U Ba Kaung Passes Away (Obituary)
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Friday, May 24, 2019

U Ba Kaung Passes Away (Obituary)

By Irrawaddy Friday, July 11, 2003

U Ba Kaung, a former student leader and educationist of Burma, died in Rangoon on July 8, 2003 at age 82. U Ba Kaung was born in a rural village in Shwe Bo province in Upper Burma in 1921. In 1946, he entered university where he became a prominent student union leader. "U Ba Kaung is one of the most influential student activists of post-independent Burma," says one of his former colleagues living in Rangoon. "He masterminded semi-underground activities as well as conducted official functions of the student union." In 1957, U Ba Kaung and other student activists established the Progressive Student Force, which became a rival union of the government-backed Democratic Student Organization. U Ba Kaung was believed to had become a cell leader of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) in the student union in the late 1940s. After his death, a CPB spokesperson admitted to The Irrawaddy that U Ba Kaung remained a senior underground leader until the early 1960s. When the military took power in 1962 and banned student unions, many of U Ba Kaung’s colleagues joined the CPB. U Ba Kaung, however, ostensibly relinquished his political activities but he did not join Gen Ne Win’s ruling socialist party. "He laid low after the 1962 military coup", says U Hla Pe, one of U Ba Kaung’s colleagues who now lives in Bangkok. U Ba Kaung joined the civil service as a public high school teacher in the 1960s. At the request of Dr Nyi Nyi, who was then Minister of Education and a close political colleague during the student union period, U Ba Kaung became head of the Art Department of the Basic Education Textbook Committee. Many believe this close relationship helped U Ba Kaung deflect the regime’s suspicions that he was a Communist sympathizer. Still, his career was not trouble free. Since entering politics in 1946, "he was detained at least six times," says U Hla Pe. Most recently, U Ba Kaung was helping a new generation of students to produce a written history of Burmese student movements when the military brought him in for interrogation in 1998. "U Ba Kaung is a great researcher and he has deep knowledge of history and literature," says Ludu U Sein Win, a veteran journalist in Rangoon. U Ba Kaung was also an editor of the "semi-government-run" Pyin Nyar Tang Saung magazine in the 1990s. U Ba Kaung’s favorite hobby was to watch football. "Every afternoon, no one could stop him from going to Aung San Stadium to watch football matches, no matter how poor the quality of the tournament was," says Tin Moe, a poet who worked with U Ba Kaung on the textbook committee. U Ba Kaung also covered sports for journals and magazines in Burma. U Ba Kaung has been described by friends as humble, honest and always willing to lend a helping hand. "He is a man of integrity," says Tin Moe. "He only thinks of serving people, not his personal gain."

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