I met Hkun Tun Oo when I moved from Lashio to Taunggyi in early sixties when I joined the Tai Youth Association (TYA). He was also known to us as Sao Naing Naing and Noel.
He was outgoing and had always spoken his mind, during our days in Tai Youth Association. Once he was at loggerheads with the TYA Executive Committee members, as he attempted to bring in non-Tai ethnic groups into the association and demanded a reform. But as TYA was more literature and culturally based and not heavy in political sense, his input was not accepted at that time. Besides the Pa-O, Intha and so on also had their youth organizations but cooperate with each other, like when commemorating Shan National Day usually held by TYA.
But when we come to think about it now, he was actually way ahead of our time for wanting to create a more wider organization and more politically oriented embracing all non-Tai ethnic youths into the TYA.
No wonder, when he established Shan political party in 1988 prior to the 1990 national elections he did just that. Even the name was Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) to denote that all ethnic groups within Shan State are represented by the party.
He was uncompromising when it comes to political principles, which should be respected and praised for staying on the right side of the history. He was steadfastly for 8-State federal solution, in which a state for ethnic Bamar should be formed to be on equal basis with the other 7 ethnic states; and committed to conflict resolution through 1961 Federal Amend Proposal based on 1947 Panglong Agreement. He also bluntly called for the rewriting of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution anew from cover to cover and not at all for amendment until he passed away.
My younger brother Khuensai Jaiyane praised Hkun Tun Oo for his guts saying: “He’s got more balls than most of us. EAO leaders can say what they like, because they have the backing of their army. I can also say what I want, because I live in the luxury of a foreign country. But U Shwe Ohn and him, they had no armies or a foreign country that protected them. But nothing prevented them from speaking their minds. Because they had the courage of their convictions. I hope both serve as models for the future Shans.”
He was respected and trusted by all ethnic political leaders because he never deviated from his political goal of equitable federal democratic union for all ethnic nationalities until his last breath.
In the first place he was a Shan patriot, committed federalist, democrat and anti-dictatorship to the core. He will continue to be a rare, shining example of leader not only for the Shans but also for all other ethnic groups, Bamar included.
He wasn’t able to see the fruitful outcome of our aspirations. And the best way for all of us to repay him is to continue striving for the goals he cherished, which are ethnic equality, democracy, and rights of self-determination.
Specially written on the one month commemoration of Hkun Oo’s on May 29, 2022.