Dr. Than Nyein, the founder of Burma’s National Democratic Force (NDF), a breakaway party from the National League for Democracy (NLD), passed away on Wednesday morning while seeking treatment for liver cancer at Rangoon’s Pinlon hospital, his party announced. He was 76 years old.
Prior to founding the NDF, Than Nyein was a leading member of the NLD. He was also married to the sister of Gen. Khin Nyint, the military intelligence chief of the former military regime, although he did not get along with his brother-in-law and was known to have kept a distance.
Before becoming a politician, Than Nyein earned a bachelor’s degree in medicine in 1963. He worked for the Ministry of Health as a leader in the leprosy prevention group and as a township medical officer. He also volunteered for the United Nations in Sri Lanka from 1984 to 1986.
The military government forced him to retire from his medical career due to his involvement in the 1988 pro-democracy uprising. Thereafter, he became a member of the NLD. He was elected in 1990 to Parliament, where he would have represented Rangoon’s Kyauk Tan Township if the military government had not subsequently nullified the election results.
In 1997, Than Nyein was sentenced to seven years in prison while he was working to form a youth committee for the NLD. The government extended his sentence three times, until he was finally released in 2008.
After his release, Than Nyein disagreed with the NLD’s decision to boycott the polls in 2010, Burma’s first general election in two decades. He believed that an opposition party needed to participate in the election, so he resigned from the NLD and founded the NDF.
Than Nyein suffered from liver cancer since his time in prison and underwent treatment 10 times abroad.