Story by Jaraya Boonmak
Photo by Amnat Ketchuen
“This’s Myanmar, isn’t it?”
“Where does it take place? I want to go.”
“This isn’t Burmese. It’s music from Dawei.”
Above are some comments under Dawei’s traditional dance VDO clip that became a hit not long after being posted on Facebook. But those words come and go as usually happen on social media sites. Quintessence is joyful moments during the “We Love Dawei” event held at Bangkok Art and Culture Centreon 24 January 2017 that Thai participants felt when seeing Tavoyans cordially sang and danced along while watching their friends performing traditional dances on stage as if they were home.
“We Love Dawei” was organized by SEM in collaboration with Community Art Project as well as other partners who had been to Dawei in Myanmar and fascinated by charms of the southern city. The event featured Photos and paintings exhibition, live music, traditional performance and discussion panels.
The dancers on stage are girls from Dawei who are working in Bangkok, same as the boys giving their friends loud cheers in the audience.
Zaw Min U, a member of the organizing team said that everyone joining the event was all Tavoyan works, not Burmese. Tavoyans have their own language and culture. Dawei’s population mostly comprises of Tavoyans, Mon and Karen. Being contacted by SEM, he is responsible for coordinating with Tavoyans working in Bangkok who are regularly in touch through Facebook. Many realized the importance of the event and were looking forward to join. “Do you think they are being happy? They are singing and dancing. They must be happy.” The merry atmosphere before our eyes is the prove to his words. “We can speak Thai but we spoke Tavoyan when we are together, not Burmese,” he added.
Ma Ma Chow, 29 year-old dancer said after performing Dawei’s traditional dance that the song was about courting between men and women. She and her friends rehearsed the dance three weeks prior to the vent. “It was a bit rush but I’m glad to have a chance to show it to Thais so they know the beauty of our local performance.” Since she came to work in Thailand over 10 years ago, colleagues and neighbours have mistaken her as Burmese. “We are not Burmese. We are originally Tavoyans. I had never thought I would get a chance to perform Jar Dance to Thais as well as Tavoyans. I had not done this for years. Being here, I miss my home. Pictures of fish, of a woman carrying fish remind me of my home but I cannot return now. I need to collect some more money,” said the young dancer.
This “We Love Dawei” event had it all – live music, traditional dance, photos and painting exhibition, performance art as well as panel discussion. Thus, it is a combination of art, knowledge and viewpoints aiming to save Dawei from mega-projects like deep sea port, special economic zone and dams.
The panel discussion invited Thais who have been to Dawei and Tavoyan to share their experience and knowledge including academic, artist and social worker. Walailak Songsiri from Lek-Prapai Viriyahpant Foundation provided very interesting information about relationship between Thailand and Dawei. About 200 years ago, there used to be Tavoyan community in the heart of Bangkok in Yannawadistrict near Don Temple. The community was officially called “Dawei Village”. Tavoyans migrated to Thailand (then called Siam) during the reign of King Rama I with Dawei’s lord who sought protection from Siam against Burmese. 100 years later in the reign of King Rama V, Tavoyans were still noblemen and civil servants in boat building department. Afterwards, Tavoyans were gradually merged with Thais. Ms. Walailak added that in 1792 Mung Jun Ja, the Tovoyan lord brought his family, relatives and servants to Bangkok and royally bestowed a piece of land in Tambon Kok Krabue to live under Phraya Dawei’s care. Both of them built a temple on a high ground surrounded by a river basin; hence its name, Don Temple (meaning temple on high ground) Locals called it Don Dawei Temple. Later in 1857, King Rama IV changed its name to Borom Sathon but people still called it Don Dawei Temple,
Ms. Walailak added that during the time of Somdet Phramahasamanachao Kromphraya Vajirananavarorasa, the administration of the monkhood’s policy is that all monks in a temple must follow the same sect, refrain from arguing about different sects and monks from different sect who refused to perform deeds with the local monks identified as visitors who could stay in that temple for only 3 months. Samana Jun informed Tavoyan monks to join the ceremony but they refused to go. So, all could no longer stay in the temple. Later on, Tai people also went to the same temple, calling it Don Kula. Meanwhile, Tavoyans left to built another monastery called “Prok Temple.”
“As for Dawei Village, there was a school located in Don Temple. Later it became a all-female school name “Dawei Village School” which was grown from Wat Suthi Wararam all-female school. Later, the education ministry divided Dawei Village School into two schools – Dawei Village School (now Satri SriSuriyothai School) and Karn Chang SatriPhra Nakhon Tai School (now Rajamangala University of Technology Krungthep) At that time, there were scarcely Tavoyans in Dawei Village because after the road and Chareonrat Expressway being built through the village and Rong Nam Khang Alley, most of the villagers lost their land and had to resettle elsewhere. People in the present community are Chinese-descent and people from somewhere else,” the academic from Lek-Prapai Viriyahpant Foundation told the long history of Dawei in Siam. Those who are interested in history of Dawei Village can read from http://lek-prapai.org/home/view.php?id=5100 .
Source: Transborder News, 26 January 2017