93-year-old independence fighter forced to beg to survive

Ninety-three-year-old Thakin Hla Kyaing, who fought for Burma’s independence in the 1930s, has been forced into begging to survive.

Recently, he became the focus of social media attention after someone posted a story about him on Facebook. But now the Myanmar Veterans Organisation has pledged to provide him monthly social assistance.

“The Military Retirees and Families Organisation have also contacted us to provide assistance for him”, said retired Captain Min Thawdar Pegu. “Moreover, a union-level government minister has promised to build him a house and provide him monthly financial support.”

He said that the Burmese army and the Veterans Organisation previously didn’t know about his situation, but as soon as they found out began to work on a plan to help him out.

Hla Kyaing was 16 years old when he joined the Burmese nationalist party formally known as Dobama Asiayone Movement. The “Thakins” were initially a group of 30 young intellectuals within the party who later founded the Burma Independence Army, led by famous independence fighter Aung San.

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Hla Kyaing has fought against British forces as well as Japanese. He was promoted to the rank of Warrant Officer-Three Stars, enjoying a salary of 55 kyat. He has also received an honorary Independence Mawgunwin Medal.

“I fought in the Shwetaung theatre, and in the campaign against the Japanese in west Tharawaddy, which was the biggest campaign”, he said. “And I fought against the Karen when Bo Chit Shwe fell.”

During military service, Hla Kyaing sustained an arm injury from an accident, and on his right ankle in battle. When the independence war ended, he relinquished his weapons and took retirement, starting a career painting dye and shoemaking. But he started begging to be able to pay his medical expenses.

“It was a desperate choice as I had no income”, he said. “I keep my head down in embarrassment when I see someone I know pass by.”

Hla Kyaing is also blind on one eye after an accident at home last year. But now, after his story became known through Facebook, sympathisers and the Veterans Organisations are pledging to offer him assistance.

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