Mon Activists Re-Strategize, Launch Signature Campaign to Change Bridge Name

By Lawi Weng 25 April 2017

Rights activists from Mon State have launched a signature campaign directed toward the National League for Democracy (NLD)-led Union government concerning the bridge named for Gen Aung San in Chaungzon Township.

The petition is asking the government to give the bridge a local name based on the wishes of the area’s ethnic Mon people. The campaign, launched throughout all 10 townships in Mon State, started on April 13 and ended on April 25. Signatures were collected from more than 100,000 people, according to organizers of the campaign.

Nai Min Min Nwe, a Moulmein-based campaign committee member, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the signature campaign proved difficult within the Mon communities, as people were initially afraid to participate.

“Some of our local people did not want to give their ID card numbers. They were afraid that the authorities would take action against them if their ID number was on the petition,” he explained.

The 21-member committee intends to send all of the signatures from the first round of the campaign to the President, State Counselor, parliamentary chairpersons, and the ethnic affairs minister on April 27.

Nai Wona, another community leader based in Thanbyuzayat Township, said that the campaign there launched on April 23 and that more than 100 local leaders attended the opening meeting, where they collected signature papers to bring to their respective villages.

“Our plan is to let persons who attended the campaign work in their villages to collect signatures. But, most villages have done it already,” Nai Wona said.

Initially, hundreds of people in Chaungzon held a protest near the new bridge on March, but the NLD government did not respond to the action, and the Union Parliament approved the naming of the structure after Gen Aung San.

Then, thousands of ethnic Mon from throughout the state held a second protest and asked the government to give the bridge a local name instead.

“This campaign is our new fighting strategy. We will not stop fighting for our ethnic rights, even if the government is ignoring our voices,” said Nai Min Min Nwe.