The Straits Times
Published on Oct 21, 2012

Myanmar minorities fight to save mother tongue


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.