Exiled Burmese prince dies in Innisfail

Dedicated to his homeland until the end

Hso Khan Pha of Yawnghwe, the Shan state in what is now part of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, died at age 78.

Simon Robins said his father had survived a couple of heart attacks. While his death was sudden, it was not unexpected.

His father, a geologist, had only stopped doing field work eight years ago, but remained politically active, he said.

“He was retired, but never stopped working at his passion, the independence of the Shan state. It was definitely a full-time job for him up until his passing,” said Robins, 39, of Canmore.

Pha, also known as Tiger Yawnghwe, was the son of Sao Shwe Thaik, the last king of the Shan state and first president of the democratic and newly independent Union of Burma in 1948.

Thaik was arrested during a military coup in 1962 and his 17-year-old son, Sao Mye Thaik, was shot dead. Pha was studying in England at the time of the coup, and his father later died in prison.

Robins said his father tried to get the message out about the brutalities of the dictatorship and worked with others for the independence of his homeland.

Pha’s mother and siblings eventually came to Canada as well.

Pha raised his family in Edmonton and he went on to live in Calgary before moving to Innisfail.

“It was a nice friendly place to live. He had good connections in the community. It was a nice simple place to live.”

Robins said his father didn’t share much about his life as a member of the royal family, but there were some stories and photos.

“His life in Canada was drastically different than his life growing up. He had his heritage, but in Alberta he was a family man with a job, bills he had to pay.”

Robins said as Myanmar started opening up in recent years some family members have gone back, but his father did not.

“It’s a nice thought that we can take our families there and show them our heritage where he never had that chance because of the political environment.”

Pha had four children and eight grandchildren.

His memorial will be held on Oct. 16, at 1 p.m., at McKernan Community Hall in Edmonton.