Newspaper Defends Cartoon Criticizing Military

A cartoon by former Irrawaddy cartoonist Harn Lay depicting the role of Burma’s military in the country’s ongoing peace process. (Photo : Myanmar Times)

A day after coming under fire from a military-owned newspaper for publishing a cartoon critical of Burma’s armed forces, The Myanmar Times has defended the move as part of its effort to encourage public debate.

The cartoon, by former Irrawaddy cartoonist Harn Lay, depicts a member of Burma’s civilian government releasing doves of peace, while a man in military uniform shoots them down.

A biting commentary on the ongoing conflict in Kachin State at a time when the Burmese government is negotiating peace deals with a host of ethnic armed groups, the cartoon first appeared in The Myanmar Times on Oct. 8.

It was not until Tuesday of this week, however, that Myawaddy Daily, owned by Burma’s armed forces, responded with a commentary criticizing the cartoon for creating “misunderstandings” about the army’s role in the peace process.

The commentary, penned by an author writing under the name Maung Pyi Chit, warned against publishing cartoons on such sensitive issues, and urged The Myanmar Times not to repeat its “mistake.”

Contacted by The Irrawaddy via email on Wednesday, Thomas Kean, the editor of the English edition of The Myanmar Times, said that he welcomed the feedback from the military, but stood by the decision to run the cartoon.

“The military is free to express their views—in fact, I welcome that—and we should be free to express ours,” he said.

He added, however, that “if we were to be punished for publishing this cartoon then my opinion on that would probably change.”

Kean said that The Myanmar Times, which publishes once a week on Mondays, recently added editorial cartoons to “try to encourage as wide a range of views as possible” to its opinion section. He added that the cartoon did not necessarily reflect the views of The Myanmar Times.

While defending his decision to publish the cartoon, Kean also offered some advice to the military on how to address what it deems to be misperceptions of its role.

“A senior military official should hold a press conference” rather than running an article in a military-owned newspaper under a pseudonym, said Kean. “If the military does this—holding press conference outlining why they believe the cartoon is unfair and misrepresenting of what is really happening—then I think it will change public perceptions about its activities much more quickly.”

Meanwhile, Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut wrote on his Facebook page that as a former military man himself, he agreed with the opinions expressed in the Myawaddy commentary.

Harn Lay, however, said that he was unmoved by the commentary, adding that he would continue contributing cartoons in the same vein in the future.

Noting that he actually drew the cartoon half a year ago, he said that it is still an accurate depiction of the situation in Kachin State.

“Six months later, there is still no end to fighting, so I contributed this cartoon to The Myanmar Times to use as they wanted.”

8 Responses to Newspaper Defends Cartoon Criticizing Military

  1. I miss the Harn Lay cartoons in the Irrawaddy News.

  2. รักเธอ.. ด.

    Of course that is EXACTLY WHAT IS HAPPENING in Burma specifically in Kachin State.
    Thein Sein ORDERED HOSTILITIES HALTED on a couple of occasions.
    And Min Aung REINFORCED TROOPS and MILITARY HARDWARE for MORE OFFENSIVES on the KIA on the one hand.
    On the other PEACE TALKS are ONGOING with the KIA while BOTH SIDES are SHOOTING and KILLING each other.
    Hence, Harn Lay’s DEPICTION of the COMIC SIDE of the MATTER is MORE DEFINING and MEANINGFUL to the UTMOST as well I say.
    KEEP UP the GOOD WORK GUYS (Kean and Harn Lay).
    Democracy is to SAY and SHOW what you FEEL and BEHOLD lest you guys forget!

    George Than Setkyar Heine

  3. Harn Lay is totally wrong.

    Thein Sein and  the Sit-tut are the same.  Only the dress. But that’s enough to fool idiots!

    They are simply the left hand and right hand of Than Shwe. 

    Because the international business communities are better off to go with the lie, they promote this LIE heavily  and the dumb people from  Burma naively/ stupidly/ unthinkingly/ pathetically fall for it.

    Now the said business communities are going to rape the land evicting the said stupid people of their own ancestral all over the country not just in Kachin  while they are still screaming blue how great the “Thamada Gyi” (bald actor) and the sidekick “A MaySuu” (flowered actor) are.

    But he is right.  Thein Sein does let the birds go. That is because the people of Burma and the around the world are so dumb to fall for the same lie again and again.

    He is also wrong in literal sense. When Sit-tut shoot, they usually miss.

    Still why are the people so dumb to fall for these lies and make too much of it?

    And why, nowadays people really release the birds, which have to be trapped in the first place.

    Weird! Still, being screwed and yet  happy to be so is not too bad! How many people in the world would be happy to scream and support the guy/s screwing them? Hmm….

  4. Oh! What a powerful depict. The military accepts it or not it is what it is. They do not need to accept it. Let the people decide. We know what has been going on in our own country. If the military still does not know its own image, this cartoon is their image. If they do not like this cartoon, the only thing they can do is to change their way of serving the people. They are not supposed to defend dictator but the public. In the past fifty rears, military was defending a small group of people who suppressed the people. Now, military needs to serve and defend the sovereignty of our Union and its people, not a group of people who betray the people and the Union.

  5. I like it very much.
    I want Gen. Min Aung Hlaing to see it.
    The cartoon is telling the truth about peace negotiation between minority ethnics armed groups and President U Thein Sein’s Peace Committee.
    If Military does not like it and then Military must cooperate with Government and respect truce agreement by Government’s Peace Committee.
    Well-done  Harn Lay. Good on you.

  6. The Burmese Freedom Fighter

    The Myawaddy Daily, and its boss should notice by now that dissent is the highest form of patriotism, not the enemy of the state as defined in their old book of dictatorship in 1988. If democracy means anything at all to any of you guys, old guards, it means the right to tell all of the citizens of Burma including armed forces what all of us do not want to hear.

    The Burmese Freedom Fighter

  7. Harness Lay’s political cartoons,we could read while abroad.Now let us see how he can poke and tease the sensitive skins of pseudo/ Chameleon politicians,who for ages considered themselves above law and impervious to criticism.My generation ( in 60s and above now) carries the blame for having enabled them to be corky and brazen,even to lie to us the people.We allowed them out of iddiference,but even more worse,out of fear.Seen through the eyes of the present generation and through the eyes of those who participated in the rallies against injustices,we feel ashamed deeply.If Myawadwas Daily was not happy with Harness Lay’s depiction in his cartoon,they have the right,as everybody,to defend their position,but in no way ” warn ” the cartoonist and Myanma Tiimes.Worse still it can take libel suit.One question,who is the man in uniform-Kachin,Karen,Shan or Burman soldier.trying to shoot down the peace dove?Myawaddy Daily’s Maung Pyi Chit owned up the soldier’s ethnic identity

  8. A good cartoon,Harn Lay.Your depiction of President Thein Sein releasing peace-doves is clear.We are not that clever to decide ethnicity of the “Shooting man in uniform” Can anybody,particularly Maung Pyi Chit of Myawaddy Daily,to identify if the shooting man in uniform is Kachin,Karen,Shan,Burman or who?Because we have many armed-men in uniform in our country!!!

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