RANGOON — The chief minister of Mon State has said he will reconsider naming a bridge after Burmese independence icon Gen Aung San, after objections from ethnic Mon locals.
Leaders from the Mon National Day Working Committee met Chief Minister U Min Min Oo on Thursday morning to discuss the issue of the bridge, which is located on the Salween River between Moulmein and Chaungzon townships. Construction of the two-lane, 5,200-foot structure will be completed in March, and has cost an estimated 60 billion kyats (US$44 million).
In the meeting, U Min Min Oo promised to choose a name for the structure that would be acceptable to locals.
“He told us that his government would not use the name of Gen Aung San for the bridge. He will consider another name, which could be a local regional name,” said Nai Kyi Win, minister of Natural Resource and Environmental Conservation for Mon State and a committee member of the Mon National Day Working Committee.
The bridge’s proposed name became known when the Ministry of Construction sent a letter to Aung Naing Oo, deputy speaker of the Mon State parliament, announcing a celebratory opening ceremony for it on Feb. 13. Locals were outraged by the decision, instead preferring a name celebrating ethnic Mon heritage. The opening ceremony has since been canceled.
Aung Naing Oo said that U Kyaw Myint, director of the Ministry of Construction, informed him on Thursday morning that he had made the state and Union governments aware of the naming conflict.
“He told me that he had informed the state and Union governments already about how it would be a problem to use the name [Gen Aung San] for the bridge, because the ethnic Mon did not agree to it. He even asked to use a name given before to the Salween River bridge,” said Aung Naing Oo, referring to the Mon term “Chaungzon.”
“We will see their actions first, then we can decide next what we should do,” he said of the government, adding that he would stand with the Mon community in fighting for the name change.
“The main disagreement from our ethnic people was, that Gen Aung San has no relation to this bridge, and not even any relation to this area,” Aung Naing Oo explained, adding that the country’s ruling party—the National League for Democracy—was trying to “take political advantage” by invoking Aung San’s name, without considering the views of ethnic minorities.
The Mon National Party also issued a statement on Tuesday requesting that the state government designate a name that does not harm ethnic unity, peace and stability in the region, and could contribute to national reconciliation in the country.