Myanmar Junta Hired Mon People to Join Coup Leader at Bridge Ceremony

By The Irrawaddy 7 June 2021

The Mon Unity Party (MUP) reportedly hired people in traditional Mon dress to join coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing at the renaming ceremony of a controversial bridge in Mon State last week. The MUP, an ethnic Mon party, has joined the military regime’s governing body, the State Administrative Council (SAC).

On June 1, Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing changed the name of the General Aung San Bridge (Belu Island) to the Thanlwin Bridge (Chaungzon). The facility spans the Salween River linking Mon State’s capital Mawlamyine with Chaungzon Township.

“The MUP offered 20,000 kyats per person for people to attend the ceremony in Mon costume. Only a few uneducated locals from Chaungzon did so. There were one or two locals from Mudon, and the rest were from the MUP and the city [Mawlamyine],” said a Chaungzon local.

Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s renaming of the bridge is widely believed to be an attempt to gain the support of Mon people for his Feb.1 coup. When the bridge was originally named four years ago by the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) government, many Mon people strongly opposed calling it after independence hero General Aung San, also the father of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Locals preferred names like Chaungzon Bridge or Yarmanya, which means ‘Mon State’ in the Mon language.

SAC member Dr. Banyar Aung Moe, a former leading member of the central executive committee of the MUP and a former Upper House lawmaker, was also present at the ceremony on June 1 alongside the people clad in traditional Mon dress.

MUP ward-level leaders hired people to attend the ceremony, said a local who was offered 20,000 kyats to attend the ceremony in traditional Mon clothes. It was not clear how many people the MUP had hired, she said.

“Both sides are wrong regarding the bridge. It is unusual to open a bridge twice,” said another Mon youth.

“I hate that they hired attendants in Mon clothes. They want to show that they have the support of the Mon people. It badly tarnishes the image of Mon ethnicity,” he added.

A spokesman for the MUP declined to comment on the claims that the party had hired people to attend the ceremony.

The regime has also changed the background color of the bridge’s nameplate from red – a color associated with the NLD – to green.

However, local residents said that they do not have any strong feelings over the bridge’s name as they are only concerned with ending military rule, which is the enemy of the people.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly identified Banyar Aung Moe as a former member of the state legislature. He is a former member of the Upper House of the Union Parliament. The story was edited on June 8 to correct the error.

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