Burmese ‘Gypsy Writer’ Maung Tha Ya Dies At 86

By The Irrawaddy 1 March 2016

Renowned Burmese writer Maung Tha Ya, author of over 60 books, passed away at age 86 in the US on Monday.

Born in Mandalay, he was given the name Thein Lwin at birth, but took the pen name of Maung Tha Ya in 1955, when his career as an author began with the publication of a short story in Rangoon’s Shu Ma Wa Magazine.

The same year, he was released from a two-year stint in prison, after a 1953 arrest while serving as the leader for the Mandalay University Students’ Front. He was also expelled from university.

Earlier, at age 21 in 1951 Maung Tha Ya was elected a member of the central executive committee of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, a politically active umbrella organization of university student groups. He also served as the Secretary of Information and a member of the union’s propaganda bureau.

Maung Tha Ya later won Burma’s National Literary Award in 1970 for his novel “Standing on the Road, Sobbing.” He became known by his nickname, the “Gypsy Writer,” for his love of travel within Burma, and his inability to stay in one place for long. In the 1980s and 1990s, he worked as an editor of Tha Ya Magazine, which was later banned by the country’s military government.

Unable to continue writing in his homeland, he moved to the US in 1999. The year he left Burma, he spoke to The Irrawaddy from the Thai-Burma border. The country’s ongoing political struggle, he envisioned, would have to one day “be resolved through some synthesis of opposing views.”

“His unspoken hope,” the article said, was that he would “live to see it.”