Ne Win
Ne Win was Burmese a politician and military commander. He was Prime Minister of Burma from 1958 to 1960 and 1962 to 1974 and also head of state
President of Burma
The President of Burma is the head of state and head of government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, and leads the executive branch of the Burmese government, and heads the Cabinet of Burma. The president is elected by members of parliament, not by the general population. The Presidential...

 from 1962 to 1981. He also was the founder and from 1963 to 1988 the chairman of the Burma Socialist Programme Party
Burma Socialist Programme Party
Burma Socialist Programme Party was formed by the Ne Win's military regime that seized power in 1962 and was the sole political party allowed to exist legally in Burma during the period of military rule from 1964 until its demise in the aftermath of the popular uprising of 1988.-History:The BSPP...

, which from 1964 until 1988 was the sole political party in the Burmese nation state.

Date of birth

Ne Win's date of birth is not known with certainty. The English language publication Who's Who in Burma published in 1961 by People's Literature House, Rangoon, stated that Ne Win was born on 24 May 1911. Dr. Maung Maung
Maung Maung
Dr. Maung Maung was the 7th President of Union of Myanmar, and a well-known writer.-Biography:Maung Maung was the son of lawyer U Sint and his wife Daw Aye Tin. He graduated from BTN High School. He attended the fourth intake of the Defence Services Academy. In 1946, he received the degree of...

 stated in the Burmese version of his book Burma and General Ne Win, also published in English, that Ne Win was born on 14 May 1911. However, in a book written in Burmese entitled The Thirty Comrades, the author Kyaw Nyein gave Ne Win's date of birth as 10 July 1910.

Kyaw Nyein's date of 1910 can be considered as the more plausible date. First, Kyaw Nyein had access to historical records and he interviewed many surviving members of the Thirty Comrades when he wrote the book in the mid-to late 1990s. (Ne Win was one of the Thirty Comrades
Thirty Comrades
The Thirty Comrades constituted the embryo of the modern Burmese army called the Burma Independence Army which was formed to fight for independence from Britain...

 who secretly went to undergo military training in Japanese-occupied Hainan Island in the early 1940s for the purpose of fighting for independence from the British). In his book published around 1998 Kyaw Nyein lists the names of the surviving members of the Thirty Comrades whom he had interviewed, although Ne Win was not one of them.) Secondly, when Ne Win died on 5 December 2002, the Burmese language newspapers which were allowed to carry a paid obituary stated the age of 'U Ne Win' to be '93 years'. According to Burmese custom a person's age is their age upon their next birthday. Since Ne Win turned 92 in July 2002, when he died in December 2002 he was considered to be 93 years old. Most Western news agencies, based on the May, 1911 birth date, reported that Ne Win was 91 years old but the obituary put up by his family (most probably his children) stated that he was 93 years old, which would be 92 according to the Western way of calculating age.

Early years

Ne Win, born Shu Maung , was born into an educated middle class family in Paungdale
Paungdale` is a small town about 12 miles from Pyay in Myanmar. Notable people from Paungdale` include U Ne Win....

 about 200 miles north of Rangoon
Yangon is a former capital of Burma and the capital of Yangon Region . Although the military government has officially relocated the capital to Naypyidaw since March 2006, Yangon, with a population of over four million, continues to be the country's largest city and the most important commercial...

. He spent two years at Rangoon University beginning in 1929, and took biology
Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Biology is a vast subject containing many subdivisions, topics, and disciplines...

 as his main subject with hopes of becoming a doctor. However, in 1931 he was expelled from the university after he failed an exam. Ne Win eventually became "Thakin Shu Maung" or a member of the nationalist organisation Dobama Asiayone (We Burmans Association). Other members of the group included Aung San
Aung San
Bogyoke Aung San ; 13 February 1915 – 19 July 1947) was a Burmese revolutionary, nationalist, and founder of the modern Burmese army, the Tatmadaw....

 (father of Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi, AC is a Burmese opposition politician and the General Secretary of the National League for Democracy. In the 1990 general election, her National League for Democracy party won 59% of the national votes and 81% of the seats in Parliament. She had, however, already been detained...

) and U Nu
U Nu
For other people with the Burmese name Nu, see Nu .U Nu was a leading Burmese nationalist and political figure of the 20th century...

. In 1941 Ne Win, as a member of the Ba Sein-Tun Ok (Socialist) faction of the Dobama, was one of thirty young men chosen for military training by the Japanese . Their leader was Aung San and they formed the Burma Independence Army (BIA). During military training on the then Japanese-occupied Hainan Island
Hainan is the smallest province of the People's Republic of China . Although the province comprises some two hundred islands scattered among three archipelagos off the southern coast, of its land mass is Hainan Island , from which the province takes its name...

 Shu Maung chose a nom de guerre, Bo Ne Win (Commander Radiant Sun). In early 1942 the Japanese Army and the BIA entered Burma in the wake of the retreating British forces. Ne Win's role in the campaign was to organize resistance behind the British lines.

The experience of the Japanese occupation of Burma
Japanese occupation of Burma
The Japanese occupation of Burma refers to the period between 1942 and 1945 during World War II, when Burma was a part of the Empire of Japan. The Japanese had assisted formation of the Burma Independence Army, and trained the Thirty Comrades, who were the founders of the modern Armed Forces...

 worked to alienate the nationalists as well as the population at large. Toward the end of the Second World War, on 27 March 1945 the Burma National Army
Burma National Army
The Burma National Army served as the armed forces of the Burmese government created by the Japanese during World War II and fought in the Burma Campaign...

 (successor to the BIA) turned against the Japanese following the British re-invasion of Burma. Ne Win, as one of the BNA Commanders, was quick to establish links with the British – attending the Kandy
Kandy is a city in the center of Sri Lanka. It was the last capital of the ancient kings' era of Sri Lanka. The city lies in the midst of hills in the Kandy plateau, which crosses an area of tropical plantations, mainly tea. Kandy is one of the most scenic cities in Sri Lanka; it is both an...

 conference in Ceylon
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 and taking charge of the anti-Communist operations in the Pyinmana
Pyinmana ) is a logging town and sugarcane refinery center in the Mandalay Region of Myanmar. The administrative capital of Myanmar was officially moved to a militarized greenfield site two miles west of Pyinmana on November 6, 2005. Pyinmana is approximately north of Yangon...

 area as commander of the 4th Burma Rifles after the Red Flag Communists and the Communist Party of Burma
Communist Party of Burma
The Communist Party of Burma is the oldest existing political party in Burma. The party is unrecognised by the Burmese authorities, rendering it illegal; so it operates in a clandestine manner, often associating with insurgent armies along the border of People's Republic of China...

 went underground to fight against the government in October 1946 and on 28 March 1948 respectively. Burma obtained independence
Independence is a condition of a nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over its territory....

 on 4 January 1948, and for the first 14 years it had a parliamentary and democratic government mainly under Prime Minister U Nu, but the country was riven with political division. Even before independence, Aung San was assassinated together with six of his cabinet members on 19 July 1947; U Saw
U Saw
U Saw aka Galon U Saw was a leading Burmese politician and Prime Minister during the colonial era before the Second World War. He is best known for his role in the assassination of Burma's national hero Aung San and other independence leaders in July 1947, only months before Burma gained...

, a pre-war prime minister and political rival of Aung San, was found guilty of the crime and executed. U Nu as leader of the Socialists took charge of the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League
Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League
The Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League , or hpa hsa pa la by its Burmese acronym, was the main political party in Burma from 1945 until 1962...

 (AFPFL) formed by the Communists, Socialists and the BNA in 1945 now that Aung San was dead and the Communists expelled from the AFPFL.

Following independence there were uprisings in the army and amongst ethnic minority groups. In late 1948, after a confrontation between army rivals, Ne Win was appointed second in command of the army and his rival Bo Zeya, a communist commander and fellow member of the Thirty Comrades, took a portion of the army into rebellion. Ne Win immediately adopted a policy of creating Socialist militia battalions called 'Sitwundan' under his personal command with the approval of U Nu.
On 31 January 1949, Ne Win was appointed Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces (Tatmadaw) and given total control of the army replacing General Smith Dun, an ethnic Karen
Karen people
The Karen or Kayin people , are a Sino-Tibetan language speaking ethnic group which resides primarily in southern and southeastern Burma . The Karen make up approximately 7 percent of the total Burmese population of approximately 50 million people...

. He rebuilt and restructured the armed forces along the ruling Socialist Party's political lines, but the country was still split and the government was ineffective.

Ne Win was asked to serve as interim prime minister from 28 October 1958 by U Nu, when the AFPFL split into two factions and U Nu barely survived a motion of no-confidence against his government in parliament. Ne Win restored order during the period known as the Ne Win caretaker government
Caretaker government
Caretaker government is a type of government that rules temporarily. A caretaker government is often set up following a war until stable democratic rule can be restored, or installed, in which case it is often referred to as a provisional government...

. Elections were held in February 1960 and Ne Win handed back power to the victorious U Nu on 4 April 1960.

Military coup of 1962

Less than two years later, on 2 March 1962, Ne Win again seized power in a military coup d'etat. Ne Win became head of state as Chairman of the Revolutionary Council and also Prime Minister. The coup was characterized as "bloodless" by the world's media.

Following riots at Rangoon University in July 1962, troops were sent to restore order. They fired on protestors and destroyed the student union building.

Shortly afterwards, around 8 pm local time, Ne Win addressed the nation in a five minute long radio speech which concluded with the statement: "if these disturbances were made to challenge us, I have to declare that we will fight sword with sword and spear with spear". On 13 July 1962, less than a week after the speech, Ne Win left for Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

, Switzerland and the United Kingdom "for a medical check up". All universities were closed for more than two years until September 1964.

In 1988, 26 years later, Ne Win denied any involvement in dynamiting of the Student Union building, stating that his deputy Brigadier Aung Gyi
Aung Gyi
Aung Gyi 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 in addition to the more commonly used Ang Ji . He played a role in the caretaker government of 1958-60 led by Ne Win...

—who by that time had fallen out with Ne Win and been dismissed—had given the order and that he had to take responsibility as a "revolutionary leader" by giving the sword with sword and spear with spear speech.

"Burmese Way to Socialism" (1962–1988)

Ne Win instituted a system including elements of extreme nationalism, Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

, and Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

, though he himself lacked interest in either ideology or religion – terming this the Burmese Way to Socialism
Burmese Way to Socialism
The Burmese Way to Socialism refers to the ideology of the Socialist regime in Burma, from 1962 to 1988, when the 1962 coup d'état was led by Ne Win and the military to remove U Nu from power...


Ne Win founded the Burma Socialist Programme Party
Burma Socialist Programme Party
Burma Socialist Programme Party was formed by the Ne Win's military regime that seized power in 1962 and was the sole political party allowed to exist legally in Burma during the period of military rule from 1964 until its demise in the aftermath of the popular uprising of 1988.-History:The BSPP...

 (BSPP), of which he remained the chairman for 26 years from 4 July 1962 until 23 July 1988.

A system of state hospitals and institutions was established in Burma; medical aid was freed. Private hospitals were brought under public ownership.

A new system of public education was introduced. A campaign to liquidate illiteracy was carried out starting in 1965.

Between 1962 and 1965 important laws against landlords and usury were adopted. They aimed at protecting peasants' rights to land and property and to renting the land. These measures included the law abolishing lands rents.

On 2 March 1974—twelve years after his coup—he disbanded the Revolutionary Council and proclaimed the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma. He was elected President and shortly afterwards appointed Brigadier General
Brigadier General
Brigadier general is a senior rank in the armed forces. It is the lowest ranking general officer in some countries, usually sitting between the ranks of colonel and major general. When appointed to a field command, a brigadier general is typically in command of a brigade consisting of around 4,000...

 Sein Win
Sein Win (Brigadier General)
Brigadier General Sein Win was a Burmese military officer who held various positions in government after the Ne Win coup of 1962. He served as the 7th Prime Minister from 4 March 1974 to 29 March 1977.-Biography:...

 Prime Minister.

On 9 November 1978, Ne Win resigned as President and was succeeded in that post by General San Yu. However, Ne Win remained leader of the party and thus remained the ultimate political authority in the land until his resignation in 1988.

Economic policies

His government nationalized the economy and pursued a policy of autarky
Autarky is the quality of being self-sufficient. Usually the term is applied to political states or their economic policies. Autarky exists whenever an entity can survive or continue its activities without external assistance. Autarky is not necessarily economic. For example, a military autarky...

, which involved the economic isolation of his country from the world. The ubiquitous black market and rampant smuggling
Smuggling is the clandestine transportation of goods or persons, such as out of a building, into a prison, or across an international border, in violation of applicable laws or other regulations.There are various motivations to smuggle...

 supplied the needs of the people, while the central government slid slowly into bankruptcy. Autarky also involved expelling foreigners and restricting visits by foreigners to three days, and after 1972, one week. Furthermore, political oppression caused many in the educated workforce to emigrate.

He also took drastic steps regarding the currency: In 1963, he issued a decree that 50 and 100 kyat notes would cease to be legal tender, alleging that they were subject to hoarding by black-marketeers and also financing the various insurgencies. Though limited compensation was offered, this wiped out people's savings overnight. At least one insurgency, that of the ethnic Kayan, was triggered by this act.

In September 1988 he ordered the Burmese currency, the kyat, to be demonetized in some larger denominations whilst issuing new denominations of 45 and 90 kyats, crippling the Burmese economy further still. He reportedly changed the currency to add up to 90 because an astrologer said he would live to 90 if he did this. Ne Win was well known for his penchant for numerology
Numerology is any study of the purported mystical relationship between a count or measurement and life. It has many systems and traditions and beliefs...

 and yadaya
Yadaya refers to magical rituals done to delay, neutralize or prevent misfortune, widely practiced in Burma . These rituals, which originate from Brahmanism, are guided and prescribed by soothsayers and astrologers, who use a combination of mathematical equations and astrology to formulate a...

 (cabalistic rituals and spells performed in order to ward off misfortune). When his soothsayer warned him that there might be a bloodbath, he would stand in front of a mirror and trample on meat to simulate the blood then shoot himself in the mirror to avert the possibility of an assassination attempt.

In 1987 after the United Nations had declared Burma a "Least Developed Country
Developing country
A developing country, also known as a less-developed country, is a nation with a low level of material well-being. Since no single definition of the term developing country is recognized internationally, the levels of development may vary widely within so-called developing countries...

", Ne Win, resigned on 23 July 1988 as chairman of the ruling Burma Socialist Programme Party
Burma Socialist Programme Party
Burma Socialist Programme Party was formed by the Ne Win's military regime that seized power in 1962 and was the sole political party allowed to exist legally in Burma during the period of military rule from 1964 until its demise in the aftermath of the popular uprising of 1988.-History:The BSPP...

 at the height of the uprising against one-party rule.


Despite the oppression, sporadic protests against the government continued. Students led protests in 1965, December 1969, and December 1970. These demonstrations took place mainly on campuses located in the cities of Rangoon, Mandalay
Mandalay is the second-largest city and the last royal capital of Burma. Located north of Yangon on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River, the city has a population of one million, and is the capital of Mandalay Region ....

 and Moulmein and were often followed by closure of universities and colleges. In June 1974, workers from more than 100 factories throughout the nation participated in a strike, to which the government reacted by shooting about 100 workers and students on 6 June 1974 at the Thamaing Textile Factory and the Sinmalaik Dock Yard in Rangoon. Since Ne Win was in Australia on an official visit at the time, responsibility for these shootings is unclear. On 5 December 1974, students turned the funeral of former UN Secretary General U Thant
U Thant
U Thant was a Burmese diplomat and the third Secretary-General of the United Nations, from 1961 to 1971. He was chosen for the post when his predecessor, Dag Hammarskjöld, died in September 1961....

 into a demonstration, snatching the coffin on display at the Kyaikkasan Race Course and erecting a makeshift mausoleum on the grounds of the former Student Union building in protest against the government for not honouring their famous countryman with a state funeral. The military stormed the campus on 11 December killing some of the students, recovered the coffin and buried U Thant at the foot of the Shwedagon pagoda, next to the tomb of Thakin Kodaw Hmaing
Thakin Kodaw Hmaing
Thakin Kodaw Hmaing is considered one of the greatest Burmese poets, writers and political leaders in the 20th century history of Burma. He is regarded as the Father of Burmese nationalist and peace movements as well as a literary genius...


Students from universities throughout Rangoon demonstrated again in June 1975 in commemoration of the previous year's Labour Strike. Student-led demonstrations also occurred in March 1976, September 1987, March and June 1988. In August and September 1988, these demonstrations turned into a nation-wide uprising against BSPP rule in what is now known as the 'Four Eights Uprising
8888 Uprising
The 8888 Nationwide Popular Pro-Democracy Protests was a series of marches, demonstrations, protests, and riots in the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma...



At the height of the Four Eights Uprising
8888 Uprising
The 8888 Nationwide Popular Pro-Democracy Protests was a series of marches, demonstrations, protests, and riots in the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma...

 against the BSSP regime, Ne Win resigned as party chairman on 23 July 1988. During his farewell speech to the BSPP Party Congress, he again resorted to issue warning against potential protestors, stating that if the "disturbances" continued the "Army would have to be called and I would like to declare from here that if the Army shoots it has no tradition of shooting into the air. It would shoot straight to hit." The Tatmadaw troops shot, killed and maimed hundreds if not up to 3000 or more demonstrators in various places throughout Burma from the period of 8 August 1988 to 12 August 1988 and again on 18 September 1988, proving that Ne Win's farewell speech was not an empty threat.

Military coup of 1988

On 18 September 1988 the military led by General Saw Maung
Saw Maung
Senior General Saw Maung was the founder of the State Peace and Development Council in Myanmar. He served as their Chairman from 1988 to 1992.-Early life and career:...

 dispelled any hopes for democracy by brutally crushing the uprisings. It is widely believed that Ne Win, though in apparent retirement, orchestrated the coup from behind the scenes.

For about ten years, Ne Win kept a low profile but remained a shadowy figure exercising at least some influence on the military junta
State Peace and Development Council
The State Peace and Development Council was the official name of the military regime of Burma , which seized power in 1988. On 30 March 2011, Senior General Than Shwe signed a decree to officially dissolve the Council....

. After 1998, Ne Win's influence on the junta began to wane.

On 4 March 2002, an alleged plot to overthrow the junta by Ne Win's son-in-law Aye Zaw Win, the husband of his favorite daughter Sandar Win
Sandar Win
Khin Sandar Win is the daughter of deceased Burmese dictator, Ne Win. Educated at the Methodist English High School in Yangon , she graduated from high school with the highest matriculation scores in all of Burma, according to newspaper accounts...

 was exposed. Ne Win and his daughter were put under house arrest and in September Aye Zaw Win and his three sons (Aye Ne Win, Kyaw Ne Win and Zwe Ne Win) were found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. They are thought to remain in custody in Rangoon's Insein Jail.


Ne Win was married five times:
  1. He was first married to Tin Tin, who bore him a son, Ngwe Soe.
  2. He then married Khin May Than (Katie Ba Than), daughter of Professor Ba Than, the former dean of Rangoon medical school. The couple had two daughters and a son between them, Sandar Win
    Sandar Win
    Khin Sandar Win is the daughter of deceased Burmese dictator, Ne Win. Educated at the Methodist English High School in Yangon , she graduated from high school with the highest matriculation scores in all of Burma, according to newspaper accounts...

    , Kye Mon Win, and Phyo Wai Win. Khin May Than brought three daughters from her first marriage, Le Le Win and twins Thida Win and Thawdar Win, into the family. Khin May Than was Ne Win's favourite wife and her death in 1972 was a heavy blow to him.
  3. He then married Ni Ni Myint, a university teacher, whom he divorced.
  4. He then married June Rose Bellamy
    June Rose Bellamy
    June Rose Bellamy, , also Yadana Nat-Mei , was fourth wife of Burmese dictator Ne Win.June Rose was the great-granddaughter of a Burmese prince ; her mother was the daughter of Princess Hteiktin Ma Lat , of the deposed Konbaung dynasty, and her father was Herbert Bellamy, an Australian orchid...

     (Yadana Natmei), a great granddaughter of Crown Prince Ka Naung
    Crown Prince Ka Naung
    Kanaung Mintha was a son of King Tharrawaddy and younger brother of King Mindon of Burma. Towards the end of the Second Anglo-Burmese War, Kanaung and Mindon overthrew their half brother Pagan and enthroned the latter. Subsequently, Kanaung became the Heir Apparent on July 11, 1853. He was the...

  5. He remarried his former wife Ni Ni Myint.


Still under house arrest
House arrest
In justice and law, house arrest is a measure by which a person is confined by the authorities to his or her residence. Travel is usually restricted, if allowed at all...

, the 91-year-old Ne Win died on 5 December 2002 at his lakeside house in Yangon. The death remained unannounced by Burmese media or the junta. The only mention of Ne Win's death was a paid obituary notice that appeared in some of the government-controlled Burmese language newspapers. Ne Win was not given a state funeral and his former contacts or junior colleagues were strongly discouraged from attending a hastily-arranged funeral, so that only thirty people attended the funeral.

Ne Win’s daughter Sandar Win
Sandar Win
Khin Sandar Win is the daughter of deceased Burmese dictator, Ne Win. Educated at the Methodist English High School in Yangon , she graduated from high school with the highest matriculation scores in all of Burma, according to newspaper accounts...

 was temporarily released from house arrest to attend his funeral and cremation. She later dispersed her father's ashes into the Hlaing River
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