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Pro-Democracy Myanmar Singer Denied a Visa


Thousands of people who fled Myanmar in recent years have returned. They have decided to do so because of democratic changes, a growing economy, and more political freedoms in the country.

But not everyone is welcome.

Mun Aung is a musician and activist. He fled to Norway 26 years ago. He is now staying in northern Thailand.

He says he wants to bring a message of peace to his people. But he was recently denied a visa to enter Myanmar. He does not know why, because officials did not give him a reason for refusing to let him return home.

“Maybe they think that we are going to cause problems or trouble in the country. I just recently finished recording my new album, which is called ‘Raindrops of Peace.’”

Mun Aung says he hoped to sing his songs in public to help ethnic Kachin refugees. About 100,000 people have been living in camps in rebel-controlled areas of Kachin state for the past four years. The Kachin fighters are the only ethnic army that has not signed a cease-fire agreement with the government.

Mun Aung knows about the problems in Kachin. He grew up in the area.

He says one of the country’s main problems is that the military has controlled the country for many years. He says it is not easy for people to give up power after having it for so long.

“The problem in Burma today is the power-sharing because the power has been in military or previous military government or so-called governments in last 50 years. All the state, the power and authority -- everything -- has been in the hands of the military. So it is the military decision whether they want to give up the power or not.”

Mun Aung’s music has become popular among pro-democracy activists in Myanmar. That might be one of the reasons he cannot go back. During an ethnic celebration near the border of Thailand and Myanmar, Mun Aung played some of his best-known songs. Kachin singers asked him to do so. They wanted to raise money for people displaced by fighting.

Mun Aung says he is happy about the changes in Myanmar, even if he cannot be there to see them for himself.

“When I released ‘Battle for Peace’ album in 1992, it was very difficult because it was considered as illegal, so everyone who owned my cassette or copy of the album could go to jail. To release a new album, I hope it will be easier than 20 years ago. There is no restriction on distribution of music, for example, such as censorship and permission from authorities.”

Mun Aung plans to return to his family in Norway, but he says his thoughts of peace will remain in Myanmar with his people.

I’m Ashley Thompson.

Correspondent Steve Sandford reported this story from Chiang Mai, Thailand. Ashley Thompson wrote it for Learning English. Christopher Cruise was the editor.

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Words in this Story

denyv. to refuse to give (something) to someone; to prevent someone from having or receiving (something)

rebeln. a person who opposes or fights against a government

censorshipn. the system or practice of censoring books, movies and letters

Are there problems in your country between the government and ethnic groups? If so, what are the possible solutions to the disputes? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the comments section.

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