EDWARD MICHAEL LAW YONE was born February 5, 1911 at Kamaing, Myitkyina
District (now Kachin State), Burma. Educated at St. Peters' School,
Mandalay, at 16 he went to work as a clerk in the Burma-China border
frontier service. He joined the Burma Railways in 1930 as a probationer and
by 1938 was in charge of the rates and commercial section, traveling in that
year over the recently-constructed Burma Road to survey the route proposed
for linking the Burma and Yunnan-Indochina Railways.
Commissioned in the British Army at the outbreak of war, as Movement Control
Officer he evacuated troops and civilians out of Myitkyina. When the British
Army retreated, he was ordered to remain behind, serving first as
Headquarters Assistant and then as District Commissioner. In May 1944, with
the landing of Merrill's Marauders, he escaped across the Japanese lines to
the Myitkyina airfield and was flown out to India where, in October, he
joined the U.S. Office of Strategic Services as an intelligence officer with
the rank of major.
Upon reoccupation of Burma, LAW YONE was appointed by the newly-formed Aung
San Government as Chief Traffic Superintendent in charge of a fleet of 1,400
trucks, and, in 1946, was elected Associate of the Institute of Transport in
London, the only Burman to be honored by that Chartered Institute.
With independence a certainty and foreseeing that a vacuum would be created
with the departure of British journalists, he decided in 1947 to join the
editorial staff of the Burmese Review. Shortly thereafter, he accepted the
editorship of the The New Times of Burma, then owned by the late Foreign
Minister U Tin Tut. On July 15, 1958, he founded his own newspaper, The
Nation, which he has edited since that time.
Now the leading English-language paper in Burma and "ranked with the best in
Asia," The Nation has been a vigorous defender of civil rights, an outspoken
critic in the public interest of successive governments and a staunch foe of
communism in and outside of Burma.
More than any other paper in Burma, The Nation has taken the role of a
social conscience, speaking energetically against restrictive press laws,
waste, inefficiency, and intolerance, and censuring "apartheid" and racial
discrimination wherever its editor has seen these destructive prejudices at
work. U LAW YONE’s policy of printing the news, whether or not it would
reflect favorably on the government in power, and pointing out
inconsistencies and arbitrary actions in sober editorials has had effect in
defeating practices that were undemocratic.
The paper took note of the divisive tendencies of Karen and Arakense
nationalism and counseled patient handling of the genuine upsurge of
nationalist feeling. When the first Government of independent Burma, in the
last item of its 15-point program, proposed establishment of a Marx-Engels-Lenin
Institute, LAW YONE denounced it as the surest means of subverting the
Constitution and kept up the fight until after the offensive provision was
dropped. In 1956, at a time when the Government had not revealed to the
Burmese people that Communist Chinese troops had crossed the border at
several points, his report exposing these incursions into northern Burma
created popular reaction which encouraged his government to take firmer and
more positive action with confidence. A frontiersman, born and bred, he has
been unrelenting in his campaign to keep the Chinese reminded of
international agreements in regard to the defined border line.
In 1952, LAW YONE was prosecuted for criminal libel for calling attention to
the corruption of a high ranking civil servant. The Government was
represented by three leading lawyers, including Dr. Ba Han, doyen of the
Bar, and LAW YONE defended himself. Though witnesses refused to answer
questions in cross-examination, pleading "official secrecy" or "privilege,"
he was convicted, fined and sentenced to prison for one month. The trial,
however, caused a public furor, and MPs in the Government Party (AFPFL)
stood up for the editor in party caucus. When the High Court wiped out the
prison sentence on appeal, LAW YONE was garlanded in court by fellow editors
After the AFPFL split in 1958, LAW YONE’s impartiality was recognized by his
appointment, together with a Justice of the Supreme Court and Judge of the
High Court, to serve on two Rice Commissions, one to sell the accumulation
of old stocks and the other to formulate a policy for the improvement and
sale of rice. He also served on a government inquiry commission
investigating delays and alleged malfeasance in the modernization of
Rangoon's telephone system. The present Government has appointed him to the
Board of Film Censors.
U LAW YONE has also campaigned for religious freedom. He worked for the
admission of Jesuits to staff a seminary in Rangoon and is currently
credited with helping to bring medical Sisters from Holland to manage a
needed hospital in the new town of Okkalapa. He has backed the tearing down
of squatters' huts, including desecrated monasteries, and advocated schemes
to revive cow slaughter and the destruction of stray dogs. A Roman Catholic,
he today espouses the teaching of Buddhism in the schools, as well as the
opening of a Department of Religion at Rangoon University.
The Nation's technical and editorial standards have remained high despite
successive losses of key assistants, recruited and trained by LAW YONE, who
have gone on to more responsible positions with other papers, including U
Sein Win, editor of The Guardian and U On Myint, editor of The Reporter.
Recognized as a newspaper of record, the bound volumes of the The Nation
were a principal source of information for the most authoritative work on
postwar Burma, The Union of Burma by Hugh Tinker.
In the interest of strengthening the Burmese press, LAW YONE has headed for
three years and frequently lectured at a private Burma School of Journalism,
founded to raise the standards of press reporting. Former Prime Minister U
Nu, recognizing the value of an independent press, contributed funds for
starting this School. Its graduates now hold staff appointments in many
vernacular newspapers. One student from the hill areas started his own
Kachin newspaper, the Jinghpaw Times, which has proved a great success.
Judges, lawyers and doctors, who have attended the School, are putting out
law reports and professional journals. The present government has now
erected a new department of Journalism at the University of Rangoon where
the School will be incorporated.
LAW YONE was elected Vice President of the Burma Journalists Association in
1953 and President in 1954. He has served as Chairman of the Burma National
Committee of the International Press Institute, President of the Foreign
Correspondents Association and was the originator of the monthly editors'
dinners at which the Prime Minister meets and exchanges views with Burmese
He has traveled extensively and is considered one of the more world-minded
of Burma's opinion leaders. He attended the Geneva Conference in 1954 and
the Bandung Conference in 1955, later that year accompanying U Nu to Moscow.
For recreation, LAW YONE enjoys sailing, fishing, big game hunting and an
occasional game of golf and is a devotee of folk music from his own and
other lands. He and his wife, Eleanor, have six children; three sons and
three daughters. A member of the Executive Committee of the Burma National
Boy Scouts Association, he has been an active promoter of scouting, taking
the lead in fund-raising activities and traveling to international scouting
This editor's handling of his newspaper, considering the severe limitations
of a technical character as well as other local handicaps that he has had to
face, has set an example of what can be done by an independent and
resourceful journalist. He has not only helped to improve performance in his
own profession but also has taken a constructive part in many civic
August 1959 Manila
Files of the The Nation.
Interviews with Burmese journalists, government officials, educators and