Tribute to a Hero: Thakin Ohn Myint

Thakin Ohn Myint passed away at the age of 92, last Friday, September 17, 2010 at his residence in Yangon. Thakin Ohn Myint is a true Burmese hero. During his lifetime, he served as Aung San Suu Kyi’s mentor as well as her father’s colleague and confidant during Burma’s struggle for independence from colonialism. The title “Thakin” in his name, which means “master” in Burmese is a satirical retort to British colonial domination within Burmese society, but in his case, it is also a rightful honor for his expansive knowledge of and celebrated contributions to Burmese literature and history.

Born in Letpandon, Pegu Division, in April 1918, Thakin Ohn Myint entered the political scene as early as 15 years old. He joined the Dohbama Asiayone (We Burmese Association), a leading anti-colonial front at the time. As a young writer of his time, he featured many anti-imperialist and anti-fascist articles in local newspapers and journals. According to an article on him from Mizzima, “During WWII, Ohn Myint became involved in the anti-fascist movement wit his leftist colleagues and was said to be close to Thakin Than Tun, the former chairman of the Communist Party of Burma. In the post-independence period, he founded Kyaw Lin Book, which quickly emerged as a left-wing publishing house.” Among his many outstanding works were an article, As I know about him, on the life of General Aung San, and his interview for a documentary film, Who Killed Aung San?

In 1958, Thakin Ohn Myint was arrested because of his association with the Communist movement and was imprisoned on Coco Island in the Andaman Sea, along with many other leftist politicians on charges under the Public Order Protection Act. He was released two years later, but his freedom did not last long. In the mid-60s, he was re-arrested by Ne Win’s security forces and was sent to the notorious Insein Prison.

Thakin Ohn Myint was close to Thakin Aung San, Burma’s George Washington and father of Aung San Suu Kyi. He guided Aung San Suu Kyi upon her debut to Burma’s pro-democracy movement beginning in 1988. Due to his political association with the democracy movement in Burma, he was detained at the age of 71 and sentenced to prison for three and half years. He was arrested again at the age of 80 and spent another three and half years behind bars, for his involvement in compiling a history of the Burmese student movement.

Thakin Ohn Myint is survived by his four children. We pay our respect to Thakin Ohn Myint for his influential role and contributions to freedom struggles in Burma, which will transcend his death and time.

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