Bo Bo Nge

Bo Bo Nge with his wife, Me Kyi, and son. Nge, the deputy governor of the Central Bank of Myanmar, has strong ties in Great Barrington. A photo has confirmed that he still is alive, after a Facebook post this month said he had died while jailed by the military regime.

GREAT BARRINGTON — A fearless, brilliant and delightful human being is how those who know Bo Bo Nge describe him.

And now they are very worried.

The Burmese economist, the deputy governor of the Central Bank of Myanmar, is one of about 140 detained after the recent military coup in Myanmar.

Nge, 52, has strong ties to Great Barrington, where he first arrived after moving to the U.S.

Since he was taken by military police Feb. 1, the family only learned of his whereabouts Tuesday, said Abby Pratt, a Great Barrington resident and close friend of Nge.

His wife, Me Kyi, told Pratt that her husband is held at Insein Prison.

“That’s all we know right now,” Pratt said, noting that she speaks to Nge’s wife daily. Pratt said that in the meantime, Me Kyi had taken their young son from the capital to her village to be with family and friends.

“She told me that when he was taken away, she asked the police who picked him up to wait while she got his medicine, clothes and a jacket,” Pratt said.

Me Kyi also has asked the International Committee of the Red Cross for help.

Friends and his staff at the ministry also are concerned about the well-being of Nge, who has a heart condition, ever since he was detained in the wake of the coup, after a landslide win of leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and her party, the National League for Democracy.

Suu Kyi and members of her administration still are under house arrest after the military had declared the election results fraudulent.

President Joe Biden on Feb. 4 called for the release of all the detainees.

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Imprisonment isn’t new to Nge. As a student leader during the country’s 1988 uprising, he was jailed for 4½ years.

He fled to Great Barrington in 2000, with help from Pratt, a former Eagle reporter and editor, who first met Nge on one of many trips to Myanmar. Nge worked with Pratt's late husband, the economist Lawrence Pratt, at American Investment Services in Great Barrington. Nge also worked at the American Institute for Economic Research, when it was linked to AIS.

Her husband had said that Nge was "brilliant," Abby Pratt said. 

Nge went to Berkshire Community College and worked various jobs, including at the Old Mill restaurant in South Egremont. He later got a bachelor's degree from Bard College, a master's degree from Johns Hopkins University and then  a Ph.D. from the University of London.

He had, at one point, run a business exporting taro from Lake Inle to South Korea. 

George Gilder, a senior resident fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research, said that, with Nge’s strategy, the outlook changed for Myanmar, which is among “the world’s richest troves of natural resources.”

“It reduced the government deficit by 50 percent, launched smartphone retail payments, created a special economic zone at Thilawa and in five years of that administration where Bo Bo was econ policy person the Myanmar GDP rose from $1.8 billion to $10.5 billion,” he said. “Bo Bo is a big force.”

He also is well-loved in the Berkshires.

“He’s quiet, but he’s very engaged with other people and a pleasure to talk to because he’s so bright and knows so much,” Pratt said. “And he adores his little boy. He’s an intelligent, delightful human being.”

Seth Hoffman, a vice president at American Investment Services who worked with Nge, said he is in awe of his courage to “dedicate his life to building a civil society” in Myanmar.

“He’s worthy of a Hollywood script," Hoffman said. "He learned English in prison as a political dissident and came over here with nothing, and pursued education with a passion and a mission and he put it all together to build important institutions back in Myanmar."

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or 413-329-6871. On Twitter @BE_hbellow.