Junta takes control of Kachin Manau festival

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In a bid to take control of the Manau festival, a senior Burmese Army officer will be heading the Acting Manau Committee to celebrate the largest Kachin traditional festival, which will mark the 63rd anniversary of Kachin State Day, on January 10, 2011.

The annual Manau festival will be held in Kachin National Park in Myitkyina, the capital of Burma’s Kachin State from January 7 to 11.

In a show of muscle, the incumbent head of the Acting Manau Committee was forcibly removed and replaced with a non-Kachin Burmese Army officer for the celebrations of the Manau festival.  Now the festival will perforce come under the direct management and control of the junta, said members of the Committee.
kachin_state_day_63In a pre-emptive move, Brig-Gen Soe Win, Vice-Commander of the Northern Regional Command was appointed head of the Acting Manau Committee of the Festival by Commander Brig-Gen Zeyar Aung on December 6.

The committee was also divided into two groups by Commander Zeyar Aung of the Administrative Council and Advisory Group, which never existed all these days.

At an ostensible attempt at fairness Lahkri La Awng, present head of the Acting Manau Committee was appointed as general secretary of the Committee by the Commander.

“People, (the junta), who have no idea of our cultural heritage will be managing the festival. It tantamounts to we losing control of our cultural event,” said a resident commenting on the Manau festival passing onto the hands of the junta.

The military junta has a history of interfering with the event. Last year the regime during the festival interfered in the publishing of a daily Manau journal. In a blatant move it monitored every single activity of the Manau Committee and put in place tight security. KIO members were banned from attending.

The Burmese junta takes control of the administration of the Kachin Manau festival after U Thein Zaw, newly elected Member of Parliament of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) for Myitkyina, shelled out 50 million kyats (US $57,143) for the festival.

In a bid to upstage ethnic Kachins the USDP is trying to form its own Manau Committee to celebrate their victory in the November 7 election. The idea is to replace the existing Kachin Manau Committee following an argument between the USDP and the Kachin cultural committee, pointed out members of the Acting Manau Committee.

He said, “When we decided to scrap the Acting Manau Committee then the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the official nomenclature for the junta, said our committee will continue to exist headed by the Council and Advisory Committee and unity would be maintained.”

The members of the Acting Manau Committee and USDP members are included in the council. The recently formed Acting Committee will be totally under the thumb of the USDP.

Local people, who fund the cultural dance, have been asked to take back their funds if USDP leads the event. The branches committee offices will have no role in the event.

Newly appointed Acting Manau Committee leader Brig-Gen Soe Win has banned members of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) from attending the Manau dance next month.

“Members of KIO will not be participating in the event so the cultural dance will be held only over two days, down from the normal four days in the past,” said a member of the Advisory group.

The State Day’s Manau festival will kick start from January 7. However the Manau dance programmes will be for only two days. The size of the festival activity area has been reduced from 93 acres to 24 acres, said committee members.
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