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Burma’s largest armed ethnic group, the United Wa State Army, has allowed DVB to broadcast on terrestrial television in its territory for the first time.
The first broadcast aired on 10 November, three days before the release of Burmese opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi. Previously the 30,000-strong army, which controls swathes of territory in northeastern Shan state, had permitted DVB programmes only to air on satellite stations.
“We are now including the DVB channel in our broadcasting, making it available to watch for anyone who has a television,” said a UWSA official.
“This makes people happy. Not everyone here understands Burmese language but still they can see the footage and images on the TV. For example, the day when Daw Aung San Suu Ki was released, people recognised her and realised she was free.”
But DVB will face competition from 24 other stations, including the Burmese state-run MRTV, and stations in China and Thailand. According to Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, more than 66 percent of Burmese watch DVB television on a regular basis.
At present, DVB television can only be watched by Burmese with satellite dishes, but the Wa army will feed the broadcasts through a relay station to make it viewable for those without.
There are estimated to be around 600,000 Wa, an ethnic Chinese minority group, in Burma, and around 350,000 across the border in China.
DVB is one of only two Burmese language television stations shown inside the country that isn’t run by the Burmese government, and its operations were focus of the Oscar-nominated Burma VJ documentary.