Myanmar’s Shan minority fights to preserve culture

Ethnic groups are turning to music and radio to keep their traditions alive under a democratic government.

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    For musician Hsai Leng, singing is not just a passion, it's a calling.

    A former soldier, Leng has traded his gun for the microphone to encourage his people, Myanmar's Shan minority, to preserve their ethnic traditions.

    For more than 50 years, the Shan, along with other minorities, fought Myanmar's former military government for the right to practise their own cultures.

    But now, with the country under a democratic leader, they finally see hope.

    "We are the young generation," Leng says. "I want to use the music to call on people to pay attention to our nation."


    READ MORE: Myanmar bans officials from saying 'Rohingya'


    A new law was introduced last year, which allows ethnic groups to broadcast radio programmes for the first time in their own languages.

    Broadcasters in areas such as Wan Hai welcome the change.

    "Our radio is very important for our audience because some people, like pregnant women, don't know what to do about their health," says Nang Seng Reun, of Wan Hai radio station.

    "So we can provide the information for them through the radio. We tell them how they can take care of their baby and their health.”

    Despite the strides to lift censorship, minority leaders feel more needs to be done to preserve their cultures and bring ethnic languages to the state schools.

    "The Shan language is part of our nationality," says Nang Jam Kham, of the New Generation school.

    "We cannot ignore it. It is important for us to hold on to our Shan language."

    State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has set up a new ethnic affairs ministry to address these concerns.

    After decades of military rule, Myanmar's minorities are hopeful they may finally get the recognition they have been striving for.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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