Sunday, September 18, 2011

Interview with Daw Swe Zin Htaik

My interview with DVB.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Filmmakers delve into lives of artists

By May Sandy
August 22 - 28, 2011

A painting by artist Khin Maung Yin, who is the subject of a documentary film by Lut Latt Eain.
THE lives of famous Myanmar painters have been put in the spotlight by local filmmakers keen to illustrate the artists’ passion for creativity, as well as their humble lifestyles.
“They are legends and their portfolios should be well-documented,” said Lut Latt Eain, owner of Pansodan Art Gallery and director of the film A Letter to Khin Maung Yin.
The documentary is based on a personal letter to painter Khin Maung Yin from Win Pe, who is renowned as one of Myanmar’s earliest contemporary artists.
In the film, which was screened last month at the British Council Library, Lut Latt Eain combined shots of Khin Maung Yin’s paintings with an informal interview with the artist about his approach to art.
“While I was planning the film I was inspired by Win Pe’s letter to Khin Maung Yin. It’s just a simple letter to a friend but the message was very powerful,” Lut Latt Eain said.
“When foreigners ask about Myanmar artists, they want to know about more than just their biographies, like what year they were born or which school they attended. They also want to know about their thoughts and ideas, and how they have influenced society,” he said.
A Letter to Khin Maung Yin follows in the footsteps of several other locally produced documentaries about Myanmar artists.
In 2008 film director Kyi Phyu Shin won the Best Short Award at the All Roads Film Festival in Los Angeles for her documentary A Sketch of Wathone, a personal look at the artist’s routine filmed in the final year of his life.
Wathone was famous for his comic Lin Gar Di Pa Chit Thu (Lovers of Lin Gar Di Pa Island) based on the original novel by author Chit Oo Nyo.
The film was created while Kyi Phyu Shin attended Yangon Film School (YFS) and was assigned to make a documentary about the life of an ordinary person.
“When I visited Wathone’s place, I saw a colourless house. I was amazed by the fact that a person who used paints for living lived in a house with no paint,” Kyi Phyu Shin said. “But at the front door was a sculpture of the head of an ogre, which is the symbol of his comic Lin Gar Di Par Chit Thu.”
She said she was inspired by the work of Wathone who, although famous, lived a modest lifestyle.
“There are a large number of lower-class people in our country, but my message is that being poor is not a sad thing. Living with no greed is very peaceful,” Kyi Phyu Shin said, citing one scene in the film in which Wathone says, “I love what I do, and it allows me to lead a good life. Many people have to do things to survive but their hearts aren’t in it.”
Kyi Phyu Shin added: “Local artists have some difficulties reaching a global audience, but as for their paintings, they have the same paints and the same canvas as everyone else. The rest is up to their imaginations.”
Also in 2008, another director from YFS, Shin Daewi, released the documentary An Untitled Life about the artist Rahula, who died last month from throat cancer.
Shin Daewi said she first met the artist at a tea shop in Mingun, about 11 kilometres up the Ayeyarwady River from Mandalay, in 2005, and was mesmerised by his intelligence and his passion for arts.
The director said she was keen to share her personal impression of the “modest and yet jovial life” of Rahula.
“I felt that somehow I was connected to him. Within 15 minutes I knew that one day I would come again and make a documentary about Rahula,” she said.
Shin Daewi spent a couple years researching the artist and made the documentary in 2008, with all the shooting done in Mingun.
“[Rahula] never said anything about becoming famous from his paintings or making a lot of money. He always named his paintings Untitled, which means he doesn’t want a bond in his life. That’s why I named the video An Untitled Life,” she said.
In the past two years the documentary has been shown at film festivals in South Korea, China, France and Germany.
“When I screen this film in other countries, I wanted to show the genuine lifestyle of a real Myanmar artist. The people who see the film don’t know Rahula but he represents all the other artists in Myanmar,” Shin Daewi said.
Myanmar Academy Award-winning actress Swe Zin Htike, who has also worked as a director and producer, said documentary films were an excellent format for raising awareness of Myanmar culture outside the country.
“I think documentary films are very effective because watching them is like witnessing the actual event. The combined audio and visual format can attract the interest of the audience, and they are also useful as reference sources for academics, as well as a good way to archive information,” she said.
Swe Zin Htike said she was sad to see Myanmar culture represented at international film festivals by foreign directors rather than by local filmmakers.
She also said that to promote the genre, a documentary category should be added to the annual Myanmar Academy Awards.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Celebrities make charity a new tradition

By May Sandy
July 11 - 17, 2011

Celebrities sit with children in a photograph to promote an immunisation campaign launched in 1993 by UNICEF, the Ministry of Health and the Myanmar Motion Picture Organisation. Pic: Supplied by Swe Zin Htike

THERE was a time, several decades ago, when famous actors in Myanmar limited their public appearances to the silver screen, rarely getting involved in social work.

This began to change in the 1990s, when increasing numbers of celebrities followed the example of respected film director U Thu Kha, and started stepping out of the movie screen to help the needy and underprivileged.

“Celebrities in the olden days had different values,” said Myanmar Academy Award winning actress Swe Zin Htike. “They believed it was their privilege to be seen only on the screen.”

Swe Zin Htike is among the leading figures who used their celebrity status to raise awareness about the launch of an immunisation campaign in 1993, organised by UNICEF and the Ministry of Health with support from the Myanmar Motion Picture Organisation.

Among her roles was contributing to a song called “Doe Chit Teh Gabar” aimed at stimulating public interest in the campaign.

Swe Zin Htike said the campaign marked one of the first times in Myanmar that a big group of artists was brought together to participate in social work.

“After the launch of the immunisation program, the government realised that celebrities could have a big influence on social work in the country,” she said.

Swe Zin Htike is also among the celebrities who have collaborated on HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns, and who have also worked to help reduce societal stigmas associated with the disease.

“A lot of creative people in the gay community have died from HIV/AIDS, so I wanted to help reduce the problem. When I started working on HIV prevention in 1999, there were conflicts even within my own family. In our society, talking about sexual diseases or condom use was unacceptable,” she said.

Within three years, however, the network of celebrities working on the issue became widespread.

“I was involved in a movie production about HIV, and many celebrities like actor U Aung Lwin and writers like Daw Khin Swe Oo and Juu participated in the workshops I conducted,” Swe Zin Htike said.

Other celebrities have focused on different aspects of social work, notable among them being actor Kyaw Thu, who took over chairmanship of the Free Funeral Service Society (FFSS) after founder U Thu Kha passed away in 2002.

Kyaw Thu said offering free funeral service has been challenging at times.

“We couldn’t have our office downtown and we couldn’t have it in our homes, so we had to search for a monastery. We finally found a suitable place in Thingangyun township,” he said.

He said prejudices against funeral services were so strong that some township authorities did not allow FFSS vehicles to drive through their neighbourhoods.

“Some areas even put up signs saying, ‘No hearses allowed’,” he said.

Kyaw Thu said another challenge was finding young volunteers to take on the work.

“The dedication of donors has inspired me to continue this important work. We can’t let the people down. But I have devoted most of my time to the society. It has been 10 years already,” he said.

The financial needs of the society increased further in 2006 when the Yangon branch of FFSS opened the Thukha healthcare clinic, which has a staff of 50 volunteers who provide free medical treatment to about 150 patients a day.

Earlier this month singer Saung Oo Hlaing donated nearly K5 million to the society, using proceeds from a series of concerts he held in the United States in May.

“My fans came and talked to me about a song I had contributed to the society. I came to realise that I wanted to do more good deeds, so I decided to raise money during my performance,” Saung Oo Hlaing said at a donation ceremony at the society’s headquarters on July 3.

Kyaw Thu and Saung Oo Hlaing encouraged their fans to contribute, saying there should be “no fear” about taking part in social work.

“Our society is not a political party or anything. We are helping the needy people with noble hearts,” Kyaw Thu said at the ceremony.

Meanwhile, some younger celebrities such as Pyay Ti Oo and Ye Deik have launched their own charitable foundations to help the needy, but Swe Zin Htike said such organisations should be well-structured to ensure long-term sustainability.

“Every foundation needs to establish a vision, especially if it’s working in the education or health sectors, then draw up an implementation strategy, a plan for how much money they aim to raise in a certain amount of time, what kinds of projects they’ll be doing, etcetera,” said Swe Zin Htike.

Actor Ye Deik, who started a foundation under his own name in early January, said the sustainability of charitable organisations was partly dependent on the stability of the country.

His foundation provides shelter and emergency care to children made homeless by natural disasters.

“I contributed K7 million of my own money, and at our opening ceremony we raised another K20 million from actors and filmmakers,” he said.

Ye Deik said he has not yet drawn up a long-term plan to structure the organisation.

“I still need to learn these things. My intention is only to help the children when they are in need,” he said.

“It’s difficult to bridge the compromise between being an actor and a normal person. I’ve been focusing on my career, but I realise that I have to change some of my attitudes and beliefs. It’s a huge gap, and so far it’s still a challenge for me,” he said.

Another actor, Pyay Ti Oo, raises funds through private events to offer scholarships to outstanding students to attend institutes of medicine in Myanmar.

“Kids who attend medical school are well qualified. To help these kids is a way to deter brain drain in the country,” he said. “I will do my best with all the capacity I have. But I cannot predict how long it is going to happen.”

Pop singer Chit Thu Wai, who is also doctor, volunteered to help people in need following Cyclone Nargis, although she would not provide details.

“According to my Christian beliefs, it is said that ‘when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing’. That’s why I will not tell anything about it because we are not really used to bragging about what we do for charity,” she said.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Communication Services Group

Grace Swe Zin Htaik (MD)

Here, on behalf of the Board of Director of Communication Services Group Co Ltd, I would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to our clients for the trust they have been placing in us.
Since 2000, we were lucky to have quite a number of opportunities to proven our PR expertise and serving our networks to local companies, international companies, local NGOs, INGOs and UN.
We experience in a number of various media related fields and provided PR consulting on a number of topics with innovative concept. We believe that the length of our service agreements is proof of the positive effect of our activities on our clients’ business and one way or another helping those vulnerable groups in country as well.

Grace Swe Zin Htaik
Managing Director
Communications Services Group Co Ltd

Basic Information

Communications Services Group Company Ltd (CSG)

Established in 2000
Local own company 100%
Current permanent staff: 10
Operating in Yangon, Myanmar
Company Registration number: 130/ 2000-2001
Bank account number: Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank: 44218 (SZH@YLWW)

Contact Address: Room no. 910, 9 th Floor, La Pyait Wun Plaza, Signal Road, Dagon Township, Yangon
Ph: 951-370836-9 Ex: 816

Communications Services Group Co Ltd (CSG) was founded with 5 founders in 2000 in Yangon as a services company registered with Ministry of National Planning and Economic, Union of Myanmar.

Our Merits

Unique and creative solutions that meet the clients’ expectations not only by realizing the clients’ business
Objectives, but particularly by our strict adherence to the ethical principles of public relations
Continuous search for opportunities beyond the agreed communications and business objectives
Creative approaches to the clients’ special needs in order to find unique and tailored communications solutions as a result oriented
Team work based on the implementation of progressive communications disciplines based on instant access to personal and information resources of its own network
Professional quality of services provided by a highly motivated team

Our Strengths
Creative work with information
Professional and strictly ethical relations with the media
Courage and readiness to communicate on behalf of a client in crisis
Expertise and professionalism
Unique solutions
International know-how, combined with experience in the local market
Wide ranging contacts
Flexibility and attainability
High-tech PR

CSG provides services in two major areas:
a) content management for print and audio/video productions and
b) disseminating messages through print, audio/video and performing arts
Inline services

Media Relations
PR Strategy Consulting
Brand Building
PR Tools and Support

Media Relations
There is no such thing as an information vacuum. When there is a lack of hard information, hearsay fills the gap. The ability to promptly communicate key messages to target audiences can improve perceptions of products and services, but only assuming the basic ethical principles of media relations are respected. It is only these principles which can provide a long term professional relationship with media representatives based on the quality of information. Building media relations is surely no secret veiled in magic.
Well managed media relations have a major positive impact on company reputation and should not be neglected under any circumstances. Strategy and tactics in media relations are always reflected in CSG signed PR activities. Our media relations specialists have extensive experience in this field
Apart from company press spokespersons, it is also members of the board or other managers or employees who act as a company’s spokesperson. Formulating and communicating key messages is a matter of drill, not talent, and it can be learnt. All communications programs are based on knowledge of media relations and public appearance principles. CSG provides such training and maintains an extensive list of prominent alumni of our training sessions.

Media Monitoring Analysis
Media Trip
Media Training
Media Monitoring
Key Message Development
Q&A development
Press Release Writing and Targeted Distribution
Developing IEC (print/A-V)
Press Conference
Media Approval & Placement
Spokesperson Service
PR Strategy Consulting
Strategic consulting in public relations as understood by CSG focuses on the ability to identify and exploit communication opportunities. Utilizing the identified communications opportunities helps our clients forge existing and build new relationships with their customers and/or suppliers. We provide PR strategic counsel to board members, top management, marketing departments, internal communication departments, human resources and advocacy departments.
Internal Communications
Measuring PR Effectiveness
Identifying Communications Opportunities
Identifying Sponsorship Opportunities
Investor Relations, Annual Reports
Business to Business

Brand Building
Brand and Reputation Consulting
Brands cast a magic spell on customers. The brand is one of the main attributes when a customer is deciding whether to buy a product or not. A well established brand does not require discounts or “special offers”. A strong brand is perceived by a customer as undiscounted quality. Brand building is a long term process which should lead to changes in customers’ perceptions and expectations, and, in the end, to a desired change in customer behavior. Brands apply to fast moving goods, as well as business to business products and services alike.
In providing services we build on our experience with the local media market and the bulk of information and research data gathered by partner agency, MMRD, the company regularly conducts research on customer behavior (e.g. the media consumption habit, target group behavior etc.) and on the effect public perceptions of chief executive officers have on company reputations. We provide our clients with creative solutions that help effectively communicate key messages to key audiences, while positively affecting clients’ business results.

Product Marketing PR
Product/Brand Market Launch

PR Tools and Support

Production companies usually propose clients ways of delivering what is demanded from them. CSG, however, provides services at an earlier stage of planning and helps clients search for the most effective ways to communicate key messages. Such an approach brings lower costs and effective results with media result.
CSG's services provided in this area cover event management, internet surveys, brochures, leaflets, newsletters and invitation design. In all our activities we seek to produce materials and events which the participants will not forget after the “curtain comes down”. CSG provides clients with top class services especially innovative production services. In 2006 for example, CSG prepared and managed the first ever TV campaign broadcasting 4 clean messages.
CSG puts emphasis on the most important element of production management, which is building an interactive relationship between a client and its key audience. In our understanding, public relations is built on a dialogue with target audiences and the communications tools applied should respect this.
Mail Merging
Information Documents
Event Management

There can be situations in Public Relations when one cannot rely on the media’s interest to deliver important information, placing an eye catching and creative ad can help significantly to make a bigger pie of market share. Along with other companies within CSG has extensive experience with communications via advertising.
We provide our clients with counsel regarding advertisements in media management, improving company reputation, brand building and business to business relations, as well as litigation support.


UN Peace Volunteer Centre (Seoul)
Ministry of Health (MOH)
Ministry of Information (MOI)
Central Health Education Bureau (CHEB), DOH
Myanmar Motion Picture Enterprise (MMPE), MOI
Myanmar Motion Picture Organization (MMPO)
International Institute of Abhidhamma (IIA)
Kamayut (


CSG has experience of design developing for health and social related media campaign as following:

2010 Organized to provide a brand presenter for Ovaltine in Myanmar and Cambodia from March 2010 to March 2012
2009 Organized to develop World AIDS Day 2009/ 2008/ 2007 posters, postcards and notebooks for UNAIDS
2008 Assisted to develop Design Document on Awareness Campaign to promote
peace through interfaith for International Institute of Abbhidhamma
2008 Organized a piano concert with three Burmese and three French pianists at
Festival du Lind'Art Recontres autour d'un piano for "Association Musique et
Montagne" at Haute Savoir, France
2008 Coordinated to do presentation on "4 clean project design and its impact
(2006/2007)" for Regional Communication Workshop by East Asia and Pacific
Regional Office/ UNICEF in Cambodia
2007 Developed Production Design for Trafficking movie entitled "Heaven in the
Dreams" for AFXB
2007 Provided Narration of TV documentary entitled "Water as Good as Gold" for
IDE to promote foot pumps (International Development Enterprise)
2007 Organized Myanmar-Korea Film Symposium in collaborating with UN Peace
Volunteer Centre, Seoul, Republic of South Korea and Myanmar Motion
Picture Organization
2007 Produced three animations and 2 short movies targeted to under 5 for Central
Health Education Bureau, Ministry of Health
2006 Directed and produced 10 episodes mini TV series entitled "Aromatic Flowers"
for Medical Education Centre, Ministry of Health
2006 Produced four health educational short movies, subject to promote Bird Flu
messages, for CHEB, Ministry of Health
2006 Organized to present seven Myanmar movies as a country of focus at 3rd Eye
Film Festival, Mumbai, 2006.
2006 Developed and organized awareness campaign to promote 4 clean messages for Social mobilization project of UNICEF/ CHEB, MMPO 2006-2008
2006 Organized Myanmar Film Festival (2006) in Bangkok, Thailand with seven
English subtitled Myanmar movies
2006 Organized to send 2 Myanmar candidates to participate to Produire Au Sud
Workshop of 4th World Film Festival in Bangkok, Thailand
2006 Organized to send 2 Myanmar candidates to participate to Sports Turf
Management Training conducted by New Zealand Sports Turf Institute in
Singapore for Myanmar Cricket Federation
2005 Coordinated to participate one Myanmar team by sending short 2D animation production subject to malaria prevention to the 60th Anniversary of UN Animation Competition in Bangkok, Thailand
2004 Facilitated and performed for 100th episodes of Thabyaygone Ywa Health
Education Drama Production at Faculty of Human Right, University of Chiang Mai
2003 Coordinated to present HIV movie entitled "Myself, Other, Men and Women" at
KL Film Festival for Peace and Human Right in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
2003 Prepared and presented paper on "HIV messages for Migrants in Myanmar" at
Conference of theories and strategies for Modern Migrant Pattern in
Southeast Asia, organized by University of Paris IV and Ministry of Research
in Paris, France
2003 Participated to develop Marathon Campaign on "Amazing Life without Drugs"
for UNODC (United Nations Office on Drug & Crime)
2002 Coordinated to send Myanmar candidate to participate to Media Leadership Program PCI/USA-LA 2002
2000 Coordinated to send Myanmar candidate to participate XIII International AIDS
Conference in Durban, South Africa

2007: MD of CSG was awarded as an Ambassador for Peace by Universal Peace
Federation, New York, USA for her social contribution partially through CSG
2002: The Best PSA Award of Student Film Workshop, 2002/ USCLA for HIV animation
entitled "Condom Superman"


Company Registration Certificate from Ministry of National Planning & Economic Development
Membership of Chamber of Commerce, Union of Myanmar
BOD (Board of Director, CSG)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Grace talks more about her campaign

"Selling Safer Sex in Conservative Burma"
Earning the trust of sex workers is another obstacle for HIV prevention and education. “We went to the clubs once a month as part of our HIV education and Aphaw condom promotion campaigns,” Swe Zin Htaik, once a well-known actress-turned-social activist who works with PSI, told The Irrawaddy.

Selling Safer Sex in Conservative Burma
by Htet Aung
September 1, 2007
HIV/AIDS education efforts face many obstacles
Gasps rippled through the group of young people gathered for a workshop on HIV/AIDS prevention and education in the former capital Rangoon. The girls covered their eyes, and the boys sent nervous glances anywhere but at the front of the room, where an instructor stood before an upright model penis.
“Look at it, please,” the workshop leader urged. “How can you learn to protect yourself against HIV if you are too shy to watch a demonstration about how to use a condom?”
This kind of response to condom education is typical in Burma, where an estimated 360,000 people currently live with HIV, according to a UNAIDS report in 2006.
Today, condoms can be easily obtained in retail shops in Rangoon and other major cities in Burma. But the country’s predominantly conservative culture can make them a difficult sell.
“I don’t sell condoms in my store any more because many of my staff are young girls who find it difficult to sell them,” said a shop owner in Kyeemyindaing Township, who said most of his customers are between the ages of 20 and 30.
Those who do manage to find shops with the nerve to sell condoms face still other social and cultural obstacles. Carrying a condom can create friction in a man’s social and family life.
In response to an interviewer’s question about condom use, a middle-aged man said: “Do you think I am a person who has relations with sex workers?”
Many people in Burma consider it immoral or dirty to talk about condoms and sex in public, and they view those who carry condoms for protection against disease in the same fashion—this, despite the relatively wide distribution of condoms in Burma.
Population Services International, a non-profit organization working on HIV/AIDS prevention in Burma, is the sole distributor of the Aphaw brand of condoms—a central element in the group’s social marketing campaign targeting sex workers and men having sex with men, or MSM.
PSI distributed 42.8 million condoms in Burma in 2005, many more than the 2.6 million distributed in 1996, when its social marketing campaigns began, according to the organization.
Efforts to educate sex workers about the threat of HIV/AIDS remain difficult, despite the success of its condom distribution programs.
To illustrate this point, a Rangoon resident recounted how an international NGO that had launched a blood test campaign at a city nightclub a few years ago had to cooperate with local police, who staged a raid at the club in order to conduct the tests.
Prostitution is against the law in Burma, so the sex industry generally operates out of restaurants or nightclubs.
Earning the trust of sex workers is another obstacle for HIV prevention and education. “We went to the clubs once a month as part of our HIV education and Aphaw condom promotion campaigns,” Swe Zin Htaik, once a well-known actress-turned-social activist who works with PSI, told The Irrawaddy.
She said the organization had to work patiently to build a network among sex workers. once a relationship had been established, the group selected potential peer educators among the sex workers to serve as “interpersonal communicators” at the group’s drop-in centers, where visitors could get condoms and information on HIV prevention.
The sex industry is growing in Burma’s major cities, such as Rangoon and Mandalay, where sex workers are easy to find.
“You can take a girl from a nightclub for 20,000 kyat (US $15) per night,” said one resident of Rangoon. “The JJ and May War clubs are popular places in Rangoon for finding sex workers. But even on the streets of the city, you can get a girl for as little as 2,000 kyat ($1.50).”
In their report “AIDS Epidemic Update: December 2006,” UNAIDS and the World Health Organization noted that nearly one in three sex workers in Burma were living with HIV in 2005—a much higher level than in 2000, when an estimated 26 percent of sex workers had the virus.
However, Burma’s military government is reluctant to admit to these statistics.
“In the period between 2000 and 2002, the authorities warned me that in Burma there were no sex workers, no men having sex with men and no mention of such words should appear in my communication campaign,” said Swe Zin Htaik.
She does admit that things have improved since the regime’s decision to launch a national HIV/AIDS prevention program at an Asean meeting in 2002. An increasing number of education and prevention programs exist, and condoms are more widely available throughout the country.
In addition to PSI’s distribution of Aphaw condoms—which the group sells at a subsidized rate of 5 kyat (less than 1 US cent) but which are generally marked up by retailers to about 50 kyat (4 US cents)—the condom brand Pleasure has also become popular in Burma.
Pleasure condoms sell for 800 kyat per package (60 US cents), more than 10 times the cost of PSI’s Aphaw, and are imported and distributed by Mega Products Ltd in Rangoon’s Bahan Township.
Despite some success, social workers and activists such as Swe Zin Htaik continue to face a two-front battle against the spread of HIV/AIDS in Burma. They contend with social constraints on the one hand, and the crushing bureaucracy of the country’s military government on the other.
According to the actress-activist, PSI and other organizations need prior approval from government authorities before initiating their campaigns or taking field trips—a process that can typically take up to two months.
Swe Zin Htaik likens her and other activists’ efforts to getting through a locked door. “What we need is the key to unlock the door rather than just knocking on it.”