Using storytelling to raise awareness of critical issues in Myanmar

4 min read

Why We Invested: The Sun, the Moon and the Truth

Rule of law is a continuous challenge for the democratic transition in Myanmar.

Existing laws are outdated (some date back decades to the colonial era) and require significant amendments and updates. Corruption is said to be rife and there are accusations about the independence of the justice system.

The judiciary system has a long way to go to gain public trust, and, perhaps more importantly, the general public has a limited understanding of the nuances and intricacies of the laws that govern the country. Prior to the election in 2010, access to information from outside Myanmar was very limited and heavily censored. However, since 2013, freedoms of information and press have improved; strict censorship and draconian media regulations have been eased; and a 2016 survey from BBC Media Action found that 99% of adults in Myanmar have access to a television, making it an effective communication tool in the country.

Armed with this knowledge, in 2015 a consortium of film makers, civil societies and legal aid advocates developed The Sun, the Moon and the Truth, a television series that tells stories of legal cases that highlight conflict caused by injustice. Its first season touched upon social issues that were never discussed openly in the public domain such as land rights, industrial relations, human trafficking, defamation, elections, and fraud. It reached more than five million people in Myanmar.

The series producers conducted a survey of 400 people before and after the first season to measure any longitudinal change in attitudes related to legal issues in Myanmar. The survey results indicated that after watching the series, viewers experienced an increase in understanding of governance and legal concepts. For example, more people were aware of their rights and would seek legal representation; indicated they would vote in elections; said that voting gave them a voice; and believed that communities should be involved in the decisions being made by authorities.

However, according to a survey conducted by MyJustice earlier this year, much work remains. MyJustice found that the public has little awareness on how to deal with administrative disputes such as corruption, labour rights and natural resources. The majority of survey respondents think that the laws prioritise stability rather than the protection of individual rights.

Building on the success of season one, we’re pleased to support the second season with a $250,000 grant through one of the executive producers, Pyoe Pin Institute. This new season is currently broadcast on major television channels in Myanmar, starting with the free-to-air channels MRTV, DVB and Mizzima. It will also be made available on digital and social media channels subsequently. We are confident that the second season - which will follow characters as they deal with topics such as loan sharks, corruption, nepotism, sexual violence, and land rights - will continue to be successful in coupling educational content with an exciting storyline to raise awareness of these critical issues.

We hope that by opening the debate about the social and legal issues that people face in Myanmar through this storytelling form, the series will enhance the public’s knowledge of their legal rights. In the long term, we believe the series will have an impact on how public services are delivered, will lead to active participation of civil society and in judiciary reforms, and will reduce corruption.