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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 Teachership Examination.

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 free-lance journalist.

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.



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U Thant was born at Pantanaw, Burma, on 22 January 1909, and was educated at the National High School in Pantanaw and at University College, Rangoon.

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