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More protests planned as “General Aung San Bridge” moves through parliament

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Protest leaders said they were planning another protest for March 19 even as the Union Parliament voted earlier today to approve the name change.

There has been sustained opposition in Mon State to the move, which would name a new bridge that connects the state’s capitol Mawlamyine to Chaungzone, Bilugyun Island, after General Aung San. His assassination in 1947 is understood by many to have accelerated the ethnic conflicts that have plagued Myanmar, formerly Burma, since independence the following year. Many major roads, bridges and other civil structures throughout the country bare his name, yet for many, the agreements made between General Aung San and minority ethnic leaders remain broken promises.

More than 3,000 protesters gathered on March 3 (Photo: MNA)
More than 3,000 protesters gathered on March 3 (Photo: MNA)
General Aung San’s daughter, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, now serves as State Counsellor and leads the National League for Democracy (NLD), which holds a majority of seats in parliament and largely supported the name change.

There has been broad opposition to the name since legislation was first introduced in late February. On March 3 more than 3,000 Mon State residents turned out for a march against the name, which they said ignores the wishes of local residents, who want a name that better reflects the Mon character of the area.

Protest leaders are working to create an organizational structure that can support sustained protests. Members of the protest leadership are now visiting townships across the state to build a network of local leaders and monks.

A state-level protest committee was formed at the Dhatumarla Mon Monastery in Mawlamyine on March 7 and is made up of 96 members from surrounding townships. The committee held a meeting earlier today to work out details of the March 19 protest, including applying for permission to march and determining who will speak and what slogans will be used.

“We will obey the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act and will demonstrate peacefully once we receive permission,” said Nai Mon Raja, a member of the state protest committee.

Sayardaw Warawongsa, from Jeyawongsa Monastery in Chaungzone Township, said that the committee anticipates 10,000 protesters to gather for the protest.

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