RANGOON — Min Lu, a Burmese contemporary humorist, died of lung cancer on Wednesday. He was 60 years old.
The writer and poet’s biting political satire made him a nationally famous, but under the former military regime it also landed him in prison.
Best known for his humorous stories—including novels and short stories based on Rangoon University campus life—and for his essays and poems, Min Lu was praised for making readers laugh with his social satire on the uneasy struggles of daily life. After nationwide pro-democracy protests broke out in 1988, he was branded as a “revolutionary artist” by political activists including Min Ko Naing of the 88 Generation Students group.
Born as Nyan Paw, Min Lu came from a family of the arts in Rangoon. His father Thadu was a famous film director and writer, while his two older brothers were directors, singers and writers.
In his early years as a writer, Min Lu said in an interview that he inherited the “writing gene” from his father and had taken to the pen thanks largely to his upbringing in a literary family.
“You need to be honest when you write,” he added in the interview with Pay Phu Hla magazine. “A benevolent attitude toward readers is the most important.”
After his literary debut in 1976, Min Lu published nearly 50 books, according to his fan page on Facebook. He also wrote movie scripts for his books.
In 1990, he was arrested for his satirical poem “What has been wrong?,” which he wrote in 1989. In the poem he renamed the then-ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) as the “State Park Building Council,” because the regime at the time was busy building roads and parks, rather than trying to achieve the law and order implied in its name. He also said the main duty of the Burmese military was “to protect our dad,” referring to then-dictator Gen Ne Win.
Min Ko Naing called him a “revolutionary artist” for the poem and for his lifelong literary works, but Min Lu seemed to know that the satire could lead to government backlash.
Aware that the Burmese secret police often blinded their targets with a hood over the head before taking them away for interrogation, he was well prepared at the time of his arrest. When the police arrived to take him away, according to one of his colleagues, he refused to put on the hood. Instead, he took out a new dark blue hood of his own and, before putting it on, told his captors, “Your hood is filthy!”
Min Lu is survived by his wife, San San Aung, and two daughters.