Senior writer proud of winning Mekong Literature Award

Mr Hongheun Khounphithack, a senior poet with more than 40 years of experience in cultural research and writing stories, poems and news articles, is one of the two Lao winners of the Mekong River Literature Awards 2018.
He won in the best poet category with his poem “Longxebanghieng”, which describes his homeland in Savannakhet province of Laos. After the winners from Laos were announced in Vientiane on June 8, Mr Hongheun and the another awardee, Mr Kabkeo Thammavong, participated in the awards ceremony held in Hanoi, Vietnam, during June 14-18.

Mr Hongheun with his trophy and certificate.

They received their awards along with the other winners of the Mekong region on June 15 from the Chairman of the Vietnam Writers Association, Mr Huu Thinh.
Longxebanghieng” is a long poem comprising 17 verses and describes the lives of people living along the banks of the Xe Banghieng, a river in Savannakhet province, where Mr Hongheun was born. It illustrates the river, mountains and forests, aquatic wildlife, children, local arts and architecture, energy and imagination.
Mr Hongheun said he was very happy to win as very few writers from each country are recognised each year.
“I am very happy and proud of my award because it is the first time I won this prize. It is not easy to be selected and win the award because this is a regional award and each country has to choose the best writers for the competition. The judging process has many steps in line with the regulations of the Mekong River Literature Awards,” he said.
Mr Hongheun has published a number of articles and books under many pen-names. He has also won prizes in writing competitions in Laos and in the region.
He has submitted his writings for local and regional competitions, such as SEA Write, but he hadn’t won a big prize till now.
The President of the Lao Writers’ Association (LWA), Mr Thongbay Phothisane, said Mr Hongheun was named the winner in the best poet category by the panel of judges gave his poem the highest score.
“There were a number of stories from many professional and amateur writers from around the country that were sent to the judges. The judges strictly checked all of them over a few rounds, considering all aspects in accordance with the requirements and the rules of the Mekong River Literature Award (MRLA) before scoring them,” he said.
“After scoring, the judges selected only one story and one poem that got the highest scores and Mr Hongheun’s poem was one of them,” he added.
“Mr Hongheun’s poem was the best among the submitted poems. It reached the quality and standards determined by the MRLA. Mr Houngheun won this title not because he is a senior writer or he works for the LWA or he is a member of the judges’ panel but because of his hard work in writing poems and his great skills.
Anyone can win the title, regardless of social class or working position but it depends on how good his writing is and how much it scores among the judges. It depends on the quality and standard of the writing, as required by the MRLA,” Mr Thongbay explained.
“His poem ‘Longxebanghieng’ is very beautiful and valuable, and it also preserves literature and the beauty of the Lao language.”
The poem was published in a compilation titled “Kheemaengyod Kheemaengyai” (two kinds of local insect), which is a collection of Mr Hongheun’s works, including a number of articles he wrote a long time ago.
The MRLA is given to outstanding writers of six countries which share borders with the Mekong River – China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and
Vietnam. It was established in 2007 at the suggestion of the writers associations of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, to hold up friendly relations and cooperation among writers.
Each year, each member country chooses its best writers for the award and judging is done in many steps, according to the regulations of the MRLA. This year, there were a number of stories from writers  around Laos that were sent to the judges’ panel.
Mr Hongheun said the MRLA is an important award as it is the biggest writing contest of the Mekong region. “I would like to thank the organising committee for holding this ceremony and the judges for seeing the importance of my poem,” he said.
“I will continue to regularly write even more articles and poems for the readers and will compete on other stages.”
Mr Hongheun was born on August 10, 1957 in Savannakhet. He completed a three-year high school course in his hometown in 1974, and another five-year high school course at Viengxay Culture Army School in Huaphan province in 1981. He did a six-month middle level training course in mass media at the Lao News Agency in Vientiane in 1982.
Since 1997, he has written and edited articles for many newspapers and magazines, including Kongthappaxasonlao newspaper (of the Lao People’s Army), Lao News Agency, Vientiane Mai daily newspaper, Muong Lao magazine and Vannasin magazine.
He was one of the founders of Muong Lao magazine in 1997, and was appointed a member of the Lao SEA Write Award Committee in 2004. He was selected a member of LWA in November 2006, and was appointed as Director of Lao Writers’ Publishing house. He is currently a member of the administration board of the LWA.

By Visith Teppalath
(Latest Update July 6, 2018)

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