Thu 22 Aug 2013
Filed under: Ethnic Issues,Inside Burma,Military,News
A senior Buddhist monk from Mon State says armed struggle is necessary to achieve greater freedom, including political autonomy, from Burma’s national government, as peace talks between rebel groups and the government continue after decades of civil war.
Speaking on Mon Revolution Day on Wednesday, marking 66 years since the Mon people began their fight against Burma’s government, Ven U Ottama called for an increase in Mon military, economic and religious might.
“Our Mon people need a triple ‘MMM’ policy—meaning the military, merchants and missionaries,” the abbot told more than 100 Mon youth at a commemorative event in Rangoon, where he leads a monastery in Bahan Township. “We need a strong military force … and our monks need to more actively spread our Buddhist beliefs.”
“We have our own military, but it is not strong,” he said, referring to the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA), a rebel group. “If each of us can offer the support of one gun to our armed forces, our military will be strong.
“Mon people cannot get freedom simply by asking. They need to use armed struggle to get freedom.”
The 66th Mon Revolution Day was commemorated in several locations in Mon State, including in areas controlled by the New Mon State Party (NMSP), the political wing of the MNLA.
In Rangoon, the commemorative event was held at a Buddhist monastery hall, with Mon students from different townships in attendance. Dressed in traditional red and white clothing, they paid respect to the Mon leaders and soldiers who sacrificed their lives fighting against the Burmese government for self-determination over the past 50 years.
Mi Win Maw, a university student, said she was happy to see fellow students at the event in Rangoon but regretted that more people had not attended.
“I asked some of my friends to join the revolution event, and they said they did not know that the Mon had a revolution day,” she said. Some of her friends wanted to participate, she added, but they did not have traditional Mon dresses to wear.
“If you are Mon, how can you not have your own dress or buy one? I was really sad to hear that,” she said, adding that some Mon residents in Rangoon seemed to have lost interest in Mon issues.
Burma achieved independence from British colonial rule in 1948. Since then, many ethnic minority groups in the country have waged wars against the central government, which is dominated by the ethnic Burman majority, for greater rights and political autonomy.
For the Mon, an armed revolution began on July 20, 1948, when 30 Mon leaders stole guns from a police station in Sarthapyin village, Kyaikmayaw Township. An armed group subsequently formed and launched a resistance effort.
In 1995, the NMSP and the former military regime agreed to a ceasefire, which broke down again in 2010. After a nominally civilian government came to power in 2011, under President Thein Sein, both sides signed another ceasefire agreement in February 2012.
Thein Sein’s government has signed ceasefires with 10 of 11 major rebel armed groups in the country and has pledged to hold a national ceasefire conference soon.
The Mon were among the earliest people to live in Southeast Asia, but many Mon leaders in Burma fear that their culture is fading. At the event on Wednesday, Mon youths were urged to preserve their Mon identity and language.
“Our leaders sacrificed their lives to protect our people and the revolution,” said Nai Sanddhima, another Buddhist monk. “It is time for our youth to maintain the revolution struggle, because we have yet to achieve real freedom.”