RANGOON — The Lower House of Parliament agreed on Tuesday to discuss a proposal to name a new bridge across the Salween River in Mon State after independence icon Aung San, despite serious concerns and objections from locals.
The new bridge would link Moulmein and Chaungzon townships after its completion in March. Construction of the two-lane, 5,200-foot structure has cost an estimated 60 billion kyats (US$44 million).
A lawmaker from Burma’s ruling National League for Democracy, Mi Kon Chan, from Mon State’s Paung Township submitted the proposal to the Parliament on Tuesday, saying that Gen Aung San is the architect of Burmese independence and the one who shone the way to what she called the “Panglong Spirit.”
“His name belongs to the whole nation, but doesn’t represent any individual ethnic group,” she said in the Parliament.
“We need to differentiate between national leaders and ethnic leaders,” she added.
Lawmaker Mi Kon Chan also criticized those who denounced the plan of naming the bridge after Gen Aung San as being “narrow minded.”
Earlier this month, the Mon divisional ministry of construction attempted to name the bridge after Gen Aung San, but proceeded to face serious objection from ethnic Mon locals, who said they preferred a name celebrating ethnic Mon heritage, and saying Gen Aung San has “no relation to the bridge and the area.”
Although the bridge was slated to open on Feb.13, it was canceled due to locals’ objections regarding its name.
After leaders from the Mon National Day Working Committee met the then-Chief Minister U Min Min Oo, the regional government promised that it would choose a name that local community could accept.
Two weeks ago, Ethnic Affairs Minister U Nai Thet Lwin also said that the government would name the bridge “Yarmanya”—which means “Mon State” in the ethnic Mon language widely spoken in the region.
As there were only two lawmakers who voted not to discuss about Mi Kon Chan’s proposal, the Parliament agreed to tackle the controversy and will likely oversee a discussion in the legislature next week.
U Aung Naing Oo, deputy speaker of Mon State regional parliament told The Irrawaddy that there was no need for such an issue to be discussed at the national level, and that a solution should instead be found at the regional level.
“Union level representatives and lawmakers won’t understand the actual situation here,” he said referring to the regional communities’ objections.
“Submitting this proposal in the Lower House is neglecting local communities’ voices,” he told The Irrawaddy, suggesting that the move by Mi Chan Kon was an attempt by lawmakers to “forcefully name the bridge.”
U Aung Naing Oo stressed that the decision would have an impact on peace dialogue and trust building between the government and ethnic communities if Lower House decides the bridge should be named after Gen Aung San.