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Burmese historian awarded Fukuoka Prize

Yangon Heritage Trust (YHT) founder Thant Myint-U has been declared the Grand Prize winner of the 2015 Fukuoka Prize.

Established in 1990, the annual prize is awarded to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to academia, arts and culture in Asia.

A Yangon Heritage Trust tour guide show visitors around Rangoon to explain the styles and significance of the city's colonial architecture, November 2014. (PHOTO: Colin Hinshelwood/DVB).
A Yangon Heritage Trust tour guide show visitors around Rangoon to explain the styles and significance of the city’s colonial architecture, November 2014. (PHOTO: Colin Hinshelwood/DVB).

On Friday, the Fukuoka Prize Committee announced that Thant Myint-U, an “exceptionally outstanding historian in contemporary Asia”, was a truly worthy recipient of the prize. The committee also commended the Burmese historian for his unique and distinguished contribution to Asian and human society by “narrating the voices of the people of Myanmar [Burma] and connecting them with the wider international community.”

Thant Myint-U announced on his Facebook social media page that he was “very honoured” to win the prestigious Grand Prize.

The YHT also released a statement on Saturday relating to Thant Myint-U’s award, quoting their founder as saying, “The prize signifies the importance of the YHT’s work and is also an indication of friendly relationship between Japan and Burma.”

As an accomplished writer, Thant Myint-U has published several books on the history of Burma. Two of his books, The River of Lost Footsteps and Where China Meets India: Burma and the New Crossroads of Asia, have been translated into Burmese.

Thant Myint-U is the third Burmese national to win the Fukuoka Prize, and was preceded by the late historian Than Tun in year 2000 and Liberian Thaw Kaung in 2005. In 2014, he was also listed among the 50 World Thinkers in the year by the UK-based Prospect Magazine.


In addition to the Grand Prize, the committee awards two other awards annually: the 2015 Academic Prize went to Ramachandra Guha from India; and this year’s Arts and Culture Prize was awarded to Vietnam’s Minh Hanh.

Thant Myint-U was born in New York City to Burmese parents and is the grandson of former UN Secretary-General U Thant.

He established YHT in 2012 to help promote and fight for the conservation of central Rangoon’s colonial architecture, much of it built over 100 years ago.



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