Absence of Political Dialogue in 2012 Troubles Ethnic Reconciliation Efforts

State Government Seeks Participation in Mon National Day but Committee Members Remain Wary

Friday, January 11, 2013

Burma’s Mon State Government has proposed to hold Mon National Day, the 66th anniversary of the ethnic celebration, on February 26, according to Mon leaders.

Mon people celebrate the 64th anniversary of Mon National Day in Thanbyuzayat Township, Mon State. (Photo: Akar)

This will be the first time the Burmese Government has wanted to cooperate and work with Mon people on Mon National Day after having opposed the celebration for the last 65 years. The participation of the federal government in an ethnic celebration highlights the political change that begun last year.

Min Nwe Soe, an ethnic Mon minister from the Mon State Government, met five members of the Mon National Day Committee in Moulmein on Monday to set a date for this year’s Mon National Day event.

However, the five members of the committee told Min Nwe Soe that they must await agreement from the committee members of all Mon Townships before agreeing to a proposed date and asked the Mon State Government to release an official letter documenting their wish to participate in the 66th Mon National Day.

Mon National Day Committee chairman Nai Tin Aung recounted his committee meeting with the Mon State Government to The Irrawaddy, “We told him [Min Nwe Soe] that after we receive an official letter from the government, our committee will hold a meeting to discuss whether to let the government participate or not.”

Nai Tin Aung was not shy about his belief that only the Mon people should participate in Mon National Day. “This is my personal idea—I did not agree to let the government participate,” the committee chairman shared.

The Mon State Government asked the Mon National Day Committee to allow Ohn Myint, the chief minister of the Mon State Government, and Kyin Pe, a chairman from the Mon State Parliament, to serve as honorable leaders during the celebration. The state government also requested that Min Nwe Soe and Khin Maung Twin, both government ministers, serve as chairmen during the event.

Min Nwe Soe met with five members of the committee at the state government office in Moulmein, the capital of Mon State, to discuss these requests.

Committee chairman Nai Tin Aung was hesitant to agree to the State Government’s participation, commenting that most committee members do not see anything special within the Mon State Government’s request to participate because they do not even recognize Mon National Day as a public holiday.

Mon leaders have asked multiple generations of the Burmese Government to recognize their ethnic national day as a public holiday, only to have this request continually neglected. The only ethnic national day recognized as a public holiday by the Burmese Government is Karen National Day.
According to Nai Tin Aung, it is sad to not have Mon National Day recognized as a public holiday even though Mon is a recognized ethnicity and Mon State is a recognized ethnic state in Burma.

There are approximately 3 million ethnic Mon living in the southern part of Burma and Mon National Day has been celebrated yearly throughout every township in Mon State. The ethnic celebration offers Mon leaders the opportunity to discuss ethnic politics and Mon history and champion Mon identification and unification. The original Mon Kingdom was influential and powerful in Southeast Asia but has become smaller and weaker today, which has increased the importance of Mon National Day as a time to celebrate Mon heritage and the Mon people’s fight for greater rights.


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