RANGOON — The government tested a new community radio program on Wednesday in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships in northern Arakan State, which will broadcast in the language spoken by the Muslim Rohingya, according to an official in the information ministry.
The project is named Mayu FM. Under the U Nu government in the early 1960s, the Maungdaw district was often referred to as the Mayu district, named for a river in the region.
The Ministry of Information’s deputy permanent secretary U Soe Moe confirmed on Thursday that the radio testing had taken place. But he said the program had not started officially broadcasting.
U Soe Moe declined to explain whether the government would establish an official radio program in Maungdaw District. It was unclear from the official in the information ministry whether the programming would be staffed by local Muslim employees or by others who speak the local language of the Muslim Rohingya, which linguists say is closely related to the Chittagonian dialect of the Bengali language.
The planned Mayu FM program would be organized to release real-time information to Maungdaw residents and to prevent the spread of misleading information among the public, according to information that has circulated on social media.
But some internet observers have criticized the proposed radio program, saying that a government-operated program in the Rohingya language would seem to favor the Muslim population over the ethnic Arakanese. Currently, there are both government-operated and privately-owned radio stations—such as Pyinsawaddy FM—which broadcast a mix of Arakanese and Burmese language programs.
The Burma President’s Office spokesperson U Zaw Htay declined to speak to The Irrawaddy about the project on Thursday, and he directed calls to the Ministry of Information. Arakan State government spokesperson U Min Aung and state secretary U Tin Maung Swe did not take phone calls from the Irrawaddy on Thursday.
Buthidaung resident U Aung Ko said that most locals were not aware that the radio testing had taken place, although some people discussed it on social media. Most residents of the Maungdaw region get their news online with mobile devices.
In the early 1960s, a Rohingya language radio broadcast was established in Arakan State, under the administration of Prime Minister U Nu. But when General Ne Win and the Burmese military launched a coup in 1962, U Nu was purged from the government, and the local radio broadcast ceased.