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The Second Issue of Newsletter and Feature Articles on the Federation of International Human Rights Museums- Asia Pacific Official Website Released

Theme: Speak Up and Come Forward: Museums of Activism

Editor's Words

Under the theme "Speak Up and Come Forward: Museums of Activism," the second issue of Newsletter and Feature Articles of FIHRM-AP official website highlights museums' capability to drive positive changes for their communities, echoing “The Power of Museums,” the theme of International Museum Day. In the past, the paths of museums and activism would never cross. Museums took a "neutral" position by staying out of contention, which may also drive museums further apart from the society. Now, museums of activism have emerged to actively give voice to the marginalized and brought about political, social and environmental changes. The three articles of this issue all highlight the value of museum activism while sharing similar political and social context—past or ongoing oppression by the ruling regime, a scenario in which museums could either serve as propaganda apparatus or a powerful tool to counter mainstream narrative. 

Written by Thet Oo Maung (Stephen Minus), the organizer of One Step Film Forum, "Unification and Myanmar Museum" is divided into two articles. The author makes us think critically about how museum has become a part of government's propaganda apparatus. According to the article, the Burmese government has managed to iron out dissidents after building people's solidarity by enshrining solely Buddhism as the one single common belief. The move disregarded Myanmar's de facto diverse ethnic groups and as a result, its various cultural and religious legacies are absent in museums or misleadingly presented as Buddhist artifacts. These artifacts even ended up in black market due to ill management. The author reminds us that when museums bow to the ruling regime, they are not only posing great harm to the preservation of cultural legacies but also abetting religious discrimination and racism. 

In "Let the objects tell their stories: Observations from the October 6 Museum Project," Patporn (Aor) Phoothong, the co-founder of October 6 Museum, describes how the project challenges Thailand's long-standing culture of impunity. It strives to unveil the blood-shedding crackdown taking place at Thammasat University on October 6, 1976. By organizing exhibition on the site of the event, visitors come to witness the atrocity of the past. The project illustrates how museum, as a political and social space, raises public awareness and facilitates engagement in discussions about Thailand's past and present political violence by means like object collection, exhibitions, workshops and seminars. 

"Against Forgetting: Museums and Political Activism in Indonesia," the feature story of this issue is written by Andi Achdian, the head of Omah Munir Foundation. The article outlines the context in which the official version Indonesian history was created. While the role of the army is celebrated in the mainstream narrative, the ruling regime also enlists museums and monuments to gloss over the history constructed on falsehood. In the meantime, as human rights and pro-democracy activists called for a movement against forgetting, "rectification of history" unfolded. The Munir Human Rights Museum under construction signals a milestone in the advancement of human rights awareness. To expand its influence, collaboration with various institutions and stakeholder organizations is even more critical, the government included, among others. Although funding and land support from the government may arouse concern about independence of the museum, it is undeniable that museum does play an active role on the front lines of social movements.

The Second Issue of Newsletter and Feature Articles on the FIHRM- AP Official Website Released

The Second Issue of Newsletter and Feature Articles on the FIHRM- AP Official Website Released