Burma has been racked by civil war ever since its independence, over 40 years ago. The Mon people, as well as other ethnic minorities such as the Karen and Shan, have suffered greatly during this period.
Burma gained independence from Britain in 1948, and it has been ruled by military dictators since then. The current rulers are the SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council), who took power in a 1988 coup, suspending the legislature and the judiciary.
One of the most notorious actions of the military regime in Burma was the Aug. 8, 1988 massacre of thousands of students engaged in peaceful protests against the government. Follow this link for photos from the 1988 massacre.
The current Burmese government has received world-wide condemnation for its human-rights violations, and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burmese political prisoner, received the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to bring international attention to the grave conditions in Burma. Following this link for more information on Aung San Suu Kyi.
The U.S. State Department, in its 1994 report on human rights in Burma, wrote
Despite an appearance of greater normalcy fostered by increased economic activity, in fact the Government's unacceptable record on human rights changed little in 1994. Out of sight of most visitors, Burmese citizens continued to live subject at any time and without appeal to the arbitrary and sometimes brutal dictates of the military. There continued to be credible reports, particularly from ethnic minority-dominated areas, that soldiers committed serious human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings and rape. The use of porters by the army--with all the attendant maltreatment, illness, and even death for those compelled to serve--remained a standard practice and probably even increased. The Burmese military forced hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of ordinary Burmese (including women and children) to "contribute" their labor, often under harsh working conditions, to construction projects throughout the country. The forced resettlement of civilians also continued.Burma is shared by many nationalities, and it is necessary to find a national framework that includes full partnership for all the people of the country. If not, civil war cannot be stopped, and the dream of building the union of Burma as a developed and democratic country cannot be realized. The Indigenous Mon Council of Burma fears that Burma will become another Bosnia unless the military Junta shares authority with the Burmese ethnic minorities.
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