Today, the Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) celebrates International Youth Day. Young people in Mon State and Mon areas of southeast Burma/Myanmar have a genuine desire to participate in their country’s transition to an authentic democracy that respects the rights of all its citizens. This is reflected in the large number of vibrant and diverse youth organizations throughout Mon communities on whose behalf they advocate.
In acknowledging young people’s unique position to contribute to sustainable peace and democracy, HURFOM calls upon both the Burma/Myanmar government and the New Mon State Party (NMSP) to open civic spaces for youth perspectives on the peace process and other issues that affect them and their communities, as they are important stakeholders in Burma/Myanmar’s future.
In celebrating Mon youth’s efforts to improve their communities, HURFOM wishes to highlight youth perspectives on issues that they feel are important to them, as well as their contributions to their communities in response to the challenges they face.
As Burma/Myanmar undergoes a transition towards democracy, political representation for Mon communities, at both the state and union level, is an increasingly important issue for Mon youth. Engaging politically, several Mon youth organizations have called on Mon political parties to unite or have officially endorsed Mon candidates.
“We’ve already held four meetings regarding the unity of Mon political parties. Now, we will try to form a new Mon political party that can truly represent all Mon nationals. But it depends upon the will of the civilians; we support the will of the majority.”
Tala Gong Pone Nyar, Youth Monk Association
HURFOM has extensively documented the trafficking and use of drugs in Mon communities over the past several years. Recently, communities have expressed concerns over the rising rates of drug use by young people in Ye, Kyar Inn Seik Kyi, Mudon, and Thanbyuzayat townships.
“We’ve focused on education and have already distributed thousands of pamphlets. We have educated [youths on] the consequences of using drugs and how to report drug trafficking. We’ve also held discussions with the police and the [Mon State] Parliament.”
Nai Seik Rot, Mon Youth Educator Organization
HURFOM has extensively documented the challenges Mon youth face in accessing education. High tuition fees, under-resourced classrooms, and lack of Mon language instruction have led many Mon youth organizations to call for education reforms.
“Our education system does not create job opportunities. Parents must invest a lot in their children’s education, so they must go abroad to work in order to make enough money. We need job opportunities, regulated workplaces, and vocational trainings.”
Nai Ji Kune, Thanbyuzayat Youth Organization Environmental degradation Mon youth have been particularly active in advocating for the protection of their local environment from harmful development practices. HURFOM has documented youth activities in protesting Mawlamyine Cement Limited’s (MCL) coal-powered cement factory.
“Some villagers are worried that their water resources have been polluted by chemicals emitted by MCL, and they have roofed their wells. They are worried about their future. We reported our problem, but nothing has changed.”
Nai Mae, Ka Don Si village, Kyaikmayaw Township Government representatives and peacemakers need to recognize that solutions to the challenges of sustainable peace requires partnerships with a civil society that includes youth representatives. Youth mobilization in peace-building efforts is more likely to be successful if they are given the capabilities and opportunities to work with their state government and other stakeholders. A policy framework and clear guidelines for the government to uplift young people’s situations and to encourage their active involvement in maintaining peace and security is necessary.
This article is published by Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM)