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|Mon Country||Mon State|
|Mon national flag or Mon people flag||Area covering Old Mon Country known in history as Hongsgwaddy or Rehmanaya, conquered by the Burmese in 1757.||Mon State created by Ne Win Government in 1974, comprising Moulmein and Thatan districts.|
The second wave of peoples to come into Burma after the Mon were the Tibeto-Burmans from the north. The Mon reluctance allowed the infant Burman kingdom to survive and grow. In the process the leadership of the Tibeto-Burman tribes passed to the Burmans and in 849 AD they founded their own city Pagan. In 1044, the Burmese king Anawrahta came the throne of Pagan. After he grew his power and influence, he challenged and conquered Theravada Mon in Thaton in 1057. It was a unity not by peaceful means but through force. The conquest of Pagan was the foundation of both Pagan's economy and its culture. Mon craftsmen, artisans, architects, goldsmiths, and wood-carvers-cap-tured at Thaton-were taken to Pagan to teach their skills and arts to the Burmans. Mon monks and scholars taught the Burmese the Mon Pali language and the Buddhist scriptures. The Burmans soon became scholars themselves, making Pagan the center of Theravada learning.
In 1287, Pagan fell Mongol Khan's armies. After the fall of Pagan, the Mon in lower Burma consolidated themselves and restored their own kingdom. The kingdom was initially established Martaban. near Moulmein and ruled by King Wareru. Then the capital of kingdom was transferred to Pegu (Hongsawatoi) in 1365. The Mon were achieving another golden age again under wise rulers that lasted until 1533. During one and half centuries of golden era, Pegu's Hongsawatoi Dynasty produced rulers who are still loved by the people of Burma today, and who left behind many sacred monuments. In 1531, Thabinshwehti became the Burman king of Taungoo and within a few years he conquered lower Burma from the Mon and established his capital in Pegu. After he died, his brother-in-law Bayinnaung established the second Burman empire, by occupying Shan plateau and some parts of Thailand. Later, the capital of kingdom was transferred to Ava of upper Burma and it became weak. In 1740, the Mon declared independence and reestablished their kingdom in Pegu (Hongsawatoi). The Burman capital of Ava fell to the Mon in 1752 and nearly the whole Burma became under Mon rule then.
U Aungzeya, a Burman leader who is better knownas King Alaungphaya, drove the Mon out of upper Burma from Ava and regained other lost territories. By 1757 he defeated the Mon and annexed the Mon kingdom of Hongsawatoi. The Mon have ever since become a people without a country. The conquerring Burman leader U Aungzeya persecuted the Mon by massacring over 3,000 learned Mon monks near Rangoon; by burning down holy scriptures and monasteries; by proscribing Mon language and literature; and by genocidal mass execution whereby thousands of Mon were exterminated in several stockade-inferno holocausts. Racial discrimination was rife and hundreds of thousands of the Mon fled to Siam (Thailand) for safe haven. In modern human rights terminology, it drastic was a ‘ethnic cleansing' process.
After 68 years under the rule of Burman kings, following the second Anglo-Burmese war, the entire Mon territory of lower Burma was colonized by the British in 1824. Until and except the periods they were colonized by the two alien nations, the Burman and British, the Mon had exercised full rights of self-determination for many centuries. During the periods when the Mon were master of Lower Burma, the people were happy and prosperous. Those glorious periods were expressed by western historians as golden ages under wise Mon rulers. Relations with foreign countries and foreign nationals were peaceful, cordial and harmonious. They blended their native culture with Theravada Buddhism which elevated them as teachers of their neighbours in Southeast Asia.
The British administration based on modern democracy and capitalism superseded the Burmese autocratic feudalism, which treated other ethnic nationalities who were under their domination as serfs. The peaceful situation during the British reign gave an opportunity for most of the ethnic non-Burman refugees who fled the ruthless brutal oppession of the Burman kings to neighbouring countries, to return to Burma.
The British during the process of annexing Burma, persuaded the Mon to rebel against Burman, while they were attacking the Burman who were oppressing the Mon as slaves. An excerpt from the proclamation by the British commanding officer, Sir Archibald Campbell, written in the book entitled "The Making of Burma" by Dorothy Woodman says: "Choose from amongst yourselves a Chief, I will recognize him." The promise was never honoured but instead the first Commissioner Mr. A. D. Maingy was appointed to administer the Mon dominated areas of Ye, Tavoy, Mergui and Tenasserim after incorporating them into the British Empire. This behaviour of the British infuriated the Mon very much, and they pledged to oust British rule from Burma in collaboration with the Burman and other ethnic victims of imperialism.
Through the anti-colonial struggle to free Burma from the yoke of the British imperialism, the Mon worked together with their indigenous brethren up to the end of World War II. But when independence for Burma from the British was in the offing, the Mon asserted their identity and right of self-determination. Some Mon cultural and political organizations such as All Ramanya Mon Association, United Mon Association and Mon Freedom League were formed by Mon leaders and asked the Burman leaders to recognize their identity. But the demand was flatly rejected by the Burman leader U Nu, who was the Prime Minister then. He claimed that "the Mon and the Burman were identical and so there was no reason for the Mon to crave for a seperate ethnic identity". This refusal to recogniże their primary demand created the Mon national upsurge, and resulted in an escalation of their demand to reclaim their old homeland which covers the whole of lower Burma.
In signing the Aung San-Atlee agreement for independence of the whole Burma, the Burman leadership approached the frontier ethnic nationalities to join the Union of Burma at Penglong in Shan State. An agreement came out to safeguard racial equal rights of the ethnic nationalities and establish a Federal Union, but the Mon, the Karen and the Karenni were not participants of the Penglong Agreement. After the death of Gen. Aung San, the succeeding Burmese leaders twisted the agreement by writing a constitution based on a unitary system concen- trating the executive administrative power in the central government in Rangoon.
The Mon's demand for the creation of a Mon State which covers lower Burma was rejected again and the repressive action was also taken against them by the ruling Burman leaders. Some Mon leaders were assassinated and many were imprisoned. More than 100 Mon villages were also burnt down and destroyed by the Burmese Army. These repressive measures pushed the Mon to take up arms and continue their struggle for racial rights by means of armed struggle in the wake of Burma independence in 1948. Initially, under the leadership of Mon People's Front (MPF), the Mon armed struggle had been carrying on until 1958. In July 1958, MPF agreed with the then U Nu's parliamentary government to transform itself as legal Mon freedom struggle under the democratic system. The democratic government of U Nu was abol- ished the Burmese Army led by Gen. New Win in a coup d' etat in 1962 and since then the country was ruled by a military dictatorship. The Mon armed resistance movement was continued by the New Mon State Party (NMSP) which replaced the outgoing MPF. The Mon armed struggle under the leadership of NMSP has continuously fought against the single-party rule of Gen. Ne Win-led Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) and the present military regime, State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) for nearly four decades.
The NMSP has modified its claim to five districts of lower Burma, namely, Pegu, Thaton, Moulmein, Tavoy and Mergui Districts to be formed as Mon State. It has passed through several phases of different political changes during the Mon armed struggle of the five decades against the ultra-nationalist Burman governments. In 1974, the Burman leadership led by Gen. Ne Win created the nominal Mon State covering Thaton and Moulmein districts to appease the Mons. In 1982, NMSP became a member of the National Democratic Front (NDF) which is an umbrella organization for al non-Burman ethnic nationalities resisting Rangoon governments for self-determination.
The economic deterioration, the demonetization of currency and the discontent with human rights abuses culminated in the world-re- nowned demonstrations of the students, monks and civilian masses in 1988, demanding democray, free elections and an end to the single- party rule. State power changed hands three times and just when the general will could no longer be contained, thousand troops were called in and thousands of demonstrators were massacred and thousands arrested. As a result of the militaryjunta's violent repression, thousands of students, monks, intelligentsia, political leaders, military personnel and ordinary citizens fled to the liberated areas controlled by members of NDF. With the initiatve of NDF, a wider representative organization under the name of the Democratic Alliance of Burma (DAB) was formed including the ethnic Burman opposition groups in and out of the country.
Thailand has changed its policy towards Burma. It is adamant that the civil war in Burma should come to an end. Thailand, with its policy of "Constructive Engagement" to Burma, does notneed the Karen, Karenni and Mon areas as a buffer between her and Burma. It has hoped that peace in Burma will favour Thai commercial interests for quick profit and help stem the increasing flow of refugees from Burma. It has put constant pressure on NMSP and other ethnic non-Burman armed opposition groups along its border to enter into a cease-fire deal with SLORC and end the war. At the same time, the military regime SLORC was offerring the many ethnic armed opposition groups including NMSP, asking them to enter into a cease-fire agreement with it. NMSP entered initial ceasefire talks with SLORC in late 1993. In mid-1995, it reached a ceasefire agreement with SLORC. Still the ceasefire agreement is not a political solution of Burma and the Mon do not obtain any rights from the present NMSP ceasefire with SLORC. The human rights situation in Mon region has not improved despite the NMSP-SLORC ceasefire. The political activities of NMSP have been under constant pressure and disturbance by the military regime SLORC. The deterio- rating situation following the NMSP-SLORC cease-fire agreement has led to to formation of a new political forum for the Mon people. In early 1996, the Mon Unity League (MUL) came into existance as a common Mon united front.
Burma retained its independence from the colonial British in 1948. Unfortunately, a civil war broke out in Burma just in the wake of the country's independence, as some of the ethnic non-Burman peoples, including the Mon, took up arms and revolted against the Burman- dominated racist central government, respectively demanding racial equality and their birth right to self-determination. The surge of patri- otic spirits among the ethnic'non-Burman peoples of the country and their united demand for autonomy and self-determination during the reign of the first democratically elected U Nu's government contributed to political instability in the country at the time. Taking this opportunity, the Burmese Army led by General New Win seized state power under the name of Revolutionary Council in a coup d'état in 1962, claiming that he was to rescue the country from the possible danger of disintegra- tion. From then on, the country was ruled by a Burman-dominated racist military dictatorship. As soon as it forced into office, the Gen. New Win-led military dictatorship brutally suppressed the peaceful political movement of the ethnic non-Burman peoples in the country by arrest- ing and jailing all the prominent ethnic non-Burman political leaders. Later on, many other ethnic non-Burman peoples in the country one after the other joined hands with the then existing ethnic non-Burman armed opposition so the civil war gradually grew up and dragged on.
During 1987 and 1988, pro-democracy demonstrations were arising throughout the country, demanding an unconditional end to the mono- lithic rule of Gen. Ne Win-led Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) and immediate establishment of democracy in the country. In Septem-ber 1988, the Burmese Army, under the name of State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), staged a mock coup d'état and again took over power through a ruthless massacre of thousands of peaceful demonstrators. Following national and international pressure, the military regime SLORC held a multi-party general election in May 1990 but has consistently denied to a transformation of civilian rule by refusing to hand over power to National League for Democracy (NLD), the political party led by Aung Sun Suu Kyi thatwon a landslide victory in the elections. On the other hand, the present military dictatorship SLORC has offered a divisive cease-fire deal to over a dozen ethnic non- Burman armed opposition groups across the country, including the Mon armed opposition New Mon State Party (NMSP). NMSP entered into a cease-fire agreement with SLORC on 29 June 1995.
All through the last three and a half decades from the coming into existence of a military dictatorship, the people of Burma have constantly been denied to enjoy freedom of expression. The traditional dictatorial military regimes have systematically prevented any voice of opposition by means of oppressive laws and decrees. The right of the citizens freely to take part in the government of their country is non-existent in Burma. SLORC has abolished most of the opposition political parties in the country - including the Mon Nation Democratic Front (MNDF) which won 5 seats in the May 1990 general elections. Most of the prominent opposition leaders in the country have been imprisoned or prohibited from taking part in politics. The ethnic non-Burman communities of the country have systemati- cally been deprived of their birth right to teaching their own ethnic languages and literature and to preserving their own cultural heritage, under a policy of Burman ethnocentrism and Burmanization tradition- ally exercised by the successive Burman-dominated governments in Rangoon. The ethnic non-Burman people are not allowed to study their own ethnic languages and literature in school, whereas the Burman language is made the only medium of instruction and the Burman literature is taught as a compulsory subject from kindergarten through university. For more than two centuries from the loss of the last Mon sovereign country until recently, Mon Buddhist monasteries served as the only centre preserving the old Mon palm inscriptions and as the only school teaching basic Mon literature to Mon children. Over the last few decades, patriotic Mon young people and the Mon monastic commu- nity have taken a united effort in realizing self-help Mon literacy campaigns throughout the Mon region every summer time when the government schools are normally closed, teaching a number of Mon children and adults basic Mon literature each year. This self-help Mon literacy movement provides the only glimmer of hope for the Mon people in the country to learn their own language and literature at present. Even this self-help occasional Mon literacy movement, how- ever, is not allowed to happen and grow freely under the rule of the Burman-dominated racist military dictatorship.In the early 80s, the racist BSPP dictatorship abolished the privilege for Mon monks to have their Buddhist literature exams taken in Mon privilege that they had enjoyed since the time of the British colonial rule -and forced them to have the exams taken in Burmese (Burman) instead, resulting in the consistent boycotts by numerous Mon monks and in the dissatisfaction of the Mon people as a whole. Though it has agreed a cease-fire deal with the Mon armed opposition New Mon State Party, in violation of the terms of the cease-fire agreement, the present military regime SLORC has closed down or effectively disturbed the many NMSP-supported Mon basic schools across the rural Mon region. SLORC also forcibly prevented celebrations and festivities of the 23 February 1997 golden jubilee of Mon National Day in Moulmein and other towns in Mon state.