Chit Hlaing (1926-2018) – A Pioneer of Burmese Socialism

Rodion Ebbighausen


Socialism is dead in Myanmar. Whoever wants to meet socialists in the country today, has to pay a visit to the headquarters of the National Unity Party in Yangon’s Bahan Township.

There, around a dusty yard with a flagpole, are some wooden barracks in which the party leadership defends what is left of socialism.

Party members include older men such as U Khin Maung Gyi, former Minister of Commerce under Ne Win and a leading member of the Burma Socialist Program Party (BSPP). When the Burmese’s journey toward socialism ended in 1988, the BSPP was also dissolved. The term „socialism“ vanished more and more from the political landscape.

U Khin Maung Gyi lost his post, his party and for the moment his political home. But in the 1990 elections, the socialists had regrouped in the NUP. The NUP was founded on October 12, 1988. Chit Hlaing, the theorist of Burmese socialism, became part of the Central Executive Committee. Therefore, the NUP can be seen as the direct successor party of the BSPP.

The NUP regards itself, as the former Minister of Trade explained during our meeting in 2013, as a party that is left of the center. Despite abandoning the planned economy model, the party in principle adheres to the socialist tradition of the BSPP. In 2013, U Khin Maung Gyi was still optimistic about the future. He hoped to score victory in the 2015 general elections and enter all the parliaments. But things didn’t turn out that way. In 2015, the NUP won only one seat in the House of Nationalities. Socialism in Myanmar and its last adherents will most likely disappear in the coming years. For most people, particularly the younger generations, socialism today is synonymous with an obsolete failed ideology.

Socialist and communist ideas have played a major role since Myanmar’s independence movement of the 1930s and 40s. The independence hero Aung San himself was a founding member of the nation’s first communist cell. His speeches and writings are full of socialist ideas and Marxist terminology.

Chit Hlaings Early Years

One of the most important thought leaders of the second generation of Burmese socialists was U Chit Hlaing. He was born on March 15, 1926, in the district of Katha. Katha is located on the upper reaches of the Irrawaddy in the Sagaing region. The just 16-year-old high school student joined the Burma Independence Army (BIA) in 1942 to fight against British colonial rule. After the expulsion of the British by the Japanese and reorganization of the BIA into the Burma Defense Army (BDA), he received a six-month officer training. During the occupation of Burma by the Japanese, he held the rank of sergeant.

In addition to his military education, Chit Hlaing, as a teenager, encountered communism and Marxism-Leninism. As a member of the Nagani Book Club, he also studied writings on left leaning nationalism. Chit Hlaing himself admitted that he was hugely influenced by Thakin Soe, who published the book Socialism in 1939, in which he first published texts by Marx, Engels, Lenin and others in Burmese language. Another influential figure was the socialist Thakin Tin Mya. Through his teachers, Chit Hlaing became a supporter of communism, joined the Burma Communist Party (BCP) and promoted communist cell members within the army.

At the start of his career, Chit Hlaing was in three camps, which would later go on to become bitter enemies. First, he was in the military, which cooperated with the Japanese under the leadership of Aung San. Second, he was among the communists, whose more radical representatives rejected cooperation with the Japanese military government. Third, he maintained good relations to Thakin Tin Mya’s socialists.

That he eventually opted for the camp of Aung San and his Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL) rather than the Red Flag Communists of his teacher Thakin Soe may be due to a personal encounter with Aung San, whose charisma and pragmatism had held the independence movement together for years. After meeting Aung San sometime between 1942 and 1943, when Chit Hlaing worked as the messenger between Aung San, Thakhin Soe, and other communist leaders, Chit Hlaing had to correct his ideas: „I had thought he was a fanatic militarist. Now I could believe he was a democrat. I had thought he was an enemy of Marxism. Now I respected him as a bona fide and true socialist.”[1]

When Aung San broke with the communists in 1946, Chit Hlaing renounced – at least verbally – the communists who had committed themselves to a global revolution under the leadership of the Soviet Union. Within the AFPFL, he became a member of the Socialist Party (SP). He bet on socialist evolution instead of communist revolution. In his own words, he exchanged the red for a pink ideology. Together with like-minded people, he founded the People’s Literature Company, in which he translated numerous texts of figures like Marx and Mao, which he also commented on under the pseudonym Maung Chit Gyi (later he used the pen name Ko Ko Maung Gyi).

In August 1951, Chit Hlaing traveled to East Berlin as an AFPFL representative for an international youth congress. The congress’ sponsor was the Soviet Union. He then hoped to continue his studies in the Soviet Union, but Htun Shein, a member of the Burmese Communist Party (BCP), opposed Chit Hlaing’s attempt. One reason might have been that Chit Hlaing lacked genuine communist conviction. Finally, Chit Hlaing didn’t get the permission by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). Instead of Moscow, he landed in Paris, where he lived until 1955 and studied philosophy. According to his own account, Chit Hlaing largely renounced political activity during his time in Paris, fearing that he would attract the attention of the secret police and possibly lose access to French universities.

At the same time, he came into contact with new socialist ideas. Through a friend he became aware of the special path taken by Yugoslavia under Marshal Tito. The communist Tito had defied Stalin in 1948, without joining the Western camp during the Cold War. Instead, he was a leading representative of the Non-Aligned Movement, founded in 1961 in Belgrade. The Non-Aligned Movement and its predecessor the Bandung-States of 1955 have been well received in Burma. The example of Tito showed that there was not just orthodox communism, and that the Marxist-Leninism of the Soviet Union could be criticized.

With this new perspective, Chit Hlaing returned to Burma in 1955 against his will and at the request of Colonel Aung Gyi. Colonel Aung Gyi was one of the most important figures in post-colonial Burma. Together with Maung Maung he held the reins of leadership within the Tatmadaw in the 1950s.

On the request of Colonel Aung Gyi, Chit Hlaing became a member of the Directorate of Psychological Warfare (DPW), whose central tasks included the drafting of a military doctrine and anti-communist propaganda. The objectives should be achieved by training the officer corps, producing propaganda material such as pamphlets, radio broadcasts, etc.

Aims and Achievements

One of the first key documents Chit Hlaing wrote in his new role for the Tatmadaw under the guidance of Maung Maung was titled The National Ideology and the Role of the Defense Services. The document defined the relationship between Tatmadaw and politics. Task of the Tatmadaw is the defense of the state ideology. The state ideology, in turn, formulated the goals of peace, the rule of law, democracy and a socialist economic system.[2]

In addition to working for The National Ideology, Chit Hlaing was a diligent writer in the military-published magazine Myawaddy , which appeared since 1952 and had a circulation of 18,000 copies in 1956. In his articles, Chit Hlaing criticized Stalinism, the Communist Party of Burma (BCP) and developed the outlines of his own political philosophy namarupa wada. To do so, Chit Hlaing used traditional Buddhist terms and tried to give them a different or new meaning. Given the lack of not yet existing terms for core concepts of Marxism and Socialism a natural approach (Thakin Soe’s approach was quite similar).

Namarupa is a composite of the Pali terms namà and rupà. Namà stands for psychic in the broadest sense, rupá for physical. Chit Hlaing uses the word pair in a variation on „consciousness“ and „matter.“[3]

Wada, on the other hand, indicates that the phrase is an -ism (as in communism, capitalism). Namarupa is therefore an abstraction.[4]

In Chit Hlaying’s conception, Namarupa Wada was to lay a philosophical foundation for a future socialist state. His hope was to promote the unity of the country by mixing Marx’s materialism with Buddhist elements so that the new ideology would be acceptable to Buddhists as well. Namarupa Wada was decidedly anti-communist and nationalist. From the perspective of Western philosophy, Chit Hlaing’s philosophical concept was abstract and overly complex; a paper overloaded with jargon and ambiguous Pali terms, as Nakanishi criticizes.

At the end of 1957, Chit Hlaing took on a position as a lecturer in political thought at the Directorate of Psychological Warfare. He summarized his articles and his ideology in the handbook Ideology Critical for the Development of Human Nature and Democracy. These theoretical writings were, however, only ever known to a handful of officers or intellectuals.[5]

In the power struggles of the subsequent years, which fell in the same time period as the splitting of the AFPFL in 1957, within the Tatmadaw, the Socialists prevailed against the rather moderate representatives Aung Gyi and Maung Maung. However, Chit Hlaing played only a minor role in all of this. His big moment came only in March 1962 with the coup and the establishment of the Revolutionary Council (RC).

The new rulers lacked a political ideology. Ne Win quickly roped in Chit Hlaing and two of his comrades to work out the new ideology. Chit Hlaing was one of the few in the ranks of the military who had the necessary knowledge and writing skills. The ideology should also give the RC legitimacy. Ne Win called for an ideological superstructure that emphasized the special status of Burma and held the country in equidistance to the political blocs of the Cold War.[6]

That’s how Chit Hlaing got the opportunity to write the policy declaration for the RC (The Burmese Way to Socialism) and later the official ideology of the BSPP (The System of Correlation between Man and His Environment). In formulating the two ideological key texts of the Ne Win era, Chit Hlaing essentially drew on his preparatory work of the 1950s.

Main Work

When reading the texts, the mixture of Marxist terminology and theory with Buddhist beliefs and Pali vocabulary is striking. The System follows a step-by-step approach: First, the construction of nature is determined, then the nature of man, and finally, society.

The basic program begins with a description of the three worlds that make up nature as a whole: the material world, the living world, and finally what the text describes as phenomena. Phenomena are the processes and interactions between mind and matter. Chit Hlaing uses terms from the Buddhist tradition to define the three worlds. He uses terms like okasaloka (material world), sattaloka (animal world), „Law of Impermanence“ or the „Wheel of Change.“

Then man is identified as the crown of creation, the first mover and the measure of all things: „Man matters most.“ Man creates and transforms the social system, since he is an image of all three worlds. Man is finally defined as a social animal that knows both selfishness and altruism and shapes society.

In the section on the formation and laws of society, Chit Hlaing increasingly uses Marxist terminology. Capitalism is criticized, it is about productive forces and the laws of dialectical materialism, but without the use of this term. Chit Hlaing speaks of the dialectical method or the dialectical law that he defines with the Pali term Paticccsamuppada (the conditionality of all beings). The revolution also occurs. At the end of this section, he defines the philosophical program of the BSPP and six economic laws for the Burmese way to socialism.

It concludes with a reflection on the determining role of the workers in the new Burma and the role of the party or its behavior in its own ideology, which was expected to be neither complete nor conclusive with this program. The text outlines a kind of a Buddist-socialist utopia. Both texts were submitted to the RC. He let them pass without extensive changes.

The impact of the two policy texts is difficult to assess, but it was probably not very large, although Chit Hlaing, in retrospect, judges that the day the RC adopted The System was crucial to the country: „To my mind, April 25, 1962 was a landmark, a major turning point in the political history of Burma.“[7]

That the influence was not very large is due to the abstract nature of Chit Hlaing’s remarks. Even Colonel Khin Nyo, who was training at the DPW, said of the philosophical foundations of Burmese socialism: „As for me, I must admit, I cannot understand how or why mind and matter are related to politics.”[8] When even an insider couldn’t understand the connections, it is to be assumed that the general population, to whom the text of The System was broadcast via radio on January 17, 1963, would not have become much wiser by it. Maybe it was not about the content, as Nakanishi suspects. „The establishment of a state ideology is more significant than its content.“[9]

Former President Dr. Ba Maw published a commentary in the British newspaper The Guardian on January 23, 1963, in which he rubs his finger on the wound: „Basically, the [Revolutionary] Council has done the right thing. But what, as I see it, is wrong about this is that the common error has been repeated of confusing race with religion and religion with society, and so turning religio-metaphysical speculations into social truths and laws. In this way, a social philosophy based upon laws and conditions which are continually changing has been kept tied to religious dogmas which claim to be absolute and unchanging and go centuries back to an age immeasurably different from today.“[10] A problem which is virulent down to the present day.

The fundamental texts of the socialist era are hardly comprehensible and often operate with contradictory concepts and ideas. One major issue is the fact that ideology and religion are different. Nevertheless, Chit Hlaing tried to reconcile incommensurate thoughts, religious beliefs and terms on the one hand, and ideology on the other, but Marxism and Buddhism have no common denominator. In the end, nothing remains but an accumulation of supposedly profound concepts that stand side by side without a mental connection.

The conceptual blurring of the basic program does not provide a comprehensive explanation for the collapse of socialism in Myanmar; but it is at least an indication that there was a lack of clarity and consistency even at the beginning of the social experiment.

The elaboration of the socialist principles was the culmination and at the same time the last highlight in Chit Hlaing’s career. He was no longer responsible for translating his theory into concrete politics. The next eight years Chit Hlaing spent as a lecturer for party cadres, before he left the BSPP in 1970 and retired in 1971.

He became once again member of a political party after the National Unity Party (NUP) in 1988 was formed to replace the BSPP in the next elections. But his role in post-88 Burma was that of a commentator and well respected intellectual and not that of an influential politician. He died of natural causes on March 26, 2018 in Yangon General Hospital – aged 92.[11]


Overall, Chit Hlaing can be said to have been an influential theorist but not a doer.  Insofar perhaps it is not entirely wrong what he says about himself: „On my part, I had only to accept the duty entrusted upon me.“[12]

However, it should be remembered that Chit Hlaing educated and trained generations of officers, some of whom later went on to even become ministers or in the case of Than Shwe heads of state. Although socialism in Myanmar has been discredited as a political ideology and within the party landscape since 1988, Chit Hlaing’s philosophical ideas continue to thrive in the minds of Myanmar’s elites and military.


[1] Quoted from Nakanishi (2013), 64 f.

[2] In terms of content and form, The National Ideology remained very close to the constitution of 1947. Yoshihiro Nakanishi sees in the document, contrary to the prevailing interpretation, less the claim of the military to dominate the political agenda of the country (Nakanishis 2013, p. 76). It’s more of an attempt to create a loyal, united and centralized military. At that time, Chit Hlaing argued that officers of the army should engage in politics but stay as far removed from party politics as possible. The slogan of the military was understood to be something like: understand politics but don’t engage in politics.

[3] Nakanishi (2013), 80.

[4] Walton (2017), 27.

[5] Nakanishi (2013), 84.

[6] Taylor (2016).

[7] Working Paper 10, 146.

[8] Working Paper 10, 153.

[9] Nakanishi (2013), 96.

[10] The Guardian, 23 January 1963; quoters after Nakanishi (2013), 62 f.

[11] See Obituary: „Obituary: Junta Insider Dies at 92“, The Irrawaddy, March 26, 2018, Accessed October 23, 2018.

[12] Working Paper 10, 125.


Callahan, Mary P. 2003 Making enemies. War and state building in Burma. Ithaca []: Cornell University Press, 2003.

Chit Hlaing 1963 The System of Correlation of Man and his Environment. The Philosophy of the Burma Socialist Programme Party.

Nakanishi, Yoshihiro 2013 Strong Soldiers, Failed Revolution. The State and Military in Burma. Singapore: NUS Press.

Taylor,  Robert H. 2015 General Ne Win. A Political Biography. Singapore ISEAS.

Walton, Matthew J. 2017 Buddhism, Politics and Political Thought in Myanmar. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Zöllner, Hans-Bernd (Hrsg.) 2008 Myanmar literature project. Working paper number 10:10. Soe, Socialism and Chit Hlaing, Memories. Introduction by Robert H. Taylor.

Thakin Soe (1905-1989)

Hans-Bernd Zöllner

1 Introduction

Thakin Soe was one of the most influential members of the Dobama Asiayone and the AFPFL in the fight for Burma’s independence from the late 1930s until the country’s independence in 1948.  Unlike Aung San and Nu, he did not attend  university but worked in a company before he got involved in politics. Being very much attracted by socialist ideas, he wrote books and articles in Burmese that introduced Socialism and Communism to a wider audience. Later, he was the leader of a small communist party that started an armed rebellion against the government. His colourful life and character have been widely neglected due to the shift of public and academic interest on Burma after 1988. They,  however, shed light on some core elements of Burmese politics.

2 Biographical Scetch

Soe was born in 1905[1] in Kyauktan, a village near Kyaikkami – known as Amherst in English – in today’s Mon State. From 1922 to 1937 he was employed by the Burmah Oil Company as laboratory assistant in the oil refinery in Thanlyin (Syriam) near Yangon.  He was an avid reader, particularly interested in books on socialism that were pouring into Burma at that time.

Title of „Socialism“ – The slogan on the red area means „May the revolution be victorious“

In June 1938 his book „Socialism“ (literally translated: “Socialist ideology”) was published by the Nagani („Red Dragon”) Book Club that he had co-founded together with Than Tun and Nu. Than Tun wrote the foreword. After he stopped working at the oil company, Nu supported him for some time. In 1938, he played a role in the strike of the workers on the oil fields and in Thanlyin, became a member of the Thakin movement, the Do-bama Asiayone and a member of its Central Committee, and worked as an honorary secretary at the book club, the intellectual centre of the association.

In August 1939, he was – together with Than Tun and Aung San – one of the 12 or 13 people who founded a communist party cell that later was regarded as the foundation of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB). One year later, he was – as many other Thakins – imprisoned by the British because of the agitation against the refusal of the British to promise Burma’s independence in return to the Burmese support of the war against the European Fascist powers. He was freed when the Japanese entered Burma in 1942, but unlike Aung San, Nu and Than Tun, went underground in the Irrawaddy Delta to fight the Japanese instead of initially cooperating with them. At that time, he communicated both with the British authorities in India through Thein Pe, another communist leader, who had left Burma for India.  Meanwhile, most Thakins served in the Burmese government that had been set up after Japan had nominally granted independence to Burma in August 1943.

In December 1943, Soe was elected General Secretary of the Communist Party of Burma. In August 1944, the foundation of a popular front against the Japanese named Anti-Fascist Organisation  (AFO), later renamed the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL) comprising of the Burmese army as well as the communist party and an emerging socialist group was discussed at Thakin Soe’s headquarters and shortly afterwards was formally enacted in Rangoon. Soe was regarded as the political leader whereas Aung San was in charge of the army. He then cooperated with Ne Win who commanded an army unit in the delta as a „political advisor“  looking after the correct political attitude of the soldiers.

After the victory of the Allies in the last months of the war with assistance of the Burmese army which Aung San had led in revolt agains the Japanes in March, and celebrated in Rangoon in June 1945, Soe lost his post as General Secretary of the communist party one month later but remained a member of the Central Committee. Accusations of his weakness for women and inclination to alcohol contributed to losing his post. With the assistance of a British Communist he then travelled to India in the plane of the Royal Air Force and had talks with Indian Communists. After his return, he was strongly convinced that any cooperation with the British was wrong and an armed revolution to liberate Burma immediately from British rule had to be started.[2] After a long debate in the party over Soe’s demand to lead the party alone, he left the CPB with seven other members of the Central Committee and formed the Communist Party (Burma) called Red Flag Communist Party. The main colour of its flag was red whereas that of the “White Flag Communists” under Than Tun’s leadership was white.

The new party was declared illegal in July 1946 by the British government and went underground. Soe continued an armed struggle against the governments led by Aung San (until his assassination in July 1947), Nu (1947-1958; 1960-1962) and Ne Win (1958-1960; from 1962 on) until 1970.[3] The rebellion of his party concentrated on the western part of Burma (Pakokku and later Rakhine and parts of the Irrawaddy Delta and was characterised by a constant decrease of followers due to his extremely authoritarian style of leadership. In 1970 he surrendered together with his fifth wife, his newly born son and 30 followers. He was tried for high treason in 1972, received a death sentence in 1973. His appeals and calls for pardon were rejected, but he was not executed. He was released in 1980 in course of an amnesty and – together with Nu, his former enemy – and received a state pension afterwards. In 1988 he played a minor role in the popular uprising by becoming patron of one of the parties founded after the military coup of September 1988. He died on May 6, 1989.

3  Aims, Achievements and Personality

Soe lived an underground life fighting different governments from 1942 when he was 37 years old for almost 30 years. Before that, he wrote at least three books[4] and many pamphlets and was therefore regarded as the communist sayagyi – great teacher. His comrade and later rival Than Tun who had helped him to write his book on socialism in “good Burmese” in contrast excelled as organiser and party manager and became a much greater threat to the government than Thakin Soe’s small group.[5] Almost nothing however is known in a foreign language about his writings and speeches except the translation of his book on socialism. His visions and political goals therefore up to now cannot be directly reconstructed by quoting him „in his own voice“.

Like Aung San, Than Tun and many other Burmese revolutionaries fighting for independence, Soe was a „political animal“ in his own right. He called himself a “professional revolutionary” in an interviews after his release. He might have regarded himself as a „Burmese Karl Marx“ by explaining his theory to his fellow countryman. In his book, he quotes Marx: „To devote myself to this work, I have sacrificed my well-being, my family life and everything.“ (Soe 1938: 54)   At the time of writing his book, he might have compared his life to that of his teacher. Later, he might have been inclined to compare himself with Lenin. In his autobiography, he commented on particular events happening during his life with lengthy excerpt from Marx’s Das Kapital. And he reported that at his birth a special omen had happened indicating that Soe was to become a great historic figure. (Taylor 2008: 11) During his revolutionary struggle, he did not compromise and lost the sympathies of many of his followers because he himself did not abide by the strict rules of party discipline that he had issued.

It is notable, however, that Soe did not share the fate of many other fighters who believed in the Marxist doctrine that the necessity of an armed struggle was a core element of the „science of revolution“. He was not „eaten by the revolution“ like Than Tun who was killed in 1968 by a follower after he himself had organised purges of the party in the wake of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Soe finally might have taken his lessons drawn from Marx and Engels seriously that nobody could predict the day when the complete liberation of people after the replacement of capitalism by socialism was achieved. (Soe 1938: 84). His surrender to the government was a mix of frustration about the failure of his revolutionary movement, old age and care for his last  wife and his newborn son he had fathered at the age of 64. During his trial, he tried everything to reject the responsibility for atrocities committed by his followers and stressed his sympathy with the aims of the Revolutionary Council headed by Ne Win.

It seems quite clear that Soe was a complex personality. He was known to be a good singer who fervently sung the Dobama song composed in 1930 – still Myanmar’s national anthem – at political gatherings and on other occasions entertained audiences with traditional songs. Furthermore, he played the violin.

The ambivalence of his character can be illustrated by the famous story that during his resistance activities against the Japanese in World War II he ordered lipsticks and nylons for his female followers to be parachuted down to the resistance headquarters in the Irrawaddy Delta. This could be regarded as a kind gesture to his female followers (Maung Maung 1959: 65) but Ne Win who commanded the troops of the resistance unit reprimanded Soe for playing war.

4 Assessment

Takhin Soe never held an influential political post. Nevertheless he had a great impact on the course of Myanmar ’s modern history. His role in the independence struggle during World War II was crucial for creating a delicate balance between the official cooperation of the Thakins with the Japanese intruders and the British who needed local support for their attempts to recapture the country. Furthermore, Soe had been the only prominent Thakin with clear „anti-fascist“ activities during the war within Myanmar and thus provided credibility to the first declaration of the AFPFL issued in August 1946 and entitled „Drive Away the Fascist Japanese Marauders“. It can be safely assumed that Soe was heavily involved in drafting the manifesto that included the guidelines of a future constitution and was distributed around the whole country.

At least equally important is Soe’s impact on shaping the Burmese understanding of socialism and communism that dominated the country’s history for many decates. As Robert Taylor notes:

Ten years after Socialism appeared, Myanmar received its independence before dawn on 4 January  1948. By then almost every articulate politician and nationalist in the country claimed to be a socialist, Marxist, or communist. (Taylor 2008: 6)

Soe’s work had not just explained socialism in a way that could be understood by Buddhists by linking Marxist dialectics with Buddhist philosophy. This explains why the book was reprinted in Myanmar in the 1960s and 1970s even at a time when the author still lived in his hideouts. One of Soe’s students, Chit Hlaing together with another student drafted the Philosophy of the Burma Socialist Programme Party „The Correlation Between Man and His Environment“ that took up Soe’s approach,[6] One may argue that Soe’s influence even extended beyond the end of the party’s rule. One of the students of Chit Hlaing at the military academy was Than Shwe who was instrumental in directing Myanmar’s politics towards a kind of democracy acceptable to the army, the leading founding member of the AFPFL. He did not forget his teacher but cared for his health when Chit Hlaing became blind.

His last political activity after accepting the post of the Unity and Development Party in September 1988 that got just 3.656 votes in the 1990 elections was a letter to Aung San Suu Kyi written in 1989 in which he warned her not to repeat his own mistake and try to work with the army (Taylor 2008: 11).

5 Sources

Note: The main source of this text is Klaus Fleischmann’s book published in German in 1989. References to this book are not given in the text. Fleischmann interviewed Soe after his release in 1980. It can be assumed that there are many more sources available in Myanmar that can help to paint a clearer picture of Soe and his legacy.

Chit Hlaing 2008 A Short Note on My Involvement in the Burma Socialist Programme Party. Hans-Bernd Zöllner (ed.) 2008 Thakin Soe, Socialism and Chit Hlaing, Memories. Myanmar Literature Project vol. 10. Passau, Lehrstuhl für Südostasienkunde: 114-162. (

Fleischmann, Klaus 1989. Die kommunistische Partei Birmas. Von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart. Hamburg, Institut für Asienkunde.

Fleischmann, Klaus 1989. Documents on Communism in Burma, 1945-1977. Hamburg, Institut für Asienkunde.

Lintner, Bertil 1990. The Rise and the Fall of the Communist Party in Burma. Ithaca, N.Y : Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University

Soe (Thakin) 1938 Socialism. Hans-Bernd Zöllner (Hrsg.) 2008 Thakin Soe, Socialism and Chit Hlaing, Memories. Myanmar Literature Project vol. 10.  Passau, Lehrstuhl für Südostasienkunde: 17-106 (

Taylor, Robert 2008. Introduction. Hans-Bernd Zöllner (ed.) 2008 Thakin Soe, Socialism and Chit Hlaing, Memories. Myanmar Literature Project vol. 10.  Passau, Lehrstuhl für Südostasienkunde:: 5-13.

Who’s Who in Burma 1961. Rangoon: People’s Literature Committee and House.

[1]     Who’s Who in Burma, 1961 (People’s Literature Commettee and House): 156. Dictionaries as well as Wikipedia give 1906 as his year of birth.

[2]     Soe objected to the “Browderist line” named after the leader of the communist party of the United States who advocated a peaceful development in – temporary – cooperation with ideological enemies.

[3]     Nu’s government offered a reward of 1000.Kyat – an enormous sum at that time – for his capture – „dead or alive“. (Who’s Wo in Burma 1961: 156).

[4]     Socialism (1938);  Resistence ion Burma (1939); Labour World (1940). The first was published by the Nagani Book Club, the two others by the Myanmar Publishing House established in 1939 by Tun Aye, a co-founder of Nagani who – being a staunch communist like Soe and Than Tun – left the publishing house because he regarded the issuing of shares supported by Nu too capitalist.

[5]     The CIA in a memorandum of 1971 guessed that his armed group consisted of not more than 200-300 fighters ( 2).

[6]     Chit Hlaing 2008: 124.