Louisa Benson Craig Dies Aged 69
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Louisa Benson Craig Dies Aged 69

By SAW YAN NAING Thursday, February 4, 2010


Louisa Benson Craig, an inspirational Karen community leader and former Miss Burma, passed away after a long battle with cancer in California on Feb. 2. She was 69.

Born in Rangoon in 1941 to a Portuguese and his Karen wife, Louisa became renowned for her beauty and won the Miss Burma contest twice––in 1956 and 1958. She also acted in a number of Burmese films.

Beauty queen and rebel Naw Louisa (Photo: Karen Museum)

After studying in Boston in the USA, she returned to Burma and in 1964 married Lin Htin, the former Brigade 5 commander of the Karen National Union (KNU's) military wing, the Karen National Liberation Army. Lin Htin was responsible for an attack in 1961 on the Thai border town of Mae Sot, but had surrendered with Saw Hunter Tha Mwe to the Burmese government in 1963.  

Louisa was among the Burmese beauty queens who were once reportedly invited for a dinner with Gen Ne Win, the infamous Burmese dictator who seized power in 1962.

After her husband was killed by Burmese soldiers in 1965, she led his 5th Brigade back into revolution. In 1967, she married an American, Glen Craig, and settled in California. She was a founder member of the Burma Forum and a board member with the US Campaign for Burma. In recent years she suffered from brain cancer.

Zipporah Sein, the general secretary of the KNU, said she met with Naw Louisa three times in 2003-04, the latest meeting being in northern Karen State. She described Naw Louisa as a very active person who loved her Karen people and loved working for them.

“She encouraged us to work hard for the Karen people and was very active,” Zipporah Sein said. “I believe she worried about the Karen in Burma until the final days of her life.”

Louisa Benson Craig constantly lobbied for the Karen resistance movement, raising the profile of the plight of internally displaced Karen people in conflict zones in Karen State and encouraging unity among Burma's ethnic peoples. She was known as a staunch supporter of federalism in Burma.

A statement by the US Campaign for Burma on Wednesday read: “It has been an honor to have Louisa Benson Craig as part of the US Campaign for Burma family. Her decades of service to the Free Burma movement and plight of the Karen people has brought much needed attention, hope and inspiration to those of us who will continue the struggle for a free and democratic Burma.”

Maung Maung Hla, a Karen pastor in Rangoon who was close to Naw Louisa during her youth, remembered her aloud: “She had a little mole on her left cheek and she had a kind heart. She was also a very good singer.”

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Myanmar Patriot 4 UMPF Wrote:
Eric Johnston Wrote: 08/02/2010
"The colonial influence in Burma today is very real. But it is not the influence of the old colonial powers, which is non-existent." WHAT A TWISTED THOUGHT!
It's fair to say that the influence of the UK government, who now understands the terrible legacy of Panglong, rightly remains uninvolved, albeit lip service.
But it it the unelected, unaccountable mass media that is excessively influencing Burma's polity, guided by colonial mindset.

They, the media, are even above the politicians, just like the bankers are. These two institutions combined have greater power than the government, with its military power. THAT IS THE REALITY OF MODERN DEMOCRACY. The media and banks above politicians; politicians above the military. Thankfully, in the West, where democracies are mature,independence of the judiciary is keeping the democracies robust.

Eric Johnston Wrote:
"... their perspectives are tinted by colonial influence. The 'struggle for a second independence' is just a clever cliche..."

The colonial influence in Burma today is very real. But it is not the influence of the old colonial powers, which is non-existent.

The new colonialism has two faces: the colonialism exercised from Naypyidaw over the diverse peoples of Burma; and the neo-colonial exploitation of Burma's natural and human resources with the connivance of those in Naypyidaw.

True leaders within the Tatmadaw must throw off the servile thinking inculcated in them, face reality, think for themselves, and prepare to liberate the country.

Free Man Wrote:
I met aunty Naw Louisa only once. The very first impression that I got when I met her was that she was very soft-spoken and humble. Of course, I, like everyone else, know that she was very beautiful, won the Miss Burma contest twice, etc.

I extend my heartfelt condolences to her immediate and extended family members.

Myanmar Patriot 4 UMPF Wrote:
Louisa is more a lady than Mrs.Michael Aris, who is referred to as 'the Lady' according to the English press. But there is no such word as Lady in the Burmese language. Just shows how manipulattive mass media can be. The real Lady Louisa was exemplary; why can't other Burmese abroad do the same for any Burmese -never mind what ethnicity they belong to -who are suffering instead of being couch politicians? Although she thought of herself as an old lady, by modern standard she was still young; a tragic loss of a patriotic life,a small part of the bigger tragedy of Burma, a legacy of colonialism.

It now transpires that many of the posters of messages on this forum are quite old. In "our view" their perpsectives are tinted by colonial influence.
The "struggle for a second independence is just a clever cliche, but not a very clever one.

However,we welcome the tiny fragments of the whole mosaic of body politics of Burma; these fragments give colour and sparkle to it. May the good Lady rest in peace

Jack Slade Wrote:
Louisa Craig was also featured in the special features section of the Rambo 4 movie. After seeing that movie I contacted her and even though she said she was retired she always helped me direct refugees to people in the US who could help them.

She had a very nice laugh and though I ony talked with her over the phone several times, I always enjoyed talking with her.

She once told me why she continued helping refugees saying "I am now just an old woman but this is my life, so I help."

I think she was humble as well as generous and kind. I wish I had met her face to face just once, to thank her for her compassion for others.

Jim Van Meel Wrote:
Louisa: a Lady of poise, strength and class. A rebel leader, and a beauty queen. A Mother and a family matriarch. I'm sad she has left us. I have good memories of her, and I will keep then close.

Kyi May Kaung Wrote:
Louisa and I were classmates in English Literature class at Rangoon University.

After that we lost touch and in America, in almost 30 years we only spoke to each other about 3 times, and only met in person again twice, the most recently in 2002 at the home of our mutual friend, the late Taw Myo Myint, in California and in 03 in Boulder, CO. at a conference on human trafficking.

At that time the cancer had not yet appeared, and she was looking well after a hip operation.

Louisa always spoke softly,in a beautiful voice full of joy, but always spoke the truth, and she was never self-conscious of either her beauty or her fame.

She had a beautiful soul and always tried to help people.

Sincere condolences to Glen Craig, Louisa's daughter Charmaine and all the members of her family and extended family.

We have lost her at a time when the Karen people especially need help.

The CA-based Burmese dissident community has suffered many losses recently.

Kyi May Kaung

George Than Setkyar Heine Wrote:
My heartfelt sorrows!
Yes, she was very beautiful and warm hearted also. And she was always smiling and laughing let me add.

Michael Lynam (now Dr. Hla Aye) and I amongst others frequently visited her at Rangoon University where she was studying. We really had some good times I must say.

When Lin Htin left Rangoon for the borders she accompanied him. Later Lin Htin was cornered and killed in a skirmish as I heard.
Yes, she did well for her people no doubt leading Lin Htin's forces for a while I think. Then she disappeared and was never heard of again.

Now she has left the scene, her people and of course her 'revolution' for good and joined her beloved Lin Htin I hope.

Anyway, I take pride in the fact that I am on her side of the fence in this second struggle for Burma's freedom and wish she would acknowledge the fact from beyond.

And while solemnly bowing to her part and sacrifice I vow I will finish the fight for our country on her behalf and others also.
Rest in peace Louisa dear.

Chit Thein Than Wrote:
Naw Louisa Benson was a Burma's beauty and Karen nationalist. Her husband KNU "Brigadier" Lin Htin was a brigand. He or his brigade was responsible for kidnapping 30 or more University girl students for the KMT Forces in the Shan State after mine-bombing the railway train between Rangoon and Moolmein. Naw Lisa should have prevented it if she were a humanist and feminist. I do not mourn for her death.

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