Descendants of Myanmar’s Last King Mark His Exile by Britain

More than a century after the British expelled Myanmar’s last king, descendants held an emotional ceremony in Mandalay’s Golden Palace today in a watershed moment for a country rediscovering its royal heritage after decades of colonialism and military rule.

The last scions of the Konbaung dynasty gathered in the former seat of royal power as monks chanted prayers to mark the end of their family’s reign, the first time they have publicly marked King Thibaw’s exile to India 130 years ago inside the palace.
Among them was Prince Paw Thaya, one of only two surviving grandchildren of the last monarch, now both in their 90s.

“When we were young we used to come and play here,” a beaming Taw Phaya, dressed in a traditional maroon sarong and cream jacket, told AFP inside the audience hall where his grandfather once ruled from on high.

“The British tried to keep us away from the common people. But… Still today the common people will pay respects to royalty,” he added.

Thibaw was only on the throne for seven years before British troops swept into Mandalay on November 28, 1885 and ordered his family to leave the country the very next day.

The sight of the monarch and his heavily pregnant wife being paraded through the streets on old bullock carts as his subjects wept and prostrated themselves was a humiliation that has been seared on Myanmar’s collective memory ever since.

Fearing the royal family would become a focus for dissent, the British closed off the palace to the public and the doors remained shut after independence in 1948.

The junta that seized power in 1962 also sidelined the family, seeking instead to reinvent themselves as the successors to the warrior kings of old during a half-century rule that ruined Myanmar’s economy and closed its people off from much of the outside world.

But interest in the monarchy reignited under the quasi-civilian government that took power five years ago when former president Thein Sein, a reformist general, visited Thibaw’s tomb in the Indian seaside town of Ratnagiri.

Myanmar’s remaining royals, who used to gather in secret for their commemorations, have seized on the renewed interest in their family this year.

In October they held a ceremony to commemorate the death of Thibaw’s father King Mindon in the palace and they also plan to hold a commemoration in India in December to mark Thibaw’s death in exile 100 years ago.

“This ceremony is not only for the family members,” one of Thibaw’s great-grandsons, Soe Win, told AFP at the palace.

 

Source: AFP

 

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