“Ludu” Sein Win, an outspoken Burmese journalist, passed away at Shwegondaing Hospital in Rangoon on Sunday after a long fight with lung disease. He was 71.
Widely respected in the world of media both inside and outside Burma, Sein Win was known for his outspoken comments and biting criticism of the military junta led by retired general Than Shwe. Until his final days, he continued to write critical commentaries expressing skepticism of the new Thein Sein-led government.
Born on Aug. 13, 1940, in Mandalay, Sein Win was educated at Lafon Memorial High School and Mandalay University, before heading south to study at Rangoon University. He was always deeply interested in journalism and in 1964 landed a position as a reporter for Ludu Newspaper.
In 1967, he was arrested and sentenced to 13 years in prison when Ludu was shut down by the central government. He was released in 1976, but was again apprehended and jailed in Insein Prison for four years.
Soon after his release in 1980, he suffered a stroke which left one-half of his body paralyzed. Despite his ill-health, Sein Win—or “Ludu” Sein Win as he was now known due to his prominent role within the banned newspaper and the pen name he adopted—remained dedicated to journalism and wrote many memorable articles which were continually published in Rangoon-based journals and magazines until shortly before he died.
Sein Win published more than 20 books, including translations, many of which were about journalism. He also organized English language training courses for youths in Rangoon.
The patron of the Myanmar Journalists Association Organizing Committee, Maung Wuntha, another veteran of the Rangoon media circle, said on Monday that a great many people were mourning the death of Ludu Sein Win, saying he was one of the best known journalists in Burma, and was widely respected and loved by many, especially young people.
“He never hesitated to criticize or make comment,” said Maung Wuntha. “With his straight-forward words, he was not only brave in criticizing the government, but also opposition groups when he found their weaknesses.”
Ludu Sein Win also criticized Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, for its aging leadership and inactive role in the political process.
He said that Burma needs to have alternative groups to lead the country forward, and pointed to the 88 Generation Students Group as an alternative democratic leadership.
Maung Wuntha, who is currently an editor at Pyithu Khit, a news journal based in Rangoon, said that many youths in Burma respected Ludu Sein Win and followed his books and work with avid interest.
Ludu Sein Win was often capable of writing two or three articles a day, said Maung Wuntha.
In an interview with ASEAN TV on April 5, Sein Win said that he viewed the current process of political reforms as “a game” played by the former military regime which had transformed themselves into a civilian government.
He severely reprimanded the international community for engaging with the new government, criticizing them for dealing with Naypyidaw on a business agenda. The international community, he said, saw Burma as a big market and that they wanted to “go fishing in its troubled waters.”
He opined that the Burmese government had benefited from the international community’s lifting of economic sanctions—it had been awarded the Asean chairmanship for 2014, and it had received much international investment while ordinary Burmese civilians saw none of the benefits.
In 2006, he had an opinion piece titled “Burmese people can’t wait much longer” published in The New York Times, and he was also quoted by The International Herald Tribune over the Myitsone dam issue.
Ludu Sein Win also contributed to exile Burmese media including The Irrawaddy.
On Monday morning, Burma’s state-owned MRTV 4—which rarely mentions anything about persons who are critical of the government—broadcast a brief report about Ludu Sein Win’s death.
On Facebook, Twitter and other social media, hundreds of Burmese paid tribute to him.
Thiha Saw, the chief editor of Rangoon-based Open News, said, “His passing is a great loss for our society at a time when space is finally appearing for press freedom.”