A Leader of the Kachin Literature and Culture Fined For Kachin State Day Protest

Saturday, January 18, 2020

A Myitkyina Township court sentenced the man in charge of the Kachin Literature and Culture Association to the payment of a 30,000 kyat (US$20) fine for his role in protesting the name of the 72nd Kachin State Day commemoration.

Organizers of the event, held on January 10, typically describe the day as Jinghpaw Mungdaw Nhtoi, using the Jinghpaw language, and translate Kachin State Day to Burmese. This year, the organizers—the Kachin State government—said that they would only refer to the day in Burmese.

Many Kachin people protested this move, including Kachin Literature and Culture Association chair Zop Dot Sawm Naw, who was fined on Friday.

“I participated in a demonstration on January 8. I was charged with [violating] Article 19 of the Peaceful Assembly and Demonstration Act. I was sentenced to pay 30,000 kyat as a fine,” Zop Dot Sawm Naw told NMG.

Police Maj Myint Moe filed a lawsuit against Zop Dot Sawm on the same day as the protest, accusing him of organizing the demonstration without permission from the authorities.

Zop Dot Sawm Naw said that the protest was organized by a committee, and that he did not do so alone. However, he said that he was the one who was “targeted.”

“On December 23, Kachin State secretary Tun Zaw told us that they would write the title of the manau poi in only Burmese language this year, and the authorities would take action against people who opposed it,” Zop Dot Sawm Naw said. “Kachin people were so disappointed the order, so they protested it.”

Seng Zin, who also participated in the protest, said that the meaning assigned to Kachin State Day by the government organizers represented a shift that was “different from our meaning.”

Kachin community members explained that the Jinghpaw name reflects Kachin traditions, customs and language, and that the issue can only be resolved through discussion and negotiation among the various ethnic Kachin sub-groups