good, the bad and the ugly in Mon State
LIVING STANDARD IMPROVES IN MONLAND
by Cham Toik: December 21, 2004)
Mon State enjoys a better standard of living due to a thriving economy and an
increase in population in sharp contrast to other areas of Burma.
villages are promoted to towns and have become more populated. The
streets are bustling with activity, new motorcycles and vehicles roar up and
down the streets, new houses are being built and old ones renovated according
to former residents of the area who recently visited there. Several
karaoke bars are packed with young people, including Mon, Burmese and Thai
patrons. All who travel frequently and conveniently to Rangoon, Moulmein
and other cities for shopping and dealing business enjoy freedom of movement,
a rare commodity in Burma.
former resident, a Mon Canadian, said local civilians appear to be content
with their daily lives and show little interest in discussing politics despite
the Burmese government’s strict rules and suppression. Relatives
working abroad support family businesses and activities. Most villages
in Mon State have cell phones and use them to communicate with their families
and relatives working in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, North America,
Australia, and Europe.
thousands have left for economic reasons and human rights violations committed
by the military regime, communities face a shortage of farm laborers.
Thousands of internal migrant workers from the delta region (Myitwa Kyunbaw)
and upper Burma (Ahnyar) flock to Mon State and work in the rice fields and
rubber plantations to fill in quotas.
workers told Kaowao, who just arrived in Thailand, that the daily wages for a
farm laborer is about 3,000 Kyat a day in villages in Thanbyu Zayat Township
while wages in Rangoon are half that and 500 Kyat in upper Burma. With
such economic disparity as well as milder weather in Mon State, many adults
and young people from other areas flock down to work in the fishing and
work hard, save their money and then go back home like us (local Mon people)
who go to Thailand and bring back some money,” said Awin from Durae in Ye.
I came here, I expected to see only older people and women in the village.
But I was really surprised to see many different kinds of people in the
markets. Ten years ago there were no Burmese speaking people in my
village. But now, I hear many people speaking Burmese, some have married
the local Mon people to settle here and buy some land,” said Kloy Toi who
works in Thailand’s Maharchai fishing factories on his recent visit back
home in Ye Township.
travelers and local people from Thanbyu Zayat and Ye Townships confirm their
lives are improving; they can easily travel to the city by cars. In the
past, traveling was very difficult except for the Ye-Moulmein railroad, which
stretches for about 100 miles from Moulmein to Ye. Many people now own
motorcycles and most monasteries have their own cars for getting around.
the cease-fire agreement, we had to flee from the Burma Army when they came to
our area. Now there is no fighting and it is peaceful. I have not
seen (Burmese) soldiers in years,” said Nai Kyaw Zin, a local farmer from
Moulmein and Rangoon, people wear red sarongs (Mon traditional dress) and
bargain for goods in the market. Various Mon publications have increased
compared to a decade ago. Several publications in Mon language,
including journals, magazines, textbooks and a range of music in CDs and tapes
are easily found in the cities and villages. Nai Een said he had to
steer clear of many hawkers approaching him to sell their products.
“Of course, there is a scrutiny board and censorship but there are many more
publications compared to 8 years ago,” he commented.
there are good and bad aspects, two sides to the story. While some have
grown complacent from their living standard and cultural rights, other
villagers in Mon State, especially in southern Ye, are subjected to corruption
and human rights violations committed by the local authorities.
political communities and the Mon Buddhist Sangha concluded that the SPDC
government is unsympathetic to their needs and exercises complete control over
Monland by expanding its army. The ceasefire agreement between the NMSP
and the junta has led to no political solution and the people have gained
Burma Army and militia groups (PyiThuSit) march in to confiscate thousands of
acres in Mon State. The land is stolen from the people outright, with no
compensation. Civilians are told to leave or they face arrest and
torture. Once productive Monland is turned into military battalions or the BA
keeps the farm business for themselves.
these past years the Burma Army has confiscated over 8,000 acres of land and
built military bases, many outsiders flock to Mon state and work here
replacing the local work force that fled, the population transfer is a new
challenge here,” said a senior member of the New Mon State Party.
Soldiers, militias and counter insurgency forces have increased in Mon State.
Over ten military regiments are expanded into Ye and Thanbyu Zayat areas after
1995, the year the ceasefire agreement came into being.
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