Burmese both across the country and abroad celebrated the Martyrs’ Day on July 19. The anniversary marks one of the most important days in Burma’s history. Sixty-six years ago the country’s father of independence Gen. Aung San was assassinated along with his eight cabinet members. It’s a day that no Burmese can ever forget because it became a pivotal point in the country’s history.
The assassination that followed country’s independence from Britain was followed by civil wars that continue until this present-day. The root of these problems could be characterized in the failure of Burman leaders to implement the Panglong Agreement inked by Gen. Aung San and various ethnic leaders. If the agreement had come to fruition it would have given the ethnic groups federalism.
Likewise, July 19 is also memorable day in the history of the Mon national revolution. Mon armed resistance began in the middle of 1948 just after the country received independence. The Mon People Front (MPF) resisted for 10 years before exchanging their arms for peace under the former Prime Minster U Nu government on July 19, 1958.
The MPF Chairman Nai Aung Htun surrendered 1,111 fire arms after making a peace agreement with the current government. Nai Htun Thein and Nai Ngwe Thein, both MPF leaders that were involved in the surrender, are still alive today and help lead the Mon Democracy Party (MDP).
Nai Shwe Kyin, who served on the MPF central executive committee, left the party the next day after disagreeing surrendering. He took 10 men and formed the New Mon State Party (NMSP) to continue the fight. The NMSP has been be involved in the armed struggle for 55 years.
It’s been 65 years since Burma received its independence but the civil wars are still ongoing. The Panglong Agreement that failed to come into being and the MPF surrender are like shadows from the past that still affect the present.
When Gen Ne Win took power on March 2, 1962 he disregarded the agreement that the MPF made with the previous government. Many great Mon leaders and soldiers were subsequently arrested and languished for many years in prison.
There are many important lessons to be learned from July 19. This article is to remind us this, and also to invite our fellow brother and sisters from the other ethnic groups to commemorate this special day together.