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Military imposes restrictions on Kachin-language newspaper

(Mizzima/IFEX) - Members of the Burmese Army will be editing the 2010 edition of the "JingHpaw Mungdaw Nsen" newspaper published annually in the ethnic Kachin language.

The newspaper is published by the Manaw festival organizing committee to commemorate Kachin State Day. It will be submitting all news stories and articles to the army under the Northern Command headquarters for editing once the items have been translated into Burmese.

"This year, the editing is being done by army officers and soldiers. We have to translate all news and articles written in either English or Kachin into Burmese," a member of the festival organizing committee told Mizzima.

The Regional Command headquarters told festival organizers that permission to publish would not be granted unless they abided by the army's instructions. Moreover, the regime warned the paper not to publish inappropriate news.

Kachin State Day is on 10 January. The festival is being held from 5-11 January 2010, along with the Manaw dance.

The newspaper has been published annually since 2005 and contains information on Kachin State, the ethnic Kachin people, their traditions, background, history and the guests attending the Manaw festival. The 12-page newspaper was published in 2009 with circulation figures of over 1,500 copies.

The Thailand-based Kachin News Group (KNG) reported that in Bamo four members of the festival organizing committee were summoned and questioned by junta officials for publishing daily newspapers and Manaw festival papers without permission, and selling Manaw festival VCDs during the 2nd Manaw harvest festival.


BACKGROUND:

There is palpable tension in the region as Commander Maj. Gen. Soe Win, of the Northern Command, instructed the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) not to attend the festival in their military uniforms.

"The Manaw festival organizing committee and a Colonel of the Burmese Army held a meeting regarding the festival. They sent a letter directing KIO not to come to the Manaw festival in military uniforms, but in plainclothes," a KIO official of the Liaison Office in Myitkyina, Kachin State, said.

Senior KIO leaders held a separate meeting at their headquarters and decided to send only a KIO representative to the Manaw festival, which starts in Sitarpu Ward in Myitkyina. Over 1,000 KIO members joined the Kachin State Day and danced in the festival in 2009.

At the tenth meeting between KIO delegates and Northern Command Commander on 29 December, the junta demanded that the KIO present the rights of the Kachin people enshrined in the historic Panlong Agreement in detail in written form, KIO sources said.

KIO started their armed struggle on 5 February 1962 for self-determination, but they reached a ceasefire agreement with the junta in 1994.

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