Viewpoint from a young Mon
WITH PON NYA MON
recently conducted an interview with Pon Nya Mon, Chairman of Monland
Restoration Council (MRC) based in the
. Pon Nya Mon was a leader of the Overseas Mon Young
Monks Union (OMYMU) and served on the Foreign Relationship Committee in
Nya Mon holds a B.S. degree in Business Administration, a B.A. in
Political Science from
and a M.A. in Development Economics from Williams
College, Massachusetts. Currently, he is a Ph.D. candidate in Political
Science at the
When were you elected as Chairman / President of the Monland
Restoration Council (MRC)?
I was first elected in 1995. I was re-elected for three terms (every
two years), I have been serving as the Chairman for the last 7 years.
Can you tell us the aims and activities of your organization? How
was it formed and when?
MRC was founded by a group of Mon exiles in the
in November 1993, named Indigenous Mon Council of
Burma (IMCOB). It was changed to Monland Restoration Council (MRC) at
the first annual conference in 1994. Our main objective is to restore
self-determination for our country, to promote Mon culture and
literature both inside and outside of our homeland, and to restore
democracy and human rights in
What is your impression of Mon communities in the
and in exile?
I am very impressed with the progress of our Mon community in the
It's a success story, in
; everyone is working very hard to build a strong Mon
community although they face linguistic, cultural and environmental
differences in this country. In order to promote the Mon culture and
literature here, we established a Mon Buddhist temple in
in 2001 where all of us can meet, it made a big
difference; it gives people a chance to be together. Now we are able to
offer Mon literacy training classes every year at the temple.
I don't have close contact with other Mon groups in other countries, I
couldn't say much about how they are managing. I believe they also work
hard at maintaining Mon culture for our people. I have a general
impression that Mon exiles around the world are working together for the
Can you tell us your experience as a young monk in
? How did
you get involved in the Mon national movement?
My experience as a young monk in
was not much different from Mon monks in
. Mon monks have been oppressed and discriminated by
the Burmese government in many ways. For example, in 1986, the Ne Win
government banned the use of the Mon language in the government's
Buddhist literature examination. As many of us know, Buddhist literature
was introduced to
originally in the Mon language and has since been
taught in this language in Mon monasteries for centuries. For that
reason, the Mon language had been recognized by the government as an
official language, along with the Burmese language, used in the
government's Buddhist literature examination since
gained her independence.
in 1986, Ne Win's government announced that all Mon monks in
were required to take government's Buddhist
literature examination in Burmese language instead of Mon.
This outraged Mon Monks all over
, we believed it threatened our language and
literature. To protect our language, literature, and culture, however,
Mon monks, including myself, in
boycotted the examination held only in the Burmese
then, I have been active in the Mon national movement. In 1987, I joined
the Mon Young Monks Organization in
to promote Mon culture and literature in
. I involved in 1988's general uprising to fight for
a democratic change in
. After 1988, I fled to
and joined the Overseas Mon Young Monks Union (OMYMU).
a young monk in
was different from
. As refugee monks in
, we were free to express our political views, which
we couldn't do in
. We staged demonstrations against the Burmese
military regime in front of the Burmese Embassy many times. We never
were arrested. This was one of the advantages of being a refugee monk in
compared to a normal refugee. However, in 1993 after
I received a scholarship to study in the U.S, I disrobed. Right after I
disrobed, one of my friends, Nai Thet Lwin, and I were arrested by the
Thai police and deported to the
, where the Burmese military camp was located.
Fortunately, we escaped deportation by jumping off the truck that
carried us to the Burmese territory, close to the Burmese army camp.
Do you see any change in the Mon politics after the death of New
Mon State Party leader Nai Shwe Kyin?
I don't see any major changes in Mon politics soon after the
death of Nai Shwe Kyin. From my point of view, an individual leader or
elite does not dictate Mon politics. It is based on the will of our
people. Unless there are major changes in the will of Mon people, I do
not think there would be major changes in Mon politics.
In this case, the death of Nai Shwe Kyin will not affect Mon revolution
or Mon politics. But he left us a very strong Mon political platform and
foundation. Even though the founding father died, our Mon revolution is
alive and will continue. Therefore, Mon younger generation must prepare
for the future leadership role of our revolution.
What is your campaign for the
MRC has done a lot of campaigns for the past ten years to raise
awareness on human rights abuse both in Mon state and in
. We joined other Mon organizations around the world;
we wrote letters to the United Nations and issued many statements. We
often staged demonstrations in front of the Burmese Embassy in
and in front of the United Nations in
to raise awareness on the cause of Mon people in
1995 to 1998, our campaigns mostly concentrated on human rights abuses
in the Unocal-Total gas pipeline areas. In 1996, I attended the Unocal
shareholders meeting in
to encourage the company to withdraw its business
. We joined other NGOs and held demonstrations in
front of Texaco shareholders meeting in
in the last couple years, our campaigns have concentrated mostly on the
land confiscation in Mon areas, the release of three Mon political
leaders who have been imprisoned in
and the tripartite dialogue in
Do you see the possibility of a tripartite dialogue in
I don't see a tripartite dialogue any time soon in
unless the international communities, Burmese
democratic forces, and ethnic nationalities apply a much more tougher
stand against the SPDC. So far, the SPDC is not interested in dialogue
with the NLD and non-Burman ethnic nationalities. Even though the SPDC
has released some political prisoners, it does not mean they are moving
toward a tripartite dialogue.
The SPDC uses political prisoners as a political tool to play games with
the international community in order, for them, to stay in power as long
as possible. In other words, the SPDC is buying time by releasing some
political prisoners. But there is a lack of will to maintain the
pressure and to get on with real democratic change in
Has the international campaign work for "Mon or ethnic issue"
developed during the past years?
The international campaign has worked very well in terms of
raising awareness of human rights abuses in Mon and other ethnic
nationality areas. The
campaign brought the ILO, Red Cross, and UN special rapporteur to
to monitor human rights abuses in ethnic areas. Of
course, the human rights situation has not yet significantly improved in
What is your opinion on the current cease-fire deal of the NMSP
with the military junta?
I think the SPDC does not fully honor, as it should, the
cease-fire agreement. Since the two parties reached a cease-fire
agreement in 1995, thousands of acres of land have been confiscated and
thousands of Burmese troops have been deployed in Mon state. These
operations violate the cease-fire agreement and also threaten the
securities of both NMSP and Mon people.
NMSP has become increasingly dissatisfied with the SPDC on these matters.
If the SPDC continues such violations, the cease-fire between the two
parties could not be sustained very long.
How do you see the
conflict during the previous years (HRP, NMSP)?
It was very unfortunate for us. Because of the conflict, many
died including a respectful Mon leader, Nai Min Htut.
Moreover, the unity of among Mon people was also affected.
What plans should we work on to obtain or increase the Mon
First and foremost, we need to strengthen our unity. Unity among
our Mon people is very important for the movement. Once our unity falls
apart, so does our movement.
Second, Mon national
movement should be mobilized at all local, national, and international
levels. To do so, all Mon political parties and organizations inside and
need to work together. Finally, we should work with
other ethnic nationalities and Burmese democratic forces, and
As most of us know, human rights situations in
, especially in Mon and other ethnic areas, have not
yet improved, and the SPDC is not willing to initiate the tripartite
dialogue with the NLD and the non-Burma ethnic nationalities for a
peaceful change. Any effort to pressure the SPDC on these matters will