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Myanmar (Burma): former flags

Last modified: 2013-06-17 by ian macdonald
Keywords: myanmar | burma | peacock | star: white | stars: 6 | federalist party of burma |
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Flags of the Period 1939-1945 (World War 2 era)

9 February 1939 (introduced 6 February) - 1941

[British Ensign] by Blas Delgado Ortiz

Based on a source at http://www.myanmars.net/myanmar/admin.htm

The Blue Ensign, Burmese badge on the fly (a golden disk, a peacock in proper colours superimposed). Also used 1945 - 1948.

In the diarchy parliament of February 1939, the Governor of Burma officialised this ensign just like other British dominion states. The insignia of the Myanmars, the dancing peacock on that flag was taken from King Mindon's 1-kyat silver coin.
Dov Gutterman, 30 July 2000

The peacock was within a circle whose diameter is 4/9ths of the width of the flag. To put it another way; the diameter of the circle is 45% of the width of the flag. The peacock was in natural colours; mainly royal blue, yellowish-green and dark gold. As far as I remember the space between the edge of the peacock and the edge of the circle should be dark gold.
David Prothero, 17 January 2000

The Burmese badge in Flaggenbuch [neu92] was "mostly dark blue with some gold". After looking carefully at the detailed image in Flaggenbuch, this is how the Burma badge appears there: the peacock is basically (light) turquoise green, all the edges, shades etc. are in royal blue, the feathers which hang from the bottom of its neck are pink with blue dots and the beautiful, oval-shaped "medallions" at the end of each feather are gold. The peacock stands on a very thin compartment in the same light turquoise green colour, the compartment reaching the edges of the circle. The areas between the peacock and the edges of the circle are all gold.

By the way, when the badge is used on the Governor's flag, the wreath is not the standard one, but one of olive-like branches, with ribbon but no fruits, all coloured in that same light turquoise green. I would say that the light turquoise green is something like RGB 0-255-204.
Santiago Dotor, 19 January 2000


Governor's Flag 1939-1941

[British Governor General flag] by Blas Delgado Ortiz

Very beautiful images here. They look almost exactly to what I recall of the images in Flaggenbuch. The disc is supposed to be gold, so possibly the colour shown by the "gold" ink should rather be shown as a dark yellow on the images.
Santiago Dotor, 29 April 2002

1940 - 1945: Japanese rule

[Japanese flag] by Pascal Gross

Japanese flag


1942 Synyethe-Wunthann party

[1942 Flag of Burma] Pier Paolo Lugli

The provisional pro-Japan government adopted the flag of the Synyethe - Wunthann party as the unofficial national flag (yellow, a green stripe atop, charged with a red roundel).
Pier Paolo Lugli
, 30 March 1998 

In Dirk's collection a flag is shown green over yellow with a central red circle. This is perhaps a version of the flag of the Poor Men's Party, the political movement that opposed the puppet republic. The flag is described as green over yellow with a rising sun in the upper stripe. The rising sun is similar to the rising sun on the national arms; this is only half the sun with several narrow and short rays.
Jaume OllÚ, 23 April 1997

During Japanese occupation, this flag was used. The party Sinyetha-Wunthanu was a merging of the Sinyetha party, ruled by Ba Maw, president of the puppet government, and the Society of the Thakins, ruled by Aung San, appointed chief of the 'national' Burmese army. The flag adopted in 1943, remains controversial.
Ivan Sache, 28 January 2001


Japanese puppet state 1 August 1943 - 1945

[1943 Flag of Burma] by Martin Grieve

The Japanese created a puppet state in Burma on 1 August 1943. The flag is described in several forms, but probably was horizontally dark yellow, green and red, with a red circle containing the Burmese peacock in natural colours.
Jaume OllÚ, 23 April 1997

A triband, yellow green red from top to bottom, a yellow stylised peacock on a white disk overall. This was after the independentist party flag, its colours coming from the radical-national party flag of Doubama, 1930 - 1938 and attested in a flag flown from the liberation army, 1941. Does anybody have a good picture of this flag? I know it appeared on stamps, too.
Pier Paolo Lugli, 30 March 1998

From 1942-1948, the yellow-green-red peacock flag was modified slightly, the only difference being in the feathers of the peacock, which were redrawn in geometrical diamond-shape patterns.
Dov Gutterman, 30 July 2000

[1945 Flag of Burma] image by Jaume Olle based on a Japanese newspaper image

In 2001 I found a Japanese newspaper that shows the Independent State of Burma national flag, adopted on Aug 1st 1943 and abolished on Aug 1st 1945. The flag is yellow-green-red with a peacock on a white disc. The yellow is actually a marigold colour like the Manchukou flag and sometimes may look orange. At that time yellow stands for Buddhist, green for agriculture and red for bravery which was reported in the Japanese paper in 1943.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 20 January 2007

Stamps depicting the flag of the puppet State of Burma (1943-1945) can be seen at http://www.tibetanpost.com/images/items/B/burj0035.jpg. Unfortunately, the stamps are monochrome, so the right colours are not shown on them. However, the design is clear - a horizontal triband with the peacock in the center.
Valentin Poposki, 20 January 2007

Scans of WWII-era Japanese propaganda pamphlets are available at http://www.2bangkok.com/wwiipropaganda.shtml. The then-flag of Myanmar is shown as well.
Eugene Ipavec, 20 January 2007


Anti-Japan movement 1943 - 1945

[1945 Flag of Burma] by Pascal Gross

The anti-Japan movement fought under a red flag bearing a white star. The British blue ensign with peacock badge was also used in this period.

Pier Paolo Lugli, 30 March 1998

[1945 Flag of Burma] by Pascal Gross

Some sources indicate this star was on the upper hoist, not centred. This arrangement later became the basis for the modern national flag.
Pier Paolo Lugli
, 30 March 1998

In Smith (1975c) and Smith (1982), in the description of the national flag history there is mentioned the flag of the Anti-Fascist Resistance Movement: red with white star in upper hoist. This is, of course, just an attempt to reconstruct it, without knowing where exactly and how big star should be. Also, I would allow Smith for somewhat loose wording in this context and possibly something was omitted. Can anyone confirm that these reconstructions are any good?  

As Smith describes, this flag is basis for the later national flag (added blue canton and 5 smaller stars), and indirectly for the current national flag as well. I guess that this flag is also basis for the FBC/NLD flags.
Željko Heimer, 2 July 2002


Blue ensign 1945-1948

[British Ensign] by Blas Delgado Ortiz

The Blue Ensign, Burmese badge on the fly (a golden disk, a peacock in proper colours superimposed). Same as the flag used in 1939-1941.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 14 September 2000


Uncertain flag, 1937-1939

[Resistance Flag of Burma] by Jaume OllÚ

There is also an open issue: in a table published on the German magazine Signal (the last, special number for 1943, the Italian version) Burma's flag is red with, presumably, a peacock on it. This sounds similar to the 1941 - 1942 flag, but with a different background colour: does anybody have more information?

Burma was administratively part of the Indian Empire, but it seems that it was the undefaced Union Flag that was used until sometime in 1939. Burma was separated from Indian Empire 1st April 1937, but the Union Flag and Blue Ensign defaced with the peacock design was not approved until 9th February 1939.

From a newspaper cutting of this date. "King has approved national flag for Burma. Hitherto it has been the Union Flag. On the Blue Ensign; a peacock in natural colours on a circle with gold background. Governor's is the same on a Union Flag with garland. Date of use to be notified after international recognition."

The peacock design was taken from the silver coinage of King Mindon 1852.
David Prothero, 31 March 1998

The Burmese pro-British resistance against Japan in 1942-1945 used a red flag with the old British badge (in 1945 it began to use the red flag with a white star in the canton).
Jaume OllÚ
, 24 January 2000

This flag is also used by the Federalist Party of Burma at http://federalistpartyburma.org/aboutus.aspx, which also explains the political goals of the party:
"We are a political party of people who believe in democracy and federalism, and we aim to build a society (in Burma) in which every people has equal rights and can enjoy human rights to the fullest extent, and people of different ethnic origins have autonomy to manage their own domestic affairs by themselves in their ethnic regions, and the rights of the people are protected by the law, and the laws are made by people's elected legislature (states and federal) in accordance with a democratic federal constitution."

The flag used on the website is taken from FOTW and it is uncertain if the party members adopted this flag after Jaume's drawing or if they consider themselves as part of the Resistance against current regime, so they use the same flag as their ancestors from the period before and during WWII.
Valentin Poposki, 27 April 2008


1948-1974 Flags of Burma

[1948 Flag of Burma] 5:9, Željko Heimer

The 1948 flag of Burma is red with a blue canton containing one large white star and five small white stars around it. The older flag of Burma (taken from a book published in the early 1960's) has also been shown as all red with a gold star in the upper left and five smaller stars arrayed around it.
Dipesh Navsaria
, 2 April 1996

The big star was meant for the Union, and 5 smaller stars were for 5 states. This is the first flag of the independent modern Burma (Myanmar), which was adopted with the Constitution of 24 September
1947 and was proudly first hoisted at 4:25 a.m., 4th January 1948.
Dov Gutterman
, 30 July 2000

This is the flag of independence ('Union of Burma, Chans and Karens'), the first national flag. The largest star in canton recalled the flag used by the Anti-Fascist League of Burmese People, a red field with a white star in canton. The five smaller stars, white for honesty, represent the five main ethnic groups: Burmese, Chans, Karens, Chins, and Kachins.
Ivan Sache
, 28 January 2001

Evans (1970) wrote that "Burma" "based its new flag on the emblem used by the resistance movement during the Japanese occupation. Its national flag is red, with a blue canton on which appears a large white star surrounded by five smaller stars.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 6 July 2002

A picture in the NY Times today from AFP shows "Opponents of Burma's government demonstrat[ing] in Seoul, South Korea, yesterday." They are holding a six-starred (1948-1974) flag. I assume they want to return to the old flag.
Nathan Lamm, 4 June 2003

The proportions of 5:9 with a canton occupying half the width of the flag and in a ratio of 5:8 was laid down for this design by Section 215 of the 1947 Constitution which stated that "The dimensions of the Flag shall be nine feet by five feet, and the canton shall be four feet by two and a half feet".
Christopher Southworth, 19 January 2007

There is one thing that is not quite certain from the text description - the position of the smaller stars. I set them so that the centers of the circles circumscribing them are located on the circle circumscribing the large star (which is centered in the center of the canton, of course).
Željko Heimer, 19 January 2007


Former civil/merchant ensign

[1952 Civil/Merchant Ensign of Burma] Vincent Morley

The former civil/merchant ensign of Burma was adopted in 1952 and, as far as I know, it continued in use until 1974 when the current flag was adopted - confirmation or correctionof that date would be welcome. This drawing is based on the illustration in Pedersen, 1971.
Vincent Morley
, 23 April 1997


Government Ensign 1952-1974

[1952 Government Ensign of Burma] Martin Grieve

Used from 1952 to 1974 by vessels in Government service other than warships.
Ivan Sache, 2 May 2002


Former War Ensign

[Former War Ensign of Myanmar] Ivan Sache

White ensign with arms in blue canton.

Ivan Sache, 29 January 1998

I have a 1954 edition of Jane's Fighting Ships, which shows three flags (in black and white line drawings) for Burma:

  1. The President's Standard: a peacock proper, in full plumage, centred on a saffron field (the colour of the field is noted in the text).
  2. The Naval Ensign: the canton is made up of six 5-pointed stars; white in colour, centred on a blue field. One of the stars is in the very centre of the field, and is much larger than the other 5, (roughly 2+ times the size of the others). All the stars are oriented with a single point up, and 2 points downward. The 5 smaller stars are placed around the large central star, at roughly the 1 o'clock, 4 o'clock, 6 o'clock, 8 o'clock, and 11 o'clock positions, (ie., centred in-between the 5 arms of the large central star). The rest of the ensign is identical to the British White Ensign, (i.e., a red Cross of St George, upon a white field).
  3. The National Flag; (Mercantile Ensign?): The canton is as for the Naval Ensign; the field is plain red.
Glen Robert-Grant Hodgins, 30 March 1998

Former Air Force Ensign

[Former Air Force Ensign of Myanmar] by Martin Grieve

Light blue field with national flag in canton and the roundel (blue-white-gold triangle) at the lower fly. Sources: Fachinger (1974), Pedersen (1970).
Marcus Schm÷ger
, 11 November 2001

In use 1952-1974. The flag is based on the British model.
Ivan Sache, 2 May 2002

See also: current air force ensign