The Cabinet meeting room, where Aung San and his ministers were gunned down 19 Juli 1947

Revisiting the killing of Burma’s Aung San and his dream

Rangoon, March 2019. It is with a chilling feeling that I try to take in all the details of the room in through the dirty glass doors. A rusty padlock prevents me from entering. Dozens of bullit holes can still be seen in the walls.  This is where the four assassins in green army uniforms struck 19 July 1947, at 10:37 a.m., armed with British stenguns.  Seconds later, Burma’s independence hero Aung San’s body was on the floor riddled with specially made dum-dum bullits, designed to ensure a kill.

Around Aung San were the bodies of six cabinet members of the Burmese government and the secretary.  A few meters outside the cabinet meeting room, lay the body of Aung San’s lone bodyguard, who had tried to stop the assassins.  Still today, he is honored with a photo copy of his photo and his name.

Aung San and his cabinet had met that fateful morning to discuss the multitude of challenges facing the new interim government of Burma, only a few months after the British colonial empire had started falling apart. The meeting took place at the enormous Secretariat, built to accommodate the British colonial administration in Burma’s capital Rangoon.   Considering the tensions in post colonial Burma, it is unbelievable that there was virtually no protective measures at the headquarters of the new Government, except for a single body guard.


Aung San’s body guard honored on the wall on the spot where he was found dead.

The three assassins made their way with no resistance except for the lone bodyguard.  “They just ran up the stairs and stormed into the cabinet room, a few minutes later they left the same way they came in. A jeep was waiting for them downstairs and they just drove away,” I am told by a renovation project manager, who has offered to show us around in the vast building complex.

After decades of neglect and closure to the public,  private investors have been allowed to restore the Secretariat.  From the outside it looks nearly complete, repainted in its original beauty of splendid yellow and red colors.  Workers in flip flops are sweating, while they install an enormous clock (made in Japan) where the original British time piece used to be on the top floor of the entrance building.


The Secretariat is being restored to former glory by private investors.

The interior tells a different story.  Hundreds and hundreds of bigger and smaller rooms and the connecting hallways look like they are beyond repair. Endless meters of decay.   There must be a two digit billion USD expense waiting for the investors there.  A single staircase is coming close to completion. It gives me some idea, how beautiful the end result will be, if the investment funds do not dry out.


It is unclear, exactly how the investors plan to ensure their profits.  Cafés, restaurants and shops are mentioned, but there are no real investment prospects, only rumors.

Then again, the Secretariat has been all about rumors, ever since the massacre in 1947.  The presumed assassins were arrested the same day in the villa of U Saw, Aung San’s fierce political rival. U Saw himself was arrested as well, while he was having a whisky in his splendid home at the Inya lake.  Less than a year later, U Saw and his alleged co-conspirators were tried and executed by hanging.


Aung San and U Saw (with sunglasses) celebrating Burma’s independence, a few months before the massacre.

It has been argued for decades that the massacre in fact was the murder of an entire nation in the making, and that British military intelligence master minded the killings to prevent Aung San and his allies from establishing a socialist Burma.

It is well documented that the assassins were using British weapons, reportedly stolen from a break-in into a British munitions depot.  However, it was soon disclosed that two British senior officers had been involved in large scale supplies of weapons to U Saw and his allies.  It is inconceivable that the officers acted on their own.  They both escaped from Burma along with a senior British diplomat,  who allegedly was involved on the ground as well.


The last photo of Aung San and his family. Aung San Suu Kyi is in front as a 2 year old. Her foster mother Ma Than E gave the photo to me, when I interviewed her in 1991.

If Burma indeed became a victim of a British destabilisation attempt, it was very succesful.  During the first few months of indepence, Aung San had managed to sign peace treaties with the most important ethnic minorities.  His death plunged Burma into a renewed bloody chaos, which has marred Burma ever since – and sadly enough also now destroying the international reputation of Aung San’s  daughter Aung San Suu Kyi, once a rock star Nobel laureate.

Now Suu Kyi has become a paria being shunned by her former international supporters, who sees her as a silent accomplice to the violent persecution of the muslim Rohingya’s in present day Burma – this tragedy is yet another legacy of the British empire.


The victims of the massacre in The Secretariat.




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Here is an upcoming event in my hometown Copenhagen that I am really sorry to miss.  My long time friend Tri Minh and my new friend Linh has something to tell us. You guys back in Denmark will have the first chance to be there, when Tri Minh and Linh face the darkness.    Next, I am going to push them to come to Hanoi and share their project with us in Vietnam, and meet their roots together.  For now, please check their announcement below. 



Face the Darkness: When a child of Vietnamese boat refugees meets a child of Viet Cong

More than 40 years after the Vietnam War, the ghosts of the past are still passing through the country and dragging the border between north and south. Between the South Vietnamese government with support from the US and the North with support from the Soviet Union and China. The war ended in 1975 with the fall of Saigon when the North Vietnamese army conquered the capital city. North Vietnam / the Viet Congs won. South Vietnam lost. After the war, the South Vietnamese fled and in the period 1975-1985 Denmark received a total of 3,700 Vietnamese boat refugees.

In 2018, the dancer Linh and the musician Minh meet randomly in Denmark. One is a child of Vietnamese boat refugees, the other of Viet Cong. Without even having been there during the war, they discover how many prejudices they face. Together, they decide to confront the prejudices and battle in an alternative way. To get it out of the body – to see and feel if they can get on the other side and reconcile the two oppositions.

Face the Darkness: When a child of Vietnamese boat refugees meets a child of Viet Cong is a performance battle between live music and dancing. The dancer Linh and the musician Minh are fighting each other through their art form and are confronted with the past and their knowledge that their families have fought each other in the Vietnam War. The question is whether they can understand each other through art or whether they will continue to fight their parents’ struggles?

The performance revolves around the collision of different backgrounds, the encounter with the other, and the complex process of dealing with past, memories, repressed anger, and grief. It can be experienced at Teaterhuset’s scene Vox from March 13th.

Duration: 45 min. incl. 15 min. artist talk.



Ancient handicraft from Turkmenistan and the best of Lao design traditions join hands in MAGIC LAO CARPETS.  

The little workshop is so quiet that you can almost hear the fingers knotting the fine silk threads with amazing speed.  The young women are sitting there two by two or four by four focusing intently on transforming the colorful flower photos into handmade silk carpets of the highest quality.


We are at Magic Lao Carpets a small workshop and a showroom in a Vientiane alley. Slowly, slowly the most beautiful and unique carpets are emerging to be sold to affluent customers in Laos and abroad.

“The carpets are made by up to 700.000 knots per square meter.  This means that two girls can do approx. 2 cm. per day,” owner Souvita Phaseuth tells me. She goes by the name of Lani in the local community.


Magic Lao Carpets has been set up by Lani and her husband Ismit, who immigrated to Laos from his native Turkmenistan 30 years ago.  He brought the 4.000 year old carpet making craft of Central Asia with him to his new country. Lani on her part has brought the Lao traditional designs into Magic Lao Carpets.

Surely, you cannot fly on these carpets, but their amazing beauty does make you want to.


“Just use your hand and feel the quality.” Lani and her husband have developed some real magic in Vientiane.

In the courtyard, two young women are giving the finishing touch to a stunningly colorful carpet made to order by a boutique in the UK.

Behind them two other women are busy spinning the fine silk thread, which is mostly produced by the company’s own silk farm. MagCarp-3.jpg

Magic Lao Carpet is not merely a business, but also an important opportunity for young disabled Laotians to develop skills and make a living.

Souvita Phaseuth: “We offer training and accommodation to our workers, who would otherwise have great difficult in making a living, being dumb, deaf or suffering from other physical disabilities.  Some choose to return to their villages and set up their own small businesses, while others continue to stay with us.”


Magic Lao Carpet is located at Ban Nongdouang Tai in Vientiane’s Sikhottabong district.  Opening hours: 9:00-17:00 Mon-Sat.