‘We couldn’t fight them’ – Life after escaping Myanmar’s coup
THE shootings on the streets of Myanmar brought back painful memories for Oxford resident Marcia Delves-Broughton.
“I never thought this would happen again, I was so shocked,” said the retired vicar’s wife and author, who lived through the 1962 coup.
Mrs Delves-Broughton, who was a schoolfriend of ousted democratic leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi, said she was horrified when she heard the news.
“It was February 2 – my golden wedding anniversary. I switched on the BBC and I saw there had been a coup. I could hear the machine guns.
“It reminded me of 1962 – but I was always afraid it might happen. And when the students started to demonstrate it took the soldiers about a month before they started shooting. What stopped them for a whole month was social media. It let the world know what was happening. They are absolutely brutal.”
She lived next door to Ms Suu Kyi – who she calls “Suu” – in Rangoon where they both attended the exclusive Methodist English High School.
Ms Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years in detention for her peaceful opposition to dictatorship, was deposed and arrested when the military took control last month.
Mrs Delves-Broughton said: “I’d love to know where she is. They come early in the morning when people are fast asleep and you never find out where they are.
“Of course I’m worried for her. I rang my friend but the phone doesn’t work any more at her house.
“I see China behind this. They are the only country in the UN who has said we can’t interfere. China has a lot of interests in Burma. Burma’s UN ambassador was sacked by the junta because he defended the people.”
Mrs Delves-Broughton, who came to Oxford 35 years ago, is descended from the last king and queen of Burma.
Her grandmother, who owned a spectacular cinema that is now a hotel, was the wealthiest woman in Burma. Her grandmother and her mother were film producers and directors.
Her first book Beloved Burma told how her family lived a fairytale life on Inya Road, Rangoon, but were then terrorised and impoverished by the brutal military regime of General Ne Win.
Mrs Delves-Broughton said: “We lived in the most prestigious address in Rangoon. It was the Hollywood, red carpet area with the best schools like the Methodist English High School.
“We had a marvellous life. Everything ended in 1962. After the coup the government said everything you own is ours. They rationed food and my parents said, we can’t live like this. They terrorized us, we couldn’t fight them.”
The family fled Burma.
In her new book East Meets West she picks up the story on her wedding day in Lahore, Pakistan.
She met her husband the Reverend Simon Delves-Broughton in 1971 in Bangladesh where he was doing missionary work.
He is first cousin once removed of Jock Delves-Broughton, a British baronet who stood trial for the murder of Josslyn Hay, earl of Erroll in 1941 – an event which was the basis of the film White Mischief starring Charles Dance and Greta Scacchi.
Living a luxury life in colonial Kenya, Erroll had been sleeping with Delves-Broughton’s wife Diana but also had right-wing connections and may have been assassinated. Delves-Broughton was acquitted but committed suicide soon after, fuelling speculation.
During missionary work in India and Bangladesh, Mrs Delves-Broughton worked with Mother Teresa, later Saint Teresa of Calcutta, who was setting up orphanages.
She said: “She only had one person to help her so she asked me. She taught me how to do little things with great love. I learned a lot from her.”
The couple, who spent 22 years at Christ Church Northampton, remain friends with Ms Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 but whose reputation suffered severely following an army crackdown on Burma’s mostly Muslim Rohingya minority.
In 2012 Mrs Delves-Broughton helped organize a private 67th birthday party for Ms Suu Kyi at St Hugh’s college where she studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics. The next day she collected her honorary degree from the university at the Sheldonian Theatre.
Mrs Delves-Broughton, who majored in South East Asian Studies at Rangoon University, has a diploma in History of Art from Oxford and also studied theology at Wycliffe Hall, began writing the book at the start of lockdown in March.
She said: “This book will expose what happened to my family.”
East Meets West, Marcia Delves-Broughton’s book about how her family eventually prospered after living through the brutal 1962 military coup in Myanmar, is available now on Amazon.