The end of the 19thand the early 20th century saw moves and struggles for independence from the British yoke of imperialism in Burma and a major player became a student activist called Aung San, the father of the Nobel Prize winner.
In 1940, during the second world war, together with a group of colleagues known as Burmese nationalists who wanted freedom from British domination, Aung San travelled to China. While there he met up with Japanese officials who talked him into training with their army and he then formed the Burma Independence Army and joined the Japanese in their invasion of Burma in 1941 against the British.
Why, you may ask, did Aung San decide to join the Japanese? His reason for doing this was to get rid of the British from Burma and he thought the Japanese would help Burma regain independence. Aung San and his men recruited soldiers within Burma and fought alongside the Japanese against the British.
It wasn’t long, however, before Aung San realized that the Japanese had no intention of giving Burma its freedom but wanted to rule the country themselves. By this time he was a general and he decided it was best after all to negotiate independence with the British and he changed sides during this period and fought with the British to force the Japanese out of Burma during the Second World War.
I remember when I was a child, an older friend of my father’s, also an Irishman, would tell us the story of when he fought with the British against the Japanese in Burma during the war and I remember him describing the sounds of the jungle at night which scared the soldiers as much as the thought of fighting the Japs. I also remember this man telling us how one time they saw a huge white glowing form approaching them in the jungle at night and how terrified they were not knowing what it was until they realised it was an elephant that was covered in glow worms… I don’t know if the elephant was sick and weak and therefore attracting these parasites or what but it also adds to the mysteries of Burman jungles…. and was an additional reason for me to want to go there…