Myanmar & COVID-19

Myanmar Ministry to Probe Whether Pro-Army Video Was Shot in Violation of COVID-19 Ban

By Aung Thiha 6 August 2020

YANGON—The Ministry of Information will investigate a controversial music video to see if the shooting process violated the COVID-19 restrictions, after the clip drew widespread criticism on social media, said acting director-general of the Information and Public Relations Department U Aye Kywe.

The Central Committee for Prevention, Control and Treatment of COVID-19, comprising officials from various ministries, has banned public gatherings including events and film shoots.

However, “Our Land (Now Is the Time to Unite, Myanmar!)”, a 14-minute-long propaganda music video posted online this week featuring several dozen Myanmar music and movie celebrities, appears to have been shot in violation of the COVID-19 restrictions. Adding to the controversy is the message of the video, which calls on the ruling National League for Democracy, the opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party and the military to unite, while praising the armed forces as the savior of the country.

Created by singer and director Yone Lay, the video even includes scenes of soldiers saving State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from an assassination attempt at the last minute. The music video has been heavily criticized for championing the military at the expense of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, just as Myanmar is gearing up for a general election in November.

U Aye Kywe said the ministry would investigate to see whether production of the video violated the regulations of the Information Ministry or the Myanmar Motion Picture Organization, as well as the COVID-19 guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Sports.

“We will investigate in cooperation with the Myanmar Motion Picture Organization to see when and how [Yone Lay] shot the video. If he violated the rules and regulations, the relevant departments will take action in line with the law,” U Aye Kywe told The Irrawaddy.

Film and video shoots must be conducted in line with laws adopted by the Ministry of Information, he said.

Yone Lay did not submit his music video to the Myanmar Motion Picture Organization for censorship, organization chairman U Nyi Nyi Tun Lwin told The Irrawaddy.

“He shot a music video with a plot, but did not submit it for censorship. Again, it is not an educational video. Our organization will take action regarding the video,” he said.

The Information Ministry only recently resumed allowing the shooting of films and commercials. Prior to that, the Myanmar Motion Picture Organization had only allowed seven COVID-19 awareness short videos and music videos to be made since the outbreak began, said U Nyi Nyi Tun Lwin.

According to those who participated in Yone Lay’s music video, it was shot while the ban on film shoots was still in effect.

In a high-profile case, pastor Saw David Lah and one of his followers were sentenced to three months in prison with hard labor on Thursday for organizing prayer gatherings in violation of COVID-19 restrictions. The gatherings allegedly helped spread coronavirus to around 80 people, making it the largest cluster found so far in Myanmar.

On Wednesday at noon, Yone Lay apologized about the music video through his Facebook account and removed it from his social media account.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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