Myanmar activists opposed to hate speech took their campaign to upper Myanmar on April 8, with small groups gathering in several cities to warn against the use of language that can inflame religious and ethnic tensions.

The supporters of the Panzagar (“flower speech”) movement, launched in Yangon on April 4, clutched padauk blooms between their teeth to symbolise the importance of being careful with words at the gatherings in Mandalay, Monywa, Lashio and Pakkoku.

The gatherings, held under the slogan “Let’s be careful with our mouths to avoid spreading hatred”, were held in Mandalay outside the Diamond Plaza shopping centre and the Zay Cho and Mingalar markets. Students, members of civil society organisations, and citizens participated in the presentations.

“We held this activity to show the importance of being careful to avoid words that spread hatred during this period as the country makes the transition to democracy,” Ko Nyi Nyi Kyaw told Mizzima in Mandalay after participating in one of the Panzagar events.

Padauk blooms are traditionally associated with the Myanmar month of Tagu. Ko Nyi Nyi Kyaw said Panzagar activities would be held every month and feature the bloom with which it was associated.

Ko Nyi Nyi Kyaw said there was no organisation behind the Panzagar campaign and anyone could participate in its activities.

He said conflict existed in Myanmar not only between people of different faiths but also between Myanmar of different ethnic backgrounds.

All members of society needed to be careful in their use of language to avoid creating conflicts and problems. “This is the main purpose of our activity,” Ko Nyi Nyi Kyaw said.

The Panzagar movement has created a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/panzagar) to advocate against hate speech and publicise its activities.

The Panzagar movement was established by Ko Nay Phone Latt, a blogger and executive director of Myanmar ICT for Development Organisation, who was arrested in January 2008 for his coverage of the monks’ protests the previous year and sentenced to 20 years and six months in prison. He was released under amnesty in 2012.

The comedian Zarganar is among the supporters of the Panzagar movement.

Link: http://bnionline.net/index.php/news/mizzima/16921-activists-use-street-theatre-to-condemn-hate-speech.html