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Celebrating former SG U Thant’s 100th birthday
21 January 2009 / 03:10

[Dateline: New York | Author:  iSeek]

Secretary-General U Thant is seen at his press conference held at United Nations Headquarters, 23 September 1968 | UN Photo/Yutaka NagataU Thant, the UN’s third Secretary-General, was born 100 years ago Thursday, on 22 January 1909 at Pantanaw, in then Burma. 

To mark the occasion, UNIC Yangon has launched a special web site featuring U Thant's biography, notable quotes, a photo gallery and links to useful resources.

In message issued to mark the occasion, BAN Ki-moon said, "Thant's patience and unassuming demeanor were valuable assets in his conduct of quiet diplomacy. His approach to global challenges was also informed by a strong commitment to a practice of compassion and tolerance, bred of his devotion to Buddhism. I have the greatest admiration for him and his achievements, and pay tribute to his life of public service. He left a legacy that will live on in the history of the United Nations and the world in our work for peace" (full message).

About U Thant

At the time of his unanimous appointment as Acting Secretary-General to fill SG Dag Hammarskjöld’s unexpired term on 3 November 1961 [A/RES/1640 (XVI)], U Thant had been Permanent Representative of Burma to the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador from 1957.   He was Vice-President of the General Assembly in 1959.

A year later, he was unanimously appointed Secretary-General by the General Assembly on 30 November 1962 [A/RES/1771 (XVII)].

Secretary-General U Thant arrived in Moscow on 4 August to attend the signing of the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty by representatives of the USSR, the United Kingdom and the United States. Here, Mr. Thant (r.) is seen as he met with Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev (facing Mr. Thant), Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko (beside Mr. Khrushchev) and Mr. V. A. Zorin (3rd from l., left side of table), Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, and other Soviet officials, 4 August 1963 | Credit: UN Photo)U Thant was re-appointed for a second term as Secretary-General by the General Assembly on 2 December 1966 [A/RES/2161 (XXI)] on the unanimous recommendation of the Security Council.  His term of office continued until 31 December 1971.

U Thant made his mark on the Secretariat in many ways, one of which was his proposal to create the post of Assistant-Secretary-General in 1967 (effective in 1968) [A/RES/2369 (XXII)]. 

During his years of leadership in the UN, U Thant was highly-regarded for his skill as a patient and subtle negotiator. He is credited with ending the UN operation in the Congo that had claimed the life of Dag Hammarskjöld and mediating crises in Cyprus, the Indonesian province of West Irian, and the disputed territory of Kashmir.  Historians also credit him with helping avert a nuclear confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in the Cuban missile crisis.

Seen here in an informal view, the Astronauts pose with the Secretary-General and his family. From left to right: Neil A. Armstrong; Michael Collins, Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., U Thant with his grandson, Thant Myint-U, Aye Aye Myint-U, the Secretary-General's daughter and her husband, Dr. Tyn Myint-U, 20 July 1970 | Credit: UN PhotoHe also met with a wide number of notable personalities at UNHQ during his tenure, including the astronauts who participated in the first manned landing on the Moon: Neil A. Armstrong; Michael Collins, Edwin “Buzz” E. Aldrin Jr. (pictured at right with members of U Thant's family).

Prior to his diplomatic career, U Thant's experience was in education and information work.

U Thant retired at the end of his second term in 1971.

Thant published several books on the history of cities, the League of Nations, and Myanmar.

A collection of his public addresses and essays from 1957 to 1963 was published as Toward World Peace (1964).   View from the UN (1978), an account of his years as Secretary-General, was published posthumously.

His grandson, Thant Myint-U (pictured above as a child), held a series of Secretariat posts between 1992 and 2006.

Additional biographical information is available on the UN web site.