U Thant's Last Day as UN Secretary-General
By Patrick Mondout
U Thant celebrated his last day as Secretary-General of the United
Nations on December 31, 1971. He was chosen to head the world body when
Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold was killed in an air crash in September
1961. Thant was replaced by Nazi
collaborator Kurt Waldheim.
Official UN Biography
Prior to his diplomatic career, U Thant's experience was in education
and information work. He served as Senior Master at the National High
School, which he had attended in Pantanaw, and in 1931, he became
Headmaster after winning first place in the Anglo-Vernacular Secondary
He was a member of Burma's Textbook Committee and of the Council of
National Education before World War II, and was an Executive Committee
member of the Heads of Schools Association. He was also active as a
In 1942, U Thant served for a few months as Secretary of Burma's
Education Reorganization Committee. In the following year, he returned to
the National High School as Headmaster for another four years.
U Thant was appointed Press Director of the Government of Burma in
1947. In 1948, he became Director of Broadcasting, and in the following
year, he was appointed Secretary to the Government of Burma in the
Ministry of Information. In 1953, U Thant became Secretary for projects in
the Office of the Prime Minister, and in 1955, he was assigned additional
duties as Executive Secretary of Burma's Economic and Social Board.
At the time of his appointment as Acting Secretary-General of the
United Nations, U Thant had been Permanent Representative of Burma to the
United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador (1957-1961).
During that period, he headed the Burmese delegations to the sessions
of the General Assembly, and in 1959, he served as one of the
Vice-Presidents of the Assembly's fourteenth session. In 1961, U Thant was
Chairman of the United Nations Congo Conciliation Commission and Chairman
of the Committee on a United Nations Capital Development Fund.
During his diplomatic career, U Thant served on several occasions as
Adviser to Prime Ministers of Burma.
U Thant began serving as Acting Secretary-General since 3 November
1961, when he was unanimously appointed by the General Assembly, on the
recommendation of the Security Council, to fill the unexpired term of the
late Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjold. He was then unanimously
appointed Secretary-General by the General Assembly on 30 November 1962
for a term of office ending on 3 November 1966.
U Thant was re-appointed for a second term as Secretary-General of the
United Nations by the General Assembly on 2 December 1966 on the unanimous
recommendation of the Security Council (resolution 229, 1966). His term of
office continued until 31 December 1971.
U Thant retired at the end of his second term in 1971 and he died on 25
November 1974 after a long illness. He was 65 years old.