Nu, U (ō nō) [key], 1907–95, Burmese political leader, prime minister of Burma (1948–56, 1957–58, 1960–62). A nationalist, he was expelled by the British authorities from the Univ. of Rangoon law school in 1936 for his political activities. He taught school and then became a leader of the Burmese nationalist movement; he assumed the nationalist title Thakin [lord or master] and was known as Thakin Nu until he attained the honorific U. In 1942, with the growing threat of a Japanese invasion, he was imprisoned by the British. Released after the Japanese occupied Burma, he served as foreign minister in the puppet cabinet while organizing an anti-Japanese guerrilla force.
After the war he helped secure (1948) Burma's independence from Britain and was (1948–56) its first premier. He resigned in 1956, returned to power in 1957, but was forced to yield to the army, led by General Ne Win, in 1958. He was reelected in 1960 but in 1962 was deposed and arrested by Ne Win. Released in 1966, he organized (1969) and led from exile in Thailand a movement opposing Ne Win. U Nu continued in exile until 1980, when he returned to Burma (now Myanmar). In 1988 he announced the formation of a symbolic provisional government. The military retained control, however, and from 1989 to 1992 he was placed under house arrest.
A devout Buddhist, U Nu was long the popular spiritual leader of his country. Among his works are The People Win Through (1951), Burma under the Japanese (1954), An Asian Speaks (1955), and his autobiography (1975).
See R. Butwell, U Nu of Burma (1963, repr. 1969).