From 1961 to 1971, U Thant, a Burmese diplomat, was UN Secretary-General. He was the UN’s third Secretary-General and the first non-European. With his landowning and rice-merchanting family, he desired journalism. His father died when he was 14, and the family’s finances collapsed. Thant, the eldest son, chose a two-year teaching certificate at Rangoon University over a four-year degree to support his family. He then became a school teacher before becoming the school’s headmaster at a young age. After Burma’s independence, Thant worked in the administration for several years before becoming the UN’s Secretary General. He served two terms as UN Secretary General and denied a third term. He handled major diplomatic crises like the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Congo Civil War well while at the UN.
Early Childhood of U Thant
Po Hnit and Nan Thaung’s son U Thant was born in Pantanaw on January 22, 1909. Thant’s educated father helped create the Burmese Research Society and the publication ‘The Sun’. Thant had three brothers as siblings.
He was a studious, considerate student who was called ‘The Philosopher’ by his classmates at Pantanaw National High School. When he was only 14 years old, his father died, causing the entire family to struggle financially.
Considering his family’s financial situation at the time, he enrolled in Rangoon University for a teaching degree course in 1926.
At university, Thant met U Nu, who would later become the country’s Prime Minister. After two years of study, he returned to Pantanaw and began teaching at National High School.
A Career of U Thant
U Thant took the All Burma Teachership Examination in 1931 and came first. By 25, he was the school’s headmaster. During this time, he wrote for various magazines and newspapers.
Following the Japanese annexation of Burma in 1942, he was named secretary of the educational restructuring committee, but resigned after a year due to the introduction of Japanese language into the curriculum. He returned to National High School for four years as headmaster.
With the support of his friend U Nu, he joined the government in 1947 as a press director, and the following year he was appointed director of broadcasting after Burma gained independence. He then became the Secretary of the Ministry of Information.
Burmese Prime Minister U Nu made him his secretary in 1951. He was the prime minister’s closest advisor for six years, helping him design policies and writing his speeches. Then Thant attended international conferences.
He was Burma’s permanent representative to the UN from 1957 until 1961. During that period, he was also Chairman of the UN Congo Commission and heavily involved in Algerian independence negotiations. In 1959, he was appointed UN Vice President.
After the death of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold, he was named acting Secretary-General on November 3, 1961, and Secretary-General until November 3, 1966, by the General Assembly. During his first tenure, he helped halt the Congo separatist unrest and mediated between the US and the USSR to end the Cuban Missile Crisis.
During his five-year stint as UN Secretary-General, he established significant UN programs as the UN Development Programme, the UN Environment Programme, the UN University, and the UN Conference on Trade and Development.
His relationship with the US soured after he ordered the withdrawal of UN troops from Sinai at President Nasser’s request. His criticism of American policy during the Vietnam War was also a point of disagreement.
On December 31, 1971, he stepped down as UN Secretary-General and did not seek re-election. He then became a senior fellow at the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs and died in Riverdale, Bronx.
Grandiose of U Thant
His most major diplomatic work was mediating between the US and Russia during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. It averted a nuclear war.
Honors & Awards
U Thant declined to accept Burma’s second highest honor, bestowed upon him by U Nu’s government in 1961.
Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding 1965 and Gandhi Peace Prize 1972.
Personal Legacy of U Thant
U Thant had three children with Daw Thein Tin: Maung Bo, Tin Maung Thant, and Aye Aye Thant. He had an adoptive son.
He died of lung cancer in New York on November 25, 1974.
Estimated Net Worth
Thant Myint-U is a well-known Historian. Thant Myint-U net worth is estimated at $12 Million by Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.