By Wagaru Mon, Mon Writers Club – The principle political organization of the Mon people in the modern of Burma is facing a new strategic choice after the death of the late deputy president in June this year. The passing away of Nai Rot Sa, a humble, wise and perfect gentleman, is not only a loss to the party but a loss to the entire Mon political movement in this century. An honest man, a soft spoken political strategist of the New Mon State Party in both pre and post peace process in the past twenty years has laid down the foundation of the party after the death of the principle founder in 2003. A new leadership is on call for the new political environment within Burma.
As today, six key founders of the party passed away, leaving behind the new generation of leadership with self-doubt either for a chance or a change in the leadership restructures in the near future. Members of the party both inside the liberated area or outside the area have been soul searching for the next leadership team that would bring the strength of the party from this position of fighting the lost political and military battler to the popular Thein Sein government admit the uncertainty of peace process. This long essay is a re-stocking of the party’s past to the future of the faith of the party for a victory of the current challenge. The proud record of the party for its 45 years struggle for freedom of the Mon people shall be reserved without preservation in the heart of its members and supporters.
The strength of the party is laid within member’s voice and unity of the party for the new challenge. I am pleased to share my own vision for the sake of the entire people of lower land of Burma where the Mon community is the principle political tenure for the time.
The New Mon State Party, a leading Mon nationalist political organization with its armed force, the Mon National Liberation Army, reached its 55th anniversary this year in Monland, southern Burma. Hundreds of its comrades have scarified, thousands of local people are being displaced and majority women and children live under hardship for an over half century. The party founder(s) have gone and left new generation with huge tasks, a duty to liberate oppressed people from majority called “Burman”.
The Past Black Mark:
Historically, there were at least three major cracks in its 55 years political journey. The first event was in 1980-1987 between two factions led by Nai Nonla and Nai Shwe Kyin. The second minor split was in 1996 when Mergui District Battalion split off from the central administrative body soon after cease-fire deal with State Peace and Development Council, and the last event was in 2001, when Hongsawatoi Restoration Party is formed under the leadership of Col. Pan Nyunt. Over the years, leadership has changed but the doctrine has not yet revised and a few great thinkers left the party. Everyone balms for the disunity but a few of them have found logical factors but no one can fix it. Many of them recalled “lack of leadership”. However, the party still survives with massive military attack in 1991 when its headquarter-three pagoda pass was occupied by the government troops. The party’s key players learned that they have underestimated the “human intelligence” of the enemy for over the struggle.
The party has over (3000) members both full armed uniforms and plain dress- the party operate to the village yards from the top central headquarter. Committee for Central Department, Committee for Districts, Committee for Townships and over ten departments were formed to run the party’s businesses. Within its (27) members of Central Committee Members, (7) War Commission and (9) Politburo technocrats operate the business from the borderland to urban and rural areas. To be noted that Education and Health Department did better than other sectors during cease-fire process but senior leaders admitted that a few strong members enjoyed in doing business that politics in recent meeting.
According to Siri Mon Chan, (August 2011), a Mon political analyst based in exile but he frequently visited Thailand-Burma border every year for the closer look of the situation wrote on his Monnet Blog, ‘the NMSP leaders should be able to see the cunning tactics of the military regime. They should be more decisive, visionary and full of strategic thinking for the future of our Mon, other ethnic nationalities and people in Burma. In politics and warfare, the calculation of the leaders on the situation, the time and the place are extremely critical. In fact, it is now the best time for all ethnic armed forces to have a rock-solid unity and then build a unity with democratic forces inside and outside the country. Theoretically, the NMSP has already formed military and political alliance with other ethnic forces under the banner of UNFC. However, forming alliances in name alone is not good enough. The NMSP should prove and ascertained the principle of the alliance. In the principle of alliance, the attack on one of the members of the alliance is tantamount to attacking other members of the alliance. Now the military regime has launched major military offensives against the Shan and Kachin. But the leaders of the NMSP have done nothing in response to the attacks on their alliance. So, I strong believe that the current NMSP leaders are indecisive, in-visionary and lack of strategic thinking’.
The Cease-fire process:
The cease-fire groups, so called peace-dealer or “return to legal fold” will be allowed to contest in the new election. A fragmented ethnic armed groups / armies are now facing a new challenge whether to completely enter to legal fold or disarmed to contest in the new election. Otherwise, a new battle ground will be seen again in the next few months and years in Burma border areas. The new constitution and election has no guarantee to safeguard the self-determination of the ethnic population who control the seven States and lives in wide spread in common border to neighbouring countries. A few remaining armed organizations will be juggling either to find the last opportunity of cease-fire talk or distance from the new election. The role of the Ethnic Nationalities Council and newly formed alliance, United Nationalities Federal Council, is remained to be seen whether it has a key role to play for a new break through after it failed to bring a meaningful tripartite dialogue in Burma.
The ethnic political and armed organizations like the New Mon State Party and its armed wing, Mon National Liberation Army that represents to the small portion of the Mon population has facing a new challenge on how to overcome the pressure from the military government, the new government may or may not invite for peace talk under one alliance as proposed by ethnic leaders in recent weeks.
Htet Aung, a prominent Journalist from the Irrawaddy also warned in February 2011 and said, ‘although the USDP has made “national re-consolidation” its top political priority, it is becoming increasingly clear that it has merely inherited this policy from the junta as political propaganda. No one can be truly surprised by this ridiculous political puppet show, but it will be sad to see ethnic leaders lose all credibility with their own people, which is what will happen if they passively dance to the junta’s tune and keep giving false hope of real change’.
The New Challenge:
The leading Mon political organizations have been facing new challenges to maintain its legitimacy and representation to the entire the Mon speaking population in Burma and Thailand. The new challenges are triggered with a lack of political participation of the Mon population in urban and rural areas in the last ten years while the majority are struggling with economy hardship and unstable domestic economy that has been facing all over Burma. The young and students have been left home to Thailand, Malaysia and other Asia’s countries for employment and better pay condition than at its home country. The lack of social and political participation of the Mon population in Ragnoon, Pegu and Moulmein have been presented as a new challenge for the leading political organization such as New Mon State Party and Mon Democratic Party. However, legally registered new force, All Mon Regions Democracy Party won a total of 7 seats in State Assembly, 3 seats in People Assembly and 3 seats in National Assembly in 2010 election. Is this a new hope or a new political dimension for the Mon? The answer is ‘No’ until the self-determination rule is constituted within the new national constitution.
Mr Nai Chan Toi, the party’s strategist and well knowns as “Mr Player” within the party’s circle reinforced his message to the entire Mon population in the 3rd National Conference that emphasizing on the strength of the Mon people and its situation is a key milestone to overcome the present policy of the military government. We must look at closely what is going on around us and applies a policy on it, he said. He resigned from the party in 2009 then he resides in a new home in the city and left the liberated area for now.
The NMSP has waste no time to engage in all swing of social, cultural and political movement for the entire Mon population in the last ten years in term of expanding language schools, cultural associations and national schools in the Mon State. The party also sponsored annual National Seminar and conference that attended from 140-160 social and political representatives in the last ten years. The best example of the output is that a new Mon political body, the “Mon Affairs Union” was born in 2006 with a new mission and policy direction to maintain the role of the Mon political institution and structure in wider scale both at homeland and in Thailand with the support of Overseas Mon organizations.
The Party’s Strength:
The NMSP and its armed wing, the Mon National Liberation Army are now looking a new policy option to engage in new political direction under a theory of “Social Democrat”, for Burma. The “Peace Journal”, published by cease-fire organizations in Burmese have highlighted that the new direction for a new policy option is necessity for the survival of the cease-fire groups in tackling with new social and political environments in Burma. With its full between 3000-3500 membership and over 800 armed personnel on the ground, the NMSP and the MNLA is now in a new direction to overcome the burden of its members’ welfare and other educational assistance by running self-help schools, mobile clinic / health care and child care centre in remote areas in southern Burma. The party is well equipped to administer over 600 schools with total 4000 students, over 20 local health care centres across the southern Burma and in Thai-Burma border. However, with a massive number of internally displaced person (IDP) due to various human rights abuses by the government’s troop in southern Burma, the Mon National Relief and Development Committee is unable to cope with large scale of IDP. This is a new development based on the reports available from the local media and human rights agencies. A settlement site is temporary safe for IDP and most settlers build their own tent and huts for temporary sheltering at Ban Ton Young Camp, in the western of Thailand’s border to Burma. The party has not yet founded sufficient resources and staff to accommodate these problems that have been happening in its controlled territory. The Mon relief agency has very limited fund in which it is only relied on the hand-out of the charity agencies from overseas and small income-generating within the IDP community. The function of the party will be weakening if the needs of its strong members and families are unable to provide in the next few years while the increasing population of IDP largely settled in border areas.
While the party’s resource and its power is very limited to challenge the pressure of the military government in the front issues on power sharing and self- government in Mon State, the leaders of the party have been dreaming for greater political gain by cease-fire process in which weaken the position of the party in the last ten years. The party lost its two territories after the cease-fire talk in which cut off its revenues and strategist location when it’s two Battalions split in 1996 and 2001. The lessons are well learned and now the party handled every issue with cautious and sensitive. An assassination of its key politburo member, Col. Min Htut in 2002 was a starting point for the party’s leaders to open and frank discussion on any policy issues and structural reform within the party.
The Leadership of the party:
Within its 27 key central committee members and other local cadres in southern Burma, the party is holding its faith for long lasting survival of the organization and its core value on democratic principle and equality. A new leadership, under President Nai Htaw Mon, and General Secretary Nai Hongsa, with a great support of political mentor and these new generation leaders who are equally hold level of education and political skills with member of USDP and NLD’s current top officials are able to judge on the current trend of Burma. Despite the party has not received entirely support from the total Mon population, theses leaders have a thick skin to listen and learn on the political ground.
I have been fighting not for welfare rights but for political rights, Nai Hongsa, the General Secretary once said in a meeting with the Mon Unity League. He is the man of hope when time has come but the boldness of the leadership required for this critical transition within the party.
Despite, the MNLA has very limited military personnel and resource, the army is capable of protecting and defending some unexpected treat either by the government troop or else. The army has been proved that a 27 days battle with the Karen army in 1988 after a conflict of border demarcation and lax levy in three pagoda pass. Again, the army has also successfully escaped from the three pagoda head quarter in 1991 during massive attack by the government troop. The MNLA only lost its 971 members in the last 65 years of civil war and armed conflict with the government troop. However, this is not to claim that the army is in full strength to defeat and attack all government troop based in southern Burma. The question is that if there is no Mon army, what will happen to all Mon political activists and other rights groups who are totally controlled of the government in Burma. The MNLA is deserved to earn some credit for given safe haven and security for local rights groups who are brutally attacked by the government in the last 65 years.
Mon political leaders in liberated area have little time to find alternative unless its internal strength is rebuilt and a strong leadership circle is restored with new blood of leadership within the party. The party could hope for the best but it has to prepare for the worse. Peace will never achieve without price. The Thein Sein’s government required promotion of peace for its political interest and its economy link with China. The party needs to set a new agenda for peace in what cost and how to bargain it on the table of tricky politics of Burma.
The new strategic choice:
The party is not over unless the new leadership elites are united for common goal that enable the desire of the Mon people’s rightly claimed for a self-determination under the new federalism of Burma. The wise man left a legacy of the party with sense of direction under the peace process but the top party’s leaders shall not wasted the golden time of engaging with national political movement among brotherhood in the heartland. The armed Mon political organizations would be legitimated in the new political institution of Burma when the party has reached the support of national movement. This critical transition shall be fostered wisely but strategically sound to complete with the current political environment of Burma. A national movement for peaceful transition shall be mobilised by Mon leaders in this critical time.
The principle mission of the party for restoring a freedom of the Mon people in the new century shall be aligned with the strategic direction that united the Mon political force from local to global. The voice of the party shall be echoed on the desire of the entire Mon population those who seek freedom under the democratic of Burma. The proud record of the party will be reserved in history page. The legacy of the party’s leaders will be written in the stone monument when the victory is reached in time.
19 July 2013
Edited by: Siri Mon Chan