Eminent Shan scholar and ethnic leader Dr Chao Tzang Yawnghwe, aka Eugene Thaike, passed away at his home in Canada on Saturday, aged 65. He is survived by one son and daughter and his wife, Nu Nu Myint Yawnghwe.

In May, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and he underwent radiation treatment in June. He was released from the hospital on July 19 but fell ill again a couple of days later before dying on July 24.

Chao Tzang was born on April 26, 1939 in Yawnghwe, of what was then called the Federated Shan States. His father, Sao Shwe Thaike, was the first president of Burma after it gained independence from Britain in 1948. His mother, Sao Hearn Hkam, former president of the Shan State War Council, passed away in January last year.

Chao Tzang graduated from Methodist English High School in Rangoon in 1957 and was awarded a Bachelor of Arts in History from Rangoon University in 1961. For the next two years, he taught English at Rangoon University before he joined the Shan State Independence Army, or SSIA, in 1963 and took a position as a political officer. That year, he took part in failed peace negotiations with Rangoon.

In 1971, he co-founded the Shan State Progress Party, the political arm of the Shan State Army. In 1976, he came to Thailand after he and several others were ousted by the party’s pro-communist faction.

In 1985, he resettled in Canada. He was awarded a doctorate in political science in 1997 from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, where he was also a lecturer for several years.

In 1998, he co-founded the United Nationalities League for Democracy (Liberated Area).

This past March, he became chairman of the Ethnic Nationalities Solidarity and Cooperation Committee, which advocates tripartite dialogue to break Burma’s political impasse.

During his career, Chao Tzang was a respected commentator on Burmese and Shan affairs. His book, The Shan of Burma: Memoirs of a Shan Exile, was published by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore in
1987. He also wrote several articles and opinion pieces for the Bangkok Post and other publications.

Funeral services will be held on July 30 and 31 in Coquitlam, British Columbia.