Posted on January 26, 2005

Subject of Immigration Saga Is Held in Wife’s Stabbing Death

Lisa Getter, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 25

WASHINGTON — Tialhei Zathang, the former math teacher from Myanmar whose journey through America’s immigration system was chronicled in the Los Angeles Times, has been arrested for allegedly stabbing his wife to death in front of their two youngest children.

He was reunited with his wife, two sons and daughter in September, nearly six years after he fled Myanmar and applied for asylum in the United States. They lived in an apartment in Catonsville, Md., a suburb of Baltimore.

According to court papers, the parents and two children were in their kitchen Saturday night. Zathang, 45, was drinking, but his wife, Hlawntial, was not, the papers said. The older son, Tialceu, 20, was not at home.

Zathang’s younger son, Tlunaguk, 11, told police that around 11 p.m., he saw his father take a knife from a kitchen drawer. His sister, Rinsang, 10, said she heard her mother ask: “ ‘What did you get the knife for? Are you going to kill me?’”

Tlunaguk told police he then saw his father move toward his mother with the knife.

Zathang then called his wife’s brother and told him that she was dead, the documents said. When the brother-in-law arrived at the apartment, Zathang was sitting silently at a table in the kitchen with his head in his hands.

Baltimore County police detectives who interviewed Zathang said he did not remember much of what happened. Zathang told the detectives he had a “problem” with his wife and referred to her death as an “accident,” they wrote.


Zathang won asylum on political grounds in January 2002. He initially had been turned down by an immigration judge, but an appellate board overruled the decision after his case was featured in The Times.

His story about his life in the Southeast Asian nation once known as Burma never wavered.

A Christian who demonstrated for democracy in Myanmar, a mostly Buddhist nation ruled by a military dictatorship, Zathang said he had been detained by the military for 11 days in 1988 and was beaten until he was unconscious. He was left with a still-noticeable indentation on the right side of his forehead.