Myanmar Times Cartoon Prompts Swift Apology to Military

By Nobel Zaw 31 March 2015

RANGOON — Local private newspaper The Myanmar Times apologized on Monday for a cartoon published in its Burmese-language weekly that drew a link between Burma’s armed forces and forced evictions of farmers.

The offending cartoon, drawn by artist Htoo Chit and published in the Mar. 25 edition, features a husband and wife discussing the ongoing conflict in Laukkai between the military and ethnic Kokang insurgents. The husband relays that the army had taken the hills, to which the wife replies “aren’t they satisfied with taking the farms?”

“This cartoon was inappropriate and not in good taste,” wrote the paper’s CEO, Tony Child, on the Myanmar Times website. “It characterized the contribution of the brave soldiers and families of the Tatmadaw in a poor light. No offence was intended”.

The military discussed the cartoon with the Interim Press Council, and a public statement by a body presenting itself as the Armed Forces Accurate Information Team said that the cartoon insulted the dignity of the armed forces, whose members had given their lives to fight for stability, peace and the rule of law in Burma.

The Irrawaddy has been unable to locate any prior reference to the Armed Forces Accurate Information Team or its functions. Thiha Saw, the editorial director of the Myanmar Times, said it was the first time a body by that name had released a public statement.

The Myanmar Times has pledged to take disciplinary action against those involved.

The incident marks the second time in a year that the newspaper, which recently relaunched its English edition as a daily publication, has fallen afoul of authorities.

In March last year a confidential memo from former Editor in Chief Ross Dunkley, subsequently leaked and published by Foreign Policy, instructed staff to refrain from running any stories about the country’s Rohingya population without his prior approval, citing “a considerable amount of pressure from different quarters”.