Netizen Offends, Calls Riang ‘Cannibals’ and ‘Ghosts’

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 24 August 2018

YANGON — A lawmaker filed a complaint with Myanmar’s president after a netizen shared a live video on social media of a Ta’ang tribe, calling them cannibals and ghosts.

“I have filed complaints with the president, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Information, Upper House and Lower House,” said Nan Moe, a Lower House lawmaker representing Mongton Township, in the Palaung Self-administered Zone in northern Shan State.

“I’ve made myself clear in the complaint that we will be satisfied only when harsh action is taken in accordance with existing laws,” she said.

On Aug. 18, Daw Khin May Tun, a resident of Mongping Township in eastern Shan State, shared a live video on her Facebook account “Yuri Miko” of Riang tribal people walking on the Union highway in Namhsan Township, northern Shan State, stating that they are man-eating ghosts who have the power to disguise themselves as humans who can only be seen on moonless nights.

She circled back in her car, asking other netizens to watch with her.

The Riang tribe is a sub-ethnic group of the Palaung or Ta’ang, and those that were recorded on live video are local residents of Maemunglon village in Namhsan. They were celebrating their courtship ritual.

“Many people in Myanmar eat pickled tea leaves but they don’t know that it is derived from the Palaung ethnic group. This video tarnishes the image of our tribe. There is no excuse for this,” said Nan Moe.

On Wednesday, she met Union ethnic affairs minister Nai Thet Lwin and urged him to take action against Daw Khin May Tun.

The video went viral on social media and drew the ire of Ta’ang. Nineteen Ta’ang civil society organizations released statements denouncing the live video and demanding an apology.

“Her live video has been viewed by more than 300,000 people. Even if 100,000 understand the truth, the remaining 200,000 may be misled. This affects all Ta’ang people,” said Tagu Kunsi, treasurer of the Namhsan Township Ta’ang Literature and Culture Association.

He said legal action would be taken against Daw Khin May Tun if she does not apologize according to the customs of Riang tribal people in Maemunglon village.

Mai A Mai of the Ta’ang Youth Empowerment Association in Namhsan Township said that Ta’ang youth would go to meet with Daw Khin May Tun on Saturday. “If she does not take responsibility, we will take action according to the law.”

There are several sub-tribes in the Ta’ang ethnic group that live across Shan State, and their languages, customs, and clothing differ from one place to another. Riang are a minority tribe that has preserved its age-old customs.

The Irrawaddy was unable to obtain a comment from Daw Khin May Tun.

Though many Ta’ang people today wear modern clothing, many tribal people living in remote areas and rural villages still make their own cotton clothes and wear turbans, silver belts and earrings.

Riang men living in Maemunglon village never cut their hair until they reach an advanced age while women shave their heads once they get married.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.