Author profile - THET OO MAUNG (Filmmaker, Photographer)
Thet Oo Maung (a.k.a Stephen Minus) is a dedicated humanitarian, self-taught painter, photographer and videographer. He has used his camera skills to amplify the voices of those who have been maligned, forgotten about, or silenced. His work has dealt with civil war, landmines, people with disabilities, child education, child healthcare, women empowerment, digital rights, illegal logging, land grabbing and environmental degradation. He is now organizing and running the first underground human rights film festival in Burma, the “One Step Film Forum”.
About - ONE STEP FILM FORUM
One Step Film Forum is dedicated to promoting Humanity in Myanmar through the films. One Step Film Forum is the whistle blowing arena for people who also need to raise their voices for justice. We are promoting the rights to freedom of expression, Freedom of speech, Peace and Harmony through our film screening events. We are sharing the knowledge of Human Rights, Justice and Activism. On the first day of February, 2021, the military junta is abusively taken power from the newly elected NLD government. Many people came out to the street and protested against the Military Coup. The Military kills a lot of youth including women and children to suppress the peaceful protest around the country. In that case, One Step Film Forum is continuing to promote Human Rights, Freedom and Justice. We fight with the power of films.
Myanmar (Burma) was declared as a Buddhist state in 1961 by U Nu after its separation from the UK. On 29 August 1961, Parliament passed the State Religion Promotion Act of 1961, initiated by U Nu himself. This act made Buddhism the official state religion of the country, as one of his election campaigns. After Myanmar (Burma) gained independence, some ethnic groups revolted against the newly founded country. Once famous ethnic rebel group is the Karen people, and most of them are Christian. Another is the Burma Communist Party, and the government consider them as non-religious barbarians or anti-Buddhists. The K.I.A (Kachin Independence Army) started a revolt after the declaration of the national religion in 1961, because most of the Kachins were Christian. Since then, a major task of the government has been promoting Buddhism and using Buddhism to unite people under one common belief. On the other hand, the government suppressed in many ways to other religions such as Christianity, Hindu and Islam in the country in the name of promoting the state religion.
One of the examples is refusing to save non-Buddhist religious artifacts, despite the fact that all these religions have coexisted in Myanmar for a thousand years. Sometimes, the government intentionally destroysevidence. Many scholars call these acts “Burmanization.” The museums in Myanmar are under full control of the government. They support the government’s state religion policy in their own way, such as excluding other religious artifacts from being saved or exhibited.
Ethnic diversity in Myanmar
Myanmar (also known as Burma) is an ethnically diverse nation, with 135 distinct ethnic groups officially recognized by the Burmese Government. These are grouped into eight "major national ethnic races": Burman, Chin, Kachin, Karen, Kayah, Mon, Arakanese and Shan. The "major national ethnic races" are grouped primarily according to region rather than linguistic or ethnic affiliation.
Many unrecognized ethnic groups exist, the largest being the Burmese Chinese and Panthay (who together form 3% of the population), Burmese Indians (who form 2% of the population), Anglo-Burmese, and Gurkha. There are no official statistics regarding the population of the latter two groups, although unofficial estimates place around 52,000 Anglo-Burmese in Burma with around 1.6 million outside the country. The Government of Myanmar (Burma) does not recognize several ethnic groups as being among the list of 135 officially recognized ethnic groups. They are:
· Anglo-Burmese people
· Burmese Chinese
· Burmese Indians
· Taungtha people
· Rohingya people
· Burmese Gurkha/Nepalese
Myanmar has very diverse ethnic groups and many different cultural and religious heritages. But most of the historical artifacts, cultural and traditional heritages of both recognized and unrecognized ethnicity groups in Myanmar cannot be seen in major museums. Some of the strong evidence of coexisted religions and cultural relics are purposefully destroyed or hidden. Some of the non-Buddhist artifacts are displayed as Buddhist ones, along with wrong labels. The Nan Phayar in Bagan is one popular relic.
The old sand stone pagoda built as a Hindu shrine in the 11th century has a statue of the Brahma God of Hindu. The three-head statue which crouches on the wall can be seen easily, but the government and religious leaders portray the place as a Buddhist temple. Some of the historical artifacts were intentionallydestroyed to hide the religious facts of Burma.
1. The Brahma God statue of the Bagan Nan Phayar Pagoda (Photo credit: Thet Oo Maung)
A well-known recent event was the demolishing of the Lin Zin Gone Cemetery in Mandalay in 2012-2013. A mosque and some graves in the historic Lin Zin Gone Cemetery located in Amarapura Township, Mandalay Region were demolished by the Mandalay Municipal Department. After the notice to remove the Lin Zin Gone Cemetery came out in the Mandalay Daily Paper on May 31, 2012, an official appeal letter was sent to the minister and different levels of authorities. Also, a petition with over 3 000 signatures against that notice wassent to all levels of authorities. This cemetery is rich with historical relics of well-known non-Buddhists who served the King before the British colonial times. Many historical tomb stones/slabs of Muslims, Armenians, and Europeans were destroyed by bulldozers. Many well-known historical icons such as Saint Aabis Sha Husain Ni, Rahmawati Governor Shwe Taung Thargha Thu (an honorable title) U Nu, an author and poet, who wrote and gave historic explanations on Islamto King Boethaw Phayar, as well as other famous Myanmar Muslims were buried in the cemetery. This action is intended to wipe out the evidence of non-Buddhist people who lived and served the Burman King long before the British occupation. Only a few tombstones survivedbecause a monk from a nearby monastery saved them in his compound.
2. The broken tombstone of an Armenian who lived in Mandalay during Kingshipera. The tombstone was saved from the Lin Zin Gone Cemetery. (Photo credit: Tayza Hlaig)
3. The abandoned tombstone of an Armenian who lived in Mandalay during King Min Doneera, written in Burmese and Armenian. The tombstone was saved from theLin Zin Gone Cemetery. (Photo credit: Tayza Hlaig)