Dr. Thaw Kaung is a leading authority in the field of library studies in Asia, with a focus on Myanmar. His specialty is the preservation of traditional documents. He has worked hard to preserve various palm-leaf manuscripts over the past 1,000 years, and allowed wide access to them. He contributed to the creation of a system in which the people of Myanmar can conduct local research in their native language using these documents and materials. He has performed distinguished services for the preservation of materials which are of archival value and traditional documents, and is one of the leading figures in Asia in the library studies.
Dr. Thaw Kaung diligently continued his studies despite having health problems, and majored in English and literature at the University of Yangon, graduating at the top of his class. He later received a degree in librarianship from the University of London, and was elected a Chartered Librarian of the Library Association and Associate of the Library Association (ALA).
After returning to Myanmar, Dr. Thaw Kaung was appointed Chief Librarian of the Universities Central Library, Yangon in 1969. He engaged in the down-to-earth work of training librarians and preserving palm-leaf manuscripts and other texts. He authored teaching materials on an introduction to librarianship and the handling of important documents in Myanmar language. He also collected approximately 16,000 bundles of palm-leaf manuscripts, including valuable Buddhist texts, that faced imminent destruction due to insect damage or drying. To properly preserve these palm-leaf manuscripts, he installed air conditioning in a special chamber in the library. This library has in its collection copies of palm-leaf manuscripts created before the 19th century and which were the first documents of this kind discovered. These copies have been published sequentially with English translations by the Pali Text Society in London as commentaries on the Buddhist texts, enabling the documents to be widely used.
Furthermore, Dr. Thaw Kaung established the Department of Library Studies at the University of Yangon in 1971, working to begin the full-fledged scale training of library studies specialists. He also played a major role in establishing a graduate course leading to a diploma in Library and Information Studies at the same school. In addition to writing books on library studies, he has published books and research reports in both Myanmar and English on Myanmar's traditional culture and on the preservation of traditional documents, which has increased public awareness in this area. He was one of the central figures to establish the Myanmar Library Association and the National Commission for the Preservation of Traditional Manuscripts. He has been active overseas, as well.
In 1984 and 1991, he served as a Consultant Librarian to the British Library, and in 1989 at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. In recent years, he has translated into English with Myanmar and Thai collaborators, palm-leaf manuscripts in Myanmar about Chiang Mai.
Thus, Dr. Thaw Kaung has made a major contribution to the preservation and utilization of palm-leaf manuscripts and other traditional materials from Myanmar and other Asian countries. As a result, he has pioneered historical research in Myanmar, the native language of the people and has been widely acclaimed for illustrating the significance of preserving valuable palm-leaf manuscripts throughout Asia and the world. He is indeed a worthy laureate of the Academic Prize of the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes.