- By Aung Thu
Myanmar is on its way to democratization and it is necessary for the education level of the public to rise so as to realize that goal. An educated and informed public can make rational decisions. The Information and Public Relations Department (IPRD) is a bridge between the public and the government bodies that communicates the needs of the former and the work of the latter.
To this end, the IPRDs across the country handle libraries, distribute pamphlets and wall posters, and conduct seminars and now they are using new ways to accomplish their mission.
Public centred activities
The IPRDs have upgraded their public libraries to community centres which include a children’s reading corner and library, a space for public exercise, and a place for community discussions.
The IPRD in Kawhmu, Insein, Natmauk, Pyinmana, Myitkyina, Mandalay, and Hpa-An District have been successfully upgraded. They have carried out various exhibitions and competitions, workshops, reading circles, and other activities for the public. Furthermore, book clubs, woman clubs, and youth clubs have been formed in 72 IPRDs in various districts.
The centers will be a venue for literary talks, book reviews, support for women’s development and education, youth empowerment, and discussing community needs and requirements.
Stocking up on literature
The libraries in IPRDs and other offices have been stocked with new books, magazines and other literature in the two year administration of the civilian government. In 2016-2017 financial year a total of 166,664 books estimated at Ks 306,200,787 and in 2017-2018 financial year a total of 185,237 books estimated at Ks 357,016,404 were distributed to IPRDs across the country.
Furthermore, around 118 mini-libraries were opened up in public places such as airports, train stations, highway bus terminals, ports, markets, etc. for easy access by the public.
The IPRDs hold public talks for the community to discuss important issues and to develop discussion skills in the people. Discussion topics include the dangers of drug addiction, youth and job opportunities, and other topics relevant to the respective districts.
The IPRDs have a bulletin board and pocket shelf that is updated twice a month and informs of the government’s progress and accomplishments. Recent documentary photos are also put up on display and changed every month.
Pamphlets with news of important commemorations, holidays, and special occasions are distributed to the public. Every year around two hundred thousand pamphlets on the dangers of drug addiction, Independence Day, Armed Forces Day and etc. are distributed.
A journal for people living in rural areas is published twice a month. The aptly named Doe Kyay Ywar Journal (Our Village Journal) contains information on agriculture, livestock breeding, healthcare, and other helpful information. The journal prints out 34,000 copies twice a month and so far in the two year administration a total of 1,659,930 copies have been printed and distributed.
A variety of microfilms have been produced on different topics for the public. In 2016 an environmental conservation awareness microfilm was released titled “Even superman can’t save us.” In 2017, “The light from the neighbor’s house” a film about democratic conduct was released. In 2018 microfilm called “Change” was released that highlighted how reading can change a person’s life for the better.
To promote literature among the people, a total of six children literature festivals and 26 District literature festivals have been conducted across Myanmar.
A Festival for Youth All-Round Development was held in Yangon in December 2017 and one in Mandalay will be held in July 2018. The festival includes literature activities, art activities, sports activities, IT and science activities, as well as book sales, youth education programmes, discussion, songs, dances and playing musical instruments. An Ethnic literature festival was also held in Shan State from 21 to 25 March. There are future plans to hold more diverse ethnic literature festivals and a national literature festival too.
Compiling research papers
The Sub department of Research and News Gathering (Yangon) was reformed into the Centre for Myanmar Affairs Studies in June 2016 and publishes a newspaper for Myanmar Affairs once every three months. They have compiled research on the 72 reports on the Union Peace Conference-21st Century Panglong Peace Conference, a paper on Anti-Corruption progresses, and Chinese relations and economic influence.
The IPRDs have information on their district’s news, news on natural disasters, and news on the various ministries’ progresses and projects for the public to see and each ministry has its own webportal for easy access to its status.
The Myanmar Rehabilitation News Facebook Page displays information on environmental disasters such as warnings of approaching disasters, rescue operations and is co-operated by the Ministry for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement.
Everyone can ask for news on the weather, unique occasions, and domestic, local news by dialing 1883, the call center hotline set up by Blue Ocean Operating Management Co. Ltd and the Ministry of Information.
A twitter account with the name myanmarinformation tweets news tidbits about the Union Government and other significant changes in the country. There is also a Viber Public Chat group with the name MOI Myanmar giving the same services.
Developing the journal sector
Publishers and Printing houses were once required to submit four hardcopies and on softcopy of their published item to the Ministry but now after some amendments to the printing and publishing law, only six hardcopies are required for submission.
In the two year administration of the government the Ministry of Information has given approval for 1,497 printing houses, 45 publishing houses, 825 journal publishers, 432 magazine publishers, 1,323 miscellaneous publishers, and 98 news agencies to operate.
Developing the movie industry
About 99 movie theatres were changed to a digital format in the two years of government. A total of 128 Myanmar movies have been played 8 times in international foreign movie festivals, and 9 times in foreign movie festivals held in Myanmar. Workshops, exchange programmes, and overseas expeditions have also been conducted to raise the next generation of the movies and fine arts industry.
The rise of the education tide
With many advances in the information, literature and fine arts sectors in recent years, the future looks hopeful for effectively raising awareness and education among the general public. Only when the public is well educated and informed, and have a clear communication channel with the government, then the road to a democratic federal state is within reach.