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Mon history stricken from signs after demanded by Burmese government

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Jorn, IMNA : In an increasingly tense political climate, the Burmese government has ordered that Burmese text explaining Mon history be removed from signs advertising the largest Mon holiday held to celebrate the founding of the traditional Mon kingdom.

On December 30, the Mudon Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC) chairman, told members of the Mon National Committee to remove Burmese text describing Mon history, from posters advertising the 63rd anniversary of Mon National Day.

The reason given by the TPDC, according to members of the Mon National Day Committee, was that the Burmese text could affect the unity of ethnic groups in Burma. The historical text is written at the base of the sign, first in Mon and then in Burmese.

While Mon National Day signs were originally posted in only Mon, over the years organizers in each village have been adding Burmese text to signs to make them more accessible to all people. In fact, many Mon people in Mon State cannot read Mon, so can only access the historical information through the Burmese text.

Specifically, the text that the Burmese government ordered removed reads: “In Southeast Asia from the Thaton area to the Malay peninsula, was [originally] included in the area of Suwanabumi [Mon old kingdom]. Of the National heritages items taken after the area of Suwanabumi was attacked, the pagoda [Shwae Sai Yen] which, by tradition, belongs to the [old Mon] king from Suwanabumi, was not taken.”

The Pagoda mentioned in the text still stands in Thaton Township, in Mon state.

“The government said that the text could effect unity of ethnic groups in Burma. The Burmese government does not want [us] to describe the true history,” said one of the members of the Mon National Day Committee. “Actually, we just picked up this text from Mon history. That’s why we wrote this text, we don’t think we are wrong.”

Mon National Day Committee members held a meeting in Moulmein town on December 31st, to determine a course of action in response to the demand. The meeting resulted in a decision to agree to remove the text from already manufactured and hung signs by Saturday, December 31st.

Yet committee members also commented that costs to change the signs will be significant. The sings hang all over Mon state in Mudon, Thanphyuzayart, Ye, Moulmein and Pa’an towns, and surrounding villages. The larger signs, which are approximately 10 by 15 ft and made of thick plastic sheeting, cost nearly 1,200,000 kyat for the purchase of 40. Smaller, and more numerous signs were also produced, though the total cost of those could not be confirmed.

According to one Mon politician from Thanphyuzayart, who preferred to remain anonymous, the pressure by the Burmese military TPDC is part of a larger political issue surrounding Mon autonomy. “The Mon Nation must remain with a strong Mon political party. If it does not have a [strong] Mon political party, the [Burmese military] government can do whatever they want.”

“The government wants to disturb us, regardless, in whatever our Mon nation does. Now they [the Burmese military government] has ordered the Mon National Day Committee to erase the text,” complained a Mon youth politician who is based in Thailand. “Its busy work. In order to erase this text MNC has to spend more time and much more money – this is how the government makes disturbances and distracts our nation.”

Mon National Day began in 1947 CE and honors the founding of Hongsawatoi, the Mon Kingdom established in 1116, of the Buddhist Era or 573 CE. This year Mon National Day is schedule to be held on January 30th.

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