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Myanmar graffiti artists unhappy with new ban

| Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, 8:16 a.m.

YANGON, Myanmar — Graffiti artists in Myanmar are unhappy with a new ban on their handiwork in the country's biggest city, but expect many to carry on one way or another.

Yangon city authorities imposed a ban Monday prohibiting anyone from drawing on public buildings, roads and bridges, as well as in schools and parks. Authorities said anyone defying the ban would face an unspecified punishment.

The graffiti artists said Tuesday that the ban was not a surprise because authorities were copying regulations enacted in other countries. The artists also said they expected many to continue drawing, and urged authorities to provide a legal outlet for their work so they would not have to act illegally.

“I cannot complain about the ban because many countries have such regulations. But the prohibition doesn't stop graffiti artists,” said 19-year-old graffiti artist Arkar Kyaw, who became a minor celebrity with his painting of President Barack Obama on the eve of his historic visit last month.

“The psychology of young people is the urge to do something more when it is prohibited,” Arkar said. “Authorities should allow graffiti artists to paint in appropriate public spaces.”

A graffiti artist who calls himself “twotwenty” also said he expected the ban. “But they can't stop what we are doing,” he added.

The 27-year-old artist is one of the four members of a group called Yangon Street Art that has been drawing graffiti since 2006.

“It's fair that they impose a ban. But they (the authorities) should give some opportunity to us by providing some places for graffiti and street artists, like in other countries,” said twotwenty. “If not, things will get worse.”

He said the number of graffiti and street artists in Yangon has been increasing steadily since 2010 and now stands at about 150, adding that he dreams of organizing an exhibition of their work.

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