Q&A : ‘Cartoons Are My Way of Protesting against Burmese Junta’(HarnLay)

CHIANG MAI, Thailand, Dec 15 (IPS) – He talks with his hands. They are in constant motion as he expresses a view, makes a joke, mumbles.

They are the hands that have combined with Harn Lay’s wit and political insights into exposing the oppression and absurdities in military-ruled Burma through a flow of cartoons that have appeared in the Burmese media in exile.

In one, 44-year-old Harn Lay depicts Burma’s strongman, Senior Gen Than Shwe, sweeping the homes of residents under a carpet to make way for the junta’s new administrative capital in Naypidaw. In another, he depicts the junta leader shaped like a giant balloon to show the increasing power of the military. “Humour is my weapon to target the military regime in my country,” says Harn Lay, a member of Burma’s Shan ethnic minority who got his first taste of brutal politics during the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, which was crushed by the military, leaving over 3,000 students and activists dead.

He fled Rangoon soon after the crackdown to begin his first foray as a cartoonist and an illustrator for a Shan rebel group operating close to the Thai-Burmese border. But work in the public relations arm of the resistance movement was not for him.

The product of Rangoon’s School of Fine Arts Academy knew he had more to offer. The influence of his father, who painted as a hobby, had also shaped his interest in the visual media, including a “fascination with cartoons.”

IPS caught up with Harn Lay on the sidelines of the just concluded Mekong Media Forum – which brought together more than 200 journalists from across the region – in this northern Thai city to talk about his art and his politics as a cartoonist in exile.

Q: When you first came to Chiang Mai in 2003, it was to be a journalist for an exile media organisation. So what made you switch? Continue reading “Q&A : ‘Cartoons Are My Way of Protesting against Burmese Junta’(HarnLay)”