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Myanmar minorities fight to save mother tongue

Published on Oct 21, 2012 1:05 PM
 
This picture taken on Aug 6, 2012 shows Vice-Chairman of the Shan Literature and Cultural Association (SLCA) Sai Khin Mg Sein displaying a Shan language textbook in Taunngyi, capital of Myanmar's north-eastern Shan state. For half a century, a single precious copy of a Shan language textbook kept the Myanmar ethnic minority dialect alive for generations of students, forced to learn in the shadows under a repressive junta. --PHOTO: AFP

TAUNGGYI, Myanmar (AFP) - For half a century a single precious copy of a textbook kept the language of Myanmar's Shan people alive for students forced to learn in the shadows under a repressive junta.

Now with a reformist government reaching out to armed rebel groups after decades of civil war, calls are growing to reinstate ethnic language teaching in minority area state schools as part of reconciliation efforts.

"Shan is the lifeblood of the Shan people. If the language disappears, the whole race could disappear too," said Sai Kham Sint, chairman of the Shan Literature and Cultural Association (SLCA) in the state capital Taunggyi.

Photocopies of the cherished Shan book have been used in private lessons for years in the eastern Myanmar state, after the original was banished from the curriculum by a regime intent on stamping out cultural diversity.

 
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