The guide below is meant to assist reporters when writing about the Kachin.
If you’re a reporter interested in interviewing people from Kachin or visiting yourself and need contact information please e-mail us with your credentials, describe what you are reporting on and who you would like to contact. We may be able to help.
Below is a list of common mistakes made by the media when reporting about the Kachin and suggestions how to report more accurately.
1) Spellings – The Kachin people’s native language uses Roman letters to write, so it is important to get spelling correct. It is not just a matter of getting the names to sound phonetically close like some other Asian languages. Just ask anyone you speak with for the Roman spelling of their name and they will tell you. Don’t rely on the spellings you see in the media now – most are transliterated from Burmese back into Roman letters and do not match the original Roman spelling. In some cases it may be better to use a pseudonym rather than a real name, in order to protect the individual.
2) Names – Most Kachin first and family names are two syllables. For example, one figure frequently quoted in the media is Gen. Sumlat GunMaw. Gun Maw is his first name. So it is inappropiate to refer to him as “Maw”. It is only half of his first name and meaningless. Family names usually come first.
3) Sources – Relying on Burmese government sources for “credible information” about the Kachin, or almost any topic, has made many journalists and UN/ government officials the laughingstock of press conferences and letters to the editors. If you don’t want to join them, be warned that the Burmese Government reports and statistics are as reliable as Big Brother’s reports in Orwell’s 1984. Common misinformation includes: statistics about the Kachin’s population, the percentage of Christians and other religious minorities, and areas/groups where drugs are being grown and sold. If you must use a Burmese government statistic, it’s best to say that it is from a government that is known to publish unreliable or false information.
4) List of names and titles – Below are a list of names and titles of commonly quoted figures from Kachin. The KIO/KIA use English titles internally and externally. Sometimes these titles are translated into Burmese and back into English to be something different. It is most accurate to use the original English titles that they use themselves.
Gen. Gam Shawng – KIA Chief of Staff
Gen. Gun Maw – KIA Vice Chief of Staff
La Nan – Spokesperson for the KIO Central Committee
Col. James Lum Dau – KIO laision officer (based in Bangkok)
La Rip – Director of the Kachin Development Group – Coordinator of the Relief Action Network for Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees. (RANIR)