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From rapper to Myanmar lawmaker

Once jailed for his anti-junta music, Zayar Thaw is now changing politics from within

Suu Kyi protege Zayar Thaw is a rapper-turned lawmaker in Myanmar. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

YANGON -- Myanmar's parliament building, constructed by the former military junta in capital city Naypyitaw, is so gorgeous it could be mistaken for a palace. The lawmakers attending sessions there have become more diverse along with progress in democratization in the country. They include former physicians, as well as lawyers and business executives. But none of them has a more unusual background than Zayar Thaw. The 35-year-old member of parliament was formerly a rap singer.

He ran in the 2015 general election from a constituency in the capital. With military personnel and civil servants making up most of the residents of the planned city, to which the capital was moved in 2006, the constituency was looked upon as a stronghold of political parties affiliated with the former military government. Nonetheless, Zayar Thaw won the election, beating a rival candidate who was a senior member of the government and a former commander of the air force. His victory epitomized the rise to power of the Aung San Suu Kyi-headed National League for Democracy party, which was a turning point in the history of Myanmar.

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