Mon Groups Fear Surge of Burman Migrants
By Moe Myint 13 June 2016
RANGOON — Last week, more than 10 Mon civil society organizations (CSO) demanded that the Mon State Chief Minister review the government’s plan to issue household registration cards to internal migrant workers who have moved from Upper Burma to work on rubber plantations and salt farms in Mon State.
Naing Htun Myint, chairman of the Mudon Youth Organization, expressed dissatisfaction with Chief Minister Min Min Oo’s project, saying ethnic Mon people will face worsening trespassing problems caused by the migrant workers. Several land dispute cases with residents have recently emerged in the region as migrants construct shacks and dwellings near existing villages.
Many local Mon have left their homes to find work in neighboring Thailand, leaving the local agriculture businesses with labor shortages. This led to seasonal migrant workers coming from Upper Burma, who later settled in Mon State.
“We worry that the large amount of Burmans will gain more influence than the Mon,” said Naing Htun Myint.
He was concerned that after receiving the household registration cards, the migrants would be able to obtain or change their national registration cards, giving them the right to vote in local elections. This could erode the ethnic Mon political parties’ power in state legislature, he said.
“The Mon state government has not revealed details of this project to the public,” Naing Htun Myint said. “We are unhappy with the lack of transparency.”
Three days after the CSOs sent their demands to the state government, there has been no official response.
Mon State parliament Deputy Speaker Aung Naing Oo confirmed that they received a copy of the letter. Some ethnic Mon politicians are also dissatisfied with the chief minister’s plan because he did not provide necessary details—he merely informed parliament that the project would be included as a part of the state’s 100-day policy.
The state legislator agreed with the CSOs, saying, “I can’t support the government’s plan.”
Aung Naing Oo said that issuing official household registration documents would result in unexpected problems in Mon State. Buying land from locals is fine, he explained, but trespassing on their property could lead to ethnic conflicts between the two communities.
“The government should review the project if they are serious about being the voice of the people,” said Aung Naing Oo. “This could result in big problems in Mon State.”
Naing Ngwe Thein, chairman of the Mon National Party (MNP), said his party’s representatives already voiced their opposition to the chief minister’s unpopular plan, to no avail. He argued that migrant workers could stay their whole lives with no problems in Mon State without having household registration documents.
“Some places like Kyaikhto and Bilin townships are already full of Burmans,” said Naing Ngwe Thein.
A nationalist monk, Thaddhamma Pala of the Mon Young Monks Union, said migrant workers are guests and should return to their places of origin after completing their work. He claimed if the government provided household documentation, Burmans would form the second-largest population in Mon State.
According to 2014 census result, Mon State has a population of more than 2 million official residents, a figure the Mon Young Monks Union claims does not include some 500,000 migrants.
The government is currently compiling data on migrant workers, but their total population remains uncertain.
The Irrawaddy contacted the Mon State government office on Monday but received no response.