State Govt Wants to Join Ethnic Mon National Day

By Lawi Weng 9 January 2013

RANGOON—Mon State government officials want to participate in the upcoming Mon National Day and are requesting local ethnic organizations for their approval, according to Mon leaders. The request is being met with skepticism by local leaders, who point out that Burma’s government has long ignored expressions of Mon culture and identity.

Min Nwe Soe, a state minister, met with met five members of Mon National Day Committee in Moulmein on Monday to discuss state government participation in the 66th Mon National Day on Feb. 26, which until now was organized only by Mon ethnic groups and local communities.

Nai Tin Aung, chairman of the organizing committee, said that Min New Soe “told us that his government wanted to do Mon National Day this year.” The state’s chief minister Ohn Myint and state parliament chairman Kyin Pe wanted to serve as “honorable leaders” during the Mon holiday, while Min New Soe wanted to be chairman of the event, he added.

Nai Tin Aung said Mon ethnic leaders were skeptical about the request by the state government, as it has failed to recognize expressions of Mon identity and ignored Mon demands for more autonomy for decades.

The Mon State government and parliament is under a large degree of control of the Naypyidaw government, which has long sought to suppress many of Burma’s ethnic groups.

“I told them that our Mon [people] have celebrated our national day for 65 years already and no one from the government officials ever participated at this celebration, and all people who joined were ethnic Mon,” he said.

Nai Tin Aung said Mon event organizers appreciated the state government’s request, but they would have to discuss it with other Mon organizations. He added that ethnic leaders had told the state government that it should first release an official public statement about its wish to join Mon National Day.

Nai Tin Aung said he personally felt that state officials should not be allowed to join in the holiday, as some were not even ethnic Mon community members.

“I disagree with the plan to let them participate in our national day, because this is our ethnic affair and the current members of the [state] government are not all Mon—even though they say they are the Mon government,” he said.

Min Soe Lin, another member of Mon National Day committee, he was unimpressed by the state government’s sudden interest in celebrating Mon holidays. “We don’t think there’s anything special about their request, because they [the state government] did not say anything last year,” he said.

Burma’s southeastern Mon State is home to about 2 million ethnic Mon, who have long sought more autonomy and recognition from Burma’s central government. Armed Mon rebel groups have been at peace with the government for more than 15 years, but political dialogue has brought the groups little tangible results and suspicions between Mon groups and Naypyidaw remain.