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Darr Sann Ye, the story of a Myanmar badass

Zon Pann Pwint The Myanmar Times Fri, May 29, 2020

The front image for the documentary film about Darr Sann Ye. Photo: Ma Nyein Nyein Aung.

YANGON – In October 1983, a bomb tore through the Martyr’s Mausoleum in Yangon. It was an attempt to assassinate the fifth president of South Korea, Chun Doo-hwan. Planned by three North Koreans, the blast killed 21 people, including 14 South Korean ministers and four Myanmar nationals. As his car was delayed in traffic, President Chu was unharmed.

The operation was orchestrated by three agents of the Korea People’s Army: Major Zin Bo (also known as Kim Jin-su), Kang Min-chul and Shin Ki-chul. After the detonation, the three made their way to the Yangon River.

Five residents near Pazundaung Creek apprehended Zin Bo. Daw Sann Ye and four men, including U Bo Gyi and Shwe Min Thar, shot to fame overnight for their heroic actions. They were each honored with K20,000 and a music cassette at a ceremony in Pazundaung Park.

Daw Sann Ye is the only surviving person from the event. She is almost 90 years old and, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, was last seen begging on the Hledan flyover.

Daw Sann Ye is featured in a documentary film being made by Ma Nyein Nyein Aung, a primary school teacher with a passion for film-making. Her documentary focuses on Daw Sann Ye’s life, and the moment she caught Zin Bo.


The name “Darr Sann Ye” is a nickname – “dar” means “knife”. In her younger days, she earned a living by running a tavern and a pawn shop along the banks of Pazundaung creek. She often kept a knife in her back pocket, to protect herself from thieves and petty criminals.

In 2017 Ma Nyein Nyein Aung read about Darr Sann Ye’s life on Facebook, and tracked her down in Shwe Pyi Thar where the 90-year-old lived in a thatched hut.

“She had such an interesting life, and the arrest of Zin Bo was part of an incredible life history. It should be documented in a short film,” she said.

Ma Nyein Nyein Aung began her film project with an interview with DarrSann Ye. She spent a week following her under the flyover, in a bus and catching a train.

The documentary is still being made.

“She and four men were offered plots of land as a reward for catching Zin Bo. She received a 40×60-feet plot in ShwePyi Thar, which she later lost due to her gambling addiction,” Ma Nyein Nyein Aung said.

“People thought that she had a difficult life because the government at that time neglected her. But in reality, her life was quite different,” she said.

When discovering that Darr Sann Ye lived in a house infested by rats, Ma Nyein Nyein Aung decided to support her. She rented out a new house, and gave her some money.

Food Not Bombs (Myanmar), a local all-volunteer group, recently shared Darr Sann Ye’s story on Facebook. After sharing a video of her begging at the overpass, the organisation received almost K100,000 in donations. Food Not Bomb visited her house on May 20 to donate the money.

The 90-year old Darr San Ye captured in this photo while begging in the streets at Hledan. She once made national headlines for apprehending a North Korean terrorist. Photo: Kaung Kaung (Food Not Bombs).

“We just want her to live in dignity. Not only her, but all old people have the right to live out their lives stress-free,” said Kyaw Kyaw, a volunteer from Food Not Bombs.

They met her while she was begging under the Hledan flyover.

“I want all elderly people spend the end of their lives comfortably, and it’s sad to see such a famous person like Darr Sann Ye living like this,” Kyaw Kyaw said.

From: THE MYANMAR TIMES, MYANMAR Fri, May 29, 2020

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