Ethnic Issues

Mon EAO’s Deal With Myanmar Junta Under Fire

By The Irrawaddy 21 February 2023

The anti-regime Mon State Defense Force (MSDF) says an agreement reached last week between the junta and a fellow Mon State ethnic armed group will not benefit the Mon people.

Myanmar military regime and the New Mon State Party (NMSP) agreed plans for development of the state during talks held in Naypyitaw on Feb. 13-15.

The NMSP delegation led by vice chairman Nai Aung Min met with the regime’s National Solidarity and Peace-making Central Committee (NSPCC) and reached agreement on development including teaching the Mon language in schools, according to junta media.

The Irrawaddy was unable to reach NMSP spokesman Nai Aung Ma Nge to ask about the details of the agreement.

Responding to the news, MSDF chair Dr. Siri Mon Chan said: “It is not practical to implement development work in Mon State alone while the security situation is at its worst in the country. And I doubt development work will take place as agreed. I don’t think Mon people can benefit from it.”

The revolutionary spirit of the NMSP has been at a low ebb since the death of the group’s former chairman, Nai Shwe Kyin, in 2003, said a political analyst.

“The NMSP has lost its political prestige. It is not as strong as it was under the previous leadership. It has been influenced by self-seeking factions,” said Dr. Pinnyar Mon, a US-educated political scientist who serves as executive director of Myanmar’s Ethnic Nationalities Affairs Center. The regime’s State Administration Council (SAC) and the NMSP had apparently not touched upon political issues in all three rounds of their talks, he added.

“The NMSP made seven demands at the first meeting. The demands covered Mon nationalism, literature and culture, but not politics. They might have continued to discuss those demands in their two subsequent meetings. The NMSP said they would attend the meeting in response to the invitation but not discuss political issues. But they might have discussed social issues, regional development, the ceasefire, culture and literature.”

He said the deal reached would not bring political advantages or freedom for Mon people.

“Agreement on social issues, literature and culture may benefit Mon people. But there is also a question about the extent to which the agreement will be implemented. The junta previously said the Mon language would be taught in public schools. But instead of Mon organizations being given the responsibility to teach their language, the junta’s Ministry of Education will handle it. So, we can’t say we have got rights in Mon literature and culture.”

The junta held talks with ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) on amending the military-drafted 2008 Constitution from December 27-30. However, the talks were boycotted by the NMSP and the Restoration Council of Shan State.

Some ethnic analysts say the NMSP continues to engage in dialogue with the junta because it believes it is the only way to solve political problems in Myanmar.

The NMSP reiterated its policy of dialogue in a statement issued on the 76th Mon National Day earlier this month. But it said holding talks with EAOs is not enough, and the regime must engage with all armed organizations that have emerged across the country. The NMSP also criticized the worsening humanitarian crisis since the coup.

Meanwhile, the regime has imposed martial law on Ye Township which is home to the NMSP headquarters.

The NMSP was established in 1958 and signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with the government and Myanmar military in February 2018.