Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tin Than Oo: A Soldier, Writer, and Director

According to the National Library of Australia in Canberra more and more former Tatmadaw officers are publishing memoirs.

Most prominent one of these officer-writers had passed away on 5th November. Lt. Col Maung Maung Oo (a) Tin Than Oo (DSA) aged 57 died of chronic liver cirrhosis at the Army Base Hospital in Mingaladon.

He wrote many books and later became a famous (or infamous) director for directing a grand army propaganda film called “Lotus Blossoming at Dawn” involving the famous 68 film stars of Burmese film industry. The film basically portrayed the slanted-army-version of Modern Burmese History.
He was an outspoken officer and gave many interviews to the media. This link is the last interview he did with the Mizzima News Media on 3rd August 2010.

He served in the same battalion on the Chinese Border I served as a boy soldier in 1972-73. He was only 2 years older than me and he was a young platoon commander in our battalion at our battalion forward command base at the fortified bases on Htaw Gaw hills near Chinese border just beyond Waimaw-Chibwe vehicular-road .

I was in Second Company and he was in the Fourth or the Fifth (Weapon Company), I can’t recall now. He arrived at our battalion in early 1975 as his first posting after I deserted the army in late 1973 . He was a wide-eyed second-lieutenant just out of DSA and he was immediately wounded, not seriously, I think.

Casualty was extremely high and we were so short of men our platoon had only two sections (just about 15 or 16 men). The whole company had only one officer, an old Kachin Captain. The company was basically run by the sergeant majors.

Tin Than Oo was really lucky to survive there as most new officers were killed within months or even weeks in our battalion. One new officer in our company from OTS lasted only two weeks. We were hit by CPB’s recoiless fire and we could only find body parts and sent back home only his right hand with OTS ring still attached as a body-substitute for a proper burial back in Rangoon’s military cemetry.

The three way battles between army and KIA and CPB were raging in that area from 1973 till 79. According to his memoirs two mid months in 1978 alone saw at least 5000 dead from all three sides.

I didn’t really know him well before. Only when he became famous as writer Tin Than Oo (Sit-Tekkatho) and started writing about the Battles of Htaw Gaw Hills I started knowing him.

He might have got the liver cirrhosis the same way as I got it by a battle wound and drinking excessive amount of quinine-laced-army rum the only abundant army-ration on the freezing front line of Kachin State.

May he rest in peace!