowledged the corruption and nepotism of the top junta leaders, he considered that democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was surrounded by "communists", the same accusations made by the junta. He blamed the NLD for boycotting the National Convention established to draft a new Constitution. He said, "I want U Ne Win to contribute something before he dies, because he knows what is right and wrong". He stated that Ne Win was still influential and had ordered the SPDC to change the name of the government and reshape the Cabinet in 1997.

Among the few who attended the funeral of Ne Win in 2002 was Aung Gyi who spoke fondly of Ne Win's achievements in helping bring independence to Myanmar in 1948, but he also stated that “Ne Win betrayed Burma and Ne Win betrayed the country. He committed rape of democracy in Burma by staging a coup. He died an inglorious death. It was a sad and tragic ending”.

References

* [http://www.irrawaddy.org/res/bio.html Short Biography]
* [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,828014,00.html Time Magazine - 1963 Ousting of Aung Gyi]
* Radio Free Asia: Editorial & Opinion: “Aung Gyi, Burma's General of ill omen” 6 October 1988, with extensive quotations from his interview.
*Associated Press 6 December 2002, “Former dictator Ne Win's remains scattered in river”

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