MOULMEIN, Mon State — Thousands of ethnic Mon protested in state capital Moulmein on Sunday against a local bridge that the Union government named after independence hero Gen Aung San.
“We protested because the government did not consider what locals wanted,” said Mi Kun Chan Non, a leading protest member and vice chairwoman of the Mon Women’s Organization.
The Mon State government built a bridge across the Salween River between Moulmein and Chaungzon townships. Local Mon people asked that the National League for Democracy government name the bridge Rehmonya, meaning Mon State in Mon language, or Salween Bridge. The government named it Gen Aung San Bridge.
Local activists assert that the name is not related to the region.
“The name Gen Aung San is not suitable for our region or our local ethnic people,” said Mi Kun Chan Non.
“We [ethnic Mon] are a minority and they [Burmans] are the majority. They ignored the wishes of the minority. This will damage unity and national reconciliation,” she added.
The statement continued that the state government should have been given more authority in the decision. It added that the Union government should not engage in any activities that could undermine the trust of ethnic groups, and protestors hoped the government would revoke the name.
“[The government] says it is working toward a federal system, but look at what it has done and said already,” said Nai Mon Yar Zar, another leading protest member.
“Local ethnic people and the state government should have had the right to decide on a name,” he added.
Mi Kun Chan Non said activists would fight under existing laws to change the name if the government did not cooperate.
Some Moulmein residents disagreed with the protestors.
“The government built the bridge not with money from locals, but with government money. People should accept the name,” one resident said.
“Fighting a name has no meaning. Even Mon Buddhist monks have joined the protest. Monks should not be involved in politics,” he added.
Some ethnic Karen and Pa-O people joined the protest to show they disapproved of how the Union government handled the decision.