Mon Politicians Upset About Supposed Historical Claims

By Lawi Weng 30 November 2012

RANGOON—Alleged claims by Burmese scholars that the ancient Buddhist kingdom of Suvarnabhumi was located in the Burmese town of Pyu have sparked a popular outcry among some inhabitants of the Mon capital Moulmein and led to calls for protests by Mon politicians, who insist the legendary kingdom was their home state.

Leaders of the New Mon State Party (NMSP), Mon Democracy Party (MDP) and All Mon Regions Democracy Party held a press conference in the city on Thursday to complain about a reported plan by Burmese historians to present a possibly controversial collection of research papers in Rangoon.

“If we found scholars read out papers saying that our Mon kingdom belongs to Pyu, our people will begin nationwide protests,” MDP leader Dr. Kyi Win claimed.

In particular, they took aim at a Burmese historian called Chit San Win, who they said had repeatedly claimed that Suvarnabhumi—the fabled Golden Land referred to in ancient Indian texts and one of the first Buddhist kingdoms in Southeast Asia—was in the Burmese town of Pyu. Yet, according to some other scholars and to Mon folklore, it was an ancient Mon Kingdom at Thaton Township.

“This is not a small issue, it is national issue. This will lead to [ethnic] conflict like in Kachin and Arakan states, if Chit San Win repeatedly makes wrong claims about history,” Kyi Win said, as he riled up a crowd of Mon students and monks.

Several hundred students and monks in traditional Mon dress drove motorbikes and cars around the city, and came from different townships in Mon State to gather in Moulmein to listen to the politicians.

MDP Vice Chairman Nai Tin Aung said the Mon parties would also ask Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann, of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, to stop Burmese academics or state-run media from making the claims.

“If Shwe Mann did not stop it, we will take to nationwide protest,” Nai Tin Aung threatened. “They attempted to destroy our ethnic history for many decades because they wanted to set up their Burmese empire. This is not first time they tried to destroy our history.”