RANGOON — Thousands of ethnic Mon in Rangoon on Wednesday celebrated the 68th anniversary of their national day, a spirited commemoration marking the establishment of their most enduring kingdom nearly 15 centuries ago.
Nai Pe Tin, who organized the event as a member of the Mon Literature and Culture Committee, said the day was a chance to bring together a community whose ancestors also founded Rangoon in the 11th century.
“We wanted all our Mon in Rangoon to meet in one place because we have scattered a lot from each other,” he said. “This is the time when we can meet here once a year. We can help each other. We want you all to be happy and love your nationality. This is why we celebrate this event.”
Mon National Day is also celebrated across Mon State in southeast Burma, both in government and Mon rebel-controlled areas. At the festivities on Wednesday in Mon State, performers marched with ethnic Mon flags, wearing traditional white tops and red longyis as they sang and danced to the beat of drums.
The ethnic Mon population in Burma is estimated at more than 2 million.
Since the advent of Burma’s political reforms in 2011, the ethnic Mon population in Rangoon has been allowed to celebrate its national day openly. Previously, the military government prohibited widespread commemoration in Burma’s biggest city.
This year’s celebration comes as the Burmese government pushes the country’s ethnic armed groups to sign a nationwide ceasefire agreement. The ethnic Mon armed group known as the New Mon State Party, which renewed a bilateral ceasefire with the government in 2012, is one of the organizations that have been asking to sign the accord.
Dr. Min Tin Mon, a Mon leader, spoke on the country’s peace process at Wednesday’s event in Rangoon.
“Better to negotiate until we can reach a peace agreement between the Mon and the government. If we can reach an agreement, this life will be delightful. By fighting each other, our country has become more and more poor. People have become homeless and jobless in the country. Crime has grown in the country because there is no peace.”
Mon National Day commemorates the establishment of the first Mon kingdom, Hongsawadee, in 573 AD. It is marked annually one day after the full moon day of the lunar month of Thabodwe.