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Dr. Ba Maw (8 February 1893 – 29 May 1977) was a Burmesemarker political leader, active during the interwar and World War II period.

Early life and education

Ba Maw was born in Maubinmarker, Burma (sometimes Myanmar). Ba Maw came from a distinguished family of mixed Mon-Burmese parentage (and possibly Armenian ancestry),The Burma we love (1945), In a school catering especially for Anglo-Burman boys, it was consideredsuperior not to be of full native blood. It was rumoured that he had some Armenianmarker or European blood. This rumour was strengthened by the fact that one Thaddeus, an Armenian, occasionally visited the two boys in school on behalf of the mother who was living Maubin; colour was also lent to this rumour by the fair complexion of the two boys, a complexion much fairer than that of most of the Anglo-Burman boys in the school. It seems, however, that both their parents were of pure Talaing blood. Ba Maw took English Honours in his BA Examination. In those days there was no University in Burma and the Rangoon Collegemarker was an affiliated college of the... which bred many scholars and lawyers. One of his elder brothers, Dr Ba Han (1890-1969), was a lawyer as well as a lexicographer and legal scholar.

In 1924 Ba Maw obtained his doctoral degree from the University of Bordeaux, Francemarker. Ba Maw wrote his doctoral thesis in the French language on aspects of Buddhism in Burma. (Ba Maw's elder brother Dr Ba Han, who devoted into Christianity also obtained his doctorate, from a UK university, and Ba Han's doctoral thesis was entitled 'The Mysticism of William Blake').


From the 1920s onwards Ba Maw practised law and dabbled in colonial-era Burmese politics. He achieved prominence in 1931 when he defended the rebel leader, Saya San. Saya San had started a tax revolt in Burma in December 1930 which quickly grew into a national rebellion against British rule. Saya San was captured, tried, convicted and hanged. Ba Maw was among the top lawyers who defended Saya San. One of the presiding judges that tried Saya San was another Burmese lawyer Ba U.
Ba Maw in 1937.
Starting from the early 1930s Ba Maw became an outspoken advocate for Burmese self-rule. He at first opposed Burma's colonial separation from British India, but later supported it. After a period as education minister, he served as the first Prime Minister (or perhaps more appropriately Premier of Burma (during the British colonial period) from 1937 to February 1939, after first being elected as a member of hsin-yè-tha, the Poor Man's Party, to the Legislative Assembly. He opposed the participation of Great Britain, and by extension Burma, in World War II. He resigned from the Legislative Assembly and was arrested for sedition on 6 August 1940. Ba Maw spent over a year in jail as a political prisoner. He was incarcerated for most of the time in Mogokmarker jail, situated in a hill station in eastern Burma.

During the early stages of World War II, from January – May 1942, Imperial Japanese Army quickly overran Burma, and after the capture of Rangoonmarker, freed Baw Maw from prison.During the Japanese occupation of Burma, Ba Maw was asked by the Japanese to head a provisional civilian administration to manage day-to-day administrative activities subordinate to the Japanese military administration. This Burmese Executive Administration was established on August 1, 1942.

As the war situation gradually turned against the Japanese, the Japanese government advanced its previously vague promised to grant Burma independence after the end of the war. The Japanese felt that this would give the Burmese a real stake in an Axis victory in the Second World War, creating resistance against possible re-colonization by the western powers, and increased military and economic support from Burma for the Japanese war effort. A Burma Independence Preparatory Committee chaired by Ba Maw was formed May 8, 1943 and the nominally independent State of Burma was proclaimed on August 1, 1943 with Ba Maw as "Naingandaw Adipadi" (head of state) as well as prime minister. The new state quickly declared war on the United Kingdommarker and the United Statesmarker, and concluded a Treaty of Alliance with the Empire of Japanmarker. Baw Maw attended the Greater East Asia Conference in Tokyomarker in November 1943. However, the new state failed to secure popular support or diplomatic recognition due to the continued presence and activities of the Imperial Japanese Army, and after their collaborationist allies, the Burma National Army defected to the Allies side, the government collapsed.

Ba Maw fled just ahead of invading British troops via Thailandmarker to Japan, where he was captured later that year by the American occupation authorities and was held in Sugamo Prisonmarker until 1946. He then was allowed to return to Burma, after Burma became independent of Great Britain and he remained active in politics. He was jailed briefly during 1947, for suspicion of involvement in the assassination of Aung San, but was soon released.

After General Ne Win (1910-2002) took over power in 1963 Ba Maw was again imprisoned (like many of the Burmese luminaries of the period who were detained during the time of Ne Win regime, from the 1960s to the 1980s, his imprisonment was without charge or trial) from about 1965 or 1966 to February 1968. During the period of his imprisonment Ba Maw managed to smuggle out a manuscript of his memoirs of the War years less than two of which (from August 1, 1943 to March 1945) he was Head of State (in Burmese naing-ngan-daw-adipadi) (literal translation 'paramount ruler of the State').

He never again held political office. His book Breakthrough in Burma: Memoirs of a Revolution 1939-1946, an account of his role during the war years, was published by Yale University Press (New Haven) in 1968. In the post-war period he founded the Mahabama Party. He died in Rangoonmarker.


  1. A History of Modern Burma (1958), pg 317


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