Yangon’s Secretariat opened on Martyrs’ Day, attracting thousands of visitors

People pay respects at the Secretariat.—Photo: Aye Min Soe
The room where General Aung San and cabinet ministers were assassinated. Photo: Aye Min Soe
Visitors throng to view the room where General Aung San and cabinet ministers were assassinated.—Photo: Aye Min Soe

Yangon, 19 July — The Secretariat, the colonial-era building in Yangon where Myanmar’s national hero General Aung San was assassinated in 1947 along with eight others, was opened to the public on Martyrs’ Day on Sunday, attracting thousands of people.
The building, which is more than 100 years old and currently being restored, was opened to visitors for only the second time in decades on the occasion of the anniversary..
The visitors got a rare chance to look inside the very room where gunmen burst in and shot General Aung San dead as he held a meeting with other cabinet ministers on 19 July, 1947.
Five minutes before the exact time of the assassination, the dispersed visitors gathered on a lawn facing the western wing of the building where General Aung San and the cabinet ministers were gunned down 68 year ago and paid tribute to the fallen martyrs at 10:37 am. Some stood in silence at the place where they arrived in the Secretariat, bowing their heads, to pay tribute to the fallen leaders. Some shed tears during the one-minute silence, throughout which a siren rang out over the premises as those present paused to remember the nine fallen national heroes.
Afterwards, the visitors broke up into groups and entered the building intent on finding the room where the tragedy occurred.
About 10 minutes later, the corridor outside the room was thronged with visitors. A guard stationed by the company which is carrying out the conservation to the national heritage building was requesting the visitors to move along once they were done viewing the room, warning that the corridor might not withstand the crowd.
The space inside the room is now a prayer area, with much of the area devoted to a Buddhist shrine. A portrait of uniformed General Aung San is seen on top of a blue-painted cupboard, alongside three small vases of flowers. The floor and walls have been replaced with modern parquet.
“Where have the table and chairs gone?” said U Thet Win, 48. “The reason why we want to come here is to see original and final moments of our martyrs.”
He had come from the western outskirts of Yangon along with his family, imagining that the table and chairs would still be in the room along with bullet holes in the wall.
Showing a picture of the room complete with tables and chairs before the time of the assassination to visitors outside the room, a middle-age man was explaining to visitors the seating arrangements in the final moments of the meeting 68 years ago.

Some young visitors speculated that the room which everyone was attempting to view had been turned into a shrine and that the room where the assassination actually happened was somewhere else.
Elsewhere, a group of middle-aged people were arguing over the route used by the gunmen to access the meeting room.
Meanwhile, the crowd continued to throng to the door to see the room through the glass and to take pictures.
“In the history our country, an event which no one will ever forget happened in this room. But, how can I clarify to our younger generation that our leaders were assassinated in this room?” said Thet Win.

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