Myanmar Culture

Myanmar Culture and Mass Media

Newspapers in Burma

According to ESTATELEARNING.COM, Myanmar is a country located in Asia. From independence in 1948 to the military coup in 1962, Burma was one of the most liberal countries in Southeast Asia in terms of freedom of the press, and the right to freedom of expression and expression was enshrined in the 1947 Constitution. and censorship followed.

After the 2010 elections, a number of reforms have been implemented. The year 2012 was abolished, among other things. advance censorship of the press, but the government has issued guidelines for what may be written.

Burma has a very low Internet penetration compared to other countries in the region (1% in 2013). In 2010, the regime abolished sites such as YouTube and Facebook, and since 2011, news sites such as the BBC and Voice of America have been allowed. Since 2012, sites representing the opposition are also allowed. Sites with pornography and the possibility of gambling for money are still banned.

Mobile penetration is also low and, according to official statistics, was 9% in December 2012. One reason is extremely high prices for SIM cards. The government’s stated goal is to increase it to 50% in 2015 and therefore opened for foreign operators in 2013, while proposing a new telecommunications law that would abolish the state monopoly.

Burma has four national newspapers, all state-controlled. The largest is Myanmar Alin, which is also published in an English edition, New Light of Myanmar. In addition, there are about 200 privately owned news magazines with weekly publications.

After the military coup, private newspapers were banned but since April 2013 they are again allowed, but only after permission from the state. Several of the privately owned weekly magazines are expected to go into daily publishing.

Since the reforms were started, the state monopoly has also been relaxed in terms of radio and television. The regime still has a monopoly on terrestrial radio and TV through the state-owned company Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV) but two private companies broadcast via satellite and cable, Forever Group and Shwe Than Lwin Media Company. They offer more than a hundred pay channels, including programs in Burmese from the BBC and Voice of America. Their household coverage is so far low due to poverty in the country.


According to ANIMALERTS, Buddhism plays an important role in popular culture and dominates most festivals, which also follow the rice cultivation’s annual cycle. The main festival, thingyan, is usually celebrated in mid-April. It is Myanmar’s New Year and the highlight of the hot season. Also important are the local pagoda festivals, hpaya pwe.

Myanmar has a rich storytelling tradition with many poets, dramatists, musicians and actors. Stone inscriptions have been found from the Pagan dynasty (see Ancient History), but the oldest preserved literary texts in Burmese date from the late 1300s.

In recent decades, literary production has had a thinning life. Censorship, bureaucratic barriers to print business and a poor reading circle have meant that the number of new book titles has dropped to a few hundred a year. Most of what is published is adventure and love novels.

The modern writers that exist are strongly influenced by English literature. Most famous in Europe is Pascal Khoo Twee, who left the country after the 1988 protests and studied in Cambridge. He has been acclaimed for his book “From the land of green ghosts”, which was published in 2002.

The most common form of entertainment, pwe, is a combination of singing, dancing and theater. At a night pwe dancers appear who are considered to be possessed by spirits (nats). Many villages have their own protective night. Zat pwe is another form of pwe and both are usually accompanied by a saing orchestra, dominated by percussion. Unique to Myanmar is the instrument pat-waing, which consists of 21 tuned drums in a circular wooden frame.

A popular form of entertainment is anyeint, a type of theater that combines song and dance with comic elements. Later years most popular practitioner of anyeint is the satirist Zarganar (pseudonym for Thura), also active as an actor and film director, whose socially critical appearances led to him being sentenced to 59 years in prison in 2008, later “softened” to 35 years. He was released in connection with an amnesty in 2011.

Among the crafts are wood carvings, lacquer works, gold and silver products and sculptures with Buddha and mythological figures. A national museum is located in Rangoon and regional museums in Mandalay and other cities.



AI: “may be a crime against humanity”

December 19

The military’s assault on Rohingya during the offensive in Rakhine may involve crimes against humanity, writes Amnesty International in a report. Among the abuses mentioned are murders of civilians, rapes and torture.


OHCHR: “may be a crime against humanity”

November 30

The United Nations Office for Human Rights (OHCHR) says the Rohingya may be victims of humanity’s crimes in connection with the military offensive in Rakhine. Data comes from hundreds of burnt-out Muslim villages and about 33,000 Rohingya who have fled their homes.

Protests against the offensive against Rohingy

November 28

Protests against Myanmar’s harsh attacks against Rohingya in Rakhine are spreading in nearby, Muslim-dominated countries such as Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia. Aung San Suu Kyi is forced to cancel a trip to Indonesia due to large demonstrations against her and the Myanmar government there. An attack on Myanmar’s embassy in the Indonesian capital Jakarta is canceled just before the day of Suu Kyi’s planned visit.

Ethnic cleansing in Rakhine according to UN source

November 24

John McKissick, a high-ranking representative of the UN refugee agency UNHCR, tells the British BBC that the Myanmar government aims to ethnically cleanse Myanmar from Rohingya. The government denies all allegations of abuse against the Muslim minority and expresses “great, great disappointment” over Mc Kissick’s comment.

Rohingyer flees to Bangladesh

November 16

Hundreds of Rohingy flee from Rakhine across the border to Bangladesh. They are fleeing the military offensive in the state that has claimed at least 130 lives and forced around 30,000 to flee since it was launched after the border police attack. From Bangladesh comes information on how Rohingy in small wooden boats are stopped at the border flood by Bangladeshi police.


UN envoy wants investigation into violence in Rakhine

October 25th

The UN Human Rights Envoy calls for an investigation into allegations that Myanmar soldiers have killed unarmed civilians and burned down villages in Rakhine following the attack on border postings.

Fighting in Rakhine

October 9

Nine soldiers are killed when unknown perpetrators attack a border post in Rakhine. Authorities link the attack to Rohingy and launch an offensive in the state to arrest the culprits. Thousands of people are forced to flee the army, which is said to burn down villages in their search for perpetrators. Over 40 people are killed in the counterattack.

Laws from the military regime are scrapped

October 5

Parliament repeals a law that gave the authorities the right to detain opposites and condemn them to harsh prison sentences for, for example, “disturbing the public morale” or spreading false rumors;


Suu Kyi speaks before the UN

September 22

Suu Kyi promises to promote human rights in Rakhine when she speaks for the first time before the UN as Myanmar’s true leader. She does not mention rohingya in her speech, but says she will support Kofi Annan’s work in the state.

Soldiers are sentenced to punishment

September 16th

Seven Myanmar soldiers are sentenced to five years in prison each for killing residents of Mong Yaw village in Shan State, reports the military. It is unusual for soldiers to be convicted of crimes, and the impunity is widespread.

Obama: “US sanctions will be lifted soon”

September 15th

At a meeting between US President Barack Obama and Suu Kyi in the White House in Washington, Obama says the US is ready to abolish the economic sanctions soon and also renounce Myanmar the favorable terms of trade that were claimed more than 20 years ago because of the then military junta violations of human rights. US sanctions against some individuals and against the military persist.

Kofi Annan is being promoted

September 6

When Annan visits Rakhine, he is met by demonstrative Buddhists at the airport who say they do not want any “Kofi-led commission”. The poster states that “no partisan foreigner should interfere in Rakhine’s internal affairs”.

Peace talks with ethnic armed groups

Hundreds of representatives of 15 of the country’s 18 ethnic guerrilla groups gather in Naypyidaw for a five-day meeting on how to achieve peace. Rohingya are not represented. The talks are led by Aung San Suu Kyi and will be held once every six months during the entire term of the NLD. A backlash in the so-called Panglong Peace Conference comes on the second day when representatives of one of the largest guerrilla groups, the United States Army (UWSA), leave the meeting room in anger after being told they cannot comment during the conference. The meeting achieves no concrete results, and Suu Kyi describes it as “a first step on a difficult road to peace”. (31 / 8-4 / 9)


Kofi Annan leads advisory group on Rakhine

August 24th

The government appoints an advisory group of international experts to “find sustainable solutions to the complicated and sensitive issues in the state of Rakhine”. The group will be led by former UN chief Kofi Annan and submit its recommendations to the government in one year. Suu Kyi has been criticized by human rights organizations for failing to publicly address the difficult situation of the Rohingy. A few days later, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says that the stateless Rohingy should be granted the right to Myanmarian citizenship.

Suu Kyi receives China’s support

August 18th

Suu Kyi travels to China, where she receives support for the peace talks with ethnic guerrilla groups near the Chinese border. During the visit, China presses to resume the stopped construction of the Myitsone dam, which is important for China.


UN alarm about minority

June 20

The UN Commissioner for Human Rights states in a report that the discrimination and violence to which Rohingya is subjected in Myanmar could be likened to crimes against humanity. According to the report, there has been an alarming increase in heat against Rohingya from Buddhist monks over the past year.


US Secretary of State visiting

May 22

US Secretary of State John Kerry visits Myanmar. In talks with Aung San Suu Kyi, he calls on the new government to improve the human rights situation, especially for Rohingya. Aung San Suu Kyi says the outside world must be aware of the difficulties Myanmar faces and that the government must be given a fair chance to deal with them.

The United States raises more sanctions

May 17

When the NLD government takes office, the United States decides to lift some of the sanctions against Myanmar. It is being done to encourage this “milestone” in the country’s process of democracy. It is mainly economic and trade embargo that is being lifted, while a number of individuals and companies with strong ties to the old regime remain blacklisted.


Over 80 political prisoners are released

April 17

President Htin Kyaw releases 83 political prisoners on Myanmar’s New Year’s Day.

Dozens of students are released from detention

April 8

Aung San Suu Kyi says that one of the first steps the new government will take is to release all political prisoners. There are estimated to be around a few hundred political prisoners in the country’s prisons. A court immediately releases dozens of students who have been detained without trial since being arrested by police in March 2015 in connection with student demonstrations (see March 2015).

Suu Kyi travels to China

April 5

Aung San Suu Kyi’s first foreign trip as foreign minister goes to China, Myanmar’s main trading partner and largest investor.


The president and the government are installed

March 30

Htin Kyaw is sworn in as Myanmar’s first civilian president in over half a century. The two vice presidents are also installed, as well as the new government. Suu Kyi becomes Foreign Minister and Minister responsible for the Office of the President. She also assumes a special position as National Counselor (State Counselor) and thus becomes the person who effectively governs the country. Most of the 18 ministers are NLD members. The military appoints three ministers: Defense, Home Affairs and the Minister responsible for border issues. The majority of government members are 60 years or older, and apart from Suu Kyi, there are no women.

The state of emergency in Rakhine is canceled

March 29th

The government cancels the state of emergency in Rakhine, which has been in force since the outbreak of 2012 between Buddhists and Rohingya. The state government makes the assessment that ethnic tensions no longer threaten the security of society.

Department of Ethnic Affairs

March 17

Myanmar’s future president intends to create a new ministry responsible for ethnic issues. The proposal is a way of emphasizing the importance for the future government of improved relations between the Burmese, who are in the majority, and the country’s many minority people.

First civilian president in 50 years

March 15th

Both parliament’s chambers elect NLD politician and academic Htin Kyaw as new president with 360 out of 652 votes. Htin Kyaw is close ally to Aung San Suu Kyi, who is likely to be the country’s real leader. Htin Kyaw is described as a low-key and intellectual person and has administered a charity fund to Aung San Suu Kyi. The other two presidential candidates, Myint Swe and Henry Van Thio, will be the first and second vice president, respectively.

Presidential candidates are nominated

March 10

The Lower House nominates NLD politician Htin Kyaw as its presidential candidate. He is known for being close to Aung San Suu Kyi. The Upper House nominates Henry Van Thio from the NLD and the military nominates Myint Swe, who is seen as a hard-line military.

Negotiations on the presidential post are stranded

March 1st

Negotiations between the NLD and the military to change the constitution so that a person whose children have foreign citizenship (read Aung San Suu Kyi) should be able to become president of Myanmar beaches when the NLD thinks that military requirements become too great. Suu Kyi announces that she will instead govern the country through a representative on the presidential post.


The new Parliament meets

February 1st

The NLD-dominated parliament takes office, but the military still has its reserved seats. A first important task for the National Assembly is to elect a new president and form a new government.


Presidents from ethnic minorities

January 20th

The NLD nominates four persons to the four Presidential posts in Parliament (two in each Chamber). Three of the nominees are members of ethnic minorities. In this way, the NLD seeks to increase the influence of minorities in the legislative assembly.

Suu Kyi participates in peace talks

January 12

For the first time, the country’s future leaders are participating in official peace talks with Myanmar’s ethnic resistance groups. The talks are aimed at speeding up implementation of last year’s ceasefire agreement between the government and guerrilla groups.

Myanmar Culture

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