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Burma's exiled ethnic nationalities seminar held in North America

A Proposal Towards Correct and Peaceful Political Solutions in Burma to the meeting of Mon Unity League (MUL)

Bangkok, November 20, 2005

By Nai Thet Lwin

Burma is a multi-ethnic society with eight ethnic majorities, including the ethnic Burman, plus more than a hundred ethnic minorities. Burma is an overwhelmingly Buddhist country with more than 95 per cent of the population being Buddhist - traditional or devout. The Mon and the Burman have a common Buddhist religious belief and share a common Buddhist social culture, whereas many of the other non-Burman ethnic majorities and minorities have a different religious belief. The Burman alone is generally estimated to make about 65 per cent of the entire population of Burma. Religiously and culturally speaking, the Mon and the Burman are identical. But linguistically speaking, the Mon and the Burman have completely different languages which mainly make the Burman and the Mon to be different peoples. Historically, the Mon people had established and lived in their own independent kingdoms for a very long time until their last kingdom, Hamsavati or Hongsawatoi, was invaded and annexed by the neighboring Burman kingdom led by King Alaungphaya or Aungzeya in 1757. The Mon and the six other non-Burman ethnic majorities - namely Karen, Shan, Kayah/Karenni, Kachin, Arakanese and Chin -- have had a common political struggle against the ethnocentric Burman rule since Burma's independence from the British colonial rule in 1948.

While having a common Buddhist religious belief and sharing a common Buddhist social culture with the Burman, the Mon has fought against the post independence Burman-dominated rule for the last half century to regain its national self-determination or independence. It is clear that the Mon has some common ground with the Burman religiously and culturally on the one hand and has some common ground with the non-Burmans politically on the other hand, having a foot in both camps. That is, the Mon is naturally taking the neutral mid-position which gives it a "unique mediator role" to play between the two opposing camps of the Burman and the non-Burmans.

The Mon also has the longest history with the Burman. The age-old socio-political problems between the Mon and the Burman are also to be solved for lasting Mon-Burman reconciliation. The Burman historical perspective - of the so-called First Burman Empire established by King Anawratha, the so-called Second Burman Empire established by King Burinaung and the so-called Third Burman Empire established by King Alaungphaya - is totally unacceptable to the Mon, because all these Burman Empires were established by sheer force of arms and at the cost of independent Mon kingdoms. Particularly, King Alaungphaya's establishment of the Third Burman Empire by means of an unprecedented bloodshed genocidal operation against the Mon by cruelly massacring a large number of' innocent non-combatant civilian Mon men, women and children plus 3,000+ Mon Buddhist monks is socially unacceptable, politically unforgivable and religiously unforgettable to the Mon people. The Burman king, Alaungphaya or Aungzeya, also burnt down or destroyed all the Mon palm leaf literature and stone inscriptions he found. The one and only Burman king loved and respected by the Mon is King Kyansittha of Pagan. There are the bright golden peacocks that would follow in Kyansittha's footsteps. But the short-sighted and narrow-minded peacocks have unremorsefully been following Alaungphaya's footsteps in their wishful dream and ambitious attempt to establish a Fourth Burman Empire.

All the peoples of Burma - both Burman and non-Burmans -- have a common struggle or termination of militarism and establishment of democracy. The democracy struggle is the common struggle of the Burman and all the non Burmans without regard to race or religion. It is the common struggle for termination of the brutal Burman-dominated racist military dictatorship, which was formerly known as the State Law and 0rder Itestoration Council/SLORC and is currently known as the State Peace and Development Council/SPDC.

Towards Solutions Initial Step One: Buddhist Religious Issue Between the Mon and the Burman

As stated above, King Alaungphaya who was also called Aungzeya indiscriminately and cold-bloodedly slaughtered 3,000+ Mon Buddhist monks; the slaughter reportedly included the forced trampling by elephants. This slaughtering of the 3,000+ Buddhist monks or members of the Sangha caused and has left a deep and ugly wound in the journey of the Buddha Sasana in the Land of Pagodas. This ugly wound caused by King Alaungphaya or Aungzeya, however, has not been given proper attention by the Burman in general and has not been much known to the outside world, Buddhist or non-Buddhist. Those of the narrow-minded and short-sighted racist peacocks are even very proud of having had King Alaungphaya or Aungzeya and put him in the place of one of their great kings. This ugly wound, in the Buddhist religious point of view, cannot be neglected. Venerable Akworh, the most famous Mon monk-writer of the time who experienced this bloody event and who had himself go into hiding in order to escape the slaughter, remarked like this:

"His Majesty Aungzeya was of a very fierce and cruel disposition, and made no account at all of life. He put to death many monks, and their iron alms bowls and silk robes were taken away, and the homespun robes were made into foot mats. Of some they made pillows, of some they made belts, and of some they made sails. The monks' robes were scattered all over land and water." (Translated by Mr. Halliday)

The Mon abbot, Venerable Akworh, was surprisingly endowed with very high levels of morality, wisdom and forbearance. He only taught the Mon people for forgiveness and loving kindness. After seeing the cruel slaughtering of 3,000+ monks, Venerable Akworh, by cutting one of his fingers and by making it a devotional offering before the image of Lord Buddha, vowed that he would truly support the cause of perpetuation of the Buddha Sasana. Although and after the independent Monland of Hamsavati fell to the Burman, Ven. Akworh still recognized its living legitimacy.

In the Burman history, there was a boycott literally "the overturning of the alms-bowl" by the Buddhist Burman monastic community against Khondaw Maung Kyaban, who had made some minor oral insults towards members of the Sangha or Buddhist monastic community. Why should not then have Alaungphaya or Aungzeya, the barbarous man who slaughtered 3,000+ monks, been boycotted by the Burman monastic community? Why is this barbaric man who died and fell head first to the deepest hell two and a half centuries ago still included in the present list of the Burman national heroes? Now, the time has come for the golden peacocks, monks and laymen, to be brave enough to speak out and promise to do what should be done towards truly cleansing and healing the ugly wound. There are the golden sheldrakes, monks and laymen, who would help for this. Without properly cleansing and healing this ugly wound on the Road of Buddha Sasana, we cannot go any further. There are supernatural forces that have been very angry.

Towards Solutions Initial Step Two: Historical Issue Between the Mon and the Burman

As mentioned above, the Mon has the longest history with the Burman since the known beginning of the Burman in Pagan. There is a Burman saying: The beginning of the Burman was from Pagan. At the time of Pagan, the Mon had their own independent country namely Suvanabhumi or literally Goldenland. The Burman received Buddhist literature and cultural heritage from and via the Mon. So, in the practice of Buddhist literature and culture, the earlier Mon society was naturally much mature than the later Burman society. Buddhism and the Mon people are undividable. All through the long period of the Mon-Burman history, the Burman rulers, except King Kyansittha, have all used force of arms in relating to the Mon society. Blinded by the racial and racist pride, in stead of expressing thanks and gratitude to the Mon, the successive Burman rulers or governments have always bitten the hand that fed their Burman society. The Burman should not look down upon the Mon. The Mon has many hidden champions. In times of a real big crisis, one of them who is fittest and capable will come up to help solve the crisis.

The socio-political problems that have occurred between the Mon and the Burman from the period of Pagan up to the present day are also to be solved for the sake of long-lasting or permanent Mon-Burman reconciliation and friendship. The one-sided accounts of the history written by the war victors are to be rejected. History is history. It is only the accounts of events that had happened in the past. It may be good or it may be bad. We cannot change it. We should not conceal the bad nor exaggerate the good. Both the good and the bad parts are to be learned in order to keep up the good and avoid the bad for the benefit of the present and future generations. Both the Mon and the Burman historical perspectives - the loser's perspective and the victor's perspective -- are to be evaluated in a fair and impartial manner and to be re-written from the point of view of wisdom that will benefit not just the peoples of Burma but for the whole world.

What is the correct political solution for Burma?

As mentioned above, there are 8 ethnic majorities and 100+ ethnic minorities in Burma. When we say "ethnic majority", the language is not less important than the number of population and the historical background of the people. There is a Mon precautionary saying: "If the Mon written language or literature disappears, the Mon people will be extinct." Language is the most important organ of the Mon people. What is the political goals of the peoples or the ethnic nationalities of Burma, including the ethnic Burman? A democratic federal union? Or a federation of independent nations? For the greatest benefit and in the best interest of all, the Mon shall restore its homeland and establish an independent republic of the Golden Monland of Hamsavati lawfully and without violence.

Disintegration of the Union is not the Burman's concern and none of the Burman's business. The Burman may also secede from the Union if it wants to. The Burman people do not need to worry for the non-Burman peoples. The non-Burman peoples will determine their own fate and destiny, because they have the right to. The Burman people should realize that all the non-Burman peoples have hated and feared the chronic ethnocentric Burman rule. To be loved and respected and trusted by the non-Burman peoples, the Burman people will need to show their real broad-mindedness, far-sightedness and fairness of mind. And the Burman should understand that this process will take time.

The NLD has expressed its opposition against the recent declaration of the Shan State independence. This clearly shows that the Burman-dominated popular National League for Democracy does not recognize the right of the non-Burman peoples to determine their own fate and destiny. That is to say, the Burman-dominated NLD has failed to show its genuine good will towards the non-Burman peoples in order for it to be trusted by them. If the Shan people decide to secede from the so-called Union of Burma and choose to live independently, it is their right to do so. Their secession only means that they exercise their right. When they are determining their own destiny by exercising their own right, it is unfair for us to oppose their decision. Historically, the Burman's concern of disintegration of the Union has always been mixed with its desire for keeping the non-Burman peoples under its ethnocentric rule. Disintegration of the Soviet Union has proved that more peoples have become independent and are now able to represent themselves in the United Nations with full dignity as those old UN member nations, thereby helping the United Nations in finding out the correct solutions of the crises occurring in the Fourth World and thus strengthening the UN in its peace-making process.


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