The Mon Forum
Issue No. 6 August 30, 1998
Military Regimes' Constant threat against Mon National Education System and Schools
I. SUMMARY OF THE REPORT
II. HISTORY BACKGROUND AND CREATION OF MON EDUCATION SYSTEM
II. 1. The preservation of Mon literature during British and parliamentary democracy era
II. 2. The initiative of Mon education system
III. THE SITUATION OF MON NATIONAL SCHOOLS BEFORE AND AFTER NMSP-SLORC CEASEFIRE
III. 1. New military deployment and oppression against Mon schools and activities
III. 2. Ceasefire agreement and discussion on education program
III. 3. Disagreement on ODA program and failure of building a high school
III. 4. The teaching of Mon language in government schools
IV. THE THREAT TO MON EDUCATION AND SCHOOLS IN 1996 AND 1997
IV. 1. Disturbance against Mon national schools
IV. 2. Prohibition of the teaching of Mon language in government schools
V. THE RECENT PROHIBITION OF MON NATIONAL EDUCATION
V. 1. The opening of Mon national schools
V. 2. Orders to close down Mon national schools
V. 3. The current situation of Mon schools and defiance from Mon community
Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the
strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote
understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and
shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(Article 26, Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Military Regimes' Constant threat against Mon National Education System and Schools
I. SUMMARY OF THE REPORT
In July and August, 1998, the Mon State PDC officials have instructed to their township and village levels authorities to close down about 170 Mon National Schools, which have been run by the local Mon community. Almost these schools are in area under control of SPDC and were accused as illegal schools and the teaching of Mon language and literature in these is a competitive activity against the government education policy. Following the order, the SPDC officials including military intelligence units tried to arrest Mon teachers, Mon education supporters and the students. Many Mon teachers have to flee to escape from the arrest and the running of the schools are automatically stooped. Therefore, over 10,000 Mon students lose access to education. But the whole Mon community is still acting in defiance against the Mon State PDC official order.
Historically, the using of Mon literature descended from earlier Mon kingdom and it had developed many century and also well-known as oldest literature in Southeast Asia. Despite encouraging to preserve this oldest literature, the racist military governments has planned to destroy and attempted to disappear forever over the world.
successive military governments in
In the period before NMSP-SLORC ceasefire, the government officials and their local troops have instructed various orders including arrest, detention, killing of Mon education supporters in implementing the assimilation policy. The Burmese soldiers also closed down many Mon national schools and forced Mon teachers to leave schools. After ceasefire, although the teaching of Mon language was allowed in government schools for one year of school time, later the government officials stopped it again. The Mon community also built many Mon schools to run Mon education system in government control area. At the end, Mon State PDC have attempted to close down all Mon national schools.
The HURFOM has learnt all situation development and also conducted interviews with some concerned persons from community. This report will provide an example that how the Rangoon ruling governments have adopted and implemented assimilation policy systematically over all ethnic
II. HISTORY BACKGROUND AND CREATION OF MON EDUCATION SYSTEM
1. The Preservation of Mon Literature during British and Parliamentary
Mon literature was preserved and promoted in Buddhist monasteries, royal
classes, and administrative office since the ruling era of Mon kings. For many
centuries, the writing of Mon literature have developed from stone scripture to
palm-leaves scripture during the
1885, the British imperialist occupied the whole Burma with three Anglo-Burmese
wars. In British era, the Mon people attained more chance to preserve their
literature because the British rule was guaranteeing the fundamental democratic
rights. The missionaries also helped creating literature with western style for
many non-Burman ethnic peoples in mountainous area of eastern and northern
parts of Burma. Similarly, the Mon people also have opportunity to found a Mon
education system and the teaching of Mon language and literature in the
monasteries was also transferred to official vernacular schools. The British
government also officially recognized the teaching of Mon literature in schools
which were almost built in Mon area situated in lower part of Burma. The Mon
community was encouraging the Mon education system and supported in building
schools, finding teachers, providing school materials and stationeries. The Mon
textbooks curriculum committee was also formed and provided textbooks to these
Mon national schools. Mon press was also founded and Mon language newspapers
were also officially published. The teaching of Buddhist scripture in Mon
literature was also done by the Mon monks in most monasteries in Mon area.
Therefore, the Mon literature was survived for many years during British era,
in which the community monks and Mon leaders from "All Rehmonnya Mon
Association" had actively participated in this struggle in preserving and
promoting Mon literature. When the time most Burman leaders tried to liberate
from the British colony, the
in second world war, the Mon leaders had participated in revolting both British
and Japanese imperialist with Burmese leaders hand in hand with expectation the
of no guarantee for political rights of greater autonomy for the Mons, the
implementation of literature preservation and promotion was also oppressed by the
Burman dominated government officials after Burma retained Independence from
British in 1948. However, during the parliamentary democracy ruling era from
1948 to 1962, the Mon community inside continued the struggle for their full
rights of creation of Mon education system by means of non-violence, while
other Mon political organization, MPF (Mon People Front), was taking arms and
fought the Burmese Army and claimed for the creation of independent Mon State.
Because of constant increasing of struggle, later the
In 1958, MPF agreed with U Nu led democratic government to participate in general elections and demanded equal racial rights in parliamentary democratic system. Then, the whole MPF abandoned armed struggle. Soon after the surrender of MPF, the NMSP (New Mon State Party) was formed under the leadership of Nai Shwe Kyin. In 1962, Gen. Ne Win led Revolutionary Council abolished the MPF and arrested all Mon political leaders including three Mon MPs. This military government also ordered to prohibit all teaching of Mon literature in both government schools and Mon monasteries. It started adopting assimilation policy and rejected for non-Burman ethnic nationalities' demand for equal racial rights with Burman and recognition of their ethnic identity.
II. 2. The initiative of Mon Education System
Revolutionary Council's new oppression against the preservation of Mon literature forced many hundreds of Mon activists and students to join NMSP and its military force, MNLA (Mon National Liberation Army), to revolt against the Burmese Army. The NMSP was getting stronger and it could also move into larger Mon area and created administrative body in district and township levels. In every district and township level, education officials were appointed and they went into grassroot community and encouraged for the initiative of Mon education system in its firm control area and also in government's loose control area. Under the management of NMSP's Education Department and strong community participation, many Mon national schools were established in rural area and the Mon education system, which was modelled from government system but translated into Mon language, was initiated. The education department have taken responsibility' to train teachers, provide the needed teachers to schools, stationaries, curriculum textbooks, and etc., while the Mon armed forces provide protection and community provide salary as rice supplies to the teachers.
Therefore, since 1970s, the numbers of Mon schools were gradually increased in the Mon area and the running and maintenance expenses were provided by both NMSP and local villagers. However, because of earnest and active participation of the local Mon community, no school was stopped operating, but some schools were destroyed and some teachers were forced to leave from villages' schools when the government troops reached to the villages.
There are about 300 schools in the whole Mon area in the current time. The Mon community and Mon National Education Committee (MNEC) have taken responsibility to run all these schools. The types of Mon national schools are categorized as below:
(1) Mon national vernacular schools,
(2) Joint Mon and Burmese teaching schools,
(3) Mixed schools teaching unrecognized languages as well as Mon and Burmese.
In Mon vernacular schools, NMSP's Education Department adopted its own curriculum and text books and the teachers are also appointed by concerned education department in district and village levels. In these schools, the teachers teach students especially with Mon language in all subject except Burmese. Mon language and literature is the main subject of the schools and other subjects such as basic mathematics, geography, history, science and etc., are taught in Mon language. Under the management of NMSP, the teachers are hired mostly from Mon State and salary is more than the government teachers. Many educated Mon teachers who received degrees from the colleges and universities have also joined as teachers in these schools.
In the joint Mon and Burmese teaching schools, the students are taught with two languages, Mon and Burmese, and the school times are also divided into two, morning and evening. If the Mon teachers take morning time, the government teachers must take in the evening time. Initially, almost this type of schools were built by Mon community and later the government also sent their teachers and its troops forced the local community leaders to allow the government education system. In some places, the NMSP was unable to protect and when the Burmese troops came into the area, they could control and then put their teachers in Mon schools to share the school time with Mon teachers. But they did not dare to move Mon teachers, because the Mon troops could make trouble to their teachers any time. Both sides of teachers have to agree each other to share the school time and no one was threatened by any side of armed forces.
When the government authorities tried to adopt and extent government education system, they have used a very clever way. Township and State authorities appointed Mon ethnic teachers and sent to the villages where the Mon national schools were operated. The Mon community also sympathized to those ethnic Mon government teachers and let them teach some subjects especially Burmese, Math and English in the Mon schools. Or the government authorities also wrote a threat letter to community leaders to allow government teachers to teach one or two subjects in Mon schools. Similarly, in very few villages, NMSP also organized the local community, to allow the teaching of Mon literature and Mon history as main subjects in government schools. The village headmen were Mons and they also allowed the Mon teachers in the villages' schools. Hence, the joint Mon and Burmese teaching schools have been occurred in many villages under loose control of government or NMSP.
In the type of mixed schools, the government or NMSP Education Department tried to put only one teacher in their unrecognized schools to teach only one subject Mon or Burmese. The NMSP also tried to organize in all government teachers or community leaders in Mon area to allow the teaching of Mon language as a minor subject in government schools. It was not a matter to share the time with government teachers, the Mon teachers could take any time which was agreed by government teachers. The NMSP wanted the Mon students to learn Mon language. It was a difficult process for Mon education officials because the Mon teachers were always in the government control area and they could be arrested any time. Anyhow, the local community supported the idea of the NMSP and agreed to allow Mon teachers in their own villages' schools and did not report about it to higher authorities or Burmese soldiers. Hence, this type of schools were also operated in Mon area.
Although the curriculums of both education systems have small difference, the objectives of each education system are opposite. The government education system aims to implement government's protracted assimilation policy by pushing the non-Burman ethnic students to learn and speak Burmese language and abandon the own mother language. The students have to learn Burman history and to accept identity of Burman people and etc. The main objectives of Mon education system are to preserve and promote Mon literature in modern time, to realize about Mon culture and history, to not forget the Mon identity under the racist military rule, and etc. Especially in History Subject for schools, the Mon and government education systems have absolute different background of historical information and providing idea. In government history, it claims the great and wise Burmese kings organized all ethnic nationalities in founding three Burmese Empires during the period from 10 to 18 century. The Mons and other ethnic nationalities never agreed on the facts of history and have always accused Burman kings who led the serial invasion to their homelands. It does not publicize about the peace and prosperous Mon, Shan and Arakanese kingdoms that were ruled by their own wise kings and had ever exercised the rights to self-determination according history. In Mon history, Burman kings annexed the Mon kingdom and occupied by forces and additionally the conquerors also conducted "ethnic cleansing" battles against the Mons and have implemented ethnic assimilation policy, the so-called Burmanization policy by non-Burman ethnic nationalities.
Therefore, to against the adopted assimilation policy, the Mon community itself encourages the Mon education system and it has been remained only one choice for the survival of Mon literature and language. This education system have been supported by the community with morally and financially for many years. Although the education system and the running of Mon national schools are always under the threat of government officials and their troops, the Mon people had ever make various defiance against the authorities and continued their struggle.
III. THE SITUATION OF MON NATIONAL SCHOOLS
BEFORE AND AFTER NMSP-SLORC CEASEFIRE
III. 1. New military deployment and oppression against Mon Schools and activists
After the fall of its General Headquarters in Three Pagoda Pass in 1990, the NMSP also lost many liberated area and the SLORC also intensified military offensives against NMSP. Whenever the SLORC troops entered into many Mon villages, which were recently under the administration of NMSP, they dismissed many Mon village headmen and appointed new village headmen and tried to keep the area under their firm control. They also deployed new troops in many parts of NMSP previous control area and also tried to abolish the Mon education system. Many Mon teachers were forced to design from the schools and some were also arrested and detained by soldiers.
In 1992-1993, the SLORC deployed over 10 new battalions in southern Ye township area of Mon State and Yebyu township of Tenasserim with objectives to build new Ye-Tavoy railway road and protect proposed Yatana gas pipeline. In the 1992-93 offensives, the SLORC troops could occupy many Mon villages and the Mon troops had to withdraw from these two township area and moved to other area. Hence, the Mon schools in the area became under loose protection by Mon troops. Many Mon community leaders were forced by local SLORC troops to allow government teachers to teach in Mon schools and share the school time.
As an instance, a Mon school in Khawza village, which situates in southern part of Ye town, was established about 20 years ago and Mon education system has been in process for several years. In 1993, one SLORC military base from LIB No. 343 was also built in the village by forced labour of the villagers nearby. After the SLORC troops took base in the village, they forced Khawza villagers to build a new school for government teachers. But the village leaders did not agree with commanders and complained that the villagers were unable to build a new school because they are poor. At the end, SLORC troops would not like to push more to the community because they also needed support from the villagers. As they were newly deployed troops in the area, they would like to keep better relationship with villagers. Instead of reaching an agreement to build new school with village leaders, the SLORC troops forced the Mon teachers to leave from the Mon school. At the end, the village leaders agreed to allow government teachers to teach in Mon school and share school time after the villagers repaired the old structure of school and extent some buildings. The schools changed from vernacular school to joint Mon and Burmese teaching school. Many Mon schools in the whole area also became as joint schools like Khawza village after many offensives of SLORC troops.
At the beginning of 1994, the NMSP started dealing in ceasefire talks with SLORC in Moulmein. After three rounds of ceasefire talks in 1994, both sides did not reach for an agreement and the SLORC had given more pressure to local community militarily to demand Mon leaders to agree for ceasefire. The SLORC intensified its military offensives against NMSP and burnt down or destroyed many Mon villages, which were accused as rebel bases or the villagers were as NMSP-supporters. The SLORC troops also instructed the Mon villagers to demand NMSP leaders to agree for ceasefire as quickly as possible. In July, 1994, one section of Mon refugee resettlement camp was also burnt down and thousands of Mon refugees fled into Thailand. At the end, they were forcibly repatriated back to their unsafe campsite again. In February, 1995, one big fishing village in Yebyu township, Kyauktayan, was also burnt down. Similarly, many Mon national schools and supporters were also effected from this pressure.
In September, 1994, SLORC's No. 5 Unit of Military Intelligence Service (MIS), bases in Moulmein, also arrested two Mon education supporters from Kamawet village, Mudon township of Mon State. These two men were Nai Min Thein (35 years) and Nai Pan Maung (46 years) and they were accused of having link with NMSP. They were detained in No. 5 MIS center and then Moulmein jail for several months until NMSP reached for ceasefire agreement. Since the government schools were opened in June, these two campaigners had approached local village headmen to allow the teaching of Mon language as a minor subject in government schools in area southern part of Mudon town. Some village headmen also allowed in their village school. However, the No. 5 MIS township officials have closely cared the activities of the two men by instructing the village USDA (Union Solidarity and Development Association) members to inform their activities in detail. Some USDA members also gave false information that these two men had links with NMSP and they have been active to introduce the teaching of Mon language in government schools with NMSP instruction. However, the two men never introduced NMSP published textbooks for schools but they ask to teach basic Mon language textbooks, which were officially printed by Mon monks with permission of the government, in schools. Although they did not get any evidence of having links with NMSP, because of their activities against the government education policy, they were arrested. While they were detaining and interrogating by MIS officials, they had been also subject to inhumane torture. Alleging any Mon activist of having links with NMSP is the most common means used by local government officials or their agents to stop Mon literacy movement or other activities.
In January 1995, while the Mon students were preparing for final exams, the respective local SLORC troops closed down over 90 Mon national primary schools in about one hundred of Mon villages in Kyaikmaraw and Mudon townships of Mon State. Normally, many rural parts of these two townships were under loose control of SLORC and the Mon community have established and run Mon national schools but most village schools were not so far from the towns. When the SLORC troops tried to put more pressure to villagers, they have launched offensives to almost these villagers and tried to arrest Mon teachers and supporters of Mon education system. Many village leaders and teachers had to flee from the villages to avoid from the arrest of the soldiers. Because of forcible closing down of Mon national schools, as a result, a total of more than 5,000 local Mon students attending these schools have lost their access to education. Almost these schools were established in 1989 after a Mon political party, MNDF (Mon National Democratic Front), was formed and most community leaders thought they would accept the rights of running Mon national schools again like parliamentary democracy era. About 200 volunteer Mon teachers were in these schools and when the SLORC closed down these schools, they went into hiding in fear of possible abuses by local SLORC
III. 2. Ceasefire Agreement and Discussion on Education Program
NMSP reached ceasefire agreement with SPDC on June 29, 1998, and the occasion was celebrated in Moulmein, capital of Mon State. In about five rounds of ceasefire negotiation before ceasefire agreement was reached, the Mon leaders discussed several points regarding to Mon Education System. All the points were discussed in the field of border area development program as usual the SLORC had discussed with other ceasefire groups. In brief, all these proposed educational points were indeed connected with objectives of the Mon people to preserve and promote the old Mon literature role. These points were:
(1) To allow the teaching of Mon language in government schools in Mon State as a subject,
(2) To build more government schools in Mon State and promote the levels of the schools in various Mon villages and provide more education assistance to those schools,
(3) To assist for a building of Mon National High School in undeveloped area inside Mon State,
(4) To officially recognize the teaching of Buddhist scripture in Mon language and final examinations in Mon monasteries of the whole Mon State.
Many parts of Mon State were under firm control of SLORC and the regime has not allowed the teaching of Mon language in these schools and absolutely prohibited. The NMSP Education Department and its supporters could organize only some schools in the area under loose control of the regime, for the teaching of Mon language by coordinating unofficially with local community leaders. The Mon leaders also wanted to allow the teaching of Mon language in all government schools like parliamentary democracy era before Gen. Ne Win seized power from civilian government.
Because of protracted civil war and fighting for many years between the Burmese Army and MNLA troops, most rural part of Mon area has been in undeveloped situation. Hence, the NMSP requested to build more government schools in rural area whether these new built schools will allow the teaching of Mon language or not. The Mon community needs more schools for their children to get access to education. Similarly, more government school levels in Mon rural area were not upgraded for many years and they have remained as a same level, primary or middle level, for many years. Because of this discrimination, most Mon students lost education access after the passed all grades in their villages' schools. For example, many middle schools in Mon villages such as Kalawthaw (of Mudon township), and Panga, Htinn-yu, Htitkayin (of Thanbyuzayat township) were in the same level for many years and the government did not upgrade the level of these schools. Other similar over one hundred primary schools in Mon villages are not also upgraded by government for many years. Although these schools have over-crowded student numbers and the village communities agreed to build new schools for their students, the government have always ignored or rejected. When NMSP talked with regime for ceasefire, many village community leaders approached to Mon leaders and discussed to upgrade these schools. On behalf of Mon community, the NMSP also put this issue in the meeting.
Regarding to the teaching of Buddhist scripture in Mon language in several monasteries in Mon State, it was prohibited since over 15 years in BSPP era. The Mon monks have been constantly forced by government's religious ministry to learn Buddhist scripture in Burmese language and enter every year official final exams in Burmese held by government. About 90% of Mon Buddhist monks of the whole Mon State have boycotted the government's plan and did not enter exams held by government. At the beginning of the boycott, several Mon monks who led this defiant struggle were also arrested and detained. However, the monks never stopped their struggle and the teaching of scripture in Mon language has been continued. Since then, the government religious authorities did not confer the official degrees, or recognition of passing of exams to Mon monks.
III. 3. Disagreement on ODA Program and Failure of Building a High School
After ceasefire, in August, 1995, the Mon leaders from NMSP also participated in second round discussion with Mon State LORC officials to plan and then some border area development projects. In the meeting, the Mon leaders also proposed to build a Mon national high school in Ye township area, to provide education access to Mon students who passed the middle level exams from various Mon vernacular middle school in NMSP liberated area. Before the meeting was taken place in Moulmein, Japanese government also already announced to resume its ODA (Overseas Development Assistance) to Burma again because of SLORC release democratic opposition leader and Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in July 1995. SLORC received about 1 billion Japanese Yen in August as a new resumed ODA development fund. This 1 billion Japanese Yen fund was also equal to 1 billion Kyat of Burmese currency. The SLORC also had to agree to use this fund especially in development projects of grassroots population, to build schools, hospitals and etc.
From this fund, SLORC also agreed to provide 10 million Kyat to build a high school for Mon students accordingly to proposal of NMSP on border area development program. The NMSP must take responsibility to build this school by coordinating with engineer team assisted by the SLORC. In the discussion, the NMSP also proposed to recognize this high school as Mon National High School and the NMSP Education Department will run the school, after it was completely built. Both sides agreed to build this school in Ah Gani village of Ye township, which is situated on the Ye river bank. The local SLORC commanders from the Southeast Military Command also said, it was not a main matter to recognize this school as Mon national school, but to complete it first. Therefore, the NMSP carried out their responsibility in launching land survey and planning to build the road to get access to construction site.
In October, the NMSP Central Committee also asked to SLORC via its liaison office in Moulmein to ensure that this high school will be recognized as Mon national school or not. But the Education Ministry clearly replied to NMSP that the high school must be recognized as a school under the program of border area development office and it must be run by the Border Area Development Ministry. The Mon leaders were also confused to the comment of SLORC leaders and disagreed on the establishment of government school and allow the permanent access of government officials to work in NMSP control area.
The NMSP also accused that the SLORC and its government troops tried to get control close to NMSP main base and whenever, the ceasefire agreement was broken, they could occupy NMSP bases easily. Therefore, at the beginning of 1996, NMSP leaders officially replied a letter to SLORC that it will not give permission of building a high school, if the government did not recognize it as Mon national high school. The plan of building school was come to a standstill after the NMSP's official response.
Later, SLORC tried to continue building school again and ignored the official reply of NMSP. However, the NMSP stopped the government engineer team which tried to build road to get access into school site. At the end, the news of NMSP-SLORC argument on building this high school was spread out. According to the source of NMSP officials, as a result, the ODA fund for the high school was withdrawn by Japanese government. The NMSP Education Department itself a high school for their students in a refugee resettlement area.
III. 4. The Teaching of Mon Language in Government Schools
Concerning to the NMSP's proposal to allow the teaching of Mon language as a subject in government schools, SLORC cabinet also considered about it with plan to reach for a ceasefire agreement with NMSP soon. On June 28, 1998, one day before cerebrating NMSP-SLORC occasion, SLORC's the most powerful intelligence chief, General Secretary (1) of he military clique, Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt met with Mon State LORC officials and gave a directive orders to allow the teaching of the Mon language outside of school time, if the Mon children were interested to join the classes. On June 29, on the day when the NMSP agreed for ceasefire, Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt also explained about the teaching of Mon language in government schools to Mon leaders in the meeting when the two sides discussed several things about border area development program.
the discussion and agreement, SLORC's Education Ministry officially issued an
directive instruction to
The Government of the Union of Myanmar
Education Ministry Department for Basic Education
Allowing the teaching of Mon language outside of school time. REFERENCE:
SLORC's directive letter no. 349/3-2/Na Wa Ta, on date
1. When State Law and Order Restoration Council's General Secretary (1) Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt,
Deputy Ministers and many Departmental chief officials investigated about the
development projects of
Sub Head (A) Concerning to the proposal to allow the teaching of Mon language, the government already adopted education policy to only allow the teaching of government published curriculum. If (the students) would like to learn Mon language, to allow and manage the teaching of it (for them) outside of school time.
2. Therefore, we informed to all basic government schools that if some students among all in the schools are interested to learn Mon language, to arrange and allow it outside of school time.
(on behalf of) Chief Directorate U Tin Aung, Director
To: Director, State Education Department, Mon State, Moulmein,
cc: - Minister, Education Ministry,
- Chairman, Sub-committee for Education Service,
- Headquarters, Border Area Development Implementing Committee,
- Other concerned department
- Office copy.
The Mon people also welcomed this positive move and supported the teaching of Mon language in their respective villages. Many community leaders, including Mon monks, found Mon teachers for the Mon language class and paid salary for those teachers. The official government school time is from 9:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. and hence the Mon teachers took normally from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. evening time to teach Mon language in government schools.
Many Mon students also earnestly attended the Mon language class and the parents also encouraged their children to learn Mon literature. The Mon teachers also taught to students with basic Mon language textbooks published by Mon monks, which are officially permitted by government, or textbooks made by Mon National Education Committee (MNEC). However, the teaching of Mon language was not smooth under the rule of racist military regime.
THE THREAT TO MON EDUCATION AND SCHOOLS IN 1996 AND 1997
IV. 1. Disturbance against Mon National Schools
After NMSP-SLORC ceasefire, some Mon troops from some area also withdrew to the permanent troop location zones according to agreement. Because of withdrawal of Mon troops, the Mon community in previous control area of NMSP became weak to protect Mon national schools. When the SLORC troops reached into this area, they also forced concerned village headmen to build new government schools with villagers' own expenses to be competitive schools against Mon national schools and also forced to allow operating government's education system. Sometimes, the commanders also promised to village community that they will provide some donation and but after schools were built no donation came.
Most commanders insisted that if the NMSP have chance to build Mon national schools or mixed Mon and Burmese teaching schools, they also have the same chance to build government in every village. For example, in April, 1996, Maj. Maung Toe of LIB No. 343, based in Ye, called a meeting with village headmen from several villages of Ye township's northern part area, in which a few government schools were operated. In the meeting, he forced the village headmen to build the government schools as soon as possible. As the Mon education system was in well process for many years, all village headmen in the area would not like to build separate government schools. If they agreed to build the school, they will have to collect cash from own villagers and they have to complete school buildings within two months during summer holiday. Even a small village, the villagers had to build a school with at least 100,000 Kyat worth.
The Mon community leaders always informed and discussed about new instruction to NMSP officials. Sometimes, the NMSP officials also protected the villagers from having to build government schools and informed the nearest SLORC military battalions about poverty of villagers and it was impossible to build another school. However, the NMSP could not protect all. In some villages, the schools were changed as mixed school of teaching Mon and Burmese language. In some schools, the Mon teachers had to allow at least one government teacher in each Mon national school. Sometimes, SLORC troops forcibly confiscated all school materials and stopped running schools.
Related to Mon education system, the SLORC local officials also made disturbance to Mon teachers, NMSP officials and its supporters. In August, 1996, SLORC LIB No. 343 's Maj. Maung Toe came to Aru Taung village, Ye township, and made disturbance to Mon education system and tried to move Mon teachers from school. When they arrived to school, he told to all teachers, including Mon teachers, that the teaching of Mon language was illegal and he will not allow anymore. The Mon teachers also asked the NMSP officials, whether they shall continue or stop. According to NMSP officials, this school was recently established as Mon national school and later the SLORC troops forced the village community to be a mixed school. Therefore, the NMSP instructed that since this school was Mon national school, the Mon teachers have more chance to run the school. And, the Mon teachers continued their teaching as usual. The government teachers also informed about the activities of Mon teachers to Maj. Maung Toe.
Step by step, the commander instructed new type of tactics to disturb the Mon teachers with objective to move them from many mixed schools in many Mon villages in October, 1996. In Aru-taung village school, the government teachers accepted teaching time in the morning and Mon teachers have in the evening. On October 5, after the teaching of Burmese language, all school materials such as blackboards, desks, tables and others were kept in the store by government teachers. When the Mon teachers started teaching Mon language, they could not get any materials in the evening. On the next day, there was a strong argument occurred between the Mon and government teachers. The government teachers returned to Ye and informed about the problem to Maj. Maung Toe.
On October 7 in the morning, Maj. Maung Toe led 200 Burmese troops came into village and tried to arrest Mon teachers. Soon after they reached close to village, they surrounded outside and entered into village. At that time, the NMSP local officials were also in there and informed the SLORC commander that if they would like to discuss about school, they could meet each other. However, besides discussing about the school, Maj. Maung Toe arrested four NMSP officials along with them and accused those Mon officials that they threatened government teachers by guns to move from schools. They also took the guns from Mon officials. Although the Mon officials refused the accusation and said they never made any threat to any government teacher, the SLORC troops brought those Mon officials to Ye. When they arrived Ye, they sent those four Mon officials to Township police station. The SLORC commander told to police chief that he arrested four suspects with arms and asked him to detain them. The Mon officials also complained to police chief that they were not suspects for any crime and as the polices knew they were NMSP officials and did not detain them. On the next day, NMSP liaison officers came and picked them.
On the same day, while the SLORC troops took Mon officials, some of them still remained in Aru-taung village. The commanders called all village headmen and asked them why the allowed the teaching of Mon language in school and brought Mon officials into village to made threat to government teachers. The headmen also refused the accusation and most of them were severely beaten. A leader of village youth organization was severely tortured for nearly one hour by soldiers with accusation as supporter of Mon education.
On October 30, Maj. Maung Toe called a meeting with the government teachers of the whole Ye township at No. 2 primary school and warned to stop the teaching of Mon language again. In the meeting, he gave a speech and announced to halt the Mon teaching in all schools of Ye township. But he did not mention how many schools were established by government and said all schools must become government schools. He also warned that "If I met someone teaching Mon language in any school, I will kill (him or her) with my hand at the place I met", and instructed all government teachers to give the names of Mon teachers and their native places.
According to the source from government officials in Ye, the military already instructed to halt the teaching of Mon language since the ceasefire was agreed. The military has called several rounds of meeting with township LORC officials and government servants and adopted plan to move all Mon teachers from schools. Because of most township officials and government servants were Mons, the plan was not implemented. Later, the military, especially LIB No. 343's Maj. Maung Toe, angered to those government officials and he himself interfered and abused to halt Mon education system. This is an example of Ye township, and similarly, the other townships' Mon education system has been also constant disturbed by regime.
IV. 2. Prohibition of the Teaching of Mon language in Government Schools
Although the directive order came from Education Ministry, most government and military officials did not like the teaching of Mon language in government schools even outside of school time. These officials have always make disturbance against the teachers of each school and also instructed the government teachers to keep informed about the activities of Mon teachers to nearest military battalion or MI unit. The officials always worried that the Mon teachers put patriotic spirit to the children and expressed speeches against the government.
In addition, the officials and government teachers would not like the Mon teachers to use school materials and buildings which were owned by the government. In some school, government school headmasters also instructed to Mon teachers that if the teachers or students broke chairs or desks in Mon language school time, the Mon teachers must have to pay for the price of broken materials. Sometimes, school headmasters or the nearest military officials also threatened the Mon teachers to not teach the children about Mon history or politics. Although the Mon teachers faced various restriction from the authorities, they have continued teaching Mon language for children.
July, 1996, Kyaikmaraw township LORC also gave an instruction to village
schools that the teaching of Mon language will be not allowed longer in
government schools and even outside of school time. The Township LORC also
insisted that the teaching of Mon language in government was illegal because
the Mon teachers used school materials and building, which were not provided by
those Mon teachers or NMSP, and suggested that if the Mon teachers would like
to teach Mon language, they should have separate places. After this
instruction, about 50 government schools stopped the teaching of Mon language
and Mon teachers also have to leave from the schools. Similarly, most village
school headmasters in Mudon township and
In fact, the NMSP leaders considered that the government local authorities did not listen the directive order of Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt. In February, 1997, NMSP urgently requested Mon State LORC officials to explain the reasons why they had stopped the teaching of Mon language in government schools. The NMSP also had an official meeting with Maj. Gen. Ket Sein, Commander-in-chief of Southeast Military Command and Chairman of Mon State LORC, and other commanders. In the meeting, Maj. Gen. Ket Sein said the teaching of Mon language even outside of school time was considerably illegal because all Mon teachers used school materials and they also made students to be tired because of too many hours they have to study every day. He said many local school masters reported that the Mon teachers in many schools did not take any responsibility for the maintenance of school materials and the use of school chalks, blackboards and buildings were also illegal. He also added that there was no government policy and agenda allowing the teaching of ethnic language in government schools in other ethnic area, and so other ethnic groups could possibly requested the same rights as ethnic Mon. He suggested that if the Mons really would like to teach Mon language, they must build their own schools and run by themselves. At the end of the meeting, NMSP also had to satisfy with the new suggestion of Gen. Ket Sein.
The NMSP leaders also informed to Mon community about their discussion with Gen. Ket Sein and the Mon community also accepted the suggestion and planned to build separate Mon national schools. The ordinary Mon villagers also thought they still had chance to encourage their children to learn Mon language and literature in the new built schools. Therefore, for the preparation of teaching of Mon language in coming 1998-1999 education year, the Mon community help and built Mon national schools in many Mon villages by providing with fund and manual labour. Then, the community leaders and Mon education workers have continuously coordinated in preparation of opening schools and launched activities such as finding Mon teachers, collecting school materials, completing school buildings, organizing school students. Therefore, the Mon national schools were successfully opened at the beginning of 1998-1999 education year, which was started in first week of June, 1998.
V. THE RECENT PROHIBITION OF MON NATIONAL EDUCATION
V. 1. The Opening of Mon National Schools
When the Mon national schools were opened in June, many Mon children in the villagers entered and joined these schools. The community itself supported these national schools and encouraged their children to attend and learn Mon language including other subjects such as mathematics, geography, Mon history, English and Burmese. The students could learn the same level and subjects that government schools have. And this was other reason why the parents encouraged their children to attend Mon schools.
Another the best reason is all subjects were taught in Mon and the students could easily understand the lessons. In government schools, all non-Burman ethnic students are forced to learn Burmese language without translation into their ethnic language. Therefore, they could not understand the lessons very well. Many non-Burman ethnic students also resigned from the government schools in their respective State because of communication problem in classes. There have been less non-Burman ethnic educated persons since 1962 after the government stopped allowing to learn all ethnic languages in schools.
When the government schools allowed the teaching of Mon language during parliamentary democracy era, they could easily understand Burmese language well or if they did not understand, they could approach and ask their Mon language teachers who were always in the schools. Under the rule of the military regime, all national or individual schools were closed down and only government schools have been allowed to operate. For the ethnic students they have no choice except attending government schools.
Hence, when the Mon children have chance or new choice to select between national and government schools, most of them join their own national schools. In addition, if they joined the government schools, they had to pay various expenses such as school fee, costs for books and others. The government teachers received low income and they have to find extra income from the students. After they received copying books and textbooks at low price from the government, they also sold these books two times price to the children. Similarly they did the same for other school stationarics. Most percentage of teachers also open special classes, the so-called "tuition" classes and organize the students from the schools to attend these special classes. On the other hand, for the students who do not join these special classes, they will have very little chance to pass the final exams. Since the government education system has been deteriorated from university up to basic education level, the parents have to spend a lot of expenses for the children to pass the yearly final exams. This was other main case that the Mon children joined the Mon schools.
In Mon schools, the teachers also received salary from Mon National Education Committee (MNEC) or from the villagers. The salary is more than the government teachers received and the Mon teachers also received free foods from village community. The students who attend the Mon national schools did not have to pay school fees, for copying books and other stationaries which are provided by community or MNEC. And the students do not have to attend the tuition class and pay special fee to pass exam. MNEC and NMSP education department have also run many independent national schools in their own liberated area and the Mon community under the control of the regime also knew the structure of Mon education system well and welcomed it.
When the Mon schools opened, these received more student numbers than the government schools. Some schools received slightly more students than the government schools while some received over estimated students. In Set-thawe village of Mudon township, when the Mon primary schools received about 120 students, the government school had only 30 students. Similarly, in Winsein village of Thanbyuzayat township, when the Mon primary school received over 100 students, the government school have only 4 students. In many village schools of Ye township, the government teachers could not run their schools because there is no student. In the Mon middle school of Kawdort of Ye township received over 300 students and there were only fifty students in government school.
Because of more students attended Mon national schools, the local government officials and teachers have dissatisfied on Mon community including Mon teachers and villagers. Therefore, they have found the way to close down these schools.
V.2. Orders to Close Down Mon National Schools
After the government schools opened, the education officials also visited around some schools to know the real situation of their schools. In the last week of June, Director of education department of Mudon township arrived to Set-thawe village school, in which he met only 30 students. He was surprised why the student numbers reduced and asked the government teachers. The teachers also explained him about the Mon national school. After he arrived to Mudon town, he also reported about school situation to Township PDC office. And this report also reached township MI unit.
The military intelligence also accused the opening of Mon national schools is educational competitive activities of NMSP and recognized the Mon teachers as public organizers of NMSP again. The officials strongly opposed the Mon education activities and Mudon intelligence unit and military tried to arrest the Mon teachers in Set-thawe. So the Mon teachers escaped from village. On July 1, Battalion Commander of No. 5 MI Unit, Col. Myo Myint, wrote a letter to NMSP President, Nai Shwe Kyin, and strongly opposed the operating of Mon national schools and persuaded him to close down all kind of these schools.
The full translation of letter is: (See the original letter in Burmese in Appendix. C)
No. 5 Military Intelligence Unit Moulmein
Letter no. 400/68-2/ U 4
Date: July 1, 1998.
New Mon State Party
SUBJECT: Informing to close down (Mon National Schools).
1. Since second week of June, two members from Public Relations Department of NMSP's Moulmein District Administration Body, Mi Lyi Htaw and Min Ha Pong Non, have run a Mon national school which is competing with the government school, in Set-thawe (old) by the help of NMSP's Mudon township's administrative committee.
2. The operating of such this school competing with government school is against the government education policy. Therefore, please close down this school as soon as possible.
After the military intelligence unit wrote this letter, the military and local town ward/ village PDC officials were instructed to close down the Mon national schools in their respective wards/villages. Among many townships in Mon State, Mudon township PDC officials started issuing a directive order to their town ward/ village officials to take action against the Mon national schools.
In their order, they do not allow any teaching of modern subjects such as Burmese, English, Sciences, Geography, History etc., in any private or community's schools. If such schools are operated, these must be recognized as illegal schools. The activities are also against the government existing laws, and so the concerned persons who participate in the activities must be arrested and imprisoned.
The full translation of the order is as below: (See the origin directive order of Mudon township in Appendix. D).
Township Peace and Development Council
Mudon township, Mudon
Letter no. 083/2-5/Ma Ya ka
Date: July (6), 1998.
Ward/ Village Peace and Development Council
SUBJECT: On the matter of opening illegal schools
1. State government is still implementing the adopted political, economic and social objectives to become a modernized and developed country (Burma). Among four social objectives, for the healthy of the whole nation and upgrading of education qualification, the Education Ministry runs and operates many basic education schools permanently. Besides, it also encourages the study of Religious Pariyati and Patipati Buddhist scripture in monasteries. There is no permission for the teaching of modern subjects in other established schools except State government schools.
2. State is not only recognizing the respective traditions, cultures and identities of all ethnic races, but State leaders are also encourages and praises for these cases.
3. Therefore, the State must not allow the establishment of unregistered illegal schools and teaching in there in any region and village. We will take action against whom do not follow according to this order. And if the teachers, the students and supporters consider or plan against the laws and order and implement into action, they must be completely taken action according to emergency acts.
4. We additionally let the local government officials, concerned persons and the people in the area know about this directive order. We also inform and explain before hand that if the concerned officials take action someone who break this directive order, the officials must not give complaint that they do not see, do not know, do not hear about the activities of that person who against the order.
5. After receiving this directive order, we also inform you that you must report back about the situation development and your implementation.
- Southeast Military Command,
- Chairman, Mon State PDC
- Chairman, Moulmein District PDC, Moulmein,
- Commander, No. 2 Engineer Regiment,
- Police Chief, Mudon Town,
- Township Judge, Township Court, Mudon Town,
- Township Law Official, Township office, Mudon Town,
- Township Education Director, Township Education Department, Mudon Town,
On 10 July, 1998, Mudon township's MI unit also issued an order to all village PDC chairmen in the township, to collect the information about the activities of the teaching of Mon language in monasteries, separate Mon national schools, and other buildings. The MI also instructed these village chairmen to meet them on July 18, to inform detail situation of the teaching of Mon language. These chairmen were instructed to collect information, (1) the complete names of teachers both in Mon and Burmese, parents' names, previous and current occupation, education qualification and address, and (2) the teaching places, time, and student numbers of every class. (See original order in Burmese in Appendix. E)
On the same day, the Mudon township education director, Saw Kwae Htoo, also issued an order to his school headmasters in all levels of school in township. In his letter, he also instructed to listen the orders of Township chairman's July 6th order and to report detail situation of the teaching of Mon language to the Township's PDC. He also asked for the signature of all teachers in the schools to promise that they must inform about activities of Mon education. (See origin order in Burmese in Appendix. F)
In addition, every village chairman in the township also ordered the Mon teachers, students, parents who support Mon education and other community leaders to halt their activities supporting the running of Mon national schools. In their order, they must not allow any place to use as center or school to teach Mon language and act as Mon national schools. (See an origin order from Taung-pa village chairman in Burmese in Appendix. G)
Similarly, in the third and last weeks of July, the Township PDC officials of Thanbyuzayat and Kyaikmaraw township by coordinating local MI unit and military have also prohibited the teaching of Mon language and warned to arrest all participants supporting Mon national schools. Sometimes, SPDC troops rushed into village, by cooperating with village militia, and tried to arrest Mon teachers.
In August, Ye Township PDC also took actions against Mon national schools in Ye township. All these schools were accused as competing schools and the village PDC officials were ordered to halt the activities of these schools as soon as possible. On July 4, 1998, had SPDC meeting and decided to prohibit the teaching of Mon language in any place. The directive order was issued on July 5. (See the original order in Burmese in Appendix. H)
V. 3. The Current Situation of Mon Schools and Defiance from Mon Community
When the local villagers and the teacher are in situation to be arrested and detained according to emergency acts by the SPDC and the military, they also reported about the activities government officials to NMSP leaders and requested for protection. The NMSP leaders also closely learned the situation and requested Mon State PDC officials and Southeast Military Commanders to hold an official meeting concerning to Mon national schools.
On July 16, 1998, the NMSP delegation led by Vice-Chairman also met with SPDC officials including Mon State PDC Chairman, Maj. Gen. Myint Aung, commander-in-chief of Southeast Military Command in Moulmein. In the meeting, although NMSP leaders explained about the speech of Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt in the meeting after ceasefire celebration allowing the teaching of Mon language in Mon State and latest discussions with Maj. Gen. Ket Sein about the building of Mon national schools, the commanders constantly refused to allow the running of Mon national schools. SPDC officials just responded that the running of Mon national schools was against the existing laws and the using of Mon language and curriculum made by NMSP were also illegal. They continuously said the running of these schools were competitive action of NMSP against the government schools and made disturbance to government education policy. There was no improvement and agreement resulted from the meeting. However, the NMSP requested them to not arrest the teachers and other supporters. Then, the NMSP had plan to discuss about this more in Rangoon with higher SPDC key leaders.
After without improvement from the meeting, SPDC local officials and MI unit have tried to arrest Mon teachers and supporters. Because of serial orders and the accompanying actions, the Mon teachers have to close their schools and hide to escape from the arrest. The village community has also provided safety to those teachers by helping them to hide in safe place. Among three hundreds schools run by NMSP and MNEC, about 170 schools are effected under the SPDC directive order to be closed down. Therefore, about 350 teachers from these schools are in dangerous situation and some of them have gradually moved into NMSP control area. If all these schools were closed down, over 10,000 Mon students will lose access to education. Very few numbers of them will re-attend government schools and most of them are waiting for the re-opening of Mon national schools.
However, in many Mon villages, the community especially Mon monks have acted defiance against the officials. The monks allowed the teachers and students into their monasteries and continued the teaching of Mon language as usual. When the officials came to the village to check about the Mon national schools or tried to arrest the Mon teachers, the monks also gave protection to those teachers and students. And the village leaders also cooperate with monks to protect the teachers. On the other hand, the SPDC officials and MI units are later busy to oppress NLD and MNDF members to halt their activities from attending the National Assembly called by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other NLD key leaders.
In August, many Mon national schools have been re-opened in the monasteries' compound under the protection of the monks. However, the community leaders and monks have to care the activities of SPDC officials and whenever they came to the villages to check about the Mon schools, the teaching of Mon language is stopped for some days and later continued again. Therefore, it is not permanent solution for the community and the supporters are always in fear to run these schools.
Under the military rule, which has constantly restricted the rights of freedom of expression, and its additional racist assimilation policy, the identity of each non-Burman ethnic nationality has been slowly disappeared over the world. Because of this policy, the civil war has been protracted about fifty years and accompanying lack of communication among national races, the misunderstanding and revenge against each other could possibly be happened. It is negative sign for future of Burma. Therefore, the political settlement by means of negotiation is the only solution for genuine peace and unity among all national races. Although SPDC constantly claims there is a strong unity among all national races already established in their every day control media, the actual Burma nowadays is full with political oppression and racial discrimination from military government to all ethnic people.