Kachins Forced to Celebrate Manau Dance in Myitkyina

A Manau Dance to commemorate 67th Kachin State Day was held Jan 8-10 in Shatapru Manau Compound in Myitkyina amid public outcry against such a Manau Dance Celebration while the state is still in war and many civilians suffer from the consequences of the renewed war that has already lasted over three years.

Manau Festival Organization Committee backed by the state government opened the five-day Manau Dance Festival on Jan 5 with attendance from some religious organizations, Burmese government officials, and some local businessmen despite strong opposition from local Kachin public.

Burma’s President Thein Sein made a surprise visit to the Manau Compound and the headquarters of the Kachin Baptist Convention on Jan 10. Minister U Soe Thein, Parliament Member U Thein Zaw, Northern Regional Commander and other government officials also joined the Manau Dance.

Most local Kachins did not participate in this Manau Festival saying the time is not right for such celebration while Kachin Independence Army and Burmese Army is still fighting and Internally Displaced Persons are still living in temporary housing in major Kachin cities and makeshift tents along China-Burma border.

Kachin Culture and Literature Central Committee, which used to organize Manau Celebration and has head office in Shatapru Manau Compound, shunned the Manau Festival by closing its office till Jan 16.

Kachin youths organized a signature campaign opposing the Manau Dance Festival and submitted a letter with 10,000 signatures to Kachin State Minister Lajawn Ngan Seng in last November.

Gum Ja Naw, one of the campaign organizer said, “We see that most people who joined the Manau dance are not Kachins. They are from other ethnic groups. We can generally say that Kachin public did not join this Manau Dance.” He continued, “Our people are in trouble, they are suffering. We can’t say about our future. The future of our political, economic and society as a whole is still very uncertain. So those who celebrated the State Day with Manau dance supported the authorities and Burmese government’s victory in a way. The Kachin public sees is this way”.

“If the government listens its constituents, they should not hold such a Manau Celebration in difficult times like this,” said Gum Ja Naw.

A local source also said, “There were not many Kachins in the Manau compound, we see government officials and some businessmen associated with those officials. The entire program of Manau Dance and other activities were managed by government officials. It is not the kind of Manau that we knew and we used to participate with joy”. He said, “Township administrative officers asked local official to bring at least 50 persons for each block. High school students and college students were asked by their teachers to attend government-sponsored Kachin Manau Dance.”

Some patients in Myitkyina General Hospital have been moved to accommodate emergencies and walk-ins during Manau Festival. One nurse posted in her facebook that she was assigned on duty for a lifeless Manau Festival.

Manau Dance Festivals are held for occasions under different titles such as Wealth, Victory, Prosperity, Parting, Blessing, Thanksgiving and Wisdom. Manau Leaders have to follow special patterns written on the Manau poles in their movements to lead mass public during the dance. It is regarded as one of the largest communal dance in the world.

It has been three years since Kachin State Manau Celebration was last held in Myitkyina as the renewed war broke out in Kachin State in 2011.