U Thant's second term of office as Secretary General of the United Nations has another year to run.
U Thant's second term of office as Secretary General of the United Nations has another year to run. But he has already said that he will not seek a third term of office.
U Thant first took office in 1961 when his predecessor, Mr. Dag Hammarskjoeld, was killed in an air crash. He was then 52, soft spoken, and looked imperturbable behind his glasses. Nobody could then have known that he would carry out so successfully the duties that the first Secretary General, Mr. Trygve Lie, called "the world's most impossible job."
But within a year U Thant had won the confidence of the member states of the United nations and was unanimously elected to hold the office for the remainder of a five-year term. He was re-elected for a second term of office in 1966 despite his own protests.
U Thant was born near Rangoon where his mother still lives. Before the second world war he was a schoolmaster, journalist and broadcaster. In 1947 he entered government service and was member of the Burmese delegation to the United Nation in 1952.
U Thant became secretary general at a time of crisis in the Congo. It was the first of a series of crises in Cuba, in Cyprus. in India and Pakistan, in the Middle East, and Vietnam. U Thant travelled the world tirelessly in his efforts to bring peace to quarrelling nations. He met every challenges on the spot. He is a believer in personal contact and in the moderating influence of face to face confrontation. He has won the respect of the world's leaders for his ability to cross and recross ideological frontiers.
The Secretary General has always maintained that being impartial does not necessarily mean being neutral. he has taken sides, sometimes against the advice of his counsellors. He has urged developing and emergent nations to demand a better deal from the rich and industrialised world. He has criticised the great powers, yet retained their confidence.
U Thant is a devout Buddhist and spends ten minutes every morning in meditation before driving the fourteen miles from his New York home to the United Nations building. His vision of the ideals of the United Nations are clear and humane. Speaking to the United nations assembled in San Francisco for the 25th anniversary he said he wished that men would cease to hate and kill each other for reasons of race, colour, religion, nationalism or ideology and that more love, more compassion, more understanding would guide the management of human affairs.