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What is Japanese ODA? Whither Goes

Subject: What is Japanese ODA?  Whither Goest It?


(by Nai Monchai Sirihong)

Political Background of Mon State

After the SLORC released Burmese pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
in July 1995, the Japanese government agreed to continue their Official
Development Assistance to SLORC.   The opinion of the Japanese Government
was that the Burmese military regime had softened its stand and was open to
the process of national reconciliation. 

It seems that the Japanese government thought that SLORC would actually have
dialogue with democratic and ethnic opposition groups.  On the eve of the
release of the pro-democracy leader, the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and
SLORC reached a cease-fire agreement and, as a follow up, agreed to
implement some border area development projects. 

The New Mon State Party is an armed opposition group which has represented
the Mon people's aspiration  for the right of autonomy and their struggles
against Rangoon's successive government for over forty years.  Since its
headquarters in Three Pagodas Pass area was overrun by the Burmese Army in
1990, the NMSP has been weak.   Many thousands of Mon people who took refuge
in its liberated areas fled into Thai territory and sought asylum in refugee
camps along the border area, receiving assistance, rice, fishpaste and
medicine from international donors. 

Even though the New Mon State Party is not very strong, it has developed its
own administration which functions smoothly and is supported by its own
people.  As part of its administration, the NMSP has also implemented an
education system with one of its primary objectives the preservation of Mon
historic literature and its teaching to younger generations.  This is in
complete contrast to successive Rangoon governments which have never allowed
the teaching of Mon language as a subject even in the early grades in
government schools in Mon State.  In government schools, Mon children are
discriminated against and forced to learn Burmese language even though their
first language is Mon and Mon is spoken in their homes. 

Existing Problems with ODA

At every United Nations General Assembly during this decade, SLORC has been
called upon to arrange political dialogue with representatives of democratic
opposition and armed ethnic forces. The UN also annually urges SLORC to
transfer power to the democratically elected representatives of the people.
Since the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the international community has
more or less accepted SLORC's sincerity for working for national
reconciliation in Burma.
Because of the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Japanese government
supported SLORC and decided to resume its Official Development Assistance to
Burma, apparently with hopes SLORC will actually carry out dialogue of
national reconciliation. 

Nevertheless, the SLORC cares little about the opinion of the world
community and has refused to enter into any political talks with the
opposition. In the NMSP-SLORC cease-fire agreement, the NMSP asked for
assistance to build a high school in its the territory under its control.
According to the plan of the NMSP's Education Department, they would build a
Mon National High School in Kanni village of Ye Township.  In the
establishment of that high school, SLORC agreed to provide 100 million Kyat
as NMSP's share.  This amount, it was promised, would come from the first
grant of newly resumed ODA of the Japanese government.  The NMSP welcomed
the agreement about the donation, since building that high school would
extend its education program. 

In October, 1995, the NMSP leaders held a discussion with SLORC military
commanders in Moulmein of South-East Command.  The commanders agreed to name
the school the Mon National High School.  After the high school was
officially recognized as the Mon National School, it would function under
and be administered by the NMSP's Education Department. 

After that meeting, the NMSP started to build a road to the school site in
order to transport construction materials and supplies.  Some parts of the
school site were also cleared.

According to the Mon education system, all Mon National Schools must teach
Mon language as major a major subject, with the aim of  maintaining the
national literature. Like other government schools, the school would also
teach Burmese, English, Mathematics, Geography, and other courses, including
Mon History.   Because the Mon people were the earliest settlers of lower
Burma, they have their own language and a very long history to be studied,
but the Rangoon government has forbidden such subjects in their schools of
Mon State. 

In December, 1995, the SLORC changed their position concerning this high
school. They said that they would not recognize that high school as a Mon
National High School but that it must be recognized as a High School of the
Border Area Development (BAD) Program. Under BAD program, the high school
must function and be administrated under the Ministry of Border Area

The SLORC has carried out BAD programs in the Wa and Kokang areas after
those groups reached cease-fire agreements.  The SLORC has built some
schools and hospitals in those areas, in order to show the international
community, especially various UN agencies, that they have harmonious
relations with those ethic communities and that they could implement
development projects in those areas.   Unfortunately most of the schools
constructed in those border areas remain empty, without teachers, equipment,
or facilities.  Clearly the SLORC built those schools to make propaganda for
both domestic and international consumption.  Even though some international
NGOs have requested permission to work in those areas, the SLORC refuses to
allow them access. 

Unlike the Wa and Kokang, the Mons have a well-established Mon education
system and can efficiently run their schools by themselves. The NMSP needs
outside assistance only to build the school buildings and furnish them.  In
the liberated areas, the NMSP has established over 250 Mon National Schools.
Many well-educated Mon, some of whom graduated from Moulmein or Rangoon
Universities, serve as teachers in the National Schools. 

Initially, the Mons were optimistic that with Japanese government's ODA
assistance, they could build a high school that would enable most middle
level Mon students to continue their education.  After the SLORC reneged on
its promise, changing the name and the function of the high school, many lay
Mon leaders and Mon monks realized that the SLORC cannot be trusted.  Now
they see that the SLORC remains an intolerant military regime which has no
intention of allowing the slightest self-determination to ethnic

After SLORC drastically changed the agreement and altered the plan, the NMSP
withdrew approval of the high school under the administration of Ministry of
BAD in its territory.  At the beginning of 1996, after many discussion and
complaints, the NMSP formally notified SLORC that it did not want the high
school to be built in its territory and demanded that the project be
stopped.  The SLORC never officially responded to the NMSP arguments.  The
school construction has created a lot of tension between NMSP and SLORC. 

Even though the road is no longer necessary, since the school constructin
has completely stopped, the SLORC continued building the road, obviously,
only for its own access to the MNSP controlled area. 

Actually. this refusal of the SLORC to allow a proper Mon National High
School highlights their insincerity toward all the cease-fire groups. The
SLORC does not want to allow any of the cease-fire groups to exercise their
rights independently.  

The NMSP's arguments got stronger and stronger in April and the tension
appeared likely to result in a breakdown of the cease-fire agreement.  

Althoush the promise of a Mon National High School was part of the larger
cease-fire agreement, the SLORC, by breaking its promise, is withholding all
the Japanese ODA funds that were intended for the Mon.  So far, the Mon have
received none of this Border Development Assistance.  The Mons desperately
need to build more schools and hospitals in the areas along the Thai-Burma
where the NMSP can offer enough protection to reconstruct its community of
combined returned Mon refugees and internally displaced persons. 


On behalf of the Mon people, we request the Japanese Government 

	1.	to assist the ethnic nationalities directly.  Japanese aid intended for
development projects in ethnic areas should go directly to the ethnic groups
themselves, without being diverted through the SLORC BAD administration.
The Mon have had ample experience working with international aid donors and
development agencies through Thai-Burma Border Consortium and other NGOs.
	2.	To contact Thailand-based international NGOs to learn about the real
situation of the Mon refugees along the Thai-Burma border and to find ways
and means of assisting that needy community. The Mon refugees, displaced
persons, and local Mon communities urgently need improved health facilities,
education, and development assistance. 

	3.	To contact the Mon community inside Mon State directly,  especially
through respected and trusted monks, to offer assistance in respective areas