Junta Drops Charges Against Four Kachin Festival Officials

Written by KNG
Friday, 15 January 2010

The cooked up charges against four ethnic Kachin cultural festival officials in Bhamo city in northern Kachin State was dropped by the Burmese junta, sources close to the accused told Kachin News Group today.

The junta had heaped charges on the four members of the Acting Committee for the city’s second largest Kachin cultural festival on “Thanksgiving and Manau festival for Bhamo (Manmaw in Kachin) district” on November 27 to 28 last year. The charges against Chairman Hpaulu La Wawm, Secretary Naw Grawng, Maha Brang Tawng and Accountant Ms. Roi Grawng were dropped after they were interrogated at least thrice in the city police station, said sources close to them.

The police had mainly charged the Festival Committee Chairman La Wawm saying that he would be held responsible, said sources close to him. The festival officials were charged with breach of government laws, such as publication and distribution of the 2010 calendar and a daily festival newspaper thrice, and for selling festival VCDs to participants without permission from the military authorities of Bhamo city and district, said committee sources.

The four officials were initially interrogated at the police station on December 19, last year. They were again summoned to the police station for detention on December 21 but they evaded being imprisoned with the help of two locals standing guarantors, said Bhamo Kachin Culture and Literature sources.

On January 6, for the third time, they were summoned to the police station. Soon after, all charges were dropped on the special orders of the so-called “merciful-minded government” by the police station, said a Kachin community leader in Bhamo.

In an unusual move, four of the highest ranking officials of Bhamo district— Col. Khin Maung Myint head of the District Administration Office (Kya-Ya-Ka), U Khin Maung Aye head of Bhamo City Administration Office (Ma-Ya-Ka), Soe Lwin Moe district police chief and Col. Khin Maung Maw commander of Momeik-based military strategic command were shifted last week by the junta, said government sources.

Before his three-year term came to an end, the district administrator Col. Khin Maung Myint was shifted but had shrewdly clamped down and restricted the cultural and religious festivals of ethnic Kachin and Shan in the district, local Kachin cultural leaders said.

On November 12, 2009 a government bulldozer barged into the venue of Kachin Literature and Culture in Aung Ta village, two miles northeast of the city and demolished the circular Manau dance field being paved with a thin layer of concrete for Manau festival dancers on the orders of the district administrator.

The Kachin Thanksgiving and Manau festival was originally slated for three days but forcibly cut down to two days by the district administrator Col. Khin Maung Myint, festival officials said.

People in Bhamo are not optimistic about the latest reshuffle of the district’s top officials. They believe that the latest changes could be linked to the junta’s elections this year where no dates have been announced, said a local government employee.

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