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The Thakins (Burmese: သခင် sa.hkang, IPA: [θəkʰɪ̀ɴ]; also spelled Thakhin) were a Burmese nationalist group formed around the 1930s and composed of young, disgruntled intellectuals. Drawing their name from the way in which the British were addressed during colonial times, thakin means "lord" or "master", just as the Indians called the British "sahib". The party, however, is formally known as the "Dobama Asiayone" (which can be translated into either We Burmans Association or "Our Burma Association"). Established by Ba Thaung in May 1930, it was able to combine tradition with modernity by bringing together traditionalist Buddhist nationalist elements and fresh political ideals. It was significant in stirring up political consciousness in Burma, and drew most of its support base from students.

The party's song, Myanmar Kaba Ma Kyei ("Till The End of the World, Burma") also became the country's first national song and eventually its national anthem. Composed by Saya Tin (later known as "Thakin Tin"), the song was a national symbol during the Japanese occupation of Burma and was adopted in 1948 upon the achievement of independence


A Dobama protest

The group was established in 1930 in Rangoon (Yangon) after Burmese Indian dock workers and their families were murdered by Bamars, who believed that the Indians had taken jobs that rightfully belonged to them.[1][2][3] The Dobama organisation was nationalist in nature, and supported Bamar supremacy. Its members used the Burmese word thahkin "master" as their titles. The slogan of the organisation was "Burma is our country; Burmese literature is our literature; Burmese language is our language. Love our country, raise the standards of our literature, respect our language."[4] Dobama Asiayone was keen assimilating ethnic minorities into Burman culture, and most of its activities stemmed from Rangoon University.[4]

By the late 1930s, the Thakins had risen through the ranks to emerge as a prominent nationalist group. To achieve its objectives, the group committed itself to the use violent means, such as strikes and force. In 1937, a Thakin leader had surfaced: a young lawyer by the name of Aung San. In 1939, the Thakins took over the Dobama Asiayone and brought about the collapse of the government of Ba Maw, then the premier of the country, and in 1940, the Thakins and Ba Maw combined forces in the anti-war Burma Freedom Bloc.


The Thakins were credited for the formation of the Burma Independence Army. In 1940, a Japanese army officer, Colonel Suzuki Keiji, took thirty Thakins including Aung San for military training at Japanese schools in Formosa (Taiwan) and Hainan. These thirty Thakins, known as the Thirty Comrades, were the founding members of the Burma Independence Army, which would later number around 8000 men. When the Japanese invaded Burma in late 1941 and early 1942, the BIA marched with the Japanese to expel the British. On 1 August 1943, the Japanese granted Burma a kind of independence. The BIA was renamed the Burma National Army (BNA). Recognising that the Japanese had merely replaced the British rather than providing the independence they sought, in March 1945, the Burma National Army turned on the Japanese as the British Fourteenth Army advanced on Rangoon.


  1. ^ Paul H. Kratoska, ed. (2001). South East Asia: Colonial History. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-21539-0. 
  2. ^ Mikael Gravers (1999). "Nationalism as Political Paranoia in Burma: an essay on the historical practice of power". Routledge. 
  3. ^ A first hand account appears in Trials in Burma (1937) by Maurice Collis
  4. ^ a b Tarling, Nicholas (1999). The Cambridge History of Southeast Asia. Cambridge UP. ISBN 0-521-66369-5. 


Further reading[edit]

  • Khin, Yi. (1988) The Dobama Movement in Burma (1930–1938). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University.