Myanmar leader to visit Indian grave of last king
- Published: 21/12/2012 at 07:46 PM
- Online news:
President Thein Sein will this weekend become the first of Myanmar's leaders to visit the tomb of his country's last king, who was exiled to India more than a century ago, officials said Friday.
Myanmar's President Thein Sein speaks during the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit in New Delhi on December 20, 2012. Thein Sein will this weekend become the first of Myanmar's leaders to visit the tomb of his country's last king, who was exiled to India more than a century ago, officials said Friday.
King Thibaw's reign ended in 1885 with his defeat by British colonial forces, who sent him and his family into exile in the Indian seaside city of Ratnagiri, where he died and was buried.
"The president will be the first leader to visit the late king Thibaw's graveyard," a government official in Myanmar told AFP, on condition of anonymity.
He said the Saturday morning trip by helicopter from Mumbai, about 330 kilometres (200 miles) from Ratnagiri, was part of "good diplomatic relations" with India.
Thibaw's defeat in the Third Anglo-Burmese War marked the end of centuries of royal rule, and the country -- also known as Burma -- remained part of the British empire until 1948.
Thibaw and his wife Supayalat were allowed an impressive residence in exile with staff and a car, although they could not venture far beyond the house, said Thant Myint-U, author of "The River of Lost Footsteps", a history of Myanmar.
The former monarch died aged 57 in 1916, shortly after a heart attack when one of his daughters eloped with a man he found unsuitable.
Thant Myint-U said Thein Sein's visit was symbolically significant.
"It's wise of the president to bring attention to a somewhat neglected, but incredibly important chapter of Myanmar's history," he told AFP.
"The king was the very centre of the old state. It was the overthrow of a thousand-year-old monarchy but also the complete destruction of the old system of governance and aristocracy."
After the king's death, some of the family eventually returned to Myanmar while others remained in India -- one of Thibaw's grand-daughters ended up living in a slum.
The president will pay homage at the tomb at 9:00 am (0330 GMT) and also plans to meet the king's descendants in the area, Ratnagiri's district administrator R.R. Jadhav said.
Myanmar came under military rule in 1962, with subsequent army leaders evoking the power of pre-colonial kings.
In 2005, former head of state Than Shwe suddenly shifted the capital -- a habit of earlier rulers -- from Rangoon to Naypyidaw, meaning "abode of kings".
In a tale mirroring Thibaw's fate, India's last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled by the British to Rangoon in Myanmar, where he died in 1862 aged 87 and was buried.
India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited his tomb on a landmark visit to Myanmar earlier this year.
Despite talk of a possible exchange of the royal relics, the Myanmar official said that there were no plans for Thibaw's remains to be returned.
The Indian government is however planning to take up major renovation of Thibaw's run-down grave, Myanmar's Eleven Media website reported on Wednesday, citing discussions between the two countries in Mandalay this month.
Former general Thein Sein, who since becoming civilian president in 2011 has overseen a huge reform drive in Myanmar, will visit the grave following two days in India for a summit and meetings in New Delhi and Mumbai.
About the author
- Writer: AFP
Position: News agency