Myanmar's Mons allowed to mark national day

Ethnic group publicly celebrates cultural heritage for first time in 15 years amid wave of political reforms.


    The ethnic Mon community has been permitted by authorities to publicly celebrate their national day for the first time in 15 years in Myanmar.

    The minority group, who number up to eight million of the country's nearly 60 million people, assembled across the country, including in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, on Wednesday to mark the ancient founding of Hanthawady, the last Mon kingdom.

    The development appeared to be a part of a wave of political and social reforms in the country, as the government moves to engage with the numerous ethnic minority groups that had faced oppression by Myanmar's former military leadership.

    The national day celebrations were permitted after a peace deal that was struck between the new Mon State Party and the government just a week ago.

    Many of Myanmar's ethnic groups want more autonomy from the new civilian government, which took over from military rule in 2010.

    Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay, reporting from Yangon, said "it is a symbolic day for Myanmar, not only for the Mon people, but for the government as well", noting that a number of senior officials attended the celebrations.

    "It is just another small step in the long road of trying to engage all the ethnic minority groups of Myanmar."

    But he also noted that there was still widespread scepticism over the government's sincerity to improve relations with the Mons.

    "There is a still a lot of mistrust, a lot of scepticism that this government is making real change on the ground, that its not just doing it for its own economic benefit," he said.

    "I guess the main reason they are doing that is to get the economic sanctions against them by the US lifted.

    "One of the Mon leaders mentioned that he is very pleased with all the political changes that are happening within the country, but he is disappointed by the fact that the Mon people have not been able to have a representative in the new cabinet."

    The Mons, who have their own distinct language, are credited with spreading Buddhism - the national religion - throughout Myanmar and Thailand.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


    Survivor stories from Super Typhoon Haiyan

    Survivor stories from Super Typhoon Haiyan

    The Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever to make landfall. Five years on, we revisit this story.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    Thou Shalt Not Kill: Israel's Hilltop Youth

    Thou Shalt Not Kill: Israel's Hilltop Youth

    Meet the hardline group willing to do anything, including going against their government, to claim land for Israel.