Since Gen. Ne Win took control of the country in 1962, Kachin people have not celebrated their traditional manau festivals freely in their motherland, Kachin State, in Northern Burma, and have to participate in the festivals in fear.
The two day Manau dance festival, being held November 26 to 27, is continuing today in Ban Mai Samakee village, which was given by King Bhumibol Adulyadej, of Thailand, to the Kachin people and established on 5 February 1982, through members of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).
“This festival is to honor the King of Thailand on his birthday, and also to encourage gatherings of Kachin people around the world,” said Rev. Lashi Tu Nau, the pastor of the Kachin Baptist Church in the village.
Rev. Tu Nau He told KNG over one thousand Kachin people from Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, China, the United States of America, and Kachin State, in Burma, came together to participate in the dance festival.
“We call this year’s festival ‘Zup Ra Manau’ (gathering Manau) for the first time, and this is the fourth time celebrating of Manau dance here,” said pastor.
The King of Thailand has funded the festival every year, said a committee member.
The pastor said, they have been able to build Manau poles and Manau monuments with the funding from the King. Thai authorities allow the festival to happen without any restrictions.
“We feel safe and peaceful, whenever we celebrate our festival here,” said Rev. Tu Nau. He said the situation inside Burma makes for too many restrictions by the Military government when celebrating the festival.
He said Thai Police and Army provide the security for the event.
Ban Mai Samakee village, located in Chiang Dao district in Chiang Mai province was officially recognized on February 13, 1984. The number of Kachin residents has risen to over 300 at the present time, but in the beginning there were only around eight families, said the pastor.
The festival was also attended by members of the Royal Family, including the brother in law of His Majesty, according to a Manau Committee member.
The village is about 13 km (8 miles) away from the Burma border, and most residents depend on agriculture for their livelihood. They can export their produce to foreign countries, the pastor added.
Organizers plan to celebrate the festival once in every two years, the Manau Committee Member said.