RANGOON — Thirty-eight years after student activist Salai Tin Maung Oo was hanged in prison after protesting against military rule, his colleagues in Rangoon honored him by awarding literary prizes in his name to political writers.
Salai Tin Maung Oo was a protest leader in the labor movement of June 1974 as well as the U Thant funeral movement of December that year, when Gen. Ne Win’s military government was in power.
In 1976, the ethnic Chin student was arrested for his activism and sent to Rangoon’s notorious Insein Prison, where he was hanged three months later on June 26, 1976, at the age of 24.
His last words were, “You can kill my body, but you can never kill my beliefs and what I stood for. I will never kneel down under military boots!”
At a remembrance ceremony in Rangoon on Thursday, 13 literary prizes were awarded to writers, poets and translators who have written about Burma’s political history.
Among the honored works were a Burmese translation of Swedish journalist Bertil Lintner’s “The Rise and Fall of the Communist Party of Burma,” and Pascal Khoo Thwe’s “From the Land of Green Ghosts.” The late journalist Win Tin’s Burmese translation of the novel “Queed” and Win Zaw Latt’s own “88 Uprising Documentary” were also awarded prizes, as were works by writers Myay Hmone Lwin, Myo Ko Myo, Win Tint Tun and Aung Htun.
Salai Tin Maung Oo’s friends remembered his courage during his two years of fighting against dictatorship. Some said his sacrifice highlighted a lack of rule of law under the military government.
“The longer our country lacks rule of law, the more the public will suffer,” added Maung Maung Zeya, a colleague of the late student activist.
Ashin Dhama Thara, a Buddhist monk, praised Salai Tin Maung Oo as “the builder of the statute of democracy and human rights in Burma.”
Win Zaw Latt, who wrote “88 Uprising Documentary” told The Irrawaddy that he felt “honored for being recognized for his work by the late democracy activist.”
The first son of eight siblings, Salai Tin Maung Oo studied at the Rangoon Arts and Sciences University in 1971. He was also secretary at the Chin Literature and Culture Association from 1974-75. His close family now lives in Vancouver, Canada, after fleeing from the previous regime’s suppression.