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U Myint Thein's death

                    Copyright 1994 Times
Newspapers Limited                                
      The Times
                           October 6, 1994,
SECTION: Features
LENGTH: 794 words
HEADLINE: U Myint Thein
BODY:     U Myint Thein, OBE, Chief Justice of
Burma, 1957-62, died on October 3 aged 94. He was
born in Rangoon in 1900.

   KNOWN to his friends as ''Uncle Monty'', U
Myint Thein was a man whose indomitable spirit in
the face of tyranny and his personal generosity
won friends and admirers throughout the world.
Before becoming Burma's Chief Justice he had
served his country as ambassador to both
Nationalist and Communist China and subsequently
represented it at the United Nations.  

    These were the years of constitutional
government in Burma, which had become independent
from British rule in 1948. When the former Burmese
Army commander U Ne Win seized power in 1962, U
Myint Thein was, like other politicians and
officials who refused to co-operate with the new,
military regime, dismissed from his post and
imprisoned. His dignified bearing in these trying
circumstances only increased the esteem in which
he was held in his own country and abroad.

    U Myint Thein was born into a brilliant
Rangoon family. He read law at Rangoon University
and then came to Britain where he continued his
studies at Queens' College, Cambridge. He was
called to the Bar by Lincoln's Inn in 1925 after
which he returned to Burma to play his part in the
legislative process as it existed under the
administration of the Indian Empire. His posts
included membership of the Burma Legislative
Council from 1935 until the outbreak of the Second
World War.     In January 1941 the Japanese
invaded Burma and, by March, Rangoon had fallen.
British forces extricated themselves only with the
utmost difficulty and retreated northwards into
India, leaving the country at the mercy of the
invaders. U Myint Thein opted to remain in his
country during the Japanese occupation. He spent
the next few years thinly disguised as a mali
(gardener) and at great risk to his own safety did
much to mitigate the hardships endured by many
British internees. His services were recognised
(not over-generously) by his appointment as OBE in

    After the war he was appointed Chief Judge of
the City Civil Court in Rangoon, a post he held
until Burma's independence in 1948. At that point
he was made his country's first Ambassador to
China, then under the nationalist government of
Chiang Kai-shek and having its capital in Nanking.
When, in 1949, Mao Tse-tung overthrew this
government, driving it and Chiang Kai-shek to seek
refuge in Taiwan, U Myint Thein stayed in what had
now become the People's Republic of China, moving
to Peking where the new capital and embassies now

    In 1953 he led the Burmese delegation to the
United Nations where with great skill he handled
Burma's complaint against Kuomintang (Chinese
nationalist) infiltrators into Eastern Burma. He
accompanied his Prime Minister, U Nu, to China in
1954 and to the first Non-Aligned Summit in
Bandung in 1955.

    A judge of the Supreme Court from 1953, he
became Chief Justice in 1957 and held that
appointment with distinction until 1962 when he
was imprisoned by the revolutionary government of
Ne Win which overthrew U Nu and embarked on a
''Burmese Road to Socialism''. His wife, Daw Phwa
Hmee, herself a barrister and the first woman to
practise before the Courts in Burma, died during
her husband's detention.

    In spite of a number of requests for his
release by the International Commission of
Jurists, U Myint Thein remained in ''protective
custody'' until 1968. After his release he lived
quietly in Rangoon, lonely in the loss of his
accomplished partner. But despite retirement and
ill health, he kept alive his interest in every
aspect of the world in which he had played so
active a part, aided by the soundness of his
judgment and his phenomenal memory.

    To the end he retained a mischievous sense of
fun, relishing the company of his friends and
conducting an extensive correspondence. He
continued to take a deep interest in the welfare
of his country even in old age and followed the
dramatic political events in Burma in 1988 which
saw the end of Ne Win's quarter century long sway
over the country. Thereafter he shared the anxiety
of all humane, liberal spirits as Burma attempted
without success to fight its way back to
constitutional democracy. A Buddhist, he was
sympathetic to other religions and his faith
fortified him in times of affliction.

    U Myint Thein was regarded both inside and
outside Burma as a judge of rare insight and
forbearance, as well as being a man of courage and
spirit.  He was also a diplomat of skill and
resource, quite apart from being a scholar, poet
and wit. In the days before democracy ceased to
exist in Burma he had received the title of Agga
Maha Thray Sithu, the country's highest honour.