KAO WAO NEWS No. 28
An electronic newsletter for social justice and freedom in Burma
INTERVIEW WITH NAI TUN THEIN
ALIEN WORKERS READY WITH RUBBER CUBE
EDUCATION PROJECT FOR MON MONKS
JUNTA MAINTAINS TIGHT GRIP ON RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY
REFUGEE HOLDING PROTECTION PAPER ARRESTED
ETHNIC KAREN, MON TOLD TO HAND IN ID CARDS
THE MON POLITICAL DILEMMA: BANYA HONGSAR
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is so disappointing to know about land confiscation in
Mon National Affairs
INTERVIEW WITH NAI TUN THEIN
Mon News Agency conducted an interview with Nai Tun Thein, Chairman of the Mon
National Democratic Front (MNDF) in April 2002 regarding the political crisis
What is the current political situation in
The current political situation in
IMNA: What is significant of the current talks between SPDC and NLD?
NTT: Although the government (SPDC) is saying the current talks is for a better future, but this is not going to happen suddenly. Because I think, the military government is not willing to give up or hand over power just like that. The government itself faces a huge problem. However, I cannot predict when they will start to address the ongoing crisis in the country.
IMNA: Is there any possibility of tripartite dialogue, what is the situation?
NTT: Yes, we must have the confidence to initiate a tripartite dialogue. In this kind of serious situation, everybody has to sit down together to address the problems in the nation. It is for national unity and peace. I could not find any other way to save this nation without conducting tripartite dialogue.
IMNA: To participate in the tripartite dialogue, what is the strength (mass force) of non-Burman nationalities?
NTT: We have three groups: non-Burman political parties who contested in the 1990 general election under the existing laws; groups of non-Burman organizations that have reached cease-fire agreement with the government; and other non-Burma group that have not reached cease-fire agreements with the government. These three groups are the strength behind the non-Burman nationalities.
IMNA: How would the non-Burman nationalities represent themselves in a dialogue?
NTT: First, we have asked to call a meeting among our non-Burman nationalities. We will then elect our representatives and provide technical resources (frame works) to be presented in the tripartite dialogue for our representatives. To ensure a smooth process, the government needs to declare a nation wide cease-fire to all armed non-Burman groups, giving them free political access.
IMNA: Is there any agreement between NLD and non-Burman nationalities?
NTT: Non-Burma nationalities such as Mon, Rakhine, Shan and Chin parities were represented at the Ten Member Committee (Committee of Representative of People's Parliament-CRPP) that has worked for about three years. Ten members of the committee were elected, comprising nine members of NLD and one from non-Burma nationalities. We named them the Ten Members committee. The NLD is satisfied with this Ten Members Committee. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested (put under house arrested) as a result of the non-Burman parties joining the NLD. We have heard that they (NLD) support this tripartite dialogue. Therefore, we can say the NLD is willing to conduct the tripartite dialogue.
IMNA: What is your opinion on the cease-fire and non cease-fire groups?
NTT: As far as I know, both of the cease-fire and non-cease-fire groups are waiting to begin the tripartite dialogue. We, non-Burma groups such as Mon, Rakhine, Shan and Chin who contested in the election are proposing the government invite both armed groups. Both sides agreed with us and welcomed our proposal.
IMNA: What is your opinion of armed clashes between the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and Hongsawatoi Restoration Party (HRP)? There also has been sporadic fighting in the controlled areas.
NTT: We must prevent any armed conflict between these two organizations. We heard the monks' organizations made every effort to prevent this situation from getting out of control. Right now, don't attempt to re-group these two organizations. I suggest that HRP relocate far away from the NMSP's operated areas. It is much better to give frequent access for mediator/ monks between these two organizations.
IMNA: Is there an alternative way to gain a fully Mon independent state?
NTT: For the sake of a Mon independent state, if non-Burman organizations, registered political parties under existing law, cease-fire groups and non-cease-fire groups work toward building unity it could happen. Right now, we have seen three of our non-Burman organizations have similar opinions on this issue.
What are your views regarding a
NTT: Each federal State has legislative power, administrative power and judiciary power. The power of defense, the power of finance (currency), the power of foreign affairs shall be placed to the central government and the rest of powers shall be placed to each individual state. At the central government's body, not only representatives of Burman nationalities, but also an equal of number non-Burma nationalities from eight states shall be represented. For example, each representative from each state shall be represented in the upper house (Senate chamber) equally. Therefore, if there is a significant issue to be decided, all members must agree.
IMNA: What is your opinion regarding seven divisions of Burmese states while each of the non-Burma nationalities has only one state?
Then, are you going to accept the current exiting ten townships of
NTT: We plan to extend our Territory.
IMNA: How are you going to manage education?
Upon gaining full administrative power in
students attending university will be comfortable with English and have the
confidence for further study in
IMNA: What is your message to the Mon community?
NTT: Right now, the Mon community does not have the power and freedom to conduct a political campaign. When the government allows it, we urge the Mon community to support the Mon political organization / party.
20 families from Tadane villages near the
Almost all villagers are starving, said a Mon nurse in charge of the village's clinic. The villagers survive on the logging business and animal hunting, which has ceased to exist, she added, being victims of the skyrocketing market prices after the border closure. They have no money to buy rice, which is too expensive. "A six month pregnant women is weak after having virtually nothing to eat for two to three days now", she added. "She was sick after walking for a medical check". "I have never seen anything like this in my life". One villager said, "We don't have food. We don't have work." Most villagers are eating bamboo shoots, gums, cassava, and papayas to stay alive. The people in this area are too poor to survive.
Adding to crisis is the villagers being forced to pay 3,000 Baht to the Mon splinter-armed group last week for taxes. Now they fear more violence is expected between the two Mon armed groups.
week, a fighting broke out between the groups near to the village. The
situation is getting worse according to latest news from the eastern part of Ye
on Reuters and Kao-Wao,
the release of
Prime Minister of Burmese government in exile, Dr. Sein Win also told the
audience of two hundred that despite a promise that the regime restores
his keynote speech, the National Coalition Government of Union of Burma's
Sein Win also urged for the international condemnation against these violations
by the regime must be continued to deter the generals from committing them. The
NCGUB will continue to promote dialogue among all ethnic nationalities of
ALIEN WORKERS READY WITH RUBBER TUBE
workers are preparing inner tubes, from rubber tires, in order to save the
lives of their colleagues who risk their lives diving into the river after
being chased by the local police in
to the recent Thai policy on alien workers this year, the new arrivals are not
allowed to register for a work permit. They are accepting only previous
workers, registrants from last year. While the number of illegal workers
"We don't want to see them drown, as they are often diving into the river in front of us after being chased by local police (Saitrut)", said a registered worker. Most migrant workers in Maharchai are working at seafood factories and live near the river. Many of them can swim and float in the water to escape the police searching the riverbanks.
caught, we have to pay between four and twelve thousand baht (4000 Baht equals
EDUCATION PROJECT FOR MON MONKS
of young Mon monks from different areas in
Phra Mahar Uthai,
caretaker abbot of Wat Khlongjed,
Pathumthani in a meeting stressed that, "At
present a number of young Mon monks in
Nai Sunthorn Sripanngern, secretary of the Mon Unity League, suggested that, "It is a good indication that the monks are being active in promoting education for the young monks. The Mon Buddhist monks have usually studied Buddhism; we need to reform like other religious groups that study a broad range of subjects. The monks are regarded as the community leaders and need to be fully educated in order to lead their laypeople. Other MUL leaders Nai Kasuah Mon, Nai Sumit and Nai Wongsa agreed unanimously to move in this direction.
is hoped that Mon students, both monks and men, will apply at the universities
in year 2003. The monks are allowed to study at
JUNTA MAINTAINS TIGHT GRIP ON RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY
In its annual report on religious freedom worldwide released Monday, the US State Department gave a generally positive picture on neighbouring Thailand, saying its citizens were free to practice their faiths.
survey said that despite the right to religious freedom enshrined in
"It systematically has restricted efforts by Buddhist clergy to promote human rights and political freedom... and in some ethnic minority areas, has coercively promoted Buddhism over other religions," it said.
"Through its pervasive internal security apparatus, the government generally infiltrated or monitored the meetings and activities of virtually all organizations, including religious organizations."
While a sharp increase in violence against the Muslim minority reported in 2001 had abated, there were accounts that restrictions on Muslim travel and worship countrywide had increased, it said. "The government continued to discriminate against members of minority religions, restricting the educational, proselytizing, and building activities of minority religious groups."
Ethnic minority groups including the Karen and the Kachin, who are predominantly Christian, were particular targets.
The report said the junta continued to control and restrict the activities of the Buddhist clergy, and added that more than 100 monks were imprisoned during the 1990s for supporting democracy and human rights.
REFUGEE HOLDING PROTECTION PAPER ARRESTED
Kun Bop Htaw /
Win Aung, Burmese Foreign Minister missed an important place to visit on his recent trip to Thailand, the Immigration Detention Center, home to more than 600 Burmese nationals, made up of refugees and migrant workers.
Mon refugee holding a letter of concern issued by the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees in
was detained overnight at Bangrak Police Station and
was transferred to
They called the legal officer several times and finally received a message saying not to hold too much hope for release. According BRC legal officer, 'We don't know why this has happened, we have pleaded for his release and safety. The police say, 'We don't have the time to talk about this matter, if you want to talk, just go to IDC (Taw Maw) to solve the problem'". A close relative of the detainee called the BRC legal officer for the third time requesting a visit to Bangrak Police Station to ask for his release by phone.
the UNHCR letter held by the detainee, the second paragraph states that: 'any
assistance provided to this individual during his stay in
close friend visited him on Wednesday morning at IDC and met other detainees;
there are 227 people in this one room. Detainees don't have enough space to lie
down in the overcrowded room. According to the BRC legal
officer, 'don't worry too much, they will keep him in a proper room because he
is under our protection'. Thai Action Committee for Democracy in
Win Aung, Foreign Minister of Burma, visited
refugee community from
A Mon relief worker warned, 'Be aware of being deported to Measot because there are many Burmese spies, if you are protected under the UN, your safety is not guaranteed, especially in Myawaddy'.
ETHNIC KAREN, MON TOLD TO HAND IN ID CARDS
thousand ethnic Karen and Mon in
The villagers in Suan Phung district asked the Law Society of Thailand and the Human Rights Commission for legal assistance. At a meeting yesterday, they demanded to know why the district has started to seize the documents.
villagers received the documents last year. The district staff started taking
them back without explanation. Almost 140 people have returned their cards and
documents, and another 850 have been told to follow suit. Karen and Mon make up
most of the ethnic groups living in the district, which borders
The Law Society will meet district staff next week. The villagers say that surrendering their papers could put the fate of their school-aged children in jeopardy. The children could be pulled out of classes once the school principals found they have no documents. Surapong Kongchantuk, from the human rights body, said children have a right to education as guaranteed in the constitution. The Law Society will be requesting the Education Ministry for assurance that the children remain in school.
THE MON POLITICAL DILEMMA
Banya Hongsar /
If you ask ordinary Mon people: "Who is your leader?" They would answer, "Well, it's hard to say, I don't know." This doesn't mean they don't know their leaders' names, but leaders are restricted from speaking out or scattered in the armed forces and political parties. This dilemma has manifested itself alongside politics, communication and the campaign for dialogue and will figure prominently in the future; the nature of Mon politics is neither new nor old but will be a challenge for leaders.
in politics, the New Mon State Party and Mon National Democratic Front are
running the race to serve Mon national interests. The NMSP and its armed force,
Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA) has fought for a Republic of Mon State for
over thirty years. The MNDF contested in the 1990 General Election won five
seats of parliament, twenty constituencies. Nai Ngwe Thein, an outspoken Mon
veteran politician was jailed in 1996 being accused of contacting NMSP top
officials. But according to a source from NMSP, he was arrested because he had
contact with Daw Aung San Kyi and the National League for Democracy in
majority of the Mon live in rural areas along
Nai Tun Thein, elected MP of Mon State works extensively to maintain his party after three of his colleagues; Nai Ngwe Thein, Dr Min Soe Lin (MP) and Dr Min Kyi Win (MP) were arrested in late 1990s. As chairman of MNDF and spoke-person to the foreign media, he gained support from the international diplomatic community, but is restricted from contacting and working with former colleagues who are abroad. The Mon leaders do not ignore the current situation in the urban and rural areas, but are banned to move about and provide relevant services or communicate with the Mon community at large.
second obstacle is the Mon leaders do not have media access. Neither NMSP nor
MNDF is able to hold a license to broadcast Radio and Television or printed
news reports, with the exception of a black and white newsletter issued at
media release. Leaders realize that without free communication, there is no
chance to improve political awareness. After UN delegates and others met Nai
Tun Thein, a man from Khin Nyunt's office came to see him asking him not to
meet these guests again, he refused. On many occasions he was pressured to give
up politics, being offered invitation and gifts that he never accepted. He
leads a frugal life taking the bus daily from his home located on the outskirts
third obstacle of Mon politics is a political campaign to promote dialogue;
both sides of Mon senior leaders are all too patient at maintaining a peaceful
solution rather than battlefield approach. The NMSP developed political
awareness through the Mon National Day Celebration in the community, but
celebrations have tended to focus more on traditional events rather than on
political issues. A well-respected citizen of the
final obstacle is that the government is in a long drawn out transition. Both
stakeholders between NMSP and MNDF must play a vital role that will add some
momentum and substance to the transition and toward positive political
development. MNDF works closely with the United Nationalities League for
Democracy (UNLD) in the country while the NMSP closely works with its former
ethnic nationalities in the border areas. The NMSP regularly holds
"National Seminar" in its Headquarters after the celebration of Mon
National Day, and last year called a State Constitution Seminar that will
affect the federation of
The cease-fire was a first step to overcome obstacles, but the outcome is not the community had hoped for. The SPDC ordered NMSP to surrender arms and register as a legal political party to contest in a further general election. On the other side of the political fence, MNDF applied to be acknowledged as a legal political party, recognized in 1989. Shall the Election Commission of Burma give registration to these two major Mon political parties in the future? It is hoped that they will, but without open communication and mature understanding Mon politics will not take off, Mon people will continue to encounter nothing but ambiguity in deciding allegiance to their leaders, which will negatively affect the future and destiny of the Mon people.
(Banya Hongsar is working for the Human Rights Foundation of Monland and Independent Mon News Agency.)
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