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Burma musician sings for democracy

Burma musician sings for democracy

By Roy K. Akagawa

Asahi Evening News

May 29, 1998

Mun Awng has no regrets about leaving behind a privileged life as a pop
singer in his native Myanmar (Burma) to live in exile in Norway.  "I feel
equally rich living in Norway as an ordinary citizen as any singer living in
Burma," he said.

Mun Awng is in Tokyo ahead of his performance Saturday at the Nihon
Seinenkan hall with Okinawan musician Shokichi Kina and Champloose.  The
occasion is a charity concert to raise money for the Burmese Border
Consortium, an organization that distributes aid to refugees along the Thai
border with Myanmar. 

Mun Awng said he is happy to be joining Kina, a strong advocate for the
removal of U.S. military bases in Okinawa, at the concert because the two
musicians share an affinity.

"As far as I know, he is a fighter," he said.  "He is struggling for peace."

Mun Awng is now putting the final touches on a Burmese translation of the
lyrics to Kina's popular song, "Hana" (Flower), which is popular in Japan
and in many parts of Asia.

Mun Awng, 38, left his native Myanmar in February 1993 after spending close
to five years at a refugee camp near the Myanmar-Thailand border.  He went
to Oslo, Norway to work at a Burmese-language shortwave radio station that
was broadcasting pro-democracy programming mainly to Myanmar.

He applied for political asylum in Norway in March 1996 and was granted
residency on humanitarian grounds in August.  He was granted political
asylum by Norway's Justice Ministry about a year later.

After he returns to Norway, Mun Awng will be busy working on an album he
hopes to release for the Aug. 8 tenth anniversary of Myanmar's pro-democracy
demonstrations.  The demonstrations eventually led to the resignation of
President Sein Lwin, a military crackdown that left hundreds dead and the
creation of a military government.

Mun Awng said he would dedicate the new album to all pro-democracy activists
who have died in the struggle from 1988 until now.  He plans to sell the
album to expatriate Burmese communities around the world.  He also plans to
go to refugee camps near the Thai border to distribute copies free to anyone
willing to smuggle the albums into Myanmar.

While still in Myanmar, Mun Awng released an album in 1992 that he had
recorded at a makeshift studio in the refugee camp.  He later learned that
student demonstrators at a December 1996 rally sang some of his songs ? even
though his albums, including four others he released between 1984 and 1988
are banned by the Myanmar government.

"The purpose of the new album is to encourage the students still in Burma
and to give them something to sing," he said.

Saturday's concert begins at 5:30 p.m. with doors opening at 5 p.m.  Tickets
are still available at the door.  Nihon Seinenkan is located close to
National Stadium and Jingu Baseball Stadium.  The nearest stations are Jingu
mae on the Ginza Subway line and Sendagaya on the JR Chuo Line.  For more
information, call the Burma Youth Volunteer Association at 03-3916-4996.