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Paung Township library banned from carrying ethnic languages

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

IMNA : Burmese government authorities have banned ethnic literature and text from being donated to library collections in Paung Township, Mon, despite the library’s being predominately funded and supported by area villagers.

In Zin Kyaik village, the public library has been banned from accepting Mon cultural literature, religious texts, and publications. Through a order from the Information and Public Relations Department (IPRD) under the Ministry of Information, library’s cannot accept any ethnic texts despite the majority of library contents being donated material from village residence.

In the same order, the IPRD also forced a name change for the public library.  Originally called “Banyar Dala library”, the order renamed it to, “People library (Phyithu Library)”.

A teacher from Zin Kyaik village commented, “Banyar Dala library was established since many years ago and the founders of Banyar Dala library became educated people, authors, and poets. We can’t tell what reason the Ministry of Information [had] to change the name of Banyar Dala libray to ‘People library’ and put it under [the control of] the Information and Public Relations Department.”

According to a Mon youth from Paung Township Mon State, this ban extends beyond just the Zin Kyaik public library. The IPRD authorities don’t allow the donation of literature in any language except Burmese in villages and quarters throughout the township.

In particular, the restriction on donations has undercut the library as a source of educative material. “Our village is a large Mon village and has a high school. Youth and students prefer to read books,” explained a Mon youth from Zin Kyaik village. “The library at our village has only newspapers, journals, magazines, and cartoons, but [they] are all old and out of date. They didn’t put so many novels. We also went to donate Mon literature for many people to read but they didn’t allow us to.”

A source familiar with Zin Kyaik’s library said that the administrative officer of the library, who is Mon, has to go to the monastery if he wants to read Mon literature. The decision to ban ethnic language text donations is reported to be outside the officer’s control as the order comes from Burmese government authorities.

“Mon literature, Pariyatti literature, Buddhist literature and culture printed by Mon monks, branches of literature dealing with knowledge printed from universities for students and Mon communities magazines and journals,” are all available at the monastery, commented an abbot from a large village near Paung town.

The abbot continued, saying that children and youth in the village have learned about Buddhism and received cultural training in the Mon for many years, allowing them to become fluent in the language. While fluent in Mon, youth cannot access Mon texts at monasteries. The public library does allow English as the one exception to the language restriction rule, however it only furnishes a limited supply of newspapers has English language learning books for youth also learning English.

Mostly libraries in villages are under the control of the Information and Public Relations Department (IPRD).  Villagers from local communities established the majority of these libraries, without support from the Burmese government.  In only rare circumstances do libraries receive any support from Burmese government bodies, though government donations consist of pro government perspective newspapers, magazines and journals.


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