Veteran Burmese Journalist Maung Wuntha Dies

By The Irrawaddy 12 August 2013

Maung Wuntha, a veteran Burmese journalist who also served as deputy chairman of the country’s interim Press Council, succumbed to cancer on Sunday. He was 68 years old.

His son Naung Naung Soe confirmed Maung Wuntha’s death to The Irrawaddy, saying his father passed away after a battle with lung cancer at Rangoon’s Victoria Hospital, where he had undergone treatment for more than a month.

“We still haven’t confirmed the date for the funeral as we are waiting for one of our family members who is far from home,” Naung Naung Soe added.

Born Soe Thein, the man widely known by the pen name Maung Wuntha entered journalism in the 1960s, working for government newspapers. He was forced to resign as editor of the Botahtaung daily newspaper for his active participation in Burma’s 1988 pro-democracy uprising. He was formerly a member of the National League for Democracy (NLD), and was imprisoned for several years after winning a seat in Burma’s 1990 parliamentary elections, the results of which were ignored by the ruling military regime of the time. Maung Wuntha was detained on three separate occasions over the years.

Since his last release in 2001, Maung Wuntha had stepped back from active participation in politics, instead resuming his career as a journalist. He thrived in the relative openness that Burma’s media have enjoyed since a quasi-civilian government took power in March 2011, writing regularly about political developments in the country and acting as an editorial adviser to the People’s Age journal. He offered praise and criticism of the new government in equal measure, urging President Thein Sein to release political prisoners and end Burma’s long-running ethnic conflicts.

Maung Wuntha was also quick to embrace the Internet age and social media, using Facebook to communicate with Burmese exile communities around the world. He also took to Facebook to announce his cancer diagnosis in October of last year.

When the country’s interim Press Council was founded in 2012, Maung Wuntha took a leading role in fighting for press freedom in Burma, according to Pe Myint, an editor of the People’s Age as well as a fellow council member. Maung Wuntha was also president of the Myanmar Journalists Association (MJA).

Pe Myint on Sunday praised Maung Wuntha as a prolific writer who had closely followed Burma’s political progress over the years.

“He was always on alert when it came to politics in the country,” Pe Myint said. “So there are many people who enjoyed reading his commentary column in our journal. His death is a loss for us.”

Apart from his journalistic endeavors, Maung Wuntha is well known for his translations of biographies on US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Israeli military leader Moshe Dayan and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

Maung Wuntha is survived by his wife Myint Myint, four children and two grandchildren.