U Thant having a drink with other politicians.Thant (/θɑːnt/; Burmese: သန့်; MLCTS: san.; Burmese pronunciation: [θa̰ɴ]; 22 January 1909 – 25 November 1974), known honorifically as U Thant (/ˌuː ˈθɑːnt/) was a Burmese diplomat and the third Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1961 to 1971, the first non-European to hold the position.
A native of Pantanaw, Thant was educated at the National High School and at the Rangoon University. In the days of tense political climate in Burma, he held moderate views positioning himself between fervent nationalists and British loyalists. He was a close friend of Burma's first Prime Minister U Nu and served various positions in Nu's cabinet from 1948 to 1961. Thant had a calm and unassuming demeanor which won his colleagues' respect.
He was appointed as Secretary-General in 1961 when his predecessor, Dag Hammarskjöld died in an air crash. In his first term, Thant facilitated negotiations between U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), thereby narrowly averting the possibility of a global catastrophe. Later, in December 1962, Thant ordered the Operation Grand Slam which ended secessionist insurgency in Congo. He was reappointed as Secretary-General on 2 December 1966 by a unanimous vote of the Security Council. In his second term, Thant was well known for publicly criticizing American conduct in the Vietnam War. He oversaw the entry of several newly independent African and Asian states into UN. Thant refused to serve a third term and retired in 1971.
Thant died of lung cancer in 1974. A devout Buddhist and the foremost Burmese diplomat who served on the international stage, Thant was widely admired and held in great respect by the Burmese populace. When the military government refused him any honours, riots broke out in Rangoon. But they were violently crushed by the government, leaving tens of casualties.
"U" is an honorific in Burmese, roughly equal to "Mr". "Thant" was his only name, per Burmese convention. In Burmese, he was known as Pantanaw U Thant, in reference to his hometown, Pantanaw.- August 1963
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