A prince exiled from Burma dies in small Alberta town
Hso Khan Pha aka Tiger Yawnghwe in his home in Alberta in 2014. (Daniel Otis)
Tahiat Mahboob, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, October 4, 2016 6:04PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, October 7, 2016 12:08PM EDT
Hso Khan Pha, a prince exiled from Burma who had been quietly living in a small central Alberta town, has died at age 78.
While he had heart problems in the past, his family told CTVNews.ca he died peacefully in his sleep at home in Innisfail, Alta.
Hso Khan Pha, also known as Tiger Yawnghwe, was the son of Sao Shwe Thaike, the prince of Yawnghwe, a Shan state in Burma.
In 1948, when Burma won independence from British colonial rule, Yawnghwe’s father became the first president of Burma and speaker of its upper house in 1952. During the 1962 military takeover, one of Yawnghwe’s five siblings, 15-year-old Hso Hom Fa, was shot dead. Following that his father was arrested and forcibly removed from office. He died in imprisonment the following November.
At the time of his father’s death, Yawnghwe was studying in England. He graduated from the University of Keele in 1964 with a bachelor's degree in geology and political institutions and began working as a geologist. His work took him to Ivory Coast and then to Canada in 1966.
In 1976, Yawnghwe married and had four children.
“He spent the rest of his life in Canada and helped bring the family over,” Kham Serk Yawnghwe, 34, Yawnghwe’s youngest child, told CTVNews.ca on Tuesday. “He always tried to help the people of Shan State.”
The Shan people refer to themselves as Tai or Tai Yai and the Shan language is closely related to Thai and Lao. While he spent his childhood in Burma and his father was the nation’s first president, Yawnghwe did not identify as being Burmese.
Despite settling in Canada, Shan State was never far from Yawnghwe’s mind, his son said. While he never had the opportunity to return to Burma since 1962, striving to make Shan State an independent country and helping its displaced citizens was a major part of his life’s work. In 2007, he attended an international peace conference in Los Angeles to speak out against the government of Burma.
Since the military coup in 1962, there have been countless atrocities in Shan, Burma’s largest state. Attacks on civilians and infrastructure and forced displacements have uprooted thousands of people in Shan State. Recent reports of military atrocities led the United States to call for an independent and credible investigation by Myanmar's government in December 2015.
“Because of the political nature of our family, we were never able to travel to Shan State,” his son said. “He was advocating for Shan State to become independent.”
Yawnghwe had lived in Innisfail since 2000. His body will be cremated and his family will hold a memorial in Edmonton.