Obituary U Tun Kyi

U Tun Kyi (Myanmar Gonyi U Sein Tun Kyi) was born in the year 1300 Myanmar Era (1938) on Pyatho La San in the village Shwe Kyun Kye Ywa, around 7 miles from Nyaungdone. He was the son of U Kale, aka U Ba San, from Nyaungdone and Daw Pipe Mi from Magway, who had six children. He passed away on 16. February, shortly after his 84th birthday.

Here’s the report of his life*:

At the age of six, I became a novice. I acquired my basic knowledge at the monastic school. At the age of 11, I left the monastery and went back to my village. Shortly after independence, it was destroyed by Karen terrorists. Our family fled to Yangon, and we found refuge in a monastery in Dawbon. My father was a hsei: hsaja (traditional healer), and the village chief (ywa thu gyi) gave him a small plot of land on which he built a house. This house is still standing and is occupied by members of my family.

In Yangon, I started an apprenticeship as a puppeteer. Altogether, I had eight teachers. The most important one was Myanmar Gone Yaung U Sein Maung from Henzada. After seven years, I was a skilled puppeteer. I traveled the whole country with my teachers’ marionette troupes. Those days, more than thirty troupes were performing in Yangon alone, and it was easy to find a job. During this time, I lived at an astrologer’s house in Kyimindine who taught me the basics of his profession. During this time, I founded my first puppet troupe, and I remember that we earned 16 Kyat for an all-night performance.


When I was twenty, the Yangon City administration (precursor of today’s YCDC) offered me a job as a supervisor. During the hot season, there wasn’t a lot of work, and I continued working in my original profession. After some time, my superiors found out that I was a skilled puppeteer, and I was transferred to the Cultural Department, where I worked from 1963 to 1993. President U Ne Win and General Thaung Tan (Minister of Culture) sponsored me to the best of their abilities. I would have liked to join the BSPP (MaSaLa), but Í was not accepted. 1970 U Ne Win I traveled to England with a cultural delegation of thirty-two people and was among the chosen ones. My puppeteer colleagues and I gave several performances and won a prize. Later I traveled to many countries and gave performances (e.g. 1984 in Germany). U Ne Win continued to promote me and occasionally invited me to events. Ne Win was a good man; he eliminated the housing shortage in Yangon by founding satellite towns like Thaketa, North and South Okkalapa, etc.     

In 1968, I married my wife, Daw Kyi Kyi Sein. She performed as a dancer in an anyein troupe and was the daughter of master puppeteer Nyaungdone U Ba Kyaw, in whose troupe I performed sometimes. We have five children, all working as puppeteers or in a similar profession. My grandson started performing when he was

still a child. I continue making marionettes and selling them to interested customers. My wife died in 1990, and since then, I’ve been living with my children. After 1993, I worked as a ‚part-time instructor’ at Mandalay’s Cultural University.      

My father-in-law, Nyaungdone U Ba Kyaw, owned a plot of land (40×60 ft) in Thaketa Tsp., which he got as compensation for the plot in Kyimindine. I lived on that plot in a simple wooden house with my family. My wife was the sole heiress, so I became the owner after her demise. A contractor offered me to build an apartment house with ten units on that plot. I agreed to his proposal and got two apartments.  I’m living in one of them, and I’ve rented out the other one for 120.000 Kyat per month.

I think conditions were better under Than Shwe than today in democratic Myanmar. There are too many bureaucratic obstacles nowadays (i.e., during the Aung San Suu Kyi ‘presidency.’). However, I have to admit that the electrical power supply has improved dramatically. I’m still a member of the USPD, and of course, I’ll vote for them in the next election (that was 2020).   

* (According to an interview in 2018)