MON STATE—The Myanmar Army (or Tatmadaw) has ordered that signboards announcing this weekend’s commemoration of the 71st Mon Revolution Day be taken down or changed, on the grounds that they advocate rebellion against the central government amid the ongoing peace process between ethnic Mon and Naypyitaw.
Ethnic Mon residing in southern Myanmar had put up signboards around Mon State bearing a slogan commemorating the 71st Mon Revolution Day, to be celebrated on Aug. 26.
The Mon-language slogan says: “If you dare to do rebel, you will gain your freedom.” When Myanmar Army officials realized the meaning of the slogan, they ordered the signs taken down.
Revolution Day commemorates the day in 1947 that a group of Mon attacked a police station with knives in order to seize weapons from police. That year, ethnic Mon first established armed groups to oppose the central government and fight for their ethnic rights.
The committee in charge of organizing 71st Mon Revolution Day celebrations put up the first signboards in Ye Township on Aug. 17, prompting an order from the Army that they be taken down for opposing the central government. In other townships, Army and state government officials have asked the New Mon State Party (NMSP) to tell the youths who put up the signs to cover up the slogan.
When ethnic Mon from other townships in Mon State also set up Revolution Day signboards, the Myanmar Army and Mon State government called on the NMSP to hold a meeting to discuss the signboards.
Mon State Security and Border Affairs Minister Colonel Win Naing Oo and Mon State Chief Minister Dr. Aye Zan met with NMSP leaders on Aug. 20.
Nai Hong Sar, the vice chairman of the New Mon State Party, told The Irrawaddy on Friday that, “They called a meeting with our members and said it was time the NMSP signed the NCA [Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement] and worked with the government to achieve peace. Therefore, the wording of the slogan is too harshly anti-government.”
He said that, “Our members told [the Army] that we [the NMSP] did not arrange [the harshly worded posters]. Youths in Mon State created them,” Nai Hong Sar said.
Col. Win Naing Oo said he asked the NMSP to tell the Mon youths to drop the slogan.
This is the first time the Tatmadaw has raised any objections to ethnic Mon celebrations of their revolution day since the NMSP agreed to a ceasefire with the central government in 1995.
The 71st Mon Revolution Day working committee agreed to drop the slogan, but continued to put up signboards in various townships in Mon State.
Nai Htor Pana Ong, a committee member helping to organize the celebrations in Mon State, reported that the Myanmar Army told them that it would not allow the committee to celebrate Revolution Day in towns in Mon State.
However, he said his committee still planned to celebrate the day as usual.
He said his committee had come up with a different slogan each year advocating support for “Mon Revolution” and had not had any problem with the Tatmadaw in the past.
“We are freely celebrating our revolution as usual. … Unfortunately [the Army] has made a problem about it this year,” Nai Htor Pana Ong said, adding, “They told us that this slogan harms the peace process.”
Ethnic Mon usually gather in their townships to celebrate Revolution Day. After that, they often travel to other townships to pay their respects before statues of Mon leaders who sacrificed their lives for the revolution.