New Year satirists censored, told to steer clear of political issues

New Year satirists censored, told to steer clear of political issues

Groups preparing to welcome the Buddhist new year in Burma with the traditional art of Thangyat, a combination of humorous and satirical poetry, music and dance, have been warned off sensitive issues around the National Education Law by the Rangoon Division’s Thangyat Scrutiny Committee.

Though the government lifted a two-decade ban on Thangyat in recent years, authorities are still censoring the lyrics that touch on controversial issues.

Khant Min Htet, leader of the Thangyat group Blue’s Red, said that their verses which approached education issues had been disapproved by the scrutiny board.

In light of the news about the censorship, some groups have decided not to submit their lyrics to the scrutiny board, and will face the possibility of legal action as a result.

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Thangyat, known as one of the main features of Thingyan, or Burmese new year, was banned by the State Law and Order Reconciliation Council government following the coup in 1988. The prohibition was lifted in 2013, but performers of the art remain under scrutiny by officials.

Kyaw Kyaw Oo, founder of the Gandawun Thangyat group, said that even the former dictator Ne Win’s Burmese Socialist Programme party, known for its suppression of the media, had allowed the Thangyat as a form of constructive criticism of the government. He criticised the now nominally civilian government of president Thein Sein for harbouring negative attitudes toward the traditional performance.

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