KAO WAO NEWS No 50

An electronic newsletter for social justice and freedom in Burma


August 4-18, 2003

 

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READERS' FRONT

MON NOT WORRIED BY U.S. SANCTIONS 

GIRL PORTER KILLED BY LAND MINE

CEASE-FIRE GROUP UNDER A CLOSE EYE

GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES FORCED INTO MILITARY TRAINING

NMSP VOICE SOFT ON RESISTANCE DAY

RESISTANCE: A BITTER EXPERIENCE FOR THE MON PEOPLE

REVOLUTION, CEASE-FIRE AND DEMOCRACY IN MONLAND

OVERSEAS MON STUDENTS ELECT NEW BODY

BUDDHIST MONKS: STAY AWAY FROM POLITICS

WORLDWIDE PROTEST FOR 15TH ANNIVERSARY OF 8888

FUNDS FOR MON TEMPLE IN CANADA

 

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READERS' FRONT

 

Dear Readers,

We invite comments and suggestions on improvements to Kao-Wao newsletter. With your help, we hope that Kao-Wao News will continue to grow to serve better the needs of those seeking social justice in Burma and Thailand. And we hope that it will become an important forum for discussion and debate and help readers to keep abreast of issues and news. Above all, we hope the newsletter will be used as a vehicle for those who want to share their views and experiences.  We reserve the right to edit and reject articles without prior notification. You can use a pseudonym but we encourage you to include your full name and address.

 

Regards,

Editor

kaowao@hotmail.com

http://www.burmalibrary.org/show.php?cat=1215&lo=d&sl=0

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Dear Editor,

 I totally agree with Bop Htaw’s, “Talk in Rangoon: War on the border”.  Many of us are focusing too much on talks rather than the situation in the rural area.  Daw Suu is in the prison and they don’t care about our voice unless we show our might.  We need more attention to find a way increase the armed fighting against the regime. 

 

 The international community is good enough to pressure but many of us (freedom fighters) are giving up our arms now.  Even non-cease fire groups are doing political campaign rather than fighting in guerrilla war.  The regime will never listen to us if we speak softly.

 

Than Win

Canada

 

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Grassroots people support Burma Freedom and Democracy Act

 

MON NOT WORRIED BY U.S. SANCTIONS

(Kao Wao, August 15, 2003)

 

The United State’s sanction bill (Burma Freedom and Democracy Act) is welcomed by most of the public in Mon State, according to a local source from Thai/Burma border.

 

When they learned the news from the BBC, DVB and RFA radio stations, people grew excited and hope for a change now, said Nai Tin, a businessman at Sangkhlaburi border town.

 

“The US economic sanctions will not affect the people in general.  The grass- roots people welcome the law.  Under the present rule of the Burmese military junta, economic assistance from the international community does not reach the civilian population, most live in remote areas of the country and are blocked off from any economic development,” said the General Secretary of Mon Unity League, an umbrella organization of the Mon people, during an interview with Kao Wao.

 

The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) receives aid for infrastructure development such as the building of roads, they use it mostly for expanding the military forces into the ethnic areas throughout the whole country, plus they force civilians to do the dirty work on these projects without payment, the people do not benefit in the slightest. 

 

If the SPDC is unable to export rice, the junta will not force the farmers to pay or work for them.  For many years, the people in Burma have lived on the edge and have the 4 basics: food, clothing, shelter and medicine. So most in Mon State are unaffected by the sanctions because we have the basics, he added.

 

However, another source from 3 Pagodas Pass (Thai/Burma border town) said the U.S. law affected the trade in the region.  Local traders are concerned with the money exchange market which has grown quiet these past days.

 

The Communist Party of Burma (CPB) opposes the American sanctions against the Burmese military regime issued a statement on July 30.

 

“The American Government and Congress are not the World's Government and World's Congress. They have no rights to do whatever they want. We oppose any action in principle.  The Americans make decision by themselves and interfere in other’s internal affairs without seeking consent from international communities”, said the CPB.

 

Nai Nyunt, a community leader and NLD member of Thanbyu Zayat in southern Mon State said most people appreciate the U.S. law.  Under the present regime the people have suffered enough and international sanction will not affect civilians.  The people hate suppression and the sanctions may provide unforeseen advantages for Mon state in the booming black market.

 

Under Ne Win’s BSPP government, Moulmein is known as the nexus city of the Black Market (Hmaung Kho Myodaw) and many people in this region have become rich in cross border trade he said.

 

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Mon State at war

 

GIRL PORTER KILLED BY LAND MINE

(Based on IMNA report: August 7, 2003)

 

When the Burmese Army conscripts villagers as porters they are used as human mine shields during military offensives in southern Mon State.

 

According to local sources, the Light Infantry Battalion No. 273 took 4 to 5 people from each village in the southern part of Ye Township to carry ammunition during their offensives against Mon guerrillas led by Nai Hloin and Nai Bin. 

 

The BA indiscriminately targets all age groups including young girls and older people; many step on hidden land mines and killed or are physically maimed during the BA’s search for the Mon splinter group.

 

In mid July, a witness from Krein Kanyeh village who was taken as a porter said a young girl named Mi Aye Thar stepped on a land mine and died instantly.  Shortly after this incident, three days later, 3 other porters stepped on land mines, Nai Hein, a 38-year-old man, died instantly, while the other two men were physically maimed for life when with their legs were cut off after serious injuries from the explosion. 

 

Fighting continues unabated between the BA and the Mon guerrilla group in southern Mon State and the northern part of Tenasserim Division.  The Burmese Army restricts the movement of civilians to block off possible rebel support during the military operation.

 

Whenever villagers leave their villages they need to carry travel ID cards issued by the local battalion, signed by the military officer and stamped with the name of their battalion. If arrested outside of their villages without ID cards, they may be fined, beaten or shot said the source.

 

The BA military operation is launched to wipe out the Mon armed group led by Nai Hloin and Nai Bin who broke away from the New Mon State Party after it reached a cease-fire agreement with the Burmese military regime.

 

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CEASE-FIRE GROUP UNDER A CLOSE EYE

(Kao Wao, August 8, 2003)

 

The New Mon State Party is under close scrutiny of the Burmese Intelligence after an officer was arrested and accused of being involved in a State assassination plot.

 

According to the state run media, authorities of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) arrested 12 suspects including two members from the cease-fire NMSP on July 17 and were charged of being involved in an explosion that occurred in Moulmein and other cities.

 

The Military Intelligence (MI 5) raided the house of Nai Yekkha (Mehm Ne Win) in Moulmein and seized some document papers and a cell phone linking him to the explosion.

 

The NMSP officer Nai Yekkha was later tracked down and captured by the intelligence and tortured.  Following the brutal investigation, on August 2, the MI raided the Mon Dhammar Sarlar (community center) looking for other NMSP members who work with Nai Yekkha.

 

The Mon community centers in Rangoon and Moulmein host pilgrimages for villagers from the rural areas and facilitate meetings for literacy and religious gatherings.

 

The NMSP liaison office on the Thai/Burma border says the MI has tracked some members supporting Nai Yekkha.  The NMSP activities in Moulmein have slowed down because of the junta’s search and destroy tactics for insurgents.  While the Public Relation Department is being closely watched over by the MI, NMSP members have been instructed to not hold any arms in their travels to urban areas.

 

Many Mon activists fled from their homes because of the MI raids.  In Pegu, a respected community leader Nai Min Kyi and two youths were arrested and sent to Rangoon for interrogation.  A source from Pegu said Nai Min Kyi’s wife is alone faced with the difficulty of feeding their big family, while her husband is in prison.

 

Nai Min Kyi was a member of the Township Judicial Board during the BSPP government and the MNDF candidate for the Pegu Constituency during the 1990 general election.

 

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State Paranoid by international pressure

 

GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES FORCED INTO MILITARY TRAINING

(Kao Wao, August 4, 2003)

 

All government employees are forced to attend a one-month basic military training facilitated by the Burmese Army in Mon State.

 

According to IMNA report, about 800 civil servants from Mudon Township were forced to buy uniforms worth of 2950 Kyat (Burmese currency) and attend the “State Defense Force” military training in town.

 

Local army officers instruct all civil servants to attend the training, they are housed temporarily in the city hall, which is used for a training camp, and the Township Soccer Ground is used for training exercises.

 

Both male and female staffs, mostly schoolteachers, were divided into two groups, the first group numbers around 433 trainees, reported an officer from Mudon.

 

The BA teach their students how to use small arm weapons and how to fire up the propaganda machine to defend the State against foreign invasion (American) and other destructive element forces as defined by the SPDC authorities, said a trainee from Mudon.

 

In some places, the Army replaced police officers for this training, reported a town man.

 

Last month, over 200 civil servants from Kyaikmayaw Township were forced to attend similar training.  Government employees stay at the compound of Shwe Hin Tha city hall and attend the training from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., then stay over night in a camp.

 

Some women are frightened and upset because of the harsh training methods, said a schoolteacher from Kyaikmayaw.  “The authorities say we must attend this training to defend against an American invasion and other outside destructive forces.  They say they are not afraid of foreigners, but we (civil servants) are annoyed with this statewide paranoia.  We are not professional soldiers, only they (soldiers) will know how to fight the Americans, if it ever comes to that.  Many of us are discouraged to be forced into training, we don’t understand it,” said a senior schoolteacher from Kyaikmayaw.

 

Most government offices are closed during the training, only a few are working in some offices. However, only those who have already attended the Political University in Rangoon (Phaung-gyi) were omitted from the training while all civil servants between the ages of 15 and 60 were ordered to join in.

 

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56th Anniversary of Mon Resistance Day

 

NMSP VOICE SOFT ON RESISTANCE DAY

(Kao Wao, August 12, 2003)

 

The New Mon Stated Party celebrated the 56th anniversary of Mon Resistance Day in different locations including at its Headquarters and Districts offices in the liberated area in Monland.

 

The NMSP demanded that the Rangoon government initiate a dialogue toward a political settlement, according to the Party’s statement issued on August 12.

 

The NMSP has continually insisted upon a political dialogue to solve the political crisis in Burma and is against violence and terrorists’ acts in solving political problems.  The Party is feeling increasing pressure because of the suffering of their people.  But it urges the Mon people to continue in the struggle for freedom.

 

The President of New Mon State Party, Nai Htin also issued a commentary statement on the significance of armed resistance day in recognition of the struggles for self-determination and a federal union in Burma.

 

The Mon armed struggle has continuously fought against the Burman central governments for over five decades, but decided in 1995, along with pressure by the Thai government, to sign a cease-fire agreement hoping to resolve political problems and to end the conflict with the junta.

 

Some say that the “NMSP’s statement is nothing but rhetoric, its voice has grown weak among the people who are not happy with their work”, as argued by a former member of NMSP who now lives in Thailand.

 

The Mon Resistance Day commemorates the beginning of the armed struggle against the Burmese government in 1948.  When the British granted independence to Burma, Mon political leaders planned to negotiate peacefully with the Burman AFPFL leaders for their political, cultural, and nationality rights.  When their demands were flatly rejected some Mon leaders were assassinated and imprisoned, overnight the Mons transformed from a non-violent movement to an arms struggle against the Burmans.

 

To enforce control over the Mon population, over 100 Mon villages were burnt down during that time; this is the way the Burmese military controls conflict or dissent, by killing innocent people and dehumanizing their culture. This triggered the resistance movement, which began in 1948 when a group of young Mon patriots seized arms from the police station at Htow Plang (Zar Tha Pyin) village near Moulmein.  Burmese repressive measures have continued to the present day and have compelled some Mon to continue in their armed struggle against repression.

 

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Civil war and personal accounts

 

RESISTANCE: A BITTER EXPERIENCE FOR THE MON PEOPLE

(By Sunthorn Sripanngern)

 

Fifty-five years ago on the full-moon day of Khadosoi (Wagaung in Burmese) the Mon political community in Burma transformed overnight into an armed resistance organization and took up arms against the Burmese regime.

 

At 6:30 on the morning of August 19, 1948, 27 young men led by Nai Pan Tha and Bo Thein looted a police station and grabbed 3 machine guns at Saplang (Zarthabyin) village, in the east of Moulmein. It paved the way for the Mon armed struggle, a sometimes-troubled resistance movement; the event marked the Mon National Resistance Day.

 

Following this triumphant occupation of Saplang, the militant group hijacked all passenger cars and boats from Moulmein to Kyonkado.  Accordingly they continued to round up arms at different police stations throughout the region such as Koh Kun, Koh Panaw, Phaekata and Thon-Eing villages.  On the next day they moved on to Koh Kyaik, Koh Hlaik, Majee-Kyun, Kin-Ywa, Wae Jee and Lat Pan Villages and seized all arms from the militias.  The more they got the better; it was for reinforcement and they managed to get away with 250 weapons over two days. However, most of the Mon political leaders at that time, such as Nai Hla Maung, Nai Shwe Kyin, Nai Ngwe Thein, Nai Thein Maung and Ms. Mi Hongsar did not join in with the newly formed armed group.

 

Why did the Mon people take up arms and spend their lives in the jungle?  Successive Burmese governments have always accused the ethnic nationalities of splitting up the union, but never accepted any of their own mistakes. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Moegote just a few days before she and her party members were violently attacked on May 30, 2003 said: "Wise people see their own faults, but the unwise don’t. Every people make mistakes, the matter is that when they see their mistakes they don’t hesitate to correct them right away." This is in accordance with Buddhist philosophy. Moreover, the Buddha taught us to see the cause of a problem and to solve or cease it from being.

 

The cultural, social and political problems in Burma today were years in the making, it all started in 1947 before the British granted independence; it sparked a liberation movement within the country that split the Burmese Army. In February 1947, a conference on drafting a constitution organized by Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League (AFPFL) was held in which the United Mon Association (UMA) of the Mon and the Karen Nation Union (KNU) of the Karen people were excluded from participating.  However, Mon Pho Cho, the leader of UMA officially requested at the following parliament assembly to spare for 6 constituencies and one minister to represent the Mon people, but it was refused by the AFPFL. So the UMA and KNU boycotted the April 9, 1947 election to the Constitution Assembly.

 

Even without ethnic Mon and Karen participation, the AFPFL faced conflict from within. After the election, competing power interests among the Communist Party of Thakhin Thein Pe Myint, Socialist of Kyaw Nyein and Pyithu-Yebaw led by General Aung San surfaced and challenged the stability of the party and the country. Eventually the Communist Party members of Thakhin Thein Pe Myint were forced to quit the AFPFL. Apart from the AFPFL, Galon U Saw's Party, a jealous government rival to General Aung San was also seeking to establish a power base. Despite the setbacks, the AFPFL successfully called for the First Parliament Assembly and adopted the Constitution for the first time in Burma’s history.  Shortly after, Galon U Saw, was shot while driving his car in Rangoon and escaped with minor injuries, he later suspected General Aung San as shooting him to counter his move to regain power. Galon U Saw was an educated lawyer who had been appointed by the British as interim Prime Minister of Burma, but was succeeded by General Aung San. The attempted assassination on Galon U Saw sealed the fate of Aung San. 

 

Three months after the election, on July 19, 1947, at 10:37 in the morning Prime Minister Aung San was assassinated together with half of his cabinet members namely, Minister U Ba Khaing, U Ba Win, Thakhin Mya, Sao San Tun, U Razat, U Ba Cho, Secretary U Ohn Maung and a body-guard Ko Htwe. U Nu succeeded as the AFPFL leader and became the prime minister designate and formed the government comprised of Sao Shwe Thaike, Shan national, as President, U Nu as Prime Minister, Saw Kun Cho as Foreign Minister, U Kyaw Nyein as Interior, Gen. Hla Kyaw as Defense, Gen. Smith Dun as Army Chief Commander, Ministers of Chin Division, Kachin State, Shan State and Kayah State respectively.

When Burma achieved independence on January 4th, 1948 at 4:20 am, the U Nu Government imposed a law of land reform titled "Myay-yar Thee-sar Chatharyay U-Paday" (Land Reform Act). But it proved disappointing for the majority of the population; the farmers were allowed to have only 10 acres of land per family.

 

The Board of Land Reform approved up to 50 acres only for its AFPFL members. The Communist Party condemned the law and organized a "Farmers Conference" in Pyinmanar. In the Mon area, particularly in the Chaungzon and Paung Townships, the land reform board confiscated thousands acres of land from the farmers and allocated it to their party members, the Mons were pushed aside and left with 10 acres for each family without compensation. 

 

To represent the farmers, the Mon activists formed Mon Affairs Organization; it held a conference in Pha-auk near Moulmein and attracted more than twenty thousand people from as far as Mergui in the south and Rangoon in the north that lasted for 5 days.  The MAO received about one thousand letters from farmers complaining about land confiscation. In the paddy fields the farmers led by MAO faced off the authorities of the land reform board. This first confrontation was called "Tundong Taik Pwe" in Chaungzong Township in June 1948. It was expected that the government would plan systematically to suppress any protesting farmers particularly its leaders.

 

On April 28, 1948, the government announced that the Burma Communist Party was an illegal party. As a result, Thakhin Soe moved underground in Phar Pon and Day-Daye Township while Thakhin Than Tun was active in the north.  Within the AFPFL government, tensions grew among the groups of Ba Swe, Kyaw Nein of the socialist Party, Thakhin Tin, Thakhin Kyaw Dun of Farmers Union, Thakhin Lwin, Thakhin Chit Maung of Workers Union and Bo Hmu Pho Kun, Bo Hmu Aung of Pyi-Thu Yebaw. It seemed flames of fire surrounded U Nu; however he was beloved by the majority of the Burmese population.  Later on Pyi-Thu Yebaw split into two groups, led by Bo Hmu Pho Kun as Yebaw Byu (White Flag) and Bo Hmu Aung as Yebaw Waa (Yelow Flag).

 

The first group was an illegal group while the second group remained within the government. Members of the illegal group were fervent nationalists and dead set against the ethnic nationalities of ever having a share of power in Burma; they spread throughout the Mon area and waged a war over the Mon people. With gang-like behavior they killed many Mon activists and leaders who opposed the government's policy. Some were gunned down in the middle of town in broad daylight.  In January 1949, the Socialist group in front of the post office in Moulmein gunned down Nai San Thu, who was in charge of the farmer affairs of Mon National Defense Organization (MNDO), while driving his horse cart. Nai Ngwe Gein was gunned down at the Mudon railway station.

 

There were three prominent Yebaw Byu leaders who committed various crimes in the Mon area, namely Yebaw Thein Pe in Moulmein area, Yebaw U Thwin in Kyaikmaraw area and Yebaw Thein Zan in Mudon area. They not only killed the local people, but also targeted foreigners especially nurses at the Moulmein Hospital, government authorities accused the Mon activists for these crimes.  Nai Tun Thein (the present Chairman of MNDF, former Kyaikkhamee Provisional Education Director) had to join in with the Mon armed group in the jungle because he was wrongly accused of kidnapping a nurse from Moulmein Hospital, she was later killed at a forest place in Thar-yar Gon Village not far from Moulmein (which I will discuss below). This kind of action has never been in the past history of Mon State, so it left a saying among the local people as "pyan-bay asa Thein Pe ka” which means, "Kidnapping has begun by Thein Pe, the head of Yebaw Byu in Moulmein area”.

 

My father told me this cruel personal account.  In February 1950, a group of bandits had kidnapped Miss Sellma Martha Maxville (native of Mississippi, USA), the executive of Moulmein Hospital on her way back to Kamar Wet Village. They brought her through the paddy fields far west and put her in a hut. During a dry season after harvest time, the farmers don’t stay in the farms.  Unexpectedly, a cowherd came nearby the hut and saw Miss Maxville (also known as Bo-Ma) with iron chains locked around her wrists and fixed to the post of the hut, but the cowherd could not help as he had no tools to cut the post.  So he rushed back to the village and informed the village headman (Nyaung Gon Village).  Nai Pan Ja (uncle of Ven. Vedhanyana, the Abbot of Asia Buddhist Society, Canberra, Australia), then village headman accompanied by about two dozen villagers brought tools and two bullocks and rushed to the place. They arrived at the hut around midnight.

 

Bo-Ma said to the villagers: "Oh my dear sons, why are you so brave, you know they (bandits) all have machine guns, it is dangerous".  (Miss Maxville spoke the Mon language). The villagers cut down the wooden post of the hut, then put Bo-Ma on a bullock cart and returned back to the village.

 

They arrived at the railroad at dawn where members of Yebaw Byu led by Thein Zan were waiting; they fired machine gun rounds into the bullock cart carrying Bo-Ma and the whole group. It was on February 23, 1950, when Bo Ma died on the bullock cart with iron chains still locked on her wrists, along with 14 of her rescuers, villagers, including the village headman, most were killed, but some were able to escape (some of them are still alive today).

 

Later on the local villagers decided to build a pagoda in front of their village, they named it "Lwun Zedee", which means Pagoda of Remembrance, in memory of those who were killed by the Burmese Yebaw Byu.  The site is situated on the side of the main motor road, about 3 miles south of Mudon.

 

For future generations, we add to the memory of those who sacrificed their lives for social justice.

Pyan-bay asa Thein Pe ka (Kidnapping has begun by Thein Pe);

Thein Zan tortured American lady;

Than Shwe tortured Aung San Suu Kyi;

The Mon people pray at Lwun Zedee for democracy in Burma.

 

 

Author’s Note:

 

In 1974, a young NMSP leader Nai Kyan Sein (elder brother of author) was killed during the four cuts operation by troops of the Ne Win government near the place where Miss Maxville was held. In a brutal act to intimidate the villagers, the Burmese soldiers then brought the head of the freedom fighter and showed it to public and his ailing father who was in detention at Mudon.

 

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Feature:

 

REVOLUTION, CEASE-FIRE AND DEMOCRACY IN MONLAND

(By Banya Hongsar)

 

Bangkok, August 12, 2003—The 56 year old Mon revolution is a short period of time within 240 years of rule by the Burmese and the British. The Mon Revolution was abruptly introduced when two young men seized a local police station in Moulmein District in 1948. It is an event well remembered within the collective consciousness of the Mon people.

 

The lunar calendar falls on the 5th month, kha-doi-sei-poiy, and appeared on August 12 this year. Hundreds of thousands of Mon people gathered to commemorate the start of the Revolution. It was held in the liberated areas within Mon Territory under the control of the New Mon State Party and its armed wing Mon National Liberation Army to mark the struggle for freedom and of those who have sacrificed their lives for peace.

 

The party’s official statement released to the public said the organization opposes all forms of terrorist activities as a means to gain political motivation.  Furthermore, the NMSP remains loyal to the people of Monland for the cause of self-determination.

 

Countless men and women have sacrificed their lives for the cause of a Mon Independent State under the leadership of the Mon Peoples’ Front, New Mon State Party and other Mon armed organizations.  Over fifty years of civil war ended the lives of innocent civilians accused of being rebel supporters. Now the current political trend in Burma is toward peace. The Mon revolution’s struggle for Independence is headed in this direction: from the battlefields to a dialogue of peace, to federalism from secession, and to democracy from autocracy.

 

The New Mon State Party and its armed wing unit the Mon National Liberation Army view the “Mon Revolution” as the personal cause of every single man and woman.  The NMSP, however, has achieved limited positive outcomes for the majority of our people for over 40 years. The MNLA is a small well-equipped armed force that was formed in 1971; at present there are less than two thousand troops. The army controls small pockets in southern Mon State especially between the southern Thai-Burma border areas. The MNLA once launched a remarkable military operation in March 1990 in Ye Town, at the south of Moulmein, capital of Mon State but was defeated after a few hours with a lose of over thirty guerrillas. However, the party’s doctrine remains unchanged for over forty years determined to gain “self-determination” and “equal rights”.

 

NMSP releases official statements every year on “Revolution Day” often saying something like, “we have fought for equal rights for our homeland while our rights have been denied by the Burman majority nationality. We are no longer able to tolerate oppressors who discriminate against us using the “Burmanization Policy” and “Military Operations”. Hereby, we hold arms to resist”. Lacking skill in media relations, the message isn’t getting out to the community. Since the ceasefire, party members have become more concerned with their own personal interests; they have fallen out of step with the needs of the grassroots community.

 

A turning point in our revolutionary struggle occurred when the New Mon State Party reached a ceasefire agreement with the Rangoon regime in 1995.  Its armed wing, the MNLA remains in military uniforms that control restricted areas. The party has approached the Rangoon Generals for a “political settlement” for over seven years but has failed to bring about any overall improvement in our lives. The Mon National Council in exile questioned the process whether it is a genuine ceasefire for peace or a strategy to weaken the party’s political will.

 

A new appointed Major General Aung Naing of the MNLA looks at a new opportunity to reform, a source from the party’s circle said. The MNLA is threatened from over 4-5 years of military expansion of Rangoon troops into southern Mon State especially in Ye and Thanphyuzayat. A question still remains whether the MNLA is clever at influencing the Rangoon Generals to turnaround the situation from the battlefield to the dialogue table for peace and self-determination.

 

The Mon have resisted and fought back Burman rule for centuries. Today, other factors from outside the country, forces like globalization have affected the nature of the revolution; the leadership of the New Mon State Party and the urban-based Mon political parties have sought a new political revolution to build a true political culture based on peace rather than armed resistance. The NMSP party has sought for wider public support in the urban area after the ceasefire talks in 1995.

 

According to the late President Nai Shwe Kyin in 2001, “the New Mon State Party is a national party. Our revolutionary struggle will not cease unless we gain our independence, we ought to keep our path moving forward to achieve this”. It is clear that the NMSP is not a monopoly seeking organization, it lacks the manpower to do so, but its mandate is to represent the whole Mon population both home and abroad.  The Mons do not show moral support in favor of the party’s leadership because the party lacks the bargaining power with the Rangoon regime to achieve political independence.

 

For federalism and peace in Burma, the New Mon State Party publicly gave support to form a genuine “Federation” in Burma. On the 54th Mon National Revolution Day, an official statement released by the NMSP said, “The United Nations and other superpower nations have pushed for global peace and prosperity in the world. A new era has emerged to bring about lasting peace and development on earth; both political and military organizations (in Burma) have an obligation to promote peace and prosperity”. The official statement was written both in Mon and Burmese for publication.

 

Mon leaders have concentrated more on political engagement rather than armed resistance. When the Mon Peoples’ Front reached a ceasefire in 1958, the urban based political leaders wanted to organize politically rather than engage in an armed struggle.  When “democracy” was released in the streets of Rangoon in 1988, the Mon revolution itself was a watershed for “democracy and human rights” in Monland. Under the new leadership of President Nai Htin, a man with a down to earth manner in dealing with people who had lived for over thirty years in the jungle, the party under his leadership campaigned to build a strong “unity” among Mon political organizations.

 

The New Mon State Party is in debt to the whole Mon population who have sacrificed their lives for freedom. Mons in Rangoon, Pegu, Thadhom, Moulmein and other major cities receive very little news on what the party is doing for the cause of entire Mon people to liberate from suppression. Rural Mon people remain loyal to the cause but thousands have fled as refugees or economic refugees to Thailand for jobs and survival.

 

The first freedom fighter Bo Pan Tha, a young man who looted the Zarthapying police station marks the Mon Revolution, deserted the party in 1990 (today he is in his 80s) and lives in the monk-hood in Rangoon for retreat. Nai Pan Tha was the party’s political and military architect for the NMSP and MNLA for over twenty years.

 

“I have done good and bad things in my revolutionary days but now I am only doing good things to clear my spirit,” he told friends recently in Moulmein.

 

The Mon revolution was born on Burma’s Independence. But the Mon people live with no independence in their homeland.

 

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OVERSEAS MON STUDENTS ELECT NEW BODY

(By Sanin Bop/ Kao Wao, August 3, 2003)

 

Bangkok – The overseas Mon Students held an annual meeting at Samutsakhorn town, west of Bangkok attended by members and supporters of the organization.  The voting system elected seven Executive and eleven Central Committee members including two females. 

 

The “Election Commission” led by Rev. Ajar Ponnya and Nai Phong, key advisors of the organization observed the AGM.  Among those elected, Ong Tala Nai (Nai Sao Ma) was selected as Chairman, Cheam Rot as Vice-Chairman, Mon Chan Mon (Sein Tun) as Secretary General and Saw Mon Eim as Joint Secretary General.

 

Newly elected Chairman of the Overseas Mon National Students’ Organization (OMNSO), Ong Tala Nai was a former student from Kya Inn Technical High School who devoted time in Thailand for over five years as an active member of the organization.

 

The organization assigned three members led by Ajar Ponnya of Wat Prok Temple who has English language and management skills to organize a self-help education class.  “We plan to develop skills and education for our members and supporters as a top priority.” Mr Ong said.

 

The organization slightly changed its image with a new outlook and has restructured the central committee body. The new elected members are responsible for fostering the role of OMNSO in politics, democracy campaigns, foreign affairs, language and culture as being at the top of the agenda and the EC will lead all tasks in the forthcoming two-year term.

 

The new elected members are young but have worked in various fields for the last 3-5 years in national affairs both in Thailand and Burma as part of a youth wing unit of a Mon political party in Mon State.

 

Since 1990, the overseas Mon students have actively worked for human rights and democracy in Burma.  As an independent organization of the Mon community in exile, OMNSO’s policy is to fight for students’ rights, especially Mon students in various universities and institutions in Burma.

 

Since the crackdown on democratic organizations from Burma in Thailand, the OMNSO keeps a low profile outside of Bangkok in Samutsakhon city working with migrant workers.  The organization receives assistance from local Mon migrant workers for activities rather than aid from overseas.

 

“Members of Foreign Affairs will contact other organizations for assistance and support to run self-help classes, newly elected chairman Mr Ong said. Over the last over ten years, the OMNSO closely work with overseas Mon organizations.  It has published journals and opened a Mon Language School in Ratchburi Camp until 1999. Even though the organization is smaller than other students’ organizations it represents many Mon students in Mon State and Thailand.

 

The OMNSO was founded in early 1990 while many Mons fled to Thailand taking shelter as refugees after the Headquarters of the New Mon State Party, at the Three Pagodas Pass Thai-Burma border, was overrun by the Burmese Army.

 

Its founders and leaders Nai Cham Toik, Nai Myint Soe, Nai Ong Mon (Tun Yee) and Nai Weang Murn now reside in exile (USA, Canada, and Australia).  Even though many resettled in third countries, OMNSO members remain in Thailand living at the safe camp (Tham Hin) and scattered around Thailand as illegal immigrants.

 

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News Report-Current Affairs

 

BUDDHIST MONKS: STAY AWAY FROM POLITICS

(By Banya Hongsar)

 

August 14, 2003, BangkokThe Rangoon regime recently ordered Buddhist monks in Moulmein, the capital of Mon State, to stay away from engaging in politics. Ministry of Home Affair warned that Buddhist monks must remain in the temples if there is a ‘people strike’ in towns.  Army Generals lack understanding of Buddhist monks’ role in national reconciliation and civil society building process.

 

For over ten years, the Rangoon regime has routinely killed, jailed, mistreated, and disrobed leading Buddhist monks who support peace, democracy, and human rights in the country. Members of the Sangkha led by the Supreme Monk Council in Rangoon are powerless to influence the Rangoon regime to not attack democracy activists in Burma, instead they are preached at and threatened by Senior Generals to shut up and are manipulated to sign documents saying they will stay away from politics.

 

Pro-democracy Buddhist monk communities especially in Mandalay, Rangoon, and Moulmein and other major cities remain active in cooperating with young students and politicians to bring about a “Regime Change”. In the last week of July, Burmese secret agents searched for hard evidence linking anti-Rangoon activities to the Suvannabumi Mon Temple in Thaketa Town, a source from Rangoon said.

 

The Rangoon based Mon Young Monks Organization works to enhance the role of civil society in the context of religious teaching. A few Mon monks have published annual “Magazines” both in Mon and Burmese languages as well as opening free “Summer Classes’” to Mon children in Rangoon and the surrounding area. The Burmese Secret Police keep a close watch over such activities for many years but the Monks’ community carefully conducts teaching classes in line with Buddhist rules.

 

Last year, the Rangoon based Mon youth monks were restricted to publish an “annual magazine” instead they hand copies to local New Mon State Party members for publication and distribution. The magazine contains no political content but the publication is aimed to encourage Mon children who do not have enough reading material during the school holiday.

 

According to a media release by “Central Mon Literature and Culture Association” on June 2002, 34 senior representatives of a language committee has a policy to foster the teaching and learning of Mon language with a collective effort of local Buddhist temples and community halls.

 

The Department of Religious Affairs never acknowledges the existing Mon Civil Society led by senior monks in the Mon Territory. The pro-democracy Buddhist monk community has been involved in a “People Uprising” along with their fellow layman in all important historic events, in 1947, 1988 and 1990 democracy campaigns.

 

Local Buddhist monks do not seek power in Burma. Leading senior Buddhist monks have always played a key role in shaping civil society and harmony based on the teaching of the Buddha Gotama. The Rangoon regime led by Senior General Than Shwe distorts the image of the Buddhist community while he uses his thug groups to beat up people and attack leaders of the National League for Democracy and democracy activists.  Former Dictator General Ne Win acted like Saddam Hussein in oppressing a religious community and anyone who criticizes his government.

 

Senior Buddhist monks are banned from publishing public statements of social concern to the nation, a practice that has been part of Buddhism for at least 2 thousand years. The Ministry of Home Affairs employs thousands of military personnel as informers in major temples in Rangoon, Mandalay, Moulmein and other major cities in the last ten years to keep an active “Watch” on the activities of young monks in the temples. Informers work as “Temple Men” in major temples including even Burma’s temples abroad to obtain information.

 

The Rangoon Regime fools the public by holding its own ceremonies and religious events while joining in the gathering in full uniform. Moreover, Pro-Regime senior monks are offered television sets and other luxury items for the temple as a bribe.

 

Some Buddhist monks have gone to great lengths and have risked their lives in promoting national reconciliation. The role of senior monks and monk scholars cannot be overlooked and must have a place in the future of Burma or the transition to peace and stability may be disrupted for decades to come. Thousands of pro-democracy monks in Mandalay, Rangoon and Moulmein have the capacity to lead peace and promote civil society in their respected towns and villages.

 

Rev Uttama, Rev Wisara and their fellow monks were against British rule and the monks in Bangkok played a leading role in assisting the Burma Independence Army (BIA) led by General Aung San in a Bangkok Buddhist Temple in the 1940s to achieve independence. Senior Mon monks located at Yannawa in Bangkok now administer the temple.

 

For many years, leading senior monks have distanced themselves from the corrupt Rangoon regime but focus instead on Buddha’s teaching. However, the Generals obsessed with their grip on power seek out those who fall prey to “Honorary Titles.”

 

There was a well-recorded history of Monk’s initiatives in the Burmese political context but its track record has been removed from the archives. The Buddha once said: “A man without moral principles should not receive homage of others”. However, the Rangoon Generals have forced ordinary people to “worship” them in public events.

 

The Rangoon Generals treat the Buddhist monk as a religious worker and receives no social access to government services. Educated monks have left to other countries for further studies because they are excluded from participating in society.

 

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WORLDWIDE PROTEST FOR 15TH ANNIVERSARY OF 8888

(Kao-Wao: August 9, 2003)

 

The exiled Burmese community held protests against the Rangoon military government to mark the 15th anniversary of the nationwide uprising in Burma.

 

In Canada, activists held a protest in front of the Burmese embassy in Ottawa on Friday, August 8, 2003; in Toronto former student demonstrators gathered at a monastery on August 3 to commemorate the peoples’ uprising.

 

According to BSDO leader Min Thura Wynn, members of Burma Students’ Democratic Organization (Canada) and other speakers from different organizations shared their experiences at a monastery in remembrance of those who scarified their lives for the democracy movement.

 

In Edmonton, Burma Watch International organized an 8888-commemoration ceremony in the city with a presentation give by the Canadian Secretary of State (Asia Pacific) Hon. David Kilgour.

 

In Bangkok, Thailand, demonstrators comprised of Burmese, Mon and Karen refugees gathered in front of the Burmese Embassy and the UN Building and called for tougher international action against the Burmese junta.   Thailand based Overseas Mon Young Monks Union issued a statement urging the SPDC to release MNDF leaders and other political prisoners in Burma.

 

In USA, during a protest outside the Burmese embassy in Washington DC on Thursday, security officials arrested three women who had unfurled a banner denouncing Burma's authorities.

 

It looked like democracy was at hand on August 8, 1988, when students, Buddhist monks and civil servants from all walks of life were singing, chanting, and marching together in the streets demanding democratic reform in the country, but the army pounced on the demonstrators in a bloody coup and killed thousands in September of that year.

 

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FUNDS FOR MON TEMPLE IN CANADA

(Kao Wao, August 11, 2003)

 

Calgary based Mon Cultural Society and the Mon Women’s Organization hosted a fund raising event on August 9, 2003 to raise funds for the building of a Buddhist temple in western Canada.

 

From Africa, to Asia and from Korea to Tibet, diverse supporters applauded the new Golden Shell Drake dance while Kachoin Mon were lively performed by the women’s group at the Southview Community Association in Calgary.  The female dancers wore brightly colored traditional costumes newly brought in from Monland and made in Mandalay. 

 

The event was hosted by the MCS and MWO which offered various entertainment activities including cultural performances and traditional sport demonstrations, such as the popular Rael, LakPloey, followed by Karaoke singing and dancing in which everyone happily joined in, free snack, coffee and tea was offered for refreshment.

 

Alberta MLA Hon. Wayne Cao and community leaders, Ramanya Kelasa, Cham Toik and Nai Chan Tha delivered speeches to over 150 supporters who joined in the fund raising night which lasted from 7 pm till midnight

 

“Everyone enjoyed the party; we raised about 1,400 (Canadian $) for a future temple, construction is planned for 2005”, said Nai Simon, organizer of the event.

 

The Mon Buddhist Temple committee was founded on April 13, 2003 in Calgary with an objective to preserve Buddhism and the Mon tradition and to provide a venue for social interaction between Canadians and the Mon community.

 

Buddhism shaped Mon history and culture more than anything else with the majority of the Mon population following the teaching of Theravada Buddhism that strongly influenced the cultural development of their old Kingdoms in lower Burma and central Thailand.  The Mon devotes in Buddhism and the exile Mon community in the USA has built Buddhist temples in recent years.

 

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KAO WAO NEWS GROUP

 

Email: kaowao@hotmail.com, kaowao@shaw.ca

Phone + 66 -1 561- 0860, + 1- 403 - 248 2027

 

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