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Mon Information Service 04.05.-95
- Subject: Mon Information Service 04.05.-95
- From: ojasti@xxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Thu, 04 May 1995 08:06:00
THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF MON - M0N INFORMATION SERVICE
MAY 4 1995
1. MONS IN THE PAST AND TODAY.
2.LETTER TO UNOCAL FROM OMNSO (Overseas Mon National Students Organization )
3. THE KINGDOM OF MONLAND, A LOOK TO THE PAST. BY DAVID CLIVE PRICE
1. MONS IN THE PAST AND TODAY.
Concentrated between Burma and Thailand, there are an estimated 8 million
Mons in the world today. Yet, their rights often go unrecognized. Like
many indigenous peoples of this region, for the past forty years the
central government in both Rangoon and Bangkok have ignored and attempted
ethnocide of the Mon people -- who were the orignial inhabitants in the
The Mon language is a distant relative of the Khamer (Cambodia) langauge
group, having no similarities with Burmese and the Burmese alphabet is
based on the Mon alphabet.
After successive waves of Burman and Thai immigrations from the north in
the last milenia, and after repeated attacks the kingdom of the peaceful
Mons was defeated in 1757 and the higher culture taken as war booty to
upper Burma by the Burmese king and many hundred thaunsand of Mon jhad
been facing genocide. Meanwhile, in Thailand Mons were given speical
areas to live and found sympathetic favor under the Thai king, himself a
descendent of the Mons, mostly in areas around Bangkok's main river.
Today, however, the situation is radicaly different with assimilation
rampant on both sides of the border. Centralization and capitalism are
working hand in hand to annihilate all indigenous peoples. A planned gas
pipeline from Burma's Gulf of Martaban will dissect Monland on its way
into energy-strapped Thailand, and so foriegn policy in the era of
"constructive engagement" does not favor the Mon people (as was seen by
the recent Halockhani attack by SLORC troops and the Thai starving out of
the refugees to return across the border).
The refugee situation is increasing due to forced labor on "infrastruc-
ture" projects in the area, such as the gas pipeline and the 110 miles
long dead Ye-Tavoy railway construction. Villages regularly undergo forced
relocation while harrassment, violence and pillaging continue under SLORC's reign of terror. Also, many Mons have been
targetted for arrest in the Sangkhlaburi area and Kanchanaburi District,
which is viewed as an attempt by the Thais to put pressure on the New
Mon State Party to sign a cease-fire agreement with the Burmese military
One of the biggest problems for the Mon people is recieving outside
information and spreading out inside information to international
Approximately 50-60% of the Mon people cannot read or write in Burmese,
and less are able to use English. Thus access to much information is
prohibitive, especially about health care, politics and international
news. This is in addition to strict censorship controls and added ethnic
suppression by the Burmese junta.
For more information on the Mon, Please contact
GPO Box. 375
The New Mon State Party (NMSP): :Fighting against Burmese
military junta by both arm struggle and political activities;
Mon National Relief Committee (MNRC): Working for Mon refugees in the
Thai- Burma border;
Committee for Publicity of People Struggle in Monland (CPPSM):
Mon Human Rights Group;
2. LETTER TO UNOCAL FROM OMNSO
A Letter from Chairman of the Overseas Mon National Students' Organi-
zation ( OMNSO ) to Mr. Richard J. Stegemeier, Chairman and Chief Executive
Officer, UNOCAL corporation:
April 18, 1995
Mr. Richard J. Stegemeier
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
1201 West 5th Street
Los Angeles CA 90051
Dear Mr. Stegemeier,
I am writing to you today as the Chairman of the Overseas Mon National
Students Organization to ask that UNOCAL, for ethical reasons, take
immediate action to abrogate its contractual relationship with SLORC, and
all parties involved in the pipeline project. In asking you to take this
brave position, I would like to ask for your careful consideration of the
human rights situation involved in the UNOCAL pipeline project and
related projects in Burma.
It is clear to the Mon people, and the Mon students, that there is a dis-
tinct link between the construction of the Ye-Tavoy Railway and the inten-
ded construction of the pipeline. SLORC needs the railway desperately in
order to provide security and supplies for the intended pipeline. You may
consider the construction of the railway, Mr. Stegemeier, as an example
of how SLORC approaches large projects, in areas under its control.
The multi-million dollar pipeline cuts through Mon territory and parallels
the route of the infamous World War Two "Death Railway". It is financed
by American, French and Thai companies but will be constructed by forced
labour conscripted from the civilian families in townships and villages in
the Tenasserim Division. As of late last year an estimated 120,000 -
150,000 have already been subjected to forced labour on the Ye-Tavoy route,
says a report from the New Mon State Party. (Bangkok Post, August 28, 1994)
These human rights violations have been reported in detail by Human Rights
Watch/Asia in its report of December of 1994 entitled: The Mon: Persecuted
in Burma, Forced Back from Thailand. This document mentions the pre-
valence of forced labour on the railway, details reports from individuals
who have been so persecuted, and states that:
"Prospective investors should be discouraged from doing business in Burma
in light of the continuing pattern of gross human rightsviolations. Foreign
companies approached by SLORC and urged to invest should point to the
widespread use of forced labor and other abuses and make it clear that they
cannot risk the perception that they might directly or indirectly benefit
from or help to subsidize such violations by their investments in Burma.
Those companies already investing in Burma, especially Unocal, Total and
Premier Oil who are involved in the gas pipeline, should take steps to
prevent the inadvertent use of forced labor in connection with their
projects and use their influence with the government to press for human
rights improvements." (Human Rights Watch/Asia, Vol.6 No.14 P.22)
Since there is no doubt that UNOCAL will benefit, at least indirectly,
from the construction of the Ye-Tavoy railway by receiving security and
supplies by rail, UNOCAL will clearly benefit, at least indirectly,
from the gross human rights violations which are taking placeto build
the railway. I wonder if you can justify that. Is it in line with your
code of ethics? Do you have any reason to believe that SLORC will behave
differently on the intended pipeline project than on other projects? I urge
you to withdraw, sir, and stop supporting the oppression of the Mon people.
My second point, Mr. Stegemeier, is to ask you to consider the horrible
situation of the Mon refugees who have fled into Thailand. While SLORC
urgently needs the income which will be generated from the pipeline to
fuel its huge military and continue to rule by force in the face of inter-
national condemnation, Thailand needs the pipeline to fuel its factories
and power plants as it strives to become a newly industrialized nation.
Since Mon forces maintain control over some of the land through which the
pipeline will pass, and because the Mon have not signed a peace treaty
with SLORC, they are considered an obstacle by both sides. The pressure
on the Mon to sign a treaty which will enable the pipeline is immense,
and includes further violations of our human rights.
Amazingly enough, on the very day the Thai government and Burma's ruling
State Law and Order Restoration Council signed the memorandum of under-
standing for exploitation of the massive natural gas in the Mon territory
in Burma that the 6000 Mon refugees were finally pushed back to their
unsafe shelters in the Burmese territory by the Thai army. (Mon Refugees,
Both Amnesty International and the United Nations High Commission on Refu-
gees (UNHCR) have had to prevail upon the Thai government for humane
treatment of Mon refugees, and have cited frequent and continuous vio-
lations of the human rights of these people. The link between the pipe-
line treaty and the continued oppression of Mon refugees by Thai authorities
is clear to us and we feel that it should be brought to your attention.
In contravention of all international principles, Mon refugees on Thai soil,
have been mistreated and repatriated into SLORC territory. Human rights
groups, a U.S. government fact finding mission and representatives of the
international press have been denied access to border refugee camps by
Thai authorities. Forced repatriations have been accurately documented.
Human Rights Watch/Asia has concluded, "This report has documented syste-
matic violations of internationally recognized human rights committed
by both the Burmese and Thai governments against the Mon."(Vol.6 No.14 P.19)
The intensity of the suffering and oppression of the Mon people is inten-
tionally being increased in an attempt to force us into signing an agree-
ment with SLORC. We are being pushed to negotiate with a gun to our heads.
SLORC is attempting to negotiate away natural resources over which they
have no legitimately sanctioned authority, to be sold through a pipeline
which will pass through areas not under their control. You sir, and UNOCAL,
are a major player in this.
You can make the courageous decisions which would put an end to at least
some of our misery. Suspending the pipeline deal until basic human rights
and a legitimate government are restored in Burma is your most effective
move in terms of ethics and justice.
We realize that it has never been the intention of UNOCAL to increase the
misery and suffering of the Burmese people, but that iswhat is happening.
When we read UNOCAL's own code of conduct we see the following:
- Conduct for doing business in a way that engenders pride in our
employees and respect from the world community.
-A safe and healthful workplace and equal opportunity employment.
- Improving the quality of life in communities where we do business.
so that UNOCAL's "presence enhances people's lives in long-lasting,
In conclusion, I reiterate to you the following points:
1) The construction of the Ye-Tavoy Railway, which so severely
oppresses the Mon people by forced labour, relocation, and conscription,
is being urgently pursued because it is needed for the construction of
the pipeline. UNOCAL will benefit from these human rights violations.
2) Both Thailand and Burma are concerned about the pipeline areas
which are not under SLORC control, and are therefore trying to pressure
the Mon into a peace agreement with SLORC. The Thai authorities'
inhumane treatment of Mon Refugees is a part of this pressure. UNOCAL
stands to benefit from these human rights violations.
3) UNOCAL is in violation of its own code of ethics because it is a party
to an agreement which sanctions conditions which are condemned by the inter-
national community, creates oppressive work and living situations, and
fails to "enhance people's lives in long lasting meaningful ways".
We are well aware that an abrogation of the pipeline treaty may be expen-
sive for UNOCAL. We are also aware that in all religious and ethical
traditions, to make a just and ethical decision may be costly.
Fully aware of what we are asking, we ask UNOCAL to end its pipeline
treaty with SLORC and the Thai government.
Overseas Mon National Students' Organization
3.THE KINGDOM OF MONLAND, A LOOK TO THE PAST. BY DAVID CLIVE PRICE
A TRIO OF INFLUENCES; MON, BURMESE AND LANNA DISTINGUISH LAMPANG, A
MOSTLY FORGOTTEN CITY IN NORTHWEST THAILAND
Historical accounts of northern Thailand usually focus on the kingdom of
Lanna with its capital at Chiang Mai founded in 13th century by king
Mengrai. It was he who built Chiang Rai, naming it after himself, and he
who also conquered the MON kingdom of Haripunchai, whose capital was at
Lamphun just south of Chiang Mai.
Of the two, the Mon conquest was perhaps the most significant. Even
though Mengrai came to rule over a large swathe of the north, creating a
kingdom that vied in power and splendour with Sukhothai, and ranged from
Laos to the Shan states of Burma, he relied heavily on Mon cultural,
architectural and Theravada Buddhist models to embellish his newly
The Mons lived in Lower Burma and in the western part of Thailand centred
in Nakhon Pathom, Pathon Thani, Lop Buri, Ratch Buri, Samut Sarkhorn,
Samut Sornkhram and Samut Prakarn. Suvannabhumi - the 'Golden Land' of
their ancestors - was the most important channel to southeast Asia of
Theravada Buddhist beliefs brought over from Sri Lanka. Early Thai
Buddhist architecture of the Dvaravati period was inspired by Mon models.
Although some people recognise that Lamphun, founded in 660AD by the
legendary Mon Queen Chapadevi, was an important centre of Buddhist
culture, very few travel 50 kilometres south to Lampang, which is, if
anything, more significant.
The town of Lampang, the second largest in the north, is said to have
been founded by a son of Chapadevi in the late seventh century. Here can
be found far better examples of 'Lanna' architecture than any still to be
found in Chiang Mai. Yet Lampang was part of Haripunchai, and as such,
experienced much the same history as Chiang Mai =D1 including 300 years of
In the 19th century the British made the town the centre of the teak
trade from Burma, and by 1900 the Old Market was being visited by ten
caravans a year from the Shan States and China, each comprising more than
100 mules carrying lacquer, furs, steel, copper, tea and opium. Ten
thousand bullock carts came annually to the market and 20,000 porters
were engaged in the trade with Burma and China. This period, called the
'Teak Wallah' era, is still visible in the old wooden Chinese, Burmese
and Western shop houses of Lampang with their distinctive motifs and
abundance of Victorian ornaments, as well as in Chinese and Burmese temples
Wat Prakeo Don Tao is the main temple of the town. It was reputedly foun-
ded by Chapadevi's son in the seventh century and in the 15th century
it housed the famous Emerald Buddha now enshrined at Wat Prakeo in
Bangkok. Another image, the jasper Prakeo Don Tao, on which the Emerald=
Buddha was based , was also housed here(it is now found in Wat Lampang
Legend tells that an image materialised miraculously out of a large
jasper found in a watermelon by a woman called Suchada. She brought the
melon to a monk, who tried to carve a Buddha out of it, but without
success. One day. however. they found that the god Indra had created a
Buddha for them. The townsfolk became suspicious at this and told the
king that the monk had entered into an illicit relationship with Suchada,
whereupon the king ordered Suchada beheaded. However. when the axe struck
off her head her blood flowed upwards to heaven. In remorse the king
dedicated Wat Prakeo to her.
I learn all this from Tawee, my Shan Chinese guide. Tawee spent three
years in a Burmese style monastery as a novice and knows a great deal of
Buddhist folklore. Legend and magic, he explains, still play a large part
in the support of the local priesthood. Local rulers chose images for
their temples according to their potency and still do. For example, the
nearby shrine with its images of Suchada and the monk; or the sculpted
white elephant in the grounds with the famous jasper in a howdah on its
back; or the chedi said to enshrine a hair of the Lord Buddha.
The Emerald Buddha stopped at Lampang for 32 years on its journey from
Bangkok on the back of a white elephant. It seems that Lampang had a
special spiritual power. The grounds of Wat prakeo, a royal temple, are
full of such stories: Hanuman and an elephant presenting gifts to Buddha,=
monkeys, fat Buddhas. Wat Prakeo, Lampang Luang and Chedi Sao (some 16
kilometres away) are said to be connected by a magic triangle. Each
houses relics of the Buddha or his disciples, and one day , so the story=
goes , a light will break forth from all three, uniting them together.
Tawee finishes telling me this. I am about to turn away when I glimpse an
old, bare-shouldered and very thin monk pass in front of the viharn
doorway. Through the sunlit interior, I can see a gold-leaf statue of the
same man, in exactly the same position, with the same stooped back and
I am confused. Which of the two is real, which is an image? Suddenly, in
a completely unrelated development, a man turns to me at the entrance
kiosk and, without a pause, points to my neck.
"That foreigner, he is wearing a charm," he says to Tawee.
Tawee smiles and nods his head. Tawee knows I am wearing a charm because
I have told him about it, but the charm in question is hidden by my
shirt. How on earth does that man know it is there?
"He is religious man," says Tawee in answer to my repeated question. I
cannot think of anything further to add.
The Wat Prathat Lampang Luang outside Lampang is far better preserved
than any temple in Chiang Mai. The wealth of its arts represents one of
the most brilliant periods in southeast Asian culture.
Sited on fortified hell and protected by earthen ramparts, the temple was
established in Haripunchai as part of a series of satellite fortresses
(wiang) connecting settlements along the Wang River. Several remains of
these still survive.
The old site is still occupied by a farming compound I could feel animist
rites beneath the strata of familiar Buddhist images; strangely grotesque
'spirit kings' on their pedestals, wrapped round with pink and red gauze;
large bodhi trees in the courtyard thought to be inhabited by spirits and
worshipped by garlands; coconuts, sweets and a dense cluster of support
poles round the trees, to which the sick and mentally ill are brought to
seek relief; and as if to underline the whole pre-Buddhist atmosphere,
Thai folk music announcing Loy Krathong (the November candle festival)
over the loudspeakers.
Lampang Luang's importance is symbolised by the Prakeo Don Tao. The
jasper image and the Emerald Buddha were revered by the kings of
southeast Asia. They often fought wars over their possession.
With its 500-year-old open viharn and gateways in mixed Lanna, Burmese
and Khmer style, Lampang Luang is considered a masterpiece of Buddhist
temple architecture. Another smaller viharn dates from the early 16th
century and is possibly the oldest wooden building in Thailand.
A few kilometres outside Lampang lies Wat Chedi Sao, which boasts a
series of chedi topped by Burmese tin crowns at a rakish angle Here we
found a herbal dispensary available to anyone interested.
The reason for the large number of Burmese wats in this area is that the
Burmese, having annexed parts of the province and being so active in the
teak trade, were anxious to appease the spirits of the trees they had cut
down. In search of forgiveness they devoted themselves to establishing
temples in the trees' honour. The most famous example of Burmese temple
architecture, Sri Chum, has been burnt down, but Wat Sri Rong Muang gives
a good idea of what it must have been like. Everything inside in of
coloured glass pieces and ornate gold filigree work, and there is an airy
veranda where the monks meditate (monks live inside Burmese temples, not
in a separate enclosure).
This is of great interest to Tawee. He explains that when novices take
their vow, they are dressed as Prince Siddhartha - as he himself once
was. They wear a crown on their heads and their feet a re covered, for
they must not touch the ground. Then they are carried around on the backs
of the local priests or - if they are old enough - on elephants. The
whole ceremony lasts a week and is extremely expansive.
We observe the prints. One is of Prince Siddhartha practising with his
bow and arrow in a square in Sri Lanka, surrounded by princelings.
The prints were made by a 'Dr William Ellis from Colombo' and seem to
date from the mid 19th century.
I am intrigued. The whole place is so different to a Lanna or Mon monastery.
According to Tawee, the Mon offer sweets, coconut and rice in the morning
to Buddha, which is not the same as the Thai practice.
Tawee was brought up in a Shan temple. He says that it had two breasts
sculpted on the ceiling, the reason being that a women once offered her
breasts to Lord Buddha as the only gift she could make. The Gautama Buddha
waved them away and the breasts shot to the ceiling.
The ceiling at Rong Muang boasts an impressive array of Cupids with bows
(alluding to the Arrow Hunter in Buddha's in life story), and adecorated
triangle containing the British coat of arms with Burmese words in place
of 'Dieu et Mon Droit'. One of the guardians explains that the temple was
erected in 1880 after Mon kingdom was overrun by Burmese.
Wat Pongsanuk Tai is a good place to finish the tour. It is perhaps the
most charming old 'Lanna' temple in Lampang. In the courtyard stands a
long Mon banner pole with a Hongsa bird (Sheldrake) on top. The Hongsa
is one of Buddha's previous incarnations and a symbols of the Mon kingdom.
Everything about the place - the fake bodhi tree, the roof with Burmese
windows, the Lanna birds, the Mon animals at the eaves - is an image in
miniature of Lampang.
'The part is a dream, the present is an illusion, the future is
The Mon kingdom just left in the history.