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My Reflection at the Mon National Day in 2013
Opinion

 

My Reflection at the Mon National Day in 2013

Banya Hongsar,  (Mon Writers Club)
Thursday, March 18, 2013

The red and white clothing of the younger Mon generation has been apparent all over lower Burma this past week as the annual celebration of Mon National Day readies to begin. The faces of bravery of the new generation has been painting a picture of a new page in the modern history of Burma—the road to peace and a newly introduced democratic norm in the country. I was born from Mon parents. Therefore, I must not slip away from a reflection of the day that shapes my vision for the future of Monland. Today is the day during which I reflect from the past to the present with the fresh air in the early morning of February 26. I know that the sky is blue in Canberra, the capital city of Australia and my second home for over a decade. The songs of Mon voices on the internet and other Mon-centric online features have impressed me far from my homeland. The Mon flag flies in the sky above. This is a moment of hope and determination for a new nationhood.

In fact, National Day is a moment of pride for me. I preserve this moment dearly. Globally, over seventeen countries have been celebrating Mon National Day in 2013. This is a sign of nationhood and hope for Mon.

It is winter season in my Mon homeland, with surrounding rivers, mountains, flat paddy fields, and millions of Mon people. It is a land full of paddy in golden color. The land is made beautiful through its nature. Millions of Mon will celebrate our National Day, the date that marks the foundation of our last capital, Pegu, less than 1500 years ago. The significance of Mon civilization has been acknowledged by western scholars and Asian researches who highly regard our progressive people in the modern era. As a Mon by birth with hope of a brighter future for our younger generation, I will preserve a glimpse of hope as I celebrate our recent achievements as an ethnicity that has been stateless for over 250 years. Our history is an accord of our past, but our present is a gift.

The celebration of a ‘National Day’ commonly prides achievements towards freedom, independence and other victories of the nation and its people. Mon National Day celebrates past achievements but also preserves the present trend: the unity of Mon people in all walks of life. Our National Day offers a call for unity, a day to unite Mon people – including social, cultural and political activists – in order to preserve culture, language and identity. It is a call to foster unity towards the purpose of basic human rights, the right of self-determination and the formation of a Mon government in Mon State. It is a celebration of the cultural significance of the past and the pride of the present.

The foundation of Mon civilization in Southeast Asia dates back to early-AD, according to modern scholarly research. The last of the Mon capitals, Pegu (Hongsawatoi in Mon text), has never been erased from the minds of millions of Mon people in our time. The last Mon monarchy, educated Buddhist monks and royal public servants of the 1757 massacre are remembered in a day of grief. The plight of ethnic Mon under the six-decades of oppressive Burmese military rule is under the threat of losing its identity and cultural significance. I will search for the best answer for peace and national tolerance with racial respect to all people in Burma. It is my mission as a fellow countryman that I ask the hard questions to all my colleagues in this mission. Thus I ask, is this our moment?

A man ought to live in peaceful conditions for social and recreational activities. I have lived in such an environment for over fifteen years. However, I have found, on my recent trip to my homeland, that men and women still live in fear of others. After over two-hundred years of fear between men and among people in my homeland, I must advocate for a new way of thinking and communicating among us. The painful experiences of the past have not healed us in a meaningful manner. Our founding fathers – the former kings and queens – have laid the beauty of our land, language, culture, and tradition, but our heritage is not yet civilized because of the oppressions of past and present political systems.

To date, the celebration of Mon National Day is freely and fairly organized in my Mon homeland, in the capital of Mon State. However, it is under the condition of public order for security purposes.
Searching for peace within Burma is a long journey. The attitude Burmese leaders have yet to show is that of racial respect within modern government policy. The truth of the matter is that Burma has been ruled by the military for over six-decades.

I was questioned by Burma’s senior military in 1993 regarding my role in working with democracy activists in Mon State. I had read by then that the hearts and minds of Burmese military officials were governed by their desire to rule Burma at whatever cost. It was a full stop.

Celebrating Mon National Day is not a treat to other communities at home and abroad. In my Mon homeland, local government officials, senators and members of parliament will give speeches at the local Mon National Day events. However, strict orders are in place during the event. Mon students and local youth will then upload information to website and YouTube to broadcast the National Day celebration. Is this our moment?

This is a new era and new freedom movement. Majority rule by military might is gone in Europe and Central Asia. Freedom of the individual is on call. Democracy is on call for all nations and people around the world. It is time that humans celebrate this moment of truth.

The time has come for Mon people to search for peace and unity within themselves and others. The progressive nature of Mon has made many contributions in Southeast Asia over the last two millennia, from arts to language. I am proud that we are not disappearing from Earth even though we are continually attacked by the military’s policy of assimilation in our homeland.

Pegu, our last capital, was built by our royal kings and queens in early-AD and was resplendent with its beautiful pagodas, temples, ponds, and other cultural institutions. The Buddha Gotama visited our land during the eighth year of his proclamation as Buddha. According to his words, “the land will become the capital of the Mon people as established by two brothers.” The Buddha predicted the foundation of our capital when he saw two drakes resting above a sand-pit in the lake at Pegu.

My mission of peace and unity is searching for an identity. This is each individual’s moral responsibility. The celebration of Mon National Day is me claiming my identity. It is the sense of dignity that I dearly hold because I have been taught to be a civilized man since I was a child.

The land of peace and the land of hope will prevail only when progressive people throughout the land have a sense of identity and pride. My mission of seeking racial respect and cultural tolerance is to seek help from all my fellow men and women. A culture of dialogue and conversation for cultural enrichment is how I choose to celebrate this event. The celebration of the past with a sense of hope for the future is my best effort towards a contribution for all.

It is not just about a celebration of our 66th anniversary. Rather, it is also a celebration of over two-thousand years of our civilization’s achievements. A day of unity in common purpose is our best hope for restoring our homeland with dignity and prosperity.

I have reflected over the past forty years, since I was a child, on the meaning of Mon National Day. However, I was never able to find the answer until today. My Australian friends mocked me and told me that I was celebrating my National Day as a commemoration of the founding of my nation, but that my nation has been destroyed. I have always appreciated this mocking commentary because they reminded me that “I am a stateless person.” If the day ever comes that I see ‘Monland’ on the world map, a President of Monland, and an ethnic Mon ambassador to the UN Assembly, I will have found the answer that I have been seeking for over forty years. On this note, my reflection is meaningful at least to myself and, above all, to you.

 

COMMENT


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