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Mon National Day

Burmese Relief Center--Japan
DATE:February 15, 1995
SUBJ:Mon National Day



  Today, the first waning of mide--a Mon lunar date
which falls this year on the 15th of February--Mon
National Day.  Mon National Day commemorates the
inception of the Mon Nation, the founding in 825 AD
of the Hongsawatoi Kingdom by two brothers,
Sammala and Vimala, in what is now Pegu in Lower
Burma.  This auspicious event had been foretold by
none other than the Lord Buddha himself in a prophecy
well-known in the time honored tales of Buddhism,
that a small point of land which indicated to his
disciples would grow, flourish, and in days to come,
constitute one of the greatest of Buddhist nations in all
of Asia.  This astounding prediction, we Mon are
proud to tell, was spoken of our beloved nation.  The
Hongsawatoi Kingdom was to last for over nine
hundred years.  What was then produced of art,
architecture, literature and religious teaching, very
little has come down to us; but what has bears the
discernible traces of one of the great watersheds in the
history of the entire area.  Its achievements have rarely
been rivaled, and never surpassed by the various
cultures which now make up modern Burma. 
Submissive to the ways of nature and the moderation
of Buddhism, rather than the dogmas of religion and
the dictates of tyrants, it constituted a civilizing force
which shaped many of the customs and institutions of
southeast Asia.

  The twilight of the Hongsawatoi Kingdom came in
1757 when it was overrun by the Burmese, with a
terrible loss of life to the Mon, and a great dissipation
of our culture.  Thousands fled to Thailand, never to
return. But, if the kingdom was conquered, the hearts
and souls of the Mon were not--the intervening two and
a half centuries have left undimmed our love of all that
is Mon, and our burning desire for cultural freedom.

  With the coming of independence from foreign
colonial domination in our own times, and the
confederation of a number of ethnic peoples into what
became known as Burma, was meant to rectify some of
the long existing cultural prejudices experienced by
those who were not Burman.  The constitutional law
promulgated in 1947 offered guarantees for the rights
of the ethnic minorities, but sadly, those laws were
rarely honoured by the central government dominated,
as it was, by the Burmese.  This fact, and this fact
alone, accounts for the protracted civil war in Burma, a
war which for the Mon has now lasted some fifty years
with no end in sight.  Indeed, where freedom and
respect for rights and cultural differences are
concerned, the state of affairs over the past half decade
has steadily worsened.  Whereas in the past we were
persecuted for teaching our language, history and
culture, and were denied our rightful share in the
power to govern our daily affairs, today our people are
openly enslaved, pressed into forced labour of Burmese
construction projects such as the Ye Tavoy railroad
and the natural gas pipeline.  Our young men are
forced to porter munitions as supplies for the Burmese
army in its aggression against the ethnic minorities,
and are not infrequently used as shields and human
mine sweepers in front of attacking Burmese troops.
Our crops are illegally seized.  Entire villages have
been relocated at gun point in an effort to stamp out
our identity and language.  Thousands have been
displaced to live miserable and unproductive lives in
camps along the Thai-Burmese border.  Such is the
handiwork of a military dictatorship.

  Bent by oppression we may be, bowed we are not. 
Weighed down we may be, broken we are not.  Two
hundred and fifty years, and yet we remember--for we
are the Mon.  We are confident that our cause for
cultural freedom will not only endure, it will prevail. 
It is not a question of whether freedom will come to
pass, but rather when it shall come to be--for our
freedom is destined to be.

  We who are gathered here today to celebrate Mon
National Day do so with great pride.  We are proud to
be Mon.  We are proud of all that is Mon.  And in our
pride we know that one day our people in the Monland
will again be free to rejoice in all that is Mon--to teach
our language in our schools, to tell again the tales of
our history and the deeds of our forefathers, to
celebrate our identity as a people whom the Lord
Buddha pointed out as a nation of great promise and
blessing to all in Southeast Asia.

  As we celebrate Mon National Day, our hearts
brimming with pride, let us not forget all the Mon
inside Burma who live in fear and are denied the right
to festivity on this day we all cherish so much.  Lot us
not forget to again voice our call to the international
community to take effective action to restore the rights
of the oppressed peoples inside Burma today.  We ask
that you help promote:

  1.  An immediate cessation of hostilities inside Burma
with active talks towards reconciliation and an
enduring peace.

  2.  A new fair federation of peoples in Burma that
seeks to promote and preserve all the various cultures
of the ethnic minorities.

Overseas Mon Young Monks' Union
Overseas Mon National Students Organization
Mon Rescue Committee
Mon National United Organization