Monday, 18 November 2019

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Junta bars main Kachin bloc from Manau ethnic festival

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The Burmese Army’s northern command chief has barred the Kachin Independence Organisation from attending next year’s Manau festival, and is dominating committees set up to organise the most important cultural event for the ethnic minority, a KIO officer and organisers say.

MaNauThe festival, which features a big gathering of Kachin State’s ethnic groups in costume for a celebration of music and dance, was usually held to mark Kachin State Day, which was to fall on January 10, the KIO officer said.

“The Northern Command chief told us he could not invite KIO to the festival,” a member of the Manau Festival Organisation Committee told Mizzima, referring to the Burmese Army Northern Command chief Brigadier General Zeya Aung, without giving any reason.

But the KIO officer said from his organisation’s point of view, there were far more pressing concerns as to why the KIO would be absent, as its armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), were preparing for imminent attack by the junta.

Other changes to the festival agenda were based on financial problems. Although the event was held over eight days in previous years, it will be conducted over five days, from January 7 to 11 because of a lack of funds, the committee member said.   

As lead organiser in past years, the KIO usually donated more than 100 million kyat (more than US$100,000) per event, the committee member said.

“The KIO … can’t attend the festival. In past years, we had to lay out about 330 million kyat. We don’t have enough money to hold the festival [for eight days] and at first we considered holding it for only two days. But we’ve made up our minds to hold [it]  … for five days”, the committee member said. 

Although junta crony companies, Max Myanmar, Htoo Trading, Yuzana and Asia World had donated about 50 million kyat, the figure was still insufficient to foot the bill for the event over eight days, the member said.

The committee has 24 members, including Lahkri La Aung, Karen La San, Yut Nang Ze Lum, Naw Min Zau Nan, Lama Naw Aung, Dum Seng Tu and Ja Nu.

In addition to that group and a committee of patrons, a management body led by junta military officers had been set up for next year’s event, a source said. It contains 38 members including Major General Soe Win, Military Affairs Security officer Lieutenant Colonel Thet Pone and Communications, Post and Telegraph Minister Thein Zaw.

Brigadier General Zeya Aung would hold a meeting ahead of the festival with envoys from the three committees in the hall of the Kachin Culture Central Committee.

He also heads the patron committee with Yaw Han, chairman of Kachin Culture Central Committee and Dr. Saboi Jum.


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