Ethnic diversity at the edge of ASEAN’s border 2 : Mon People
04, July 2012
Mon: searching for fading territory.
In the past Mon was once lived near Thailand and Myanmar. After a period of prosperity Mon people lost the war to Myanmar. People were captured and some were herded. The area that people could call country was no more. The situation of Mon right now is that Mon people are scatter in various locations. Ong Banjun, Thai with Mon blood, stated a statistic about foreign workers who works in Mahachai, one of the biggest fishing industry area in Thailand, that most of Thais believe that they are Burmese but in fact 70% of them are Mon while other 30% are Kariang, Tavoy, Kachin, Kaya, Taiyai, Plong and Burmese.
“…People of Mon had moved to Thailand since Dvaravati period according to records from around AD 900. There was another clear record of Mon people moved to Thailand during Naresuan the Great era (around AD. 1469). And 200 years during Thai’s Rattanakosin period after Mon lost its area as country to Myanmar, Mon people also moved to Thailand as well…”
Ong presents more detail that after moving to Thailand Mon people will locate themselves along river basin, spread through Central, North and South of Thailand. Mon people brought their culture with them, for instance, language, clothes and architecture style. When scattered Mon people could form their community, they would proudly present their culture to the identity of themselves and to preserve their culture to the next generation.
Talking about ASEAN, Ong provided some interesting comments that culture and tradition are such mystery, especially connection between each ethnic group from commerce to evacuation from war and disaster. This connection makes ethnics mix together, for example, mix blood relation, marriage or some tradition that links people from two places together.
“…If we talk about the relation of people with no concern of country or nation, commerce and exchange happened for a long time since ancient. The present action between governments is merely an act. In fact, commerce and culture routes are continuing and will never stop; we just bring it up and talk with economic language…”
To adapt to ASEAN, recently Myanmar has opened itself more to the world. Myanmar is on the way to democracy with the leading of its government and important key person such as Aung San Suu Kyi. Will this gives any hope to Mon people who by majority live in Myanmar and used to have less right when compare with Burmese people? Will Aung San Suu Kyi becomes their hope as many people in Myanmar and around the world believe?
“…Our hope could be divided into two levels, the first one is pre-election. Aung San Suu Kyi is like our last straw that we have to catch well. Until we got democracy then we will discuss later. We know that nevertheless Aung San Suu kyi is still Burmese. When she arrive Mon community she said that she has got Mon blood in her a bit and when she goes to other ethnics she also said that she got those ethnic blood relate. Politician’s habit never change, it is the very same in every country and that makes us only hope to get democracy first; joining the parliament could be concerned later. Some of Mon people put their hope on Aung Sann Suu Kyi for now while some try to establish Mon political party. Actually we could have Mon political party but we must do it in jungle (means not fully accept by government) and that is the “New Mon State Party”.
The change for ASEAN might comes but Mon people still have to find their own place and there is a long way to go.