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HomeUncategorizedHappy New Year Burma!

Happy New Year Burma!

Goldie Shwe

Apr 7, 2008 (DVB), One of the courageous members of the National League for Democracy who gathered to protest on the 63rd Anniversary of Anti-Fascist Revolution Day on 27 March said, "They may beat us or they may arrest us but we will keep on protesting".

And the protests will go on.

The bad news for the junta is that instead of being intimidated, the NLD and other protesters are getting tougher and more resilient to the usual beatings and arrests.

The timing also seems to be all wrong for the junta, who couldn't have chosen a worse time for their much publicised referendum in May, too soon after Thingyun, the famous water festival.

Traditionally, Thingyun is the time when people expose and deliver their suppressed feelings, by performing topical antiphonal chants, in public. The Burmese, who are usually non-confrontational, get involved enthusiastically in the amusing satirical responses to the witty lead lines.

The mocking and ironically taunting chants are usually aimed at strict school headmasters, flamboyant movie stars, strangely behaved monks, greedy shop owners and mean mothers-in law.

This year, every chant that has emerged is aimed at one target , the hated military junta.

It seems as though the people of Burma are unable to think of anything else but the torture and bullying they have suffered at the hands of the junta for the last 50 years.

While the horrifying memories of last September's protests are still vivid in the minds of the people, the lies, the threats and the force used by the junta in preparation for their referendum in May have made it all the more revolting and outrageous.

And what can you do when you feel revolted and outraged in Burma? You protest, even though everyone knows that "protest" in Burma means violent beatings and arrests, certainly followed by long-term imprisonment.

Fortunately for the protesters, the timing is just right for them.

Thingyan Festival, equivalent to the West's Christmas and New Year rolled into one, is just around the corner.

And during this important festival, people normally do what they like and jokes, humour and less inhibited behaviour are all-pervading.

No one will be too surprised to see a normally restrained and reserved person getting drunk and dancing all around the town, for example.

Everyone, alone, in pairs, or in small and bigger groups, walking, dancing, riding a trishaw or in a decorated cars, buses and coaches will be singing or chanting.

The wittiest of the writers would have composed and prepared the antiphonal chants, which would be led by the most exuberant and spirited person, and echoed by a chorus of passionate and zealous followers.

Passers-by will stop to listen, admire and encourage the chanters. The Householders will open their doors and balconies to look at the performers before offering them drinks and snacks. More wealthy people will donate generously to the chanters.

The best thing about the antiphonal chants for the Water Festival is that the anti-government slogans could be all hidden amongst the traditional ones and could be passed off as mishearing, or a slip of a tongue.

The clever writers would write ambiguously and or slightly obliquely so the chanters and the listeners will be giggling and laughing helplessly about the vitriolic and critical language but the junta will just have to watch impotently and take the ridicule.

It is a protest, an outward and open protest, yet no one can arrest them because it is Thingyun and people are supposed to be chanting.

More importantly the chants will not only refresh the memories of the long-suffering people over the abuse to which they have been subjected by the ruthless and malicious junta, but also to remind them of their cunning and deviousness and their efforts to trick people into voting for the sham referendum in May.

Happy New Year Burma!

Goldie Shwe writes at


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