Can’t place the face: Aung San statue in Mandalay looks more like recent EU ambassador

Side-by-side comparison of Bogyoke Aung San statue and former general and politician Thura Shwe Mann via Facebook.
Side-by-side comparison of Bogyoke Aung San statue and former general and politician Thura Shwe Mann via Facebook.

We’ve had our fair share of Bogyoke Aung San statue controversies over the past year, mostly involving ethnic minorities who don’t see Myanmar’s founding father as a hero and have no interest in hosting a monument in his honor.

This, however, is not that. Instead, the complaint coming from the central Mandalay division is that the version of the statue they were saddled with didn’t look anything like the father of current State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. 

Instead, it looks suspiciously like Thura Shwe Mann, a far more contemporary and not remotely as popular military figure.

When the statue was unveiled on July 14 during a large parade, netizens quickly began reacting to the uncanny resemblance, prompting some quick action — namely, a complete redo of the statue’s face, according to the Voice Myanmar.

16.7.2019 ႏြားထိုးျကီးျမို့မွ ဗိုလ္ခ်ုပ္ေျကးရုပ္ လူေျပာမ်ား၍သြားျကည့္ ကိုယ္တိုင္ရိုက္ခဲေသာ …

U Ko Ni 发布于 2019年7月15日周一

“Based on the public’s conclusions, as well as the color of the statue, we are revisiting the statue’s look. We will try our best to fix the issue,” a statue committee member told the local outlet. (Editor: Yes, there’s a statue committee.)

If you’re wondering just how much the bronze statue located in Nwar Htoe town resembles the third-most powerful man in the State Peace and Development Council, the military junta that ruled Myanmar until 2011, netizens have made it easy for you.

Pics uploaded to Facebook offer a side-by-side-by-side look at the statue, the late General Aung San, and Shwe Mann.


Formerly a protege of then-dictator Than Shwe, Shwe Mann broke into party politics when he ran as a candidate in the military-linked Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in 2010. 

He quickly became one of the most influential ministers in the civilian government as head of the powerful legal affairs commission in 2016, and served as Myanmar’s ambassador to the EU in 2018.

Bogyoke Aung San statues have been erected across the country since the NLD came into power in 2015, and controversy has followed the statues, particularly in ethnic states in Myanmar, where the bronze figures are seen as a symbol of encroaching “Burmanization,” a set of government-led policies aimed towards the homogenization of Myanmar under a Bamar-Buddhist identity. 

In recent years, ethnic minorities across Myanmar have protested the erection of these monuments, which they view as symbols of their continued marginalization in a country where their dreams of recognition and equal rights under a federal system have yet to be realized.

Authorities have cracked down with force on these protests, amidst ongoing claims that the NLD government have backslid on freedom of speech, freedom of press and freedom of assembly. 

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