Burmese Bards to Boycott Literary Festival
BURMA

Burmese Bards to Boycott Literary Festival

Myanmar, Burma, poets, cartoonist, literary festival, Irrawaddy

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks at the 2013 Irrawaddy Literary Festival 2013 in Rangoon. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — More than 50 Burmese poets are planning to boycott an international literary festival in Mandalay next month, apparently objecting to the inclusion of government-linked artists in the event.

The poets, who released a statement Sunday declaring their plan, are joined by about 30 cartoonists, who similarly say they will steer clear of the high-profile Irrawaddy Literary Festival 2014.

Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi is the patron of the festival, which runs from Feb 14-16 and will feature world-renowned authors including Louis de Bernières (author of “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”) and Jung Chang (author of “Wild Swans”).

The planned boycotts appear to be related to a longstanding divide between those in the literary community who have worked with Burma’s military dominated governments, and those who have insisted upon independence from the country’s rulers.

In their statement, the group of Mandalay-based poets said they were not happy about “manipulation” in the organization of the event, without giving specific details about the allegation.

“We have publicly announced that we Mandalay poets feel we don’t need to join the festival, so we won’t read poetry during the festival or participate in any part of the festival,” said Ko Htet (Ye Oo), one of the boycotting poets.

Cartoonist Aung Maw told The Irrawaddy that he and about 30 fellow cartoonists in Mandalay had also decided not to join the festival after they learned that several prominent writers who they respect left the festival’s organizing committee amid disputes over fundraising and the selection of participants.

Aung Maw said the organizers had originally agreed donations would not be solicited from the public to fund the festival, but later decided to collect funds for “entertainment” during the event.

“We learned that they were asking for donations. We can’t accept it,” he said.

Thike Tun Thet, a prominent writer in Mandalay, told The Irrawaddy that he quit the organizing committee because he disagrees with what the committee is doing.

“I think we can’t work together wholeheartedly for the festival,” he said, without being specific. He added that other prominent writers Kyaw Yin Myint, Dr Aung Gyi and Hus Nget had also left the committee.

Ma Ma Naing, a leading organizer of the festival, told The Irrawaddy that the writers were not pleased with her because she had invited writers from government-linked writers’ associations to appear at the festival.

“I did it because [the festival’s] organizer and director, Jane Heyn, told me that she wants as many writers as possible as she welcomes every Burmese writer who would like to take part,” she explained.
“They [the disgruntled Mandalay writers] have never had a healthy relationship with writers from writers’ associations.”

According to a Mandalay-based writer, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the issue, many writers in Mandalay are not impressed with those from writers’ associations as they write for government-related publications and produce work considered propaganda.

When the late dictator Ne Win was in power, he founded a literary association known as “Literary Workers” for propaganda work. His successor military government inherited the association, but with a different name—the “Literary and Periodicals Association.”

Now, President Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government has its own equivalent, the “Myanmar Writers’ Association.”

“It has happened since long time ago,” the writer said. “We have two different types of artists: ones who stand up for the oppressed and ones who are for the oppressors.

“To sum up what is happening now in Mandalay: the ones who have been standing up for the oppressed are not happy to stand with the ones who are for the oppressors.”

Despite the ongoing hiccups, Ma Ma Niang, who is herself a Writers’ Association member, believes the festival will be a huge success.

“Even though there are some people who won’t join the festival, we still have enough artists to make it happen,” she said.

“Make no mistake, people who won’t join the festival will surely be left behind as it is the first ever international festival in Mandalay.”


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4 Responses to Burmese Bards to Boycott Literary Festival

  1. I did smell something fishy and now it is confirmed.
    KM Kaung — http://www.kmkaung.com

  2. As artists I agree that they should take a stand and stick to their principles. One will find that this is not the case with many of the so-called artists in the arts and literary world of Burma. There are many so called artists who would not have a shred of dignity. They would either suck up to the authorities or they would confine their literary skills to praise those who were in power. Even today when some writers, even though they claimed their work to be either historical events or biographies were not so generous with the truth but would present their distorted version of history. I’ve stopped listening to Tin Tin Mya ever since I knew where her sympathy lies. Same with Chinese artists; while I respect Ai Wei Wei for his political views I despise Lang Lang for not aligning himself with his fellow artists. Daw Suu may be the patron of the festival but when it comes to principles no one should be spared.

  3. International or not, the festival should be a unified effort.
    The organizing committee must make all efforts to include all writers.
    It is now up to the government-side writers to stay away, or else, they must declare they do not now work for any government, and show regret of their past partnership.
    Ma Ma Naing must make amends to what she said about going ahead without part of the community.
    Small or big, all parts are essential to the whole.

  4. George Than Setkyar Heine

    Despite the ongoing hiccups, Ma Ma Niang, who is herself a Writers’ Association member, believes the festival will be a huge success.
    “Even though there are some people who won’t join the festival, we still have enough artists to make it happen,” she said.
    “Make no mistake, people who won’t join the festival will surely be left behind as it is the first ever international festival in Mandalay.
    Thus, Ma Ma Naing has SUMMED IT UP all!
    She has BARED the MINDSET of the MILITARY RULERS – MAKE IT HAPPEN at ALL COSTS even at the expense of PEOPLE’S LIVES not to mention DRIVING the WEDGE among the LITERARY COMMUNITY as well – running Burma from Naypyidaw today, wearing civilian attire and military uniforms as well of course.
    Of course Ma Ma Naing and her lot (stooges of the military rulers) would MAKE IT HAPPEN whether the people like it or not with the blessing/backing of the Naypyidaw in the first place as well.
    “I did it because [the festival’s] organizer and director, Jane Heyn, told me that she wants as many writers as possible as she welcomes every Burmese writer who would like to take part,” she explained.
    Who’s JANE HEYN by the way?
    Certainly a foreigner no doubt.
    Then Ma Ma Naing is simply a ROBOT – programmed to play her part – in this matter.
    She is only a FACILITATOR under the GUIDANCE/ORDERS of Jane Heyn a foreigner as well in the first place who is staging the Literary Festival in BURMA (Mandalay), don’t argue man!
    This evidenced she has NO CREDIBILITY OTHER THAN TO OBEY and FOLLOW the ORDERS – like the Burma Army today under Min Aung Hlaing following Than Shwe’s orders only – and MAKE THINGS HAPPEN only.
    And the question is “COULDN’T ANYONE (NATIVE of BURMA) a LITERARY FIGURE as well HEAD this KIND of a LITERARY EVENT in BURMA?”
    “The planned boycotts appear to be related to a longstanding divide between those in the literary community who have worked with Burma’s military dominated governments, and those who have insisted upon independence from the country’s rulers”.
    So, that’s the PROBLEM I see!
    I figured it stemmed from the fact: CONFLICT of INTEREST between DIE HARDS – fighting for Burma’s democracy, freedom and human rights since day one until today – and QUISLINGS – supporting and playing proxy to the military rulers until today – folks!
    And Ma Ma Naing could be deemed simply as a QUISLING in this case if not a TROJAN HORSE in the Burmese literary community for that matter I should say.
    “It has happened since long time ago,” the writer said. “We have two different types of artists: ones who stand up for the oppressed and ones who are for the oppressors”.
    “To sum up what is happening now in Mandalay: the ones who have been standing up for the oppressed are not happy to stand with the ones who are for the oppressors.”
    Of course, I WOULDN’T as well, you bet!
    In fact, I have chosen to stand up for the oppressed since my days as a university student in Burma and participated in the first popular defiance of military rule (Ne Win’s) on July 7, 1962.
    And I remained a REBEL against all authoritarian rules (military and quasi-civilian) in Burma until today since 1988 in the wake of the students led worldwide known August 8, 1988, nationwide uprisings in Burma until today.
    Since Ne Win commandeered/employed the BURMA ARMY as his tool for grabbing power and property via the March 2, 1962, military coup, our late Gen. Aung San founded BURMA ARMY SLIPPED INTO INFAMY as only a KILLING MACHINE or TOOL of Ne Win and Than Shwe and his cohorts’ at Naypyidaw running Burma today, don’t argue man!
    And the Burmese students today led by Min Ko Naing and his colleagues TOOK UP the TASK and HEADED the STUDENTS and the PEOPLE of BURMA and STOOD UP for DEMOCRACY, FREEDOM, JUSTICE and HUMAN RIGHTS AGAINST the MILITARY OPPRESSORS led by Than Shwe’s clerk Thein Sein and his cohorts – in uniform and civilian attire – still running amok at Naypyidaw since August 8, 1988, until today.
    And the BURMA ARMY EARNED the WRATH and ENMITY of the STUDENTS and the PEOPLE of BURMA since 1962 until today.
    Of course, this DIVIDE/GAP between the STUDENTS and the PEOPLE on one side and the BURMA ARMY on the other would REMAIN and even GET WIDER as well as LONG as Than Shwe and his cohorts running the SHOW at Naypyidaw INSIST and Min Aung Hlaing EVEN THREATENING while HIGHLIGHTING/PROJECTING the ROLE of the BURMA ARMY – today reduced to no more than a MERCENARY FORCE PROTECTING Chinese PROJECTS/INTERESTS in Kachin State and Burma – as INDISPENSABLE and NON-NEGOTIABLE in the present and future POLITICS/POLITICAL PICTURE of BURMA trust me.
    POLITICS BELONG TO THE PEOPLE AND THE BURMA ARMY’S TASK IS TO SERVE and PROTECT the PEOPLE, NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY and TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY primarily and in the first place, in case Min Aung Hlaing PRETENDS NOT TO KNOW THE FACT.
    THREATENING the PEOPLE (KIA and other armed ethnic groups lately as well) ON THE PART OF THE CHINA CHOSE C-in-C of the BURMA ARMY WOULD MAKE NO BIGGER RIPPLES/WAVES IF NOT DESTROY the POND THAN A SNAIL JUMPING, EMULATING A FROG man, lest Min Aung Hlaing forgets as well!
    PEOPLE POWER TIDE WILL DRIVE the DIKES/DYKES and the LIKES at Naypyidaw INTO HISTORY and OBLIVION and IMMINENTLY as well, just wait!

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