Khun Than Lwin ponders serving his country and his family
For more than half of his life, Khun Than Lwin (49) has been fighting for democracy. His journey began after receiving a secret message from a friend in 1990, which told of democracy and encouraged people to get involved. It was so dangerous to receive a message like this, that he had to destroy it immediately or face arrest. Since then, he has passionately devoted his life to the National League for Democracy (NLD) and its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.
In striving to realise this cause for his people, he has often made sacrifices in his family life. His wife, who runs a small handbag shop in the local market, helps support the family, since he doesn't have the time for his old job as a ruby broker. This has sometimes created a rift in his relationship with his daughter, Ni Zin Ko Ko (22), who is apathetic towards politics.
Over the years, when the activity of the secret police to stem any political dissent increased, Khun Than Lwin would hide away in the mountains around Rubyland (Mogok) until things quietened down. Sometimes, he could be away for six months or more. It can be dangerous to be involved in politics in this region, but through it all, he's not afraid.
"I donate my life to my country"
In 2014, Khun Than Lwin transitioned from being an activist to becoming the president of the NLD in Taunggyi, a position that provides no salary. To help cover costs each month, the community members band together to donate a small amount to the president’s family. At that time, he planned to continue with the position until after the 2015 general elections and then move back to providing for his family.
His work with the various ethnic groups and political parties in the region played a big role in the NLD wins there during its landslide victory in these elections. Despite this success, however, he wasn’t sure it was time to quit, which he justified by explaining, "there is still more work to be done.”
Khun Than Lwin’s dilemma continues to be whether to keep striving for change or to go back to business and provide for his family. For the time being, he himself is not ready to make a change.