Burmese cartoonist Harn Lay dies

Through The Irrawaddy February 9, 2022

Harn Lay, who rose to prominence with The Irrawaddy’s satirical editorial cartoons targeting Myanmar’s former military rule, died of liver cancer on Wednesday. He was 59 years old.

The Shan artist graduated from the Yangon School of Fine Arts in 1982. He entered politics in 1987 when the Burmese Socialist Program Party led by military dictator Ne Win abruptly demonetized banknotes. Bank. When the 1988 national pro-democracy movement was crushed, Harn Lay joined the Shan United Army before fleeing to Thailand.

In Chiang Mai, he joined The Irrawaddy in 2003 as an illustrator and designer. Myanmar politics made him a caricaturist, Harn Lay said.

At The Irrawaddy, his editorial cartoons specialized in satirizing anyone involved in Myanmar politics at the time: from Chief General Than Shwe, the country’s then dictator, to UN envoys to the country, in passing through ASEAN ministers, instantly catching the attention of readers at home and abroad. . His work also reflected the day-to-day situation in Myanmar under the regime at a time when its local counterparts inside the country were muzzled by the junta’s notorious literary censorship.

Later his editorial cartoons in The Irrawaddy were compiled into two volumes titled “Defiant Humor”.

For his works, Harn Lay received a Hellman/Hammett Fellowship in 2010. Marcia Allina, fellowship program coordinator for Human Rights Watch based in New York, said The Irrawaddy that Harn Lay was selected without debate by the selection committee, made up of highly respected writers and editors because “the message [of his art] is so clear, and he is a perfect example of someone being targeted for voicing ideas that the government wanted to suppress.

Editorial cartoon collections of Harn Lay in The Irrawaddy

When Myanmar was in democratic transition after 2011, Harn Lay returned to the country. Believing that cartoons cannot fix a political system but can reflect what is happening at the time, he contributed his work to local publications. Unsurprisingly, all the political figures and issues of the time – from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to then President U Thein Sein, to China’s encroachment on the country and the Rohingya issue – turned out to be his subjects.

Born U Hla Myint Thein, Harn Lay was a pseudonym given to him by veteran journalist Kyemon U Thaung.

“To me, art is for impression and cartoons are for expression,” Harn Lay once said. He called the cartoonists revolutionary. True to his word, when the latest coup took place in Myanmar last year, he was busy satirizing regime leader Min Aung Hlaing and his associates, defying the military dictatorship with his cartoons. to his death.


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