KNPP Slams Kayah State Govt’s Decision to Ban Ethnic Literature Event

By Lawi Weng 2 July 2019

The Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) has condemned the state government’s decision to ban an event at which various ethnic groups were due to engage in a literary exchange in the state capital, Loikaw, according to local sources.

The meeting was supposed to be held on June 29 at the office of the Department of Literature and Culture, but both the state government and the department issued statements postponing this year’s edition of the annual event.

Both the state government and the department asked the Ethnic Literature and Culture Committee, which organizes the annual cultural exchange, to submit a detailed proposal including details of all planned activities.

According to the two statements, the Ethnic Literature and Culture Committee was required to include details of what would be discussed, who would attend—including the names of individuals and the organizations they represent—and any papers to be read and discussed.

The KNPP strongly condemned the state government’s move to ban the literary event, saying it violated the Constitution by failing to uphold the rights of ethnic people.

The move would cause ethnic people, including those represented by the KNPP, to lose trust in the government amid ongoing peace negotiations in Kayah State, according to the party’s statement.

It said ethnic people have the right to promote their customs and culture, including their literature and art.

The KNPP statement also said that according to the Indigenous Persons’ Rights Protection Law of 2015, ethnic people have the right to maintain their language, art, culture, customs, beliefs and religion.

“The basis of the KNPP’s participation in peace negotiations with the Union government is that the party trusted it could build peace and stability in the country by working together,” the statement reads.

In another key point, the KNPP said that because the current government is an elected, civilian government, the party trusted it would respect ethnic rights. On this basis, the KNPP hoped it would be able to work for equal rights alongside the government, the group added.

Khu Oo Reh, the vice chairman of the KNPP, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that, “I noticed that the state government is very sensitive about every activity that occurs in the region.”

He added, “We don’t know what their agenda is regarding the banning of the literary exchange. But, I don’t believe it is the policy of the [Union] government,” he said.

Khu Oo Reh said he believed the state government had exceeded its power in restricting such activities in the region. In fact, he said, the state government has a duty to help promote ethnic literature and culture.

Kayah State is home to various ethnic groups including the Karenni (Kayah)—who form a majority in the state—as well as Padaung (Kayan), Bwe, Geba, Manumanaw, Yantale, Zayein (Lahta), Geko, Yinbaw and Paku (Karen). The groups hold an annual meeting at which they share literary works and discuss ways of cooperating to improve their work. In the past, they have not had to ask permission from the state government to hold the annual events, which do not have a large attendance.

“At the meetings, we mainly exchange our literary works and discuss how we can work together to improve ethnic literature,” said Khu Plu Reh, the chairman of the Kayan National Literature and Culture Committee.

Regarding the meeting ban, he said, “We do not know what their motive is, or why they are worried about our meeting.”

Khu Plu Reh added, “We are very disappointed by their action. They should come and ask us if they have doubts about our meeting. They should not ban us, as we only discuss literature. We are not planning to discuss how to destroy the country, or their government,” he said.