U Thant (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: Thant took over as acting secretary-general of the United Nations when Dag Hammarskjöld was killed in an airplane crash in 1961 and served until 1971. Thant therefore was the speaker for the United Nations during the many crises of the 1960’s and early 1970’s, including the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the crisis in the Congo and other parts of Africa, and the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, providing the U.N. with a strong neutral voice.
Thant (“U” is an honorific, and most Burmese do not use surnames) was born in the town of Pantanaw, Burma, which was then part of the British Indian Empire, the first of four sons. His home province is probably best known for the difficult traveling conditions within the area, for the many streams forming a delta in the almost totally flat area flood easily. Thant’s family was one of the moderately wealthy ones in the town, since his paternal grandfather and great uncle were the owners of a prosperous rice mill and his maternal grandfather exported woven mats. The real wealth was held by other family members, however, rather than by Thant’s father.
Thant’s father had, however, been educated in Calcutta and is believed to have been the only person in town then able to read and speak English. He passed on his love of learning, as well as his knowledge of English, to his eldest son, and Thant started at the regional...
(The entire section is 2046 words.)
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