Amid meager rural development allowance, Bilu Island lacks funds for road repair

Townships in Mon State say they are struggling to achieve much in the way of development due to the limited budget allocated to rural development in the 2017-2018 financial plan.

Each township in Mon State was allotted K300 million for rural development. This amount was divided even further in Chaungzone, where it was split between Chaungzone township 1 and Chaungzone township 2.

Local officials are already saying they don’t have enough funds to cover planned road repairs, like the Ka Mar Kay-Taw Pa Kauk Road on Bilu Island which is in the middle of an upgrade.

“Gravel and a granular base have already been laid down. The [rural development department] has been planning to pave it with asphalt,” Daw Kyi Kyi Mya, the Mon State Hluttaw MP from Chaungzone township 2, told Mon News Agency.

But the blueprint for finishing the one mile project requires an addition K125 million, or almost all of the township’s development budget.

Daw Kyi Kyi Mya said that as the township is strapped for cash, it will have to go back to the state government and appeal for enough money to finish the roadway project.

U Khin Maung Oo, director of Chaungzone township’s municipal committee, said upgrading the road is about more than improving transportation, as companies are interested in launching aquaculture farms and other investments, but only after the road conditions improve.

“As there are many acres of farmlands, there will be more products and jobs for our Bilu Island if aquaculture farms can start operations,” he said.

Mon State govt donates Karen costumes, instruments to universities

In effort to bolster Karen traditions, the Mon State government has donated dance costumes and instruments to five universities, an official said.

The Karen literature and culture committees at Mawlamyine University, Mon State’s Technological University, the University of Computer Studies, the Government Technical Institute and the Agriculture Institute each received K1.5million-worth of Karen costumes and traditional musical instruments, according to Saw Aung Myint Khine, Mon State’s Karen Affairs Minister. The K7.5 million was allotted from the state government’s budget he said.

Universities have cultural groups for Karen ceremonies on special days and for state-level government ceremonies,” he told KIC News on September 18. “Some universities have difficulty renting Karen don costumes and musical instruments. [So] 40 Karen don costumes and a set of traditional musical instruments have been donated to each of the five universities.”

The Mon State government has also provided K15 million for a Karen New Year’s Day ceremony, K60 million for the Karen Literature and Culture Committees’ graduation ceremonies and K16 million for a traditional Karen wrist-tying ceremony.

Karen diaspora in Minnesota keeps language alive with local trainings

A group of Karen residents in Minnesota are trying to keep their traditions alive among the diaspora by teaching the Karen language and literature.

Every weekend from January 28 to September 4, a group that calls itself the Putermine Gontar Temple taught 16 adults and kids in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Mahn Lone Paung, who organized the training, said he hopes Karen youth growing up in America take time to learn Karen culture, dances and literature.

On September 9, the Putermine Gontar community held a graduation ceremony for the Karen literature trainees.

Mahn Lone Paung noted that it hasn’t been easy trying to solicit interest in preserving Karen traditions.

“I feel sad that our literature is in a state of decline. We always invite the Karen people from our city to attend the training but only a few people come,” he told KIC News.

Around 70 people attended the literature graduation ceremony, however. Certificates of completion were awarded to the trainees, followed by a performance of traditional Karen songs and dances.

“[Our] spoken language will not last long if people do not learn the written language,” said Saw Min Soe San, who attended the graduation ceremony. “I have been teaching Karen literature to my grandchildren in order for them to be able to read and speak in the Karen language and so they can know the traditional culture.”

Members of the Putermine Gontar Temple community estimated that over 64,000 Karen people live in the United States, with the largest community based around Saint Paul, Minnesota. According to the Minnesota Literacy Council around 12,000 Karen refugees were have been resettled to Saint Paul.

German magazine expresses concern over detention of Myanmar journalists

The German magazine GEO has expressed concern over the detention by Bangladesh of two Myanmar journalists who were working in Cox’s Bazar covering the Rakhine crisis.

The editors of GEO issued a press release on September 15.

“Burmese photojournalist Minzayar Oo and his assistant Hkun Lat have being held by the Bangladeshi authorities since September, 7th. Minzayar Oo is a member of the British photo agency Panos Pictures and was assigned by German GEO magazine to cover the Rohingya crisis in the Bangladeshi town of Cox's Bazar, where many Rohingyas have arrived to seek protection from the atrocities they have suffered in Myanmar.

“Minzayar Oo and Hkun Lat were assigned by GEO magazine because of their professionalism and their journalistic integrity. Minzayar Oo is an internationally renowned, award winning photojournalist, whose work is published widely and has been recognised by some of the world's most important journalism awards.

“We, the editorial board of GEO magazine and the staff and photographers at Panos Pictures, are deeply concerned about the continued detention of Minzayar Oo and Hkun Lat and the fact that they have been denied bail.”

Three hundred residents flee, three detained after alleged Tatmadaw shooting incident

Around 300 residents from a village in northern Shan State have fled into the jungle after a Tatmadaw patrol reportedly began shooting in response to a landmine blast, the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) said on September 14.

According to the SHRF’s account, a group of around 60 Tatmadaw troops from the 325th Light Infantry Battalion based in Mine-ye/Mong Yai township where patrolling with the local Nam Pawng People’s Militia when they set off a landmine on September 10. After the explosion, the troops began shooting and shelling into the nearby area. Local residents fled in terror, the SHRF said.

“[The] Tatmadaw has violated the human rights of the villagers while they were carrying out a clearance operation. The residents are afraid to return back to their villages. They are still worried since the incident took place recently,” Sai Korn Lieo, spokesperson of the SHRF, told KIC News.

He said that the shooting took place in the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army – North’s (SSPP/SSA-N) area.

Later that same day, the patrol allegedly detained three Shan farmers, beating them and forcing them to act as porters, the SHRF’s report said.

Sai San Hla, San San Kyaw, and San Sai Korn from Loi Ywe and Nar Larn villages were released the next day after an elder from Nam Poke Village came to vouch that they were not involved in the SSA.

Hsipaw traffic police urge drivers to slow down and follow the road rules

Reckless, high-speed drivers are leading to preventable accidents and road fatalities in southern Shan State’s Hsipaw township, police have said.

On September 13, a motorcycle crashed into a parked 12-wheel truck in front of a high school in Wein Sein Ward in Hsipaw township at around 8pm. The motorcycle driver sustained a gash on his neck and was transported to the hospital in critical condition. The passenger on back was injured on her forehead.

“The motorcycle driver was in the wrong. We use right-hand drive here. The motorcycle crashed into the vehicle that was parked on the left side of the road so it was his mistake,” said Police Colonel Nan Myaing, from the Hsipaw Township Traffic Police.

He said in the past nine months, police have recorded 43 road accidents in Hsipaw township.

“You can say the number [of road accidents] is high. They are caused by reckless driving. That’s why I want the drivers to reduce their speed. Please follow the road rules,” he said.

“If you don’t know the road rules, try to learn them,” he added.

Shan Herald was not able to reach the motorcycle or truck driver from the September 13 accident.

Bago JMC slammed for lacking transparency after dropping Q&A from public meet

What was supposed to be a public forum on the peace process in Bago Region this week turned into more of a lecture when the question and answer portion of the event was cut.

The Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee of Bago Region’s September 12 meeting in Kyaukkyi township attracted a crowd of about 400 people.

“They [the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee of Bago] explained how the JMC came into existence and about the peace process. The ceremony ended after the [Southern] Command’s commander gave the closing speech,” Naw Ta Bee Thar, a local civil society representative told KIC News. “The question and answer session wasn’t included. The people who attended the ceremony felt weird because they had to leave after listening to the talks. [The JMC] should have given the public a chance to ask questions.”

Local MP U Tin Sann Oo, who is also the chair of the Bago Regional Hluttaw’s Ethnic Affairs Committee, blasted the JMC for failing to be transparent. He said that local residents had attended the event hoping to discuss local issues that are important for the JMC to hear and respond to.

Seven members of the 14-member Bago Region JMC attended the meeting, including the JMC chair, Major General Myat Kyaw, who leads the Southern Command, and committee vice chair Saw Lin Aung.

The committee members responded to allegations about their lack of transparency by noting that they have been meeting with the public every month.

“Question and answer sessions were included in the previous meetings. It just wasn’t included on the agenda this time,” Say Htoo Blad, a civilian representative member of the JMC told KIC News on September 13.

“People have been talking about the need to include the question and answer session. We will submit this [request] during the next [JMC] meeting.”

The Bago Region JMC was established in Taungoo on October 14, 2016. The committee is comprised of 14 members: five representatives from the Karen National Union [KNU], five representatives from the Tatmadaw and four civilian representatives.

Subscribe to this RSS feed