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Kachins shun junta-organised Manau festival

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Less than half the usual number of visitors attended this Manau festival commemorating Kachin State Day, which kicked off today in Myitkyina, according to festival organisers.

This year’s Manau festival will run for five days before ending on January 11.

Unlike previous years, the 2011 festival was organised under the supervision of the Burmese military regime’s northern command officers.

“There were around 800 people at the opening ceremony, much less than last year. I hope more people come and enjoy festivities tomorrow”, La Kari La Awng, head of the festival organising committee told Mizzima.

Another committee member said: “Last year visitors filled the entire grounds. But this year people are keeping away because of the heavy security presence from police, fire fighters and armed soldiers”.

“No one wants to visit, and those who did, were unhappy”.

Previous opening ceremonies have been attended by up to 4,000 people, mostly ethnic Kachins from Burma, but also from neighbouring countries.

Diplomats and tourists also usually attend the ceremony.

“Authorities reminded people over loudspeakers to enjoy the festival to drum up numbers. We saw mainly USDP party members and fire fighters. Other people included soldiers and police”, said a local resident who visited the festival today.

Besides police and soldiers, the local authorities ordered mandatory security detail from 15 fire fighters from 40 Myitkyina ward.

The number of festival goers was matched by the number of security personnel, according to another attendee.

Rev. Zong Kyang and Pastor Dau Khau from the Kachin Christian Churches inaugurated the festival at 8am with prayers.

Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) officials, who have resisted Burmese government pressure to transform into a Border Guard Force (BGF), did not officially attend today's festivities.

Northern command leaders had only extended an invitation to them on January 4.

Military Affairs Security General Staff Officer of military affairs security, Colonel Thet Pone informed Colonel Jee Nau from the KIO liaison office in Myitkyina that while they could attend, they must appear in civilian clothes.

The Manau festival was re-branded in state-owned media this week as the ‘Union Manau Festival’, causing offense to many Kachins.
Last Updated ( Sunday, 09 January 2011 20:38 )  

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