Mohammad Husni Thamrin
Portrait of Thamrin
Born16 February 1894
Died11 January 1941(1941-01-11) (aged 46)
Senen, Batavia, Dutch East Indies
Resting placeKaret Bivak Cemetery, Jakarta
Years active1919–1940
AwardsNational Hero of Indonesia

Mohammad Husni Thamrin (16 February 1894 – 11 January 1941) was a Eurasian-Betawi political thinker and Indonesian nationalist who advocated for the independence of the Dutch colony in the East Indies. After his death, he was regarded as an Indonesian National Hero.

Early life and beginning of political career

Thamrin was born in Weltevreden, Batavia (modern-day Jakarta), Dutch East Indies, on 16 February 1894.[1][2] His father, Thamrin Mohd. Tabri, was the son by his Indonesian mistress of an English businessman who owned the Hotel Ort in Batavia. Tabri was subsequently adopted and raised by his Javanese uncle. Thamrin was therefore born into a neo-priyayi class and in 1906, his father became district head (wedana) under Governor General Johan Cornelis van der Wijck.[3] After graduating from Koning Willem III Gymnasium, Thamrin took several government jobs before working for ten years for the shipping company Koninklijke Paketvaart-Maatschappij.[1][2]

Family of MH Thamrin (1912)

In 1919, Thamrin was elected a member of the Jakarta City Council, and in 1929, became second deputy mayor. In 1927 he was appointed by Governor-General de Graeff to the Volksraad. He was appointed again in 1931 and elected in 1935 and 1939.[2]

Nationalist activism

Mohammad Husni Thamrin Indonesian nationalist and political thinker 1941

On 27 January 1930, Thamrin made a speech in the Volksraad announcing the formation of the Nationalist Fraction (Fraksi Nasional) to unite ten Indonesian nationalists under one flag.[4] This was partly in response to the December 1929 arrests of Indonesian nationalist Sukarno and members of his Indonesian National Party and partly to counteract the reactionary Fatherlands Club (Vaderlandsche Club), which wanted to maintain Dutch control over the East Indies in perpetuity. The aim of the faction was Indonesian autonomy, which was to be achieved through political reforms. The faction would use "all legal means" to achieve this goal.[5]

Thamrin put forward several motions, including one to remove the power of the governor-general to exile political enemies of the state. He realized that cooperating with the colonial regime offered a different way to oppose it, and he took full advantage of his immunity to prosecution conferred by his membership of the Volksraad. As a result, he was widely despised, but also feared, by Dutch conservatives.[6] As Volksraad members, Thamrin and Kusumom Utoyo went to eastern Sumatra to look into working conditions at plantations there. Disgusted by what they found, upon his return Thamrin gave a speech condemning the plantation owners.[4] He criticised the legalised gambling and corporal punishment handed down for minor offences.[7] In 1935 he was a founding member of the Great Indonesia Party (Parindra).[4]

In July 1936, Volksraad member Soetardjo Kartohadikusumo, who was not a member of the National Fraction, put forward a petition asking the Dutch to convene a conference to discuss autonomy for the Dutch East Indies. Although Thamrin did not sign the petition, as he took the view that its provisions would continue the exploitation of Indonesians, he was one of six National Fraction members who voted for it in the Volksraad debate on 26 September because the proposed conference could result in Indonesian autonomy. Two years later, the Dutch parliament rejected the petition.[8][9][10]

After the death of Dr. Soetomo in 1938, Thamrin became deputy chair of Parindra. In a meeting of the Volksraad in 1939, Thamrin proposed that the Dutch terms Nederlands Indie, Nederlands Indisch, and Inlander (Dutch Indies, Dutch Indian, and Dutch Indians) be replaced with the nationalist terms Indonesia, Indonesisch, and Indonesia (Indonesia, Indonesian, and Indonesians). Although this received majority support in the Volksraad, the Dutch government vetoed the motion. After his request, the colonial government kept him under surveillance.[4] By 1940, his proposal for the use of the term Indonesian had begun to receive consideration, much to Thamrin's perplexity.[11]

In May 1939, Thamrin spearheaded an effort to unite eight nationalist organisations, including Parindra, in the Indonesian Political Federation (Gaboengan Politiek Indonesia, or GAPI). The group had four main goals: Indonesian self-determination, national unity, a democratically elected party answering to the Indonesian people, and solidarity between Indonesians and the Dutch to combat fascism.[12]

Arrest and death

On 6 January 1941, Thamrin's house was searched by the Political Intelligence Service (PID) as he had come under suspicion for supplying information to the Empire of Japan; he had previously maintained warm relations with Japanese residents of the Indies. Already suffering from severe diabetes, he died of a heart attack five days after his arrest. Large numbers of people attended his funeral, including the president of the Volksraad, who led a group of its members. Thamrin was buried in Karet Bivak Cemetery, Central Jakarta.[4][13][14][15]


Jalan M.H. Thamrin
2,000 rupiah banknote featuring Mohammad Husni Thamrin, issued in 2022

Thamrin was declared a National Hero of Indonesia in 1964.[16]

Thamrin has several objects named after him, including Jalan M.H. Thamrin, a thoroughfare in Central Jakarta,[4] and Mohammad Husni Thamrin School for the Gifted, a school in East Jakarta for students with an IQ of more than 120.[17] His old home on Kenari Street in Senen, Central Jakarta, is now a museum dedicated to his life.[18] Two statues of Thamrin have been erected in Jakarta: a bust near the National Monument and a full-body statue in front of the Thamrin Museum.[19]

He is also depicted in the 2016 and 2022 series of the 2,000 Indonesian rupiah banknotes.

Thamrin MRT station, a station of Jakarta MRT located in Jalan M.H. Thamrin, is also named after him. The station, which will be a transit station between North–South Line and East–West Line, is currently under construction.


  • Ajisaka, Arya; Damayanti, Dewi (2010). Mengenal Pahlawan Indonesia [Knowing Indonesian Heroes] (in Indonesian). Jakarta: Kawan Pustaka. ISBN 978-979-757-430-7.
  • Abeyasekere, Susan (April 1973). "The Soetardjo Petition" (PDF). Indonesia. 15 (15): 81–107. doi:10.2307/3350793. ISSN 0019-7289. JSTOR 3350793.
  • Elson, Robert Edward (2008). The Idea of Indonesia : a History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-87648-3.
  • Diah Ayu Wardani (10 November 2021). "Hero's Day, Anies Makes A Tradition Of MH Thamrin's Tomb Pilgrimage". Retrieved 8 May 2022.
  • "Gedung Muhammad Husni Thamrin / Gedung Kenari" [Muhammad Husni Thamrin Building / Kenari Building] (in Indonesian). Jakarta City Government. Archived from the original on 11 November 2012. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  • "Husni Thamrin, Patung" [Husni Thamrin, Statue]. Encyclopedia of Jakarta (in Indonesian). Jakarta City Government. Archived from the original on 12 April 2012. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  • Kahin, George McTurnan (1952). Nationalism and Revolution in Indonesia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 9780877277347. OCLC 406170.
  • "Mohammad Hoesni Thamrin". Encyclopedia of Jakarta (in Indonesian). Jakarta City Government. Archived from the original on 8 June 2012. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  • Sabarini, Prodita (14 March 2009). "Prestigious high school for gifted kids to open". The Jakarta Post. Archived from the original on 19 August 2009. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  • Sluimers, Laszlø (September 1998). "Reviewed Work(s): M. H. Thamrin and His Quest for Indonesian Nationhood, 1917-1941 by Bob Hering". Journal of Southeast Asian Studies. 29 (2). Cambridge University Press on behalf of Department of History, National University of Singapore: 422–426. doi:10.1017/S0022463400007670.
  • Soedarmanto, J. B. (2007). Jejak-Jejak Pahlawan: Perekat Kesatuan Bangsa Indonesia. Jakarta: Grasindo. ISBN 978-979-759-716-0.
  • Wilson, Greta O. (1978). Regents, Reformers and Revolutionaries: Indonesian Voices of Colonial Days. Asian Studies at Hawaii. Vol. 2. The University Press of Hawaii.