Ward, Moulmein, capital of Mon State.
Under the title, “International Human Rights Day and 20th Anniversary of Human Rights Foundation of Monland”, the event was organized by HURFOM kicking off at 9:00am and ending around 12 PM.
During the opening ceremony, Hluttaw Representative Dr. Min Soe Linn, of the Mon National Party (MNP) delivered a brief speech about HURFOM’s 20th anniversary and International Human Rights Day (2015).
“We can say it is a history of human rights abuses. It started from 1988 and 1990, and in our country, we can see that we did not have our rights. And, if we look at what HURFOM has done; because there were refugees and forced labor in our region, we thought we should form a human right organization. At this time, Ye-Tavoy railway was built in Mon State and Tenasserim Division. Thousands of Mon people were forced to work for the railway,” said Nai Kasauh Mon, Executive Director of HURFOM, as he explained the timeline of HURFOM projects throughout its 20 years in operation.
Nai Kasauh Mon also said that the world wasn’t aware of the suffering of the Mon people. Therefore, HURFOM was founded to monitor and document human rights abuses in Mon areas and share this information with international human rights organizations. In 1998, HURFOM brought the workers who escaped from the Ye-Tavoy railway project, to meet the Commission of Inquiry at the International Labor Organization (ILO). Subsequently, the Commission of Inquiry released a report with concrete evidence of forced labor by the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC).
At the event, a discussion session was also conducted. The discussion topics included Buddhism and human rights, the fights for nationality, democracy rights and human rights, special protection for women and children rights, human rights, environment and citizens’ rights, nationality, human rights and natural resources.
“Concerning with this matter, it was already signed with CEDAW [Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women] in 1994. But, not many women and children are aware of this. They do not even have their rights although there are signed documents to protect their rights. And, there is law for protection against human trafficking in our country, but this law is still very much violated. In our region, we have joint groups of women and media organizations. But, is what we all have done enough? No, it is not enough,” said Mi Ngwe Lay, of Moulmein-based Cetana Foundation, who discussed the topic of special protection for the rights of women and children.
Mi Ngwe Lay added, “The definition of human rights also includes natural environment and dignity of the people. Now, locals in Anndin Village are satisfied with growing rice and rubber plantations for their livings. This is their right, as they are pleased with their livings. But if the proposed coal-fired project is built, it violates their rights. The fact that they know that their rights are abused, they protest against the coal-fired project.”
More than 65 participants joined the event, including Buddhist Mon monks and representatives from local civil society and community based organizations. Representatives from political parties such as All Mon Regions Democracy Party (AMDP), MNP and National League for Democracy (NLD) as well as a Thai NGO called Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance (TERRA) were also in attendance.
“I have heard the name of HURFOM for a long time but did not know about their work. I only become familiar with its projects now. And, I am also very grateful to find out about some cases of human rights abuses, which I did not hear of before,” said Ashin Tharna Dhaza, one of the monks attended the event.
Ashin Tharna Dhaza, who is also a member of Mon Education Supporting Organization (MESO), went on to say that HURFOM implementation is very much in line with its aim. At the same time, HURFOM should continue monitoring the proposed coal-fired project near Anndin Village, Ye Township and work for the achievement of a holiday recognized as Mon National Day, which is the right of Mon people.
HURFOM was founded by a group of pro-democracy student activists from the 1988 uprising, Mon community leaders and young people in 1995, on Thai-Burma Border. Its core objective is to restore democracy, human rights and genuine peace in Burma. Since its inception, it has released numerous human rights reports, while it also publishes human rights related articles on its website regularly.