The surrender of the Japanese brought a military administration to Burma and demands to try Aung San for his involvement in a murder during military operations in 1942. Lord Mountbatten realized that this was an impossibility considering Aung San’s popular appeal. After the war ended, the British Governor, Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith returned. The restored government established a political program that focused on physical reconstruction of the country and delayed discussion of independence. The AFPFL opposed the government leading to political instability in the country. A rift had also developed in the AFPFL between the Communists and Aung San together with the Socialists over strategy, which led to Than Tun being forced to resign as general secretary in July 1946 and the expulsion of the CPB from the AFPFL the following October. Dorman-Smith was replaced by Sir Hubert Rance as the new governor, and almost immediately after his appointment the Rangoon Police went on strike. The strike, starting in September 1946, then spread from the police to government employees and came close to becoming a general strike. Rance calmed the situation by meeting with Aung San and convincing him to join the Governor’s Executive Council along with other members of the AFPFL. The new executive council, which now had increased credibility in the country, began negotiations for Burmese independence, which were concluded successfully in London as the Aung San-Atlee Agreement on January 27, 1947. The agreement left parts of the communist and conservative branches of the AFPFL dissatisfied, however, sending the Red Flag Communists led by Thakin Soe underground and the conservatives into opposition. Aung San also succeeded in concluding an agreement with ethnic minorities for a unified Burma at the Panglong Conference on February 12, celebrated since as ‘Union Day’. Shortly after, rebellion broke out in the Arakan led by the veteran monk U Seinda, and it began to spread to other districts. The popularity of the AFPFL, now dominated by Aung San and the Socialists, was eventually confirmed when it won an overwhelming victory in the April 1947 constituent assembly elections.
Then a momentous event stunned the nation on July 19, 1947. U Saw, a conservative pre-war Prime Minister of Burma, engineered the assassination of Aung San and several members of his cabinet including his eldest brother Ba Win, the father of today’s National League for Democracy exile-government leader Dr Sein Win, while meeting in the Secretariat. July 19 has been commemorated since as Martyrs’ Day. Thakin Nu, the Socialist leader, was now asked to form a new cabinet, and he presided over Burmese independence on January 4, 1948. The popular sentiment to part with the British was so strong at the time that Burma opted not to join the British Commonwealth, unlike India or Pakistan.