As protests over the bridge’s name continue in Mon State, the new Chief Minister urged acceptance. Speaking to reporters after a meeting of the Mon State Parliament yesterday, Dr. Aye Zan said that residents should be proud of the name General Aung San.
“The Pyidaungsu [Union] paid for the construction of the bridge– it was built with Union Funding, so I want to say it clearly; we should be proud that they have decided to name the bridge for General Aung San,” he said, referring to the national government.He said that before General Aung San led Myanmar (then Burma) to independence, it was split into two separately administered regions, Ministerial and Frontier. If General Aung San had not brought members of the country’s many ethnic groups together at the 1947 Panglong Conference, there would be no Myanmar on the map.
Many in Mon State disagree. In particular, they feel that a National League for Democracy (NLD) government that came to power on promises of accountability and reconciliation should be more sensitive to the strong feelings surrounding the largely symbolic issue. More than 3,000 protesters gathered in early March to oppose the name and organizers expect 10,000 to march this weekend.
“It is not only Mon people who will be attending the demonstration. Members of other minority ethnic groups and civil society organizations plan to join us in a show of solidarity,” said Nai Mon Raja, a Mon activist.
Myanmar’s parliament voted by a wide margin yesterday to approve the name. When completed later this year the bridge will span the Thanlwin River, connecting the Mon State capitol of Mawlamyine to Chaungzone, Bilukyun Island.