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Burma's exiled ethnic nationalities seminar held in North America

INTERVIEW: HRP TALKS ON CURRENT MON CONFLICT

Like many Mon freedom fighters Ong Saik Chaiís eyes show patriotism, he speaks with quiet determination. Born in 1965, Ong Saik Chai (aka) Chan Ong is one of many unknown freedom fighters who has vowed to continue the fight against repression in the war torn zone of southern Burma, Mon State.

The present Vice-Chairman of the newly formed Hongsawatoi Restoration Party, Ong Saik Chai talked to Kao-Wao in a liberated area regarding the present Mon armed conflict and the abduction of NMSP leader, Nai Rotsa.

Q: Can you tell us about yourself?

A: I began studying at the monastery when I was at five.  I was ordained as a Buddhist novice at thirteen and studied Mon literature and Buddhism in the Kanni Mon community in Karen State.  Then I moved to Rehmonya monastery at Lamine, Ye township for Junior Class Buddhism study.  In 1982, when I was at 17, I joined the New Mon State Party to fight for our national freedom. After military and wireless intercept training I worked at Wireless Communication Department of Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA) until 1986. I was appointed as Corporal of District Battalion and later transferred to Mon Marine Force.  I was promoted to Captain in 1995.  I joined the splinter group led by Nai Hloin in 2000 and after we united with Col Pan Nyunt, I was selected as the Vice-Chairman of the HRP.

Q: Why has HRP abducted Nai Rotsa, the leader of NMSP?

A: We took him because we want NMSP to talk with us; our intention is for unity among the Mons.  The NMSP and MUL (Mon Unity League) are silent when they took our member.  Now they have sent Nai Damrong, MUL Negotiation Team leader to ask about the situation.  We want NMSP leaders to talk with us.

(Editorís note: the fighting between the two groups broke out on May 21, 2002 when HRP attempted to occupy an outpost of NMSP at Baleh Doonphite near Halockhanee refugee camp.   NMSP arrested a Karen nationality being accused of HRP informer shortly after the fighting.)

Q: Why did you separate from the New Mon State Party?

A: After the New Mon State Party reached the cease-fire agreement with the Burmese junta we did not witness any development for the Party (NMSP) and for our nation.  Besides that, the Burmese army banned the Mon national education, which has been preserved by monks and is taught in many rural areas.  They expanded troops into our areas and also confiscated lands in Southern Ye, Northern Ye, Zobbu and Yebyu townships.  They took advantage of the cease-fire agreement to build more Army Divisions and Battalions in our area, and there has been no benefit for our people.  In order to safeguard our nation and Mon army we split from the cease-fire New Mon State Party.

Q: What difficulty are you facing after the split and forming the new HRP?

A: We are surrounded by the Burmese army Battalions No. 22, No. 19 and No. 44 in our area and NMSP is not able to protect our Mon people and the guerrillas because of the cease-fire.  As a new political party and army, we have nothing at the beginning and we have to set up every thing.  To feed our members including women and children is a challenge.  The enemy (Burmese Army) continues to suppress and surround us.  But we are mentally strong and have a strong desire to fight.

Q: How has the Burmese Army suppressed the Mon people in your area?

A: Since the cease-fire agreement, they (Burmese military) can move easily into our area and expand their troops.  They control our civilians easily and farmers have to sell them paddy according to their quota, local villagers are taken for forced labours, lands are confiscated for the Burmese Army and some houses are relocated.  Some of our women are being raped while working in the farms; they torture and shoot our supporters in rural area.  Also, the Mon National Democrat Front was dissolved and the leaders arrested, Mon National Day celebration is prohibited, (their human rights) violation is known by the international community

Q: What is HRPís aim for the future?

Setting up unity is our aim.  We all have to work in harmony. While overseas Mon and international support are applying pressure, students, monks and all civilians inside need to work hard for our rights.  At the same time, HRP is fighting by arms while the cease-fire NMSP is silent   To have one voice among the Mons is our aim, to speak out politics on the stage of democracy is our plan.

Q: Did you get support from the civilians?

A: We have gained many supporters from civilians both from Mon State, overseas and Thai Mons in Thailand.  The people are fed up with the suppression of the Burmese junta and they want us to fight.

Q: What about other alliances?

In the local or lower level we have a very good understanding and cooperation with our alliances especially with the Karen National Union (KNU).  We have contacted with others who fight against the SPDC and we have also submitted our application to become a member of NDF (National Democratic Front) on February 24, 2002.

Q: At the beginning, your statement was to continue fighting the SPDC and not to fight between the Mons.  But there has been armed fighting with the NMSP. What do you want to say about this?

A: We never wanted to fight against other Mons and we have always urged a third party (Mon Unity League) to reconcile.  The last skirmish at Halockhanee was a misunderstanding and lack of communication in the area. We had informed them that we are going to search for some thing in the area.

Q: We were told that HRP executed one soldier of NMSP. Is it true?

A: Itís not true.  Just one-sided propaganda, we arrested an officer of NMSP, Nai Htow Norn with one small arm and we released him right away after we took his weapon.

Q: What else do you want to say to the civilians and Kao-Wao readers?

A: Young guerrillas who share a commitment and spirit to fight for freedom and justice formed HRP. We need advice from Mon overseas and in Thailand, monks, intellectuals and all people, suggestions are warmly welcomed.  We call on all people of different lives to help and join our movement in achieving the goal to establish a free Mon State.

(Published by Kaowao News Issue No. 21, June 26, 2002) 



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