Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Racial And Ethnic Tension Is Undesirable, When We Must Unite Against The Dictators

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Each race and ethnicity has its own set of cultural beliefs, values, and traditions that have been passed down through ancestors and are respected.

Shan intruments were destroyed
Shan intruments were destroyed.

When there is a conflict of any kind, it is inappropriate to destroy or disrespect something that represents the identity and value of a specific race or ethnic group.

There has recently been a video clip circulating on the internet in which traditional musical instruments such as Shan long drums, gongs, and Shan flag being destroyed by a group of men in uniform. According to the video’s captions, KIA and PDF are among those breaking the instruments.

The incident took place in November 2022 in Nam Nang Village, Homalin Township, Sagaing Division, when the Homalin People’s Defense Forces (HPDF 124) seized one of the Shan National Army’s outposts. The HPDF 124 also admitted to destroying the flags and instruments.

HPDF soldiers smashed the flag and traditional instruments belonging to Shan in their excitement upon capturing the SNA outpost, admitted Charlie, the HPDF’s spokesman.

The PDF group destroyed Shan instruments
The PDF group destroyed Shan instruments.

“In their excitement at having captured the base, the soldiers went on breaking the things. They only realized later that they had made a mistake,” Charlie confessed.

Following the incident in which the Shan flag, long drum, and gongs were destroyed, Charlie explained that HPDF members approached the village leader and offered compensation.

“We made compensation according to the worth of the damaged instruments,” Charlie added.

It is said that the Shan traditional long drum and gongs were destroyed because they belonged to the SNA rather than the local community.

“We destroyed the instruments and the flag since they belonged to the SNA, not the local community,” reasoned Charlie.

The maintaining of civilization and development of each ethnicity or nationality; involve the fine arts and other traditional practices and equipment.

The characteristics of one’s ethnic or national identity, traditions, and cultural symbols, such as customs, fine arts, and literature, must be preserved and maintained.

SNA troops holding Shan flag
SNA troops holding Shan flag.

The survival of one’s ethnic or national identity depends on one’s capacity to preserve the customs, fine arts, and literature, which are also defining characteristics of that ethnicity or race’s civilization.

The destruction of cultural symbols and instruments treasured by a certain race or ethnicity is an insulting conduct and unacceptable behaviors, which were condemned in a statement issued on January 23, 2023 by Shan Ni Youth Organization (SNYO).

It is said that it was SNA that circulated the video clip revealing HPDF members destroying the instruments.

“Some of our cell phones were taken by the SNA during the battle in Nat Nan. From those mobiles, they began to circulate the clip,” added Charlie.

Homalin Township in Sagaing Division is a region where people of different ethnic backgrounds live side by side, including Burmese, Kachin, and Shan Ni.

Sai Sai Maine, a Shanni youth, expressed his outrage and surprise after seeing the footage of soldiers destroying the traditional instruments valued by the Shan people.

Even if the enemy or opponent has been beaten in battle, it is inappropriate to destroy things related to their nationalities, traditions, and customs.

“This is an insult not only to Shanni but to the entire Shan people. Because the Shans place such a high value on these instruments, this could be an offense to the entire Shan community,” said the youth.

The majority of Shanni (Taileng) people live in Kachin State and in the northern part of Sagaing Region.

In Kachin State, there are five Shan sub-groups: Shanni, Tailong, Tai Nue, Tai Hsa, and Tai Khamti. According to the Shanni Literature and Culture Association, there are around 500,000 Shanni residing in Myitkyina, Monyin, and Mokaung areas.

SNA troops
SNA troops.

Since 1973, tensions between Kachin and Shanni, who had previously coexisted peacefully, have escalated as a result of militarization and incitement, resulting in misunderstanding and community division.

According to Sai Maung Tin, chairman of the Shan Literature and Cultural Association, the destruction of items and symbols valued by one nationality in the midst of ethnic tensions could exacerbate the situation.

“Destroying one’s ethnicity or race’s most valued instruments, such as drums and gongs, should not be happening and is not acceptable, especially in a context where diverse nationalities are intended to coexist and be equal,” Sai Maung Tin pointed out.

Sai Maung Tin went on to say that no one would want to tolerate such disrespect. But it is something we must approach with caution, especially given the current delicate situation.

“We don’t want to incite more hatred. Individuals and organizations are accountable for taking action one day” Sai Maung Tin suggested.

Ma Ah Nang, a 30-year-old woman from Myitkyina, Kachin State, remarked that as tensions between warring parties are escalating, disrespecting one’s ethnicity’s cultural property could lead to racial or communal conflict.

“We may have no influence over and cannot intervene in armed groups shooting at each other. Dishonoring one’s culture and customs, on the other hand, is difficult to tolerate regardless of ethnicity. The essential principle of democracy is to appreciate and tolerate diversity in culture and tradition,” Ma Ah Nang stated.

Ma Ah Nang suggested that Kachin and Shanni have coexisted in Kachin State for many years. We don’t need any more petty squabbles or conflict among us, especially now that we all need to join together to resist the military dictatorship.

The soldiers that destroyed the Shan musical instruments are members of the Homalin PDF, which is formally affiliated with the NUG.

“Homalin PDF is formally under the command of NUG. Thus, a channel for accountability may exist. It is critical not to stir up communal or racial tension in an armed conflict situation,” she emphasized.

The destruction of Shan traditional and cultural items was condemned in a statement released on January 23 by the Shan Ni Youth Organization (SNYO).

“It is insulting that Shan musical instruments have been destroyed. It is important to publicly apologize for this matter. We do not want this revolution to spark more interethnic conflict,” a youth from Homalin remarked.

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