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.


Left to Right: Hso Hom Fa aka Myee, who was shot in 1962, adopted sister Thila, step-sister Sao Sanda Simms, Hso Harn Fa aka Harn Yawnghwe, Ratana Hseng Leun, and Hso Khan Pha aka Tiger Yawnghwe. Photograph from the 1950s. (Harn Yawnghwe)

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 Beijing in 1957 with Mao Zedong. Tiger Yawnghwe in the back row, second from the left. Brother Harn Yawnghwe in the Chinese coat in the front row, fourth from left. Father Sao Shwe Thaik and mother Sao Nang Hearn Khamare stand on either side of Mao in the centre of the middle row. (Harn Yawnghwe)

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.


Yawnghwe Palace, where Tiger Yawnghwe grew up. It was confiscated by the military in 1962. It is now Yawnghwe Haw Museum in Burma. (Harn Yawnghwe)

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.


Left to right: Tiger Yawnghwe, a friend, brother Harn Yawnghwe. (Harn Yawnghwe)

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.