Myanmar’s parallel National Unity Government (NUG) has urged the public to refuse to work for businesses run by the family of coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
The NUG’s Ministry of Commerce declared in an October 18 statement that 15 companies owned by the junta chief’s family should be boycotted as they are supporting violence against civilians.
Anyone who doesn’t abide by the NUG’s statement risks being listed as a collaborator with the military regime, as Snr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing is benefiting personally from the companies.
Citing an investigation by the NUG’s Economic Intelligence Unit, Daw Khin Ma Ma Myo, the NUG’s Minister of Commerce, said that “Min Aung Hlaing, the perpetrator of the state rebellion and war crimes, is abusing the military’s power and running many businesses for the benefit of his family.”
His family’s companies include medical supplies, hospitals, construction, hotels, transportation, film production and entertainment, insurance, telecommunications, an art gallery, restaurants and a gym, according to the Ministry of Commerce’s statement.
The Myanmar military also owns two conglomerates – Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited and Myanmar Economic Corporation – which operate in almost all sectors of the economy.
Daw Khin Ma Ma Myo told The Irrawaddy that people supporting the pro-democracy movement are already boycotting military-affiliated businesses. However, some people are still working with military-backed companies, which allows the junta to raise funds to continue their lethal crackdowns on civilians.
“We have to uproot the culture of having military-owned businesses and companies owned by military leaders’ families,” she said.
“If you don’t want to be on the list of people supporting violence, this is the time to retreat. We urge the public to refuse to use the services these companies provide and not to act as proxy directors or owners or allow their names to be used to register military-backed companies,” added Daw Khin Ma Ma Myo.
The NUG said that people who did collaborate with the businesses, whether as partners, directors, board members, shareholders, staff and legal advisers, risked being punished by the law.
“Action will be taken in accordance with international law and procedures,” the NUG said in its statement.
Of the 15 businesses listed by the NUG, the Mytel Group Company, part-owned by the military, and the Seventh Sense entertainment company, led by the coup leader’s daughter, were listed as ‘suspended’ when their status was checked October 19 on the Directorate of Investment and Company Registration (DICA) website. Information on some of the other companies listed by the NUG was also unavailable on the DICA website, the source of company information under the ousted National League for Democracy government.
The list of companies affiliated to Snr. Gnr. Min Aung Hlaing and his family, as issued by the NUG, is as follows.
A & M Mahar Foods and Medical Products Company
Sky One Construction Company
The Yangon Restaurant, Yangon Gallery for art exhibitions
Everfit Company Limited, gym and fitness in Yangon
Seventh Sense Company Limited, film production and entertainment
Stellar Seven Entertainment Company (Limited)
Azura Beach Resort in Chaung Tha, Ayeyarwady Region
Myanmar is a country riddled with strife and mass killings.
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a human rights organization based out of Thailand, more than 1,100 people have been killed in Myanmar (Burma) since the military took over in February.
Families sit inside their homes — many of them makeshift — and know bloodshed is just outside, said Jane Williams of the Logansport Art Association (LAA). Williams has been working with a group of Burmese artists, many of whom are either in refugee camps in Myanmar or have been released from the camps but lack freedoms available in the U.S.
The unrest of this Asian nation could dispel any notion of happiness, but this group of artists refuses to let that happen, she said, acknowledging that Fort Wayne-based Burmese artist Saw Kennedy, who was once in a refugee camp, has brought nearly 20 artists together for a cultural experience at the LAA at 424 Front St.
“He is bringing us these artists out of Myanmar to show us the better times,” Williams said of the 42 pieces on display at “The Soul of Myanmar” exhibition, which runs through Saturday, Oct. 2. While the majority are from the Asian country, others are living in Norway, Iowa and Fort Wayne.
Getting several of these pieces to Logansport was not easy. In fact, along with a variety of “creative ways” to transport them overseas, Williams said that some were smuggled out of Myanmar through PVC pipe. Many hands played a role in bringing the artwork here, she said, explaining that local resident Sunday Htoo was one of those individuals.
Showcasing the culture, history and rich beauty of the land and its people is that important, she added.
Kennedy agreed, stating in a release that “Even though we were once refugees, if we try and have confidence, if we have a strong vision of the future, and if we are passionate about our dreams, we will receive the most precious opportunity to continue working on our goals.”
His goal is to share culture and history while selling some work for the people in Myanmar. Proceeds from sales will benefit the artists who dared to share their visions of a country where peace seems constantly out of reach.
But whatever may take place in the next few days, Williams said these artists are more concerned with spreading their personal vision of a land divided.
Ko Sid’s series called “Stranger Face” depicts anger, innocence, vanity and struggle. The Yangon, Myanmar, resident stated in a description of his work that pieces are based on his emotions of the current events where people “feel less worth and kindness and more aggression.”
Those feelings are emblazoned across canvas through color highlights and strokes.
Another artist, Min San Shar of Mawlamyine, Myanmar, said that “art shapes him as a free man.”
Even as war rages on, Hei Ar Heison of Myanmar claimed that war, which has been a major part of his life, damages people. And through his art, the desire for everyone to work together has arisen.
Despite the devastation, it’s important to recognize that good can come of bad, said Williams. “Something beautiful can come out of devastation.”
That’s a lesson artist Ar Thet Oo discovered. Residing in Yangar, Myanmar, he said in an account of his work that as he paints the “beauty of poppies, (liking) the moving and dancing of the poppies … (he) realizes beauty is laced with the opium drug, and sometimes beauty contains ugly.”
And currently, that adequately describes his country.
But where bad lives, good triumphs, which is what Kennedy believes, said Williams. “Wherever you live, love what you do, try your best and you will succeed,” she said quoting her friend, claiming that’s exactly what artist Satt Aung T.T. has done.
Along with submissions for the LAA exhibit, Satt Aung T.T. also is competing in a juried show in Grand Rapids, Michigan, called “Art Prize.” If he wins, he could collect $50,000.
“People need to see this (LAA) exhibit,” Williams said. “People need to see the view through the artist’s own eyes…to see the artists’ visions.”
Artists participating in the exhibit include the following: Ko Maung Win Hia, Mg Kywa Khaung, Ar Thet Oo, Co Thiee, Soe Aung, Ni Po U, Soe Htay, Ko Sid, Satt Aung T.T., Su Eaindra, Win Win, Saw Eh, Saw Poe Dah, Hei Ar Heison, Rah Nay Kaw Htoo, Ku Paw, Min San Shar and Saw Kennedy.
A new Paris exhibition is shining a light on seven artists using their work to resist Myanmar’s military junta. FRANCE 24 interviewed Bart Was Not Here, one of the artists featured.
“I’m not an activist, I’m an artist,” says Bart Was Not Here, categorically rejecting being portrayed as a political dissident. However, since the army’s coup in Myanmar on February 1 this year, the 25-year-old artist has been using his art to campaign against the country’s military junta.
He is one of seven Burmese artists whose work is on display at the Place du Palais-Royal in Paris, as part of the exhibition Fighting Fear: #WhatsHappeningInMyanmar, organised by the international NGO Human Rights Watch and running from September 18 until October 17.
Just a few steps from the Louvre, the month-long exhibition shows a series of works created in response to the political situation in Myanmar. Bart Was Not Here’s colourful paintings are displayed alongside photographs of the demonstrations that erupted after the army took power. Pop art’s influence on his work is clear, with a political bent: they mock the religious extremist monk Wirathu, released from prison earlier this month by the junta; the former president Thein Sein; as well as leaders from the country’s intelligence services.
“I made some of them before the coup d’état,” Bart Was Not Here told FRANCE 24 in an interview the day before the exhibition’s opening. “But now I think the satirical pieces are more important than ever. They show that I’m not scared of the military, I’m not scared of mocking them or humiliating them. What’s the worst that could happen? They could kill me,” he says with a simple shrug.
“I don’t consider myself as an artist-activist,” he insists. “For me, it doesn’t matter what happens – art comes before everything.”
Before the coup, Bart Was Not Here painted in his studio in Yangon, Myanmar’s economic capital, with his girlfriend, a florist, who worked alongside him. The self-described jack of all trades had just started experimenting with sculpture. The rest of the time, he was working on a series of drawings called ‘The God Complex’.
“I wanted to depict the world that I imagined inside a genie’s lamp,” he says. “Far from politics…”
‘I’d never produced so much work as in this period’
The day before the coup, the artist was working on an immense mural artwork with a friend.
“We were supposed to paint the façade of a factory in Yangon,” he remembers. “It should have taken about two days. On January 31, we went to bed, happy, thinking that we’d finish it off the next day, chatting over a barbecue.”
But the mural was never completed.
“When we woke up, the internet was blocked, the television was down and the radio just played the same headache-inducing traditional music over and over. We immediately realised that something was wrong.”
In the days that followed, Bart Was Not Here joined the massive peaceful protests that filled the streets of Yangon. When doctors, teachers and workers went on strike, he decided to use his art as protest.
“I’d never produced as much work as during this period,” he laughs. “What can I say: it was inspiring! I wasn’t making my usual art, but at the time it just felt natural to me and the right thing to be doing.”
Every day, with dozens of other artists, he would sit near the start of protest marches and, with pens and paintbrushes at the ready, would paint protest signs. His series ‘The God Complex’ and his sculptures were abandoned in favour of painting the three-finger sign – a symbol of peaceful resistance – over and over, slogans and drawings of the protests. His goal was to motivate and inspire the people making up this new civil disobedience movement.
In the evenings, he continued to draw, creating digital illustrations to be shared online. One of them went viral – a simple graffiti tag saying ‘Disobey’ on a red background.
“This period brought about a real explosion of creativity for young protesters,” Phil Robertson, the Asia programme director for Human Rights Watch tells FRANCE 24. “Art was really a major tool in the resistance to the coup. It was a way for protesters to express themselves and the messages they were all rallying behind.”
Artists as army targets
But after several weeks, the military junta’s violent repression of protests transformed the peaceful gatherings into urban warfare. More than 6,500 people have been arrested since February 1, and 1,108 people have been killed, according to the daily count kept by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Myanmar.
“Artists, just like journalists, directors and other public figures, are the first to be targeted by the military. It makes sense, because the military wants to silence anyone who it considers to be leaders of the civil disobedience movement,” explains Robertson. “Many have had to go into hiding, while others have fled to Thailand. Some of the lucky ones have been able to go abroad.”
A number of celebrities in Myanmar’s culture sector have been arrested over the past few months, particularly those in the film industry, like the actor and producer Lu Min, the director Christina Kyi and the actor and model Paing Takhon, all of whom are openly against the junta.
Four poets have been killed, among them K Za Win, who was killed with a gunshot to the head at the beginning of March. A few days after the coup, he had published a poem titled ‘Revolution’ that was widely shared and which ended with this verse: “It will be dawn/For it is the duty of those who dare/To conquer the dark and usher in the light.”
Bart Was Not Here says that he himself wasn’t specifically targeted by soldiers, but he spoke about the atmosphere of fear that filled the streets of Yangon before he left.
“One day, the police came and blocked off my road for no apparent reason before firing off real bullets, aiming at no one. We found a bullet lodged in my mother’s car.”
Helping from abroad
Bart Was Not Here says that it wasn’t the violence and political instability in Yangon that made him leave.
“I was originally supposed to leave Myanmar in 2020 to go to the US where my sister lives,” he explains. “But then I couldn’t because of Covid-19.”
Instead, in March he applied to join an artists’ residence in the Cité des Arts in Paris: “When the opportunity of the artists residence in France came up, I jumped at the chance.”
He arrived in June, and since then has been trying to adapt to his new life in France. But while FRANCE 24 is talking to him, his phone almost never stops lighting up with a new message from a family member, friend or acquaintance back in Myanmar, a constant eternal reminder of what is still going on back home.
“Sometimes, I’ll be walking around, thrilled to be exploring this city and all of the opportunities that it offers. And then a message will remind me of the ongoing violence in Myanmar. In moments like that, it’s hard not to feel guilty for having left,” he admits. “But despite that, I still think I can be more useful here. I can work non-stop, while staying safe.”
The artist hopes that he will sell more work here, the proceeds from which will go to help the resistance movement in Myanmar.
“I was born under a dictatorship and then I experienced democracy. It wasn’t all perfect with Aung San Suu Kyi, far from it, but at least the future was bright,” he says. “We had hope. Now we have to fight so we don’t fall back into the darkness.”
Paing Takhon, 24 — a star in both Myanmar and neighbouring Thailand — has been active in the protest movement both in person at rallies and through his massive social media following.
A leading Myanmar actor, singer and model who has backed the country’s anti-coup protests was arrested on Thursday, his sister said, as the junta hunts more than 100 celebrities for supporting the movement.
The country has been rocked by daily protests since the military seized power on February 1, and the authorities have launched a bloody crackdown on dissent, with hundreds killed and more than 2,500 arrested.
Paing Takhon, 24 — a star in both Myanmar and neighbouring Thailand — has been active in the protest movement both in person at rallies and through his massive social media following.
“Some 50 soldiers with eight military trucks,” came to arrest him from his mother’s home in the North Dagon area of Yangon early Thursday, his sister Thi Thi Lwin posted on Facebook.
“As he’s seriously ill, they arrested him calmly without violence. We do not know where he’s taken,” she added.
According to recent posts on his social media — where he had more than a million followers on Facebook and Instagram — Paing Takhon has been in poor health.
“I haven’t been in good health for many days. I used to pray whenever I worshipped Buddha for good health and to get peace in Myanmar as soon as possible,” he wrote on Wednesday.
In February he posted pictures of himself in a white tracksuit with a megaphone, hard hat and a white fluffy dog strapped to his chest at a protest.
“Help us stop crime against humanity,” he posted on Instagram in February.
His social media pages have been taken down, though it is not clear whether he did this himself.
Paing Takhon is also famous in Thailand and has appeared in TV commercials and shows.
In January, he shaved his head and briefly joined the Buddhist monkhood, posting pictures of himself in burgundy robes.
The Myanmar authorities have published a list of some 120 celebrities wanted for arrest, including singers Lin Lin and Chit Thu Wai, actors Phway Phway, Eaindra Kyaw Zin and Pyay Ti Oo and model May Myat Noe.
The celebrities are facing accusations of spreading dissent against the military, an offence that carries a three year jail term if convicted.
Punk music is on the rise in Myanmar, especially in Yangon. There are no specific ‘punk’ venues but the scene is large enough that several spaces hold concerts when organized. Rough Cut, Pansodan Scene, Pin Lel Studio and of course People’s Park. The #WDGAF show at People’s Park last Friday was a predominately a punk lineup that attracted a large attendance despite the ban on alcohol sales past 10pm. What is known as ‘underground music’ has united young musicians from all different genres. In light of the popular concert, MYANMORE has made a list of some local punk bands that people should check out if interested in exploring this growing section of youth culture. You can catch some of these up-and-coming groups at Pin Lel Studio in North Dagon on March 26th. Check Myanmore.com for more information
Arguably the most famous indie punk bank in Myanmar, Side Effect took the stage singing about freedom and socio-political issues. They have been active for about a decade and during that time they have performed shows in Berlin, Germany and the South by SouthWest festival in the USA, giving them international popularity. They are not a pure punk band, they also mix with garage rock, power pop and back-to-the-basics rock n roll – a style similar to the Strokes or the Libertines.
Big Bag is the first local Punk Band to breakthrough and attracted thousands last Friday as the headliner for the #WDGAF concert. Myanmar Teenagers were the main fans of the band at first as they introduced an alternative style of music, which ultimately let Myanmar youth explore a new genre. The lead singer and guitarist Kyar Pout started in the town of Hlaing and has since then brought his music to Yangon. His bandmates Ye Zaw Myo, bassist, and Mung Boih, drummer, help write much of the music and are featured as part of the band’s identity.
Skunx is quickly becoming one of the top bands in Myanmar by integrating punk with melodies reminiscent with hip-hop. Imagine Anthrax meets Crystal Castles. The group opened for Big Bag this past weekend and did not disappoint the packed public park. The Mandalay group formed from two discontinued bands, the lead singer being Eugene Skunx. Skunx writes songs about every topics that most young people can relate to while also touching on social issues. The songs cover politics, lifestyle, education and even sex. They target Burmese youth with the goal of giving hope to those who feel stuck.
No U Turn
No U-Turn is one of the most active bands in Yangon, they played at People’s Park last Friday and will also be playing at Jam It! Kulture in a couple weeks. They have a ska sound that may remind some of the American band, Rancid. The group has been playing and making music in the underground scene for over 10 years and have released three albums. His long standing presence in Myanmar has given the band has quite a following that know the lyrics to his songs.
The Myth was founded and currently led by female singer Ja Som in 2011. They identify their genre as Pop/Rock whilst adding occasional hard rock guitar licks into their songs. They debuted their first EP album in 2014 “One More Chance” by releasing it on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and Myanmar Music Store. The album consists of 6 songs including the title track ‘One More Chance’, which later became a hit. One More Chance has been featured on numerous TV channels of Myanmar. Currently, they are working on their LP album which will continue with their feminist trend.
The Rebel Riot
The Rebel Riot is the band that came into existence after the Saffron Revolution. The main reason for the formation of the band to fight oppression and corruption. The band uses music as a medium to fight against injustice. Their songs, Puppet Society (2013) and [Censored] Religious Rules (2014) highlight the problems they see in the country. Rebel Riot is now a three member group that have travelled throughout Southeast Asia.
Influenced by Swedish punk groups such as Anti Cimex, Skitslickers, Avskum, Moderad Likvktation and Totalitar, this crust punk band is the first band to ever play such kind of music. Formed in 2009, Kultureshock played local underground gigs all over. The song “Urban Rubbish” talks about how the people are living under the oppressed government and how low-life people are considered to be “trash”.They are considered a D-Beat band, meaning that their message is anti-war and anarchist.
Myanmar Metal: Metal and Punk are not the same thing. But there are some concerts that play both.
Nightmare is a death-metal force not to be reckoned with. The band started as a group of friends who shared a similar taste in metal music. They got their influences from American bands such as Suicide Silence and Lamb of God. Their music is not typical metal music, which is usually about violence or horror. They focus on broken families and the dangers of satiating greed. They aim to give people with troubles a sense of self-respect and something that could light up in their dark times.
Last Days of Beethoven
Last Days of Beethoven is a death metal band made up of five people that bring an end to Beethoven’s “pleasant music”. They mainly sing songs that are about perseverance and not giving up in the face of problems. The songs preach to the people to be bogged down within religious and ethnic conflicts. While being a metal band, LDB sees their message being about peace and harmony.
The Nation we know as Burma was first formed during the goldenage of Pagan in the 11th century. King Anawratha ascended the throne in 1044, uniting Burma under his monarchy. His belief in Buddhism lead him to begin building the temples and pagodas for which the city of Pagan (above) is renowned. Pagan became the first capital of a Burmese kingdom that included virtually all of modern Burma. The golden age of pagan reached its peak in during the reign of Anawratha’s successor,Kyanzitta (1084-1113), another devout Buddhist, under whom it aquired the name
” City of four million pagodas “.
Under Colonial Rule
Although Burma was at times divided into independent states, a series of monarchs attempted to establish their absolute rule, with varying degrees of success. Eventually, an expansionist British Government took advantage of Burma’s political instability. After three Anglo-Burmese wars over a period of 60 years, the British completed their colonization of the country in 1886, Burma was immediately annexed as a province of British India, and the British began to permeate the ancient Burmese culture with foreign elements. Burmese customs were often weakened by the imposition of British traditions.
The British also further divided the numerous ethnic minorities by favouring some groups, such as the Karen, for positions in the military and in local rural administrations. During the 1920s, the first protests by Burma’s intelligentsia and Buddhist monks were launched against British rule. By 1935, the Students Union at Rangoon University was at the forefront of what would evolve into an active and powerful movement for national independence. A young law student Aung San, executive-committee member and magazine editor for the Students Union, emerged as the potential new leader of the national movement. In the years that followed, he successfully organized a series of student strikes at the university, gaining the support of the nation.
Independence and Democracy
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Aung San seized the opportunity to bring about Burmese independence. He and 29 others, known as the Thirty Comrades, left Burma to undergo military training in Japan. In 1941, they fought alongside the Japanese who invaded Burma. The Japanese promised Aung San that if the British were defeated, they would grant Burma her freedom. When it became clear that the Japanese would not follow through with their promise, Aung San quickly negotiated an agreement with the British to help them defeat the Japanese.
Hailed as the architect of Burma’s new-found independence by the majority of Burmese, Aung San was able to negotiate an agreement in January 1947 with the British, under which Burma would be granted total independence from Britain. Although a controversial figure to some ethnic minorities, he also had regular meetings with ethnic leaders throughout Burma in an effort to create reconciliation and unity for all Burmese.
As the new leader drafted a constitution with his party’s ministers in July 1947, the course of Burmese history was dramatically and tragically altered. Aung San and members of his newly-formed cabinet were assasinated when an opposition group with machine guns burst into the room. A member of Aung San’s cabinet, U Nu, was delegated to fill the position suddenly left vacant by Aung San’s death. A Burma was finally granted independence on January 4, 1948, at 4:20am – a moment selected most auspicious by an astrologer.
For the next ten years, Burma’s fledging democratic government was continuously challenged by communist and ethnic groups who felt under-represented in the 1948 constitution. Periods of intense civil war destabilized the nation. Although the constitution declared that minority states could be granted some level of independence in ten years, their long-awaited day of autonomy never arrived. As the economy floundered, U Nu was removed from office in 1958 by a caretaker government led by General Ne Win, one of Aung San’s fellow thakins. In order to “restore law and order” to Burma, Ne Win took control of the whole country including the minority states, forcing them to remain under the jurisdiction of the central government. Although he allowed U Nu to be re-elected Prime Minister in 1960, two years later he staged a coup and solidified his position as Burma’s military dictator.
Burma Under a Dictatorship
Ne Win’s new Revolutionary Coucil suspended the constitution and instituted authoritarian military rule. Full attention turned to the military defeat of communist
and ethnic-minority rebel groups. The country was closed off from the outside world as the new despot promoted an isolation ideology based on what he called the Burmese Way to Socialism. Superstitious, xenophobic and ruthless, for the next three decades Ne Win set a thriving nation on a disatrious path of cultural, environmental and economic ruin. Outside visitors were few and restricted to Rangoon, Mandalay and a handful of other tightly controlled towns close to the central plains. Insurgency remained endemic and in many areas of Burma armed struggle became a way of life.
The People’s Demands Are Met With Bullets
In July 1988 Ne Win suddenly announced that he was preparing to leave the stage. Seeing at last a possible escape from military rule, economic decline and routine human rights abuses, thousands of people took to the streets of Rangoon.
Thousands of students and democracy advocates fled to the border regions under ethnic control and forged alliances with ethnic resistance movements. Some of these groups include the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), the All Burma Student Democratic Front, the Democratic Alliance of Burma, and the longstanding National Democratic Front situated in Manerplaw (the former headquarters of the Karen National Union which fell to SLORC in January 1995). Together these groups formed the National Council of the Union of Burma, an umbrella organization representing all the groups.A Leader Emerges
It just so happened that during this time of unrest in 1988, Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of independence hero Aung San, who had been living abroad, returned to Burma to care for her ailing mother. Her devotion kept her there and brought her into the political foray. Attempting to quell international condemnation for its violence, the military announced it would hold multi-party elections. Under the persuasion of students and others opposed to the regime, Aung San Suu Kyi and like-minded colleagues founded the National League for Democracy (NLD). Her party quickly gathered country-wide support. Just when democratic changes seemed imminent Ne Win commandeered the army from behind the scenes to take over the country in a staged “coup”.
On September 18, 1988, control of the country was handed to a 19-member State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) and a vicious crackdown followed. Although committed to non-violence, Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest in July 1989 for “endangering the state” and kept there for the next six years. Desperate to improve their image and generate foreign investment, the SLORC went ahead on May 27, 1990 and held the multi-party elections they had promised. Despite the SLORC’s severe repression against members of opposition parties (Aung San Suu Kyi was kept under house arrest) and the complete lack of freedom of expression throughout the country, Suu Kyi’s NLD party swept to victory with 82% of the vote. Surprised and outraged, the SLORC refused to acknowledge the election results and has retained its repressive grip on power ever since.
Eventhough Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in May of 2002 the military has refused to relinquish power. The generals have not engaged in any sort of dialogue. The humanitarian situation in Burma is disasterous and civil war still ravages the border areas. The effect of military rule has been a severly impoverished and underdevelopmed nation, Burma has rated as the second least developed nation on the United Nations Development Index. Peace, democracy and the most basic human rights do not exist. Millions have been forced to flee due to military rule and are scattered all over the world longing for the day when they can return to their homeland and be re-united with the families and live in peace.
Even before the days of British colonialism and the ‘exotic east’ writings of luminaries like Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham and George Orwell, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) had long been a place of mystery and allure. With its legendary kingdoms, gorgeous landscapes, diverse people and fine examples of architectural and archaeological marvels, how could it not? These days, having re-joined the global community after 50 years of infamy at the hands of a ruling military junta, the Golden Land finds itself jumping onto an ever increasing number of traveler’s bucket lists. Given this, we were pleased to hear from Myanmar travel insider Bennett Stevens of Luminous Journeys. If this still largely untravelled destination doesn’t intrigue you already, what follows may well change that…
Oddly anglicized to ‘Rangoon’ under British rule, Yangon is one of the great unsung cities of the world, and certainly the friendliest! The ‘Garden City of the East” is most famously known as the home of Myanmar’s holy of holy’s – the 2,500 year old Shwedagon Pagoda. At 325-feet in height & covered in 60 tons of gold, Shwedagon’s shimmering glory dominates the city skyline. Although Yangon is much more than Shwedagon. There are a host of fine exotic hotels and restaurants, a burgeoning arts scene, rare antiques shops, fascinating markets, and even the night life is surging with new energy, Yangon is truly an urban experience quite unlike anywhere else.
The vast Buddhist temple-scape of Bagan, a legacy of devotion and monuments to power built by the Pagan Kings over several centuries, is not only a place of surreal wonder, but is without a doubt one of the greatest archaeological sites on earth. The 2,220 surviving temples (13,000 at its apex) can for the most part be explored quite freely. Modes of transport around the 40 square mile temple zone, include bus, car, bicycle, foot and hot air balloon!
Don’t believe what your read on certain travel review sites. Sure, the city is a dusty trading hub, but there is much more to it than meets the average tourist’s eye. On his photo tours, National Geographic‘s Steve McCurry spends more time here than anyplace else. The Mandalay Array, as Luminous Journeys has dubbed it, is culturally and photographically rich indeed. Highlights include Myanmar’s 2nd holiest shrine, the Maha Muni gilded Buddha, the picturesque U Bein Bridge (the largest teak structure on earth), the massive, never completed temple of Mingun, the 600 monasteries and nunneries of the Holy Hills of Sagaing, and a whole lot more. Mandalay – as dusty as it may be – should not be overlooked.
One of the most popular and beautiful places to visit in Myanmar, Lake Inle is best known for its unique fishermen, who row their dugout canoes standing with a single leg wrapped around a single oar. Despite the rise in tourism and the changing waterscape of expanding ‘floating gardens’, (the lake provides 70% of Myanmar’s tomatoes), Inle, with its wonderful water bungalow hotels and welcoming people, still maintains its palpable, yet indescribable magic.
“The Golden Rock” of Kyaiktiyo
Located about f ive hours by road from Yangon, The Golden Rock is Myanmar’s 3rd holiest shrine, behind Shwedagon Pagoda and the Maha Muni Buddha. The true history of this gilded wonder resting precariously on the precipice of a mountain outcrop, is as shrouded in mystery as Myanmar itself. Legend has it that what keeps it from tumbling a thousand feet into the gorge below, is a single hair of the Buddha!
The Lost City of Mrauk U
Mrauk U was the seat of power of the Arakan Empire that ruled vast coastal regions of western Myanmar and into India as far as the Ganges River. At its height the city was as wealthy, diverse and influential in the East as Amsterdam was contemporaneously in the West. The Arakan kings thought enough of their own well being to enlist Japanese Samurai as personal body guards! Mrauk U today, with its great temple fortresses serving as little more than exotic backdrops for a collection of small rural villages, has a surreal feel to it, especially when shrouded in morning mist. That the only access is by river adds even more of an adventure feel of visiting this lost dynastic capital.
Kyaing Tong & the Golden Triangle
While well trodden Thailand has seen its tribal areas become over-touristed, this is far from the case in Myanmar. It is still quite possible to visit villages who very rarely, if ever, see foreigners, and some tribes are unique to Myanmar. It should be noted that during high season these days, the easier to reach villages will be expecting you! So, if you are looking to get seriously authentic, plan well, and make sure you have a guide who understands what you’re after.
Hpa An is the photogenic capital of Kayin State on the Thanlwin River. About a 7-hour drive southeast from Yangon, the town is surrounded by Karst mountains and is great place for short, scenic treks. Outside of town there are seas of green rice paddies backed by Karst rock formations. Mt. Zwegabin is the most prominent “rock”, and can be climbed in a couple of fairly strenuous hours, but the views are a spectacular reward. The biggest draw of Hpa An for many, are the limestone caves in that serve as amazing natural Buddhist temple shrines.
Putao & the Eastern Himalaya
The Myanmar Himalaya is virtually virgin territory, at least as far as foreign visitors go. The region is one of most bio-unique in the world, with an average of 30 to 40 new species of flora and fauna discovered each year. Putao is the gateway to Himalayan trekking for true adventure types, and is reachable only by air. For the luxury minded, river rafting, short treks and bike jaunts are all available from the beautiful Malikha Lodge. Nothing like a delicious cocktail and a massage after a long day exploring.
The Beaches – Ngapali & Ngwe Saung
Ngapali is more than Myanmar’s most visited beach. Yes, it’s a lovely tropical beach on the Bay of Bengal, with requisite white sands, swaying palms, sashay masseuses and beachfront bungalows, but what really puts it over the top, is the spectacular seafood. Most of Myanmar’s sea gastronomy chefs are gathered here, all vying to win the affections of your taste bud arrays. Next you should head to Ngwe Saung. What this up and coming budget to luxury resort area has over Ngapali, is that it’s nine miles longer, has more locals than foreigners and is within driving distance of Yangon.
Sourced from : http://www.globalgrasshopper.com/destinations/asia/10-beautiful-places-visit-myanmar/
The lacquer takes its roots in China it there has a few three thousand years, and then developed in all the Southeast Asia. In Myanmar the tree which one takes the resin is it Thit-si. These trees push naturally in whole forests almost in all Myanmar in light altitude. One takes the resin, a little like one does it with latex, by notches at the base of the trunk on which one fixes small bowls in bamboo. The sap of the lacquer tree has a very strong adhesive quality and a splendid brilliance. It has many qualities as to make impermeable the objects which it covers. It adheres on many surfaces, bamboo, woods, sheets of palm tree, metal and leather. It resists the insects and guards on all occasions its flexibility.
Making the inner parts
In Myanmar, the origins of the lacquer seems to come from Bagan about 12th – 13th century. One of the oldest lacquers was indeed discovered in the pagoda Mingalazedi, one of the built last with Bagan (at the 13th century). Always it is that it is in Bagan that the manufacture of the lacquers acquired its letters of nobility. The raw material used to manufacture the objects is the bamboo. The bamboos used to make the inner part of the lacquerware come from the forests of the Chin State and which is transported by boat until Bagan. The bamboo then is cut out, softened, worked to give the shape of the desired object: bowls, dishes, vases, cuts, plates, various boxes, most famous being the box for betel leaves and nuts. The craftsman draws up the bamboo on forms. In certain cases one uses also the hair of horse.
One carries out the first lacquering the interior is co
vered with “Thayo” a made resin paste with lacquer and mixed ashes. This work is in general carried out with the hand (or with very fine gloves). The number of times where the object of layers will be coated determines the quality of the lacquer (at least to count seven times for a beautiful lacquer). The layers of lacquer are coated with the hand to guarantee of it the smoothness, but also
the regularity. The craftsmen who carry out this work used this technique since generations and generations. Most of the lacquerware makers are families working on this from generation to generation.
When an application is made on the mould in bamboo, one must then dry it in an obscure and wet place. The duration of drying is of approximately a week. All the workshops of lacquer have thus places corresponding to necessary qualities where they store the lacquers in manufacture.
If the moisture is not sufficient, then good quality lacqureware will not be produced.
Once finished drying, the lacquers carefully are washed and sandpapered if necessary. This stage is important for the quality of the future lacquer. This washing and sandpapering is carried out some time with charcoal, resulting from very widespread trees in Myanmar like teak.
After the first drying, one carefully sandpapers the object, one washes it, then one passes by again, the second layer and one turns over to drying. As one passes by again of the layers, the mixture is increasingly fine, one uses ash of ox bone. When the new layer was well spread out, one erases the possible finger marks with a fine fabric.
7 layers of lacquering
The object thus makes several outward journey and return with the warehouse of drying. Each time it thus receives a new layer of lacquer. It is only on the last layer that one colours. The colors are usually red, green, blue or yellow. The color is obtained by adding powder of mercury cinnabar to the lacquer. This mixture is called Hinthabada. After last drying for the 7th or 8th times, the lacquer is again sandpapered with teak wood ash, then washed carefully and it then will be decorated.
Engraving is done with free hands, without model, entirely of memory, directly with naked hands, using a stylet and of a brush. The lacquer is inalterable, and the objects in lacquer can preserve all their beauty during years. Not only are the small objects enameled, utensils of crockery, or another objects of worship, but also of the pieces of furniture, the cupboards, the tables, large decorative objects, the musical instruments, earthenware jars etc… are being decorated with beautiful colors.
After carrying out all theses processes, the lacquerware are now marketable throughout the country and to overseas.
The Chin tribes of Myanmar, near the Bangladesh border and Mrauk U, are most notable for the intricate ink detail covering their faces. These are a people of facial tattoos, and I journeyed to this corner of Asia in an attempt to discover why exactly they undergo such a process, which seems extreme in Western culture. (Watch the video below to hear their answers firsthand).
I traveled to the remote tribal villages of the Chin State, which would normally require an arduous seven-hour overland journey from Bagan to Mindat — with very poor accommodation options along the way. However, an easier route into the tattooed world of Chin women exists, if you consider using the ancient kingdom of Mrauk U in Rakhine State as a base. It’s about 3.5 hours up river from Mrauk U and its eerie, endless and spectacular temples. Here, the population are primarily Chin, being located near the border with Southern Chin State. This experience can be done as a day trip, so travelers would be returning in the late afternoon to the comfort of the Princess Resort.
To get to Mrauk U, you can fly from Yangon to Sittwe, an area that is 40 percent Muslim — then take a four- hour boat ride up the Kaladan River.
I woke up early and drove to the Lay Myo River, where I took a small local boat upriver towards my destination. As we floated along, I gazed at villages of fishermen and farmers and many traditional sail boats, most of them Muslim people living in Myanmar since British colonial days.
We eventually reached the first Chin tribal village, where my guide was well-known, having sponsored the son of one family though school, who later became a teacher. Thanks to this bond, we were readily welcomed into the family home where we discovered no less than four women with tattooed faces. They told me how they were tattooed when they were just nine years old, and how it was an ancient custom to do so, in order to prevent invaders from stealing away the local women (dinner and a movie aren’t the norm here for some odd reason).
The tattooing took over a day to complete and was extremely painful, especially the tender eyelid area. Each area of Chin state has a distinct tattoo pattern, so it is actually possible to discern where a woman comes from by the pattern on her face. It is this kind of ancillary information that makes so much of what we think we understand about Myanmar’s hill tribes almost irrelevant. This is life. This is their reality.
The practice is no longer permitted by the Burmese authorities, nor is the younger generation interested in partaking in the custom. Therefore, this part of Chin culture will soon be gone, yet I was able to witness the last living generation to embrace this custom. I left feeling very fortunate indeed.
Dastkaari Haat Craft Bazaar was hosted at Dilli Haat, New Delhi from January 1 to 15. This is an annual event organized each year by Dastkari Haat Samiti and this year marks the 30th anniversary of the event. India’s Ministry of External Affairs and the Embassy of India in Myanmar support this event to encourage and support the traditional craftsmen from Myanmar and India.It also serves the purpose of bringing these two countries together and enhancing their friendship. Not only do craftsmen get to showcase their work but along with that they also find a great opportunity for networking and learning from each other.
This year, at the 30th Dastkaari Haat Craft Bazaar artisans from Myanmar presented traditional Pathein umbrellas, puppets, velvet slippers, lacquer work and various types of jade items all of which were loved by everyone. Indian craftsmen came from various states and exhibited their traditional skills in their full glory. People who visited the vent got to enjoy various traditional crafts such as shell craft, basketry, mat weaving, handloom textile weaving, hyacinth grass weaving, jewellery and many more. Representatives from exports and handicrafts as well as Foreign Ministry of India were also present and they described this craft bazaar as a beneficial event for everyone involved.
A Crafts and Skill Development Workshop was also organized which resulted in the creation of various new, innovative designs. The workshop also provided an additional wonderful opportunity to artisans from both the countries to enhance learn new techniques, improve their skills, build useful links, and form new friendships. One of the main purposes of this event is to provide more opportunities to craftsmen from Myanmar by providing them more exposure and enabling them to make better quality products. Visitors and craftsmen were also treated to a visual and auditory feast by various folk artists. Musical performance by Langa group and Kalbelia gypsy dance from Rajasthan, the Bhavai folk theatre from Gujrat, and the tribal martial Chhau dance from West Bengal won all the hearts.