Exiled Communist to Return for Final Tribute

Kyaw Zaw, right, a member of Burma’s legendary “Thirty Comrades,” with his daughter Hla Kyaw Zaw.

Kyaw Zaw, right, a member of Burma’s legendary “Thirty Comrades,” with his daughter Hla Kyaw Zaw.

After 36 years living as an outlaw, exiled Burmese communist ex-Gen Kyaw Zaw has been allowed to return home to pay his final respects at Rangoon’s holiest site of the Shwedagon Pagoda.

Kyaw Zaw, a member of Burma’s legendary “Thirty Comrades” independence heroes, left his Rangoon home to join the Community Party of Burma (CPB) by the Sino-Burmese border in 1976 and started launching guerrilla attacks against the central government.

The critically ill 93-year-old fled to China in 1989 and is currently admitted to the intensive care unit at Kunming General Hospital, Yunnan Province, where he breathes via an oxygen supply and has food delivered through a nasogastric tube.

His daughter, Hla Kyaw Zaw, thanked the Burmese government for granting his dying wish. She told The Irrawaddy on Monday that President’s Office Minister Aung Min phoned her personally at the weekend to welcome her father to return.

“U Aung Min warmly told me that with the permission of President Thein Sein, they invited U Kyaw Zaw to return to Burma,” Hla Kyaw Zaw recalled. “He said ‘tell us what we need to prepare for him such as healthcare.’”

Kyaw Zaw is one of two surviving Thirty Comrades who fought against the British colonialists to secure an independent Burma. His only surviving comrade, Bo Ye Htut, still lives in Rangoon. Kyaw Zaw was born in Hsaisu Village in Tharawaddy District of Pegu Division and later became actively involved in the anti-imperialist movement in Burma.

Led by Burmese independence hero Gen Aung San, the father of current opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the Thirty Comrades went to China’s Hainan Island during World War II to receive military training in order to defeat the British armed forces. After returning to Burma, the Thirty Comrades fought alongside the Japanese Imperial Army against the Allies.

Hla Kyaw Zaw said that she hoped to contribute to the country’s current process of political reform. “We will return to live [in Burma] permanently and contribute to Burmese politics,” she said, adding that they will travel when her father’s health has sufficiently recovered.

Hla Kyaw Zaw, however, expressed disappointment that the government has not also allowed her brother Aung Kyaw Zaw, a political observer and outspoken critic of the Burmese regime who also lives in southwestern China’s Yunnan Province, to return as well.

Former CPB leader Kyaw Zaw was a founding member of the Burmese army and also joined the nationalist Dobama Asiayone (We Burmans Association) during the colonial era, later taking the name of Thakin Shwe.

The CPB maintained a large guerrilla army in Burma throughout the 1970s, but now has no further role in Burma politics after internal divisions decreased its strength.

Veteran politician Thakin Chan Htun, also a former member of Dobama Asiayone, welcomed Thein Sein’s invitation to Kyaw Zaw but did not expect his return to have a political impact.

“At least Kyaw Zaw will complete his last wish to pay tribute at the Shwedagon Pagoda,” he said. “It is a great thing. But I think [Kyaw Zaw] could not contribute to Burma’s political movement as he is getting too old and ill.”

Some observers see the growing number of returning exiled Burmese dissidents including heavyweight figures as a political game that benefits Thein Sein quasi-civilian administration. It also promotes the image of the government as bridging the gap between opposition groups both inside and outside the country.

Hla Kyaw Zaw said that she would talk to concerned officials about once again recognizing the CPB as a legitimate political organization. “I told [Aung Min] that we need to talk a lot about our political plans. There are many things that we need to work on,” she said.

The Irrawaddy reporter Yan Pai also contributed into this article.


12 Responses to Exiled Communist to Return for Final Tribute

  1. This is good gesture of President Thein Sein sincerity and openness. At least our thirty comrade the two last survivor will be able to meet again for reunion as communist old guard of Burma.

  2. A Communist or a Taoist can pay homage to Shwedagon.Very Funny.

    • Don’t be ridiculous. He is not a Taoist. Whilst believing in communist ideology, one can also beleive in Buddhism. Likewise, one can be a capitalist and Buddhist at the same time.

  3. Must give credit where credit is due. To allow Ex Bo Gyoke Kyaw Zaw to return and pay final respect to the Thee Gems at the Shwe Dagon Pagoda by Myanmar Naing Gnan President U Thein Sein is the most noblest act. Thar Du Thar Du Thar Du. Daw Hla Kyaw Zaw’s desire and offer of her services towards Peace and State building we as Burmese compatriots welcome. There is nothing that can divide the Burmese so long as our aims in life is to work and struggle with the ordinary mass– the workers and rural people of Myanmar. The desire of the people- Pyi Thu Ludu is to achieve a better life of human dignity and due respect by those elements that have always oppressed and excluded them from their right to livelihood and freedom to exist as human beings. The progressive and loyal citizens of Myanmar and the Myanmar daisapora demand that prisoners of conscience be released from prison and the right of return of all people to Myanmar . Apart from National Development and Nation-State Capacity Building as Internal Peace and National Political Reconciliation is the major objectives of President U Thein Sein’s Government and of The National Parlaiment I hope in the near future that the Burma Communist Party will be invited to participate in the process of political transition and socio- economic transformation. Towards Peace, Stability and progress in Myanmar. Myo Nyunt, Perth, Western Australia.

  4. George Than Setkyar Heine

    Finally the OLD SOLDIER is COMING HOME after all!
    Yes, he deserved to bury/lay his bones in his native land than in an alien land least of all China.
    Of course Burma owed him greatly as he had served the country on par with any man bearing arms in Burma today and more even I say.
    He has rubbed shoulders with the likes of late Gen. Aung San and should be credited with the founding of today’s BURMA ARMY even.
    And he has distinguished himself in many battles and campaigns defending Burma’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity as well.
    Granting the old soldier’s dying wish to pray his last at the SHWE-DA-GON could be deemed as a CHIVALROUS ACT tantamount to a MERIT, a DEED paving the way for Thein Sein to go to NIRVANA no less.
    And Thein Sein has a MUCH CLEANER SHEET than Than Shwe or any serving under the Ali Ba Ba of Burma today they say.
    In case he has MORE GUTS and ACT ACCORDINGLY CHIVALROUSLY and COURAGEOUSLY as well in matters relating to ETHNIC PEACE, STABILITY, RULE of LAW amongst others in the country Burma would be RID of all DEMONS/DEVILS and EVILS as well and CHANGE into a BETTER PLACE to LIVE for the people of Burma and mankind as well trust me.

  5. Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu (Well done, well done, well done).

    Much as it is welcome to all of us who admire this distinguished old veteran of a historic series of struggles/campaigns and true son of Burma, you’ve got to give it to the govt as this has to be the ultimate reconciliation point scoring.

    True he is also a devout Buddhist (perfectly compatible with being a communist despite time honored propaganda to the contrary), now very old and dying, no longer posing a threat to the regime. But it is under no illusion as to who remains its true enemy. You can bet they have taken a calculated risk with the ’defunct’ CPB in relation to the propaganda coup to be gained from this goodwill gesture.

    It may be wishful thinking to expect the govt to listen to what his daughter Dr Hla Kyaw Zaw has to say about genuine reconciliation in order to achieve peace in our land long overdue. Their staunch anti-communism (notwithstanding their socialist façade of 1962-88), that the West have always been very appreciative and were happy to live with despite the ignominious human rights record during that period, can still stand in the way after the recent makeover to the universally appealing democratic pluralistic façade. So watch this space.

  6. We did not know. A communist. Was he? This was how many people labeled him. Gen. Kyaw Zaw. He was one of thirty comrades. Today, we all know now that he is a Buddhist. There might be many many things we still do not know about him. He is a good man indeed.

  7. SADU,SADU,SADU !!! We hope and pray Ex-Gen. Kyaw Zaw will regain sufficient strength to return HOME and fulfill his heart’s wish.Indeed,President U Thein Sein & Co.deserved due praise of the people for this act of co passionate deeds.Let Gen.Kyaw Zaw know that “HE IS WELCOME HOME”. Old soldiers don’t die,they just fade away!!!

  8. The Burmese Freedom Fighter

    Signs of change in Burma are turning into sense of change. The beauty of democracy is that no opinion is wrong. Hope we can all feel the change very soon in Burma with the release of all political prisoners.

    The Burmese Freedom Fighter

  9. Didn’t make it, and don’t know if HKZ went back–They only allowed it as he was on his deathbed and so could not do much politically. 3-27-2015

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