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I have been serving as a jury member for the ASEAN film section of the  second Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival in Yangon, an amazing achievement organised by leading Myanmar film director Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi.  On Sunday night we had the opening ceremony and Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi asked me to do a short performance. 

I wanted to celebrate the change we are seeing in Yangon today that allows such a festival to take place, and celebrate the commitment of the organisers and the audience to supporting human rights, and encourage community participation in the arts.  So I invited about twelve people, some friends, some friends of friends, to join me on the stage, and take a good look at the audience.  Then they told the audience one by one, in their own words, how I had approached them.  They said I had said that if they cared about human rights, they should come and see an audience that was interested  too.  

Afterwards, we watched Rithy Panh's Oscar-nominated film The Missing Picture about his family's experience of the Khmer Rouge which reminded us that no matter how much  we have suffered under the military regime in Burma, nothing compares to the suffering of the Cambodian people.

The following day, I went to Wizaya cinema to watch one of the ASEAN films, Jalana.  I was expecting to stay on for a short Myanmar documentary  called  The Open Sky  by young directors Kyal Yie Lin Six, Lynnsatt Nwe and Phyo Zayar Kyaw. It is about a Buddhist neighbour  who sheltered a Muslim woman in the town of Meiktila during the violence which took place in 2012 and led to many - mostly Muslims - dead and injured and whole neighbourhoods burnt.  

But suddenly the organisers came on to announce that the film could not be shown.  Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi said that the intention of the film festival is not to create other conflicts.  The organisers and the cinema had received threats from Buddhist extremists that the cinema would be burnt, and the organisers attacked.  They accused the film makers of making a one-sided film with foreign money.  Unfortunately given that the government in Myanmar doesn't provide support for film makers - and indeed that is the case for the majority of the ASEAN film makers showing at the festival - the only option is to draw on foreign funds. 

Over the last month, we have seen the same pattern with extremists who claim to be preserving  Buddhism, threatening leading civil society activists for their public stand against four draft laws restricting mixed marriage and religious conversion drafted by a monks group called ma-ba-tha.  They have accused civil society leaders of being 'traitors' which has led them to be joined on Facebook by others who are 'proud to be a traitor'.

Freedom of speech has expanded in Myanmar, and censorship is greatly reduced from two years ago. That is how we can have a four day human rights film festival in Yangon followed by a plan to take it to student unions across the country. But as in many countries, the organisers had still had to show all the films to the censors. They had been happy to approve The Open Sky, a film which demonstrates the metta or loving kindness which we believe is one of the Burmese people's most attractive characteristics, a form of which can be found in all religions present in Burma.  How ironic is it then, that with our new found freedoms, some Buddhists are preaching hatred and threatening violence?

Some of the ASEAN films I judged faced initial problems when they were made, like Jalana, an Indonesian film about street artists which was also filmed at a time of transition and was according to the director considered controversial by some Muslims. But the director stuck with the film and eventually it was shown without problems,  We need to find a place in Myanmar where we can show The Open Sky.  Otherwise the horizon for human rights and freedom of expression in Myanmar looks stormy.

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He was conceived the moment the idea for the book,

 

‘Joys and Sorrows of Work,’ hit his spermy parents.

On the morning of his birth, a series of auspicious dillies 

were observed - a toddy palm in the neighbourhood 

was struck down by lightening, crows were crowing,   

the cooking oil price went down inexplicably. And the book? 

A family rival published it first and went on to claim

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The more I think of him, the more I get repulsive. My abomination swells

like tsunami. My mind itches inch by inch. What smears is he wearing?  

What has he been in touch with? What germs and bugs has he got on him?

Are the stains on him his sweat? Does he smell the righteous livelihood?

Where does he come from? Where has he been through? What’s his history?

Is he from a team of presidential bodyguards, or from a tattered begging bowl

in front of a bamboo drum? From a retired teacher’s gardener, or

from Gaddafi’s treasury? Is he just a consequence of karma, God’s will,

or Allah’s blessing? Where does he come from? Does he come clean?

Is his soul sealed? What’s that smell on him? Has he arrived through

Steve Jobs’ latest Apple product, Lady Gaga’s underwear, or the aid programmes

of Shinzō Abe? Has he come from Kim Jung-un’s nuke inheritance, or  

from crony businessmen’s charity, or from the clinking of the glasses

at the end of sanctions? How much is he worn out? How many wrongs has he done?

What has he been exchanged for? What’s his hardness? What’s his inflation rate?

Is he a bet? Is he a fine? Is he a graft? Is he a wager? Is he an interest rate?

What’s his skin colour? What’s his mask? How many languages does he speak?

Where does he come from? From the closed-door G-20 summit or from

the suicide note of a bomber? From the giggles of a whorehouse or from

the meal money of a seamstress? From teardrops big and small, from taxation

or natural resources? From compensation, from uniliteral ties or from

pro bono organizations? Where from? Where to? Has he come a long way?

How will he go on? What are the stains and stigmata on him?

The more I think of him, the more I get repulsive. My abomination swells

like tsunami. Shall I kiss him to find out his flavour? The itch of my mind has

just turned into the irrepresssible itch on my palms. The itch of my life …

 

 

Eaindra

Translated by ko ko thett

The poem is titled in English. An earlier Burmese version of the poem appeared in The Padauk Bloom Magazine, January 2012, Myanmar.

Image by Htein Lin

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‘No alternative other than peace’


To mark 2nd anniversary of civil war raging in Kachin State, ‘wishing for peace’ ceremony and evening concert was held on 9th of June in Mandalay organised by Sane Yaungso, environmental and humanitarian activist group. During the ceremony, the veteran poet Ko Lay (Innwa Gonye) and U Tun Aung Kyaw, Advocate of the Supreme Court, delivered the speeches on the Peace. ‘ The ceremony is intended to spread the following message. Peace is only way to achieve the prosperous Union where the democracy and the development in all aspects of social and economic are well promoted.’ , says one of the organisers from Sane Yaungso. The Peace of Heart, the music album contained 9 songs, made by Peace Weapon Music band of Sane Yaungso members was also launched at the ceremony and the attendees were entertained with the peace songs. Finally, Mandalay-born singer Lin Lin delivered a solo performance before the ceremony was concluded

 

တစ္ေၾကာ့ျပန္ ကခ်င္စစ္ပြဲ ႏွစ္ႏွစ္ေျမာက္တ့ဲ ဇြန္ ၉ ရက္က စိမ္းေရာင္စိုအဖြဲ႕ ရဲ႕ အစီအစဥ္နဲ႕ ၿငိမ္းခ်မ္းေရးဆႏၵျပဳပြဲ နဲ႔ ဂီတဆည္းဆာကို မႏၲေလးၿမိဳ႕မွာ က်င္းပျပဳလုပ္ခ့ဲပါတယ္။
ဒီပြဲမွာ ကဗ်ာဆရာႀကီး ကိုေလး(အင္းဝဂုဏ္ရည္)နဲ႕ တရားလႊတ္ေတာ္ေရွ႕ေနႀကီး ဦးထြန္းေအာင္ေက်ာ္တို႔က ၿငိမ္းခ်မ္းေရးအမွာစကားမ်ား ေျပာဆိုၾကပါတယ္။
ဒီပြဲက်င္းပရျခင္းနဲ႔ ပတ္သက္လို႔ စိမ္းေရာင္စိုအဖြဲ႕ တာဝန္ရွိသူတစ္ဦးက ေျပာဆိုရာမွာ ဒီမိုကေရစီထြန္းကားၿပီး လူမွဳစီးပြား ဖြံ႕ၿဖိဳးတိုးတက္တ့ဲ ျပည္ေထာင္စုႏိုင္ငံေတာ္ တစ္ခု တည္ေထာင္မယ္ဆိုရင္ ၿငိမ္းခ်မ္းေရးမွတစ္ပါး အျခားေရြးရန္ မရွိ ဆိုတ့ဲ သတင္းစကားကို ဒီပြဲကေပးခ်င္ပါတယ္ လို႔ဆိုပါတယ္။
စိမ္းေရာင္စို အဖြဲ႕ Peace Weapon Music Band က ေရးဆိုတီးခတ္ထားတ့ဲ သီခ်င္းကိုးပုဒ္ပါ ၿငိမ္းခ်မ္းေရးႏွလံုးသား ေတးအယ္လဘမ္ကိုလည္း ဒီပြဲမွာ ထုတ္လုပ္ျဖန္႔ခ်ိခ့ဲၿပီး ပရိသတ္ကို ၿငိမ္းခ်မ္းေရးသီခ်င္းမ်ားနဲ႔ ဧည့္ခံေဖ်ာ္ေျဖပါတယ္။
ေနာက္ဆံုးအစီအစဥ္အျဖစ္ မႏၲေလးသားအဆိုေတာ္ လင္းလင္းရဲ႕ တစ္ကိုယ္ေတာ္ သီဆို တင္ဆက္မွဳနဲ႔ ၿငိမ္းခ်မ္းေရးပြဲကို ရုပ္သိမ္းခ့ဲပါတယ္။

                                                                               ရည္မြန္

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‘Dance & Colours’, an art solo exhibition by Rakhine national Thein Sai was on display for five days in May 8-12 at Thiri gallery of Mandalay city. This was the 20th exhibition of this young talented artist Thein Sai, who started showing his works locally and internationally since 2004, and he is also multi award winning artist as follow: The Myanmar Youth Painting (2nd
prize-2004), Elephant Prize (20-Finalist-2006), Elephant Prize ((1th prize-2007), Beauty of Myanmar (III) (Special Prize-2007), Myanmar National Portrait Competiting (20-Finalist-2011) and The Myanmar Youth Painting (1th prize-2012). In this ‘Dance & Colours’ show, the paintings he presented were portraying the traditional dance moves of Burmese female dancer. ‘Since the hosting city Mandalay has got very rich artistic cultural heritage, many of local artists and art appreciators attended the exhibition and provided their suggestions and opinions. There were 21 paintings in total I had exhibited in this show and 5 of them were sold!’, Thein Sai says. Kaung Kin has learned that the artist will get involved in a group exhibition at Lawka Nat gallery of Yangon city in September.