KAOWAO NEWS NO. 123

 

Newsletter for social justice and freedom in Burma

January 16-30, 2007

 

Readers Front

Mon immigrant Diaspora unite online to solve Burma’s conflict

Betelnut production suffers due to dry weather

World hits on Kaowao in 2006

Worldwide, Mon prepare for Mon National Day

Myanmar citizens restricted for US account

SSA calls for constructive engagement with China and Russia

Malaysia detains 176 immigrants from Myanmar

Mon community in Canada elects new leaders

What lies ahead for Burma's cease-fires: Ashley South

 

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Readers' Front

 

Dear readers,

 

We invite comments and suggestions on improvements to Kaowao newsletter. With your help, we hope that Kaowao News will continue to grow to serve better the needs of those seeking social justice in Burma. And we hope that it will become an important forum for discussion and debate and help readers to keep abreast of issues and news.  We reserve the right to edit and reject articles without prior notification. You can use a pseudonym but we encourage you to include your full name and address.

 

 

Regards,

 

Editor

Kaowao News

kaowao@hotmail.com, www.kaowao.org

 

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I definitely agreed with Ashley South's opinion (“What lies ahead for Burma's cease-fires”).  There is one regime major policy I would like to point out. The regime will not let NMSP disappear from Mon. The regime will keep NMSP as fence in order to block new operation groups.

 

Even though NMSP has no soldiers, the regime will put Burmese soldiers dressing as NMSP soldiers.  There are many Mon insurgents seeking the way to reform Mon army. As we know there is a big block.  The new reform will not be making a goal to federation. Most of split groups often demonstrated and played self-determination or independence state movement role.


As I have discussed with NMSP's leaders sometime ago, I 100% can say that they are lack of state and military administration knowledge. They have no ability to create Politics, Economics, Social development, and self-educational system in advancement. The worse thing is they are afraid of losing their power. There is Burmese regime and there is also Mon regime. Well...what can we do...is this our destination?


Sorry to express my deep feeling. I am always with NMSP if there will be a big change in positive direction.


 Monjean (via monnnet)

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-- There are different points of view about the democratization process in Burma. Some are in favour of bottom-up democratization and some are in favour of top-down democratization. Some are even in favour of evolution and revolution approach. Whatever approach people are in favour of, I personally believe that the bottom-up democratization and evolution approach to change the mentality of people so that they can well fit into democratic society and environment is essential. In democratization, there are two main processes: changing the state infrastructure and the condition for democracy, and changing the people’s mentality to make democracy function well. Of the two, I personally believe that changing the people’s mentality is more important. That is why changing people’s mentality through voluntary engagement in civil societies and community development are essential in democratization. Civil society and community development process requires trust, social interaction and mutual respect among people interacting with each other. In social interaction, people learn how to be tolerant and accommodate the differences. That is the essence of the principle of democracy that we take the majority’s points of view, and at the same time recognize and respect the minority’s points of view. So the stronger civil society and community we can build, the stronger democratic foundation we can have.

 

However, some people who are in favour of the  revolution approach argue that top-down transformation process or revolution approach is more important in a country like Burma where the state’s infrastructures discourage the building of strong civil societies and communities. In building civil society and community development we need trust, respect and social interaction among people. In Burma, since military took power in 1962, the trust, mutual respect and social interaction among people have been systematically destroyed by the successive military government. If people have trust, mutual respect and social interaction, it is extremely difficult for the military government to rule the country unfairly and illegally. That is why the military government always creates a condition of suspect and distrust among people in Burma. Even people who are working together  in an office or even people  from the same family dare not trust each other as he or she may be the informant of the MI or else. The mentality of distrust among people continues to persist even among Burmese and ethnic communities in exile. That is why they argue that before building free and strong civil societies and communities; we have to dismantle state’s infrastructure political system that hinder the process of community development and democratization. But for me, I believe that it will be excellent if the two, top-down and bottom-up transition can go hand in hand. On the one hand, we can improve the knowledge and mentality of people to abide by the rule of the game and democratic principle by building and engaging in civil societies from the bottom-up. On the other, from the top-down the elites or people in authority should create the conditions where people can freely interact with each other and can build trust and social capital which are precondition for a stronger civil society and community. However, like the argument of the people who are in favour of revolution approach goes, it is highly unlikely that the military regime such as the SPDC will create that condition in afraid of losing their strict control on the people’s life. Whatever it may be, whether it is the evolution approach or revolution approach, I strongly believe that the bottom-up transition is inevitable.  

 

With regard to the NMSP, I personally believe that the NMSP today is completely different from the NMSP ten or more years ago in term of socio-political ideology. As a former member of the NMSP I can vividly see the changes in the NMSP. In the past, the NMSP’s political ideology was that Mon people must be led by the progressive party like the NMSP to the victory of national liberation. That was due mainly to the leftist or Marxist political ideology that assume that people are usually very weak to lead themselves to the victory. They require the leadership and guidance from a progressive party and party cadres. However, nowadays the NMSP has tremendously changed the ideology if not yet completely abandoned. Nowadays, as it is well evident, the NMSP assume that all Mon people regardless of social classes and status must work hand in hand toward the ultimate goal of national liberation. All people including the NMSP, people affiliated with   other civil societies and Mon political organizations at home and abroad must work in a concerted effort and take individual responsibility in whatever work and field they are capable of. We can see these from the evidences that, from time to time, whenever it is necessary the NMSP seek a wider consultation with the grass root Mon community. And, every year the NMSP and other Mon leaders organize the Mon National Affairs Conferences and representatives of all civil societies and political organizations both at home abroad like us  are invited to the conference and freely discuss national issues and current affairs related to our Mon people. The NMSP is fully convinced that the NMSP alone cannot work toward the achievement of the ultimate goal of national liberation. So it encourages Mon people to build stronger Mon civil societies and communities and thereby to take part and take responsibility in our national movement. So, it is entirely up to us to make unbiased judgment by ourselves that whether the NMSP is single-handedly ignoring and leading the people or, the NMSP is marching together and working hand in hand with Mon people from all walks of life  to our ultimate goal of national liberation.

 

Siri Mon Chan (vis monnet)

 

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Activism

 

Mon immigrant Diaspora unite online to solve Burma’s conflict

Kaowao: January 30, 2007

 

Since the fall of Hongsawatoi 250 years ago, the Mons have fled their homeland in search of a peaceful life. Today via the Internet and with advanced technology they are able to coordinate among Mon organizations worldwide to raise awareness internationally and provide support to those back home.

 

While statistics are not available, Mon migrants are able to send millions of dollars of financial assistance in remittances to their family members in Burma donating goods and services to the community development. On another level the Overseas Mon Coordinating Committee (OMCC), the politically active, meet through teleconferences to launch international campaigns to raise awareness about political repression in Burma. They are able to share information about events back home and are calling on the international community to address the problems in Burma

 

The OMCC comprises of community leaders and individuals from Australia, Canada, Europe United States and Thailand (Bangkok and Thai-Burma border).  This committee provided humanitarian aid to the Mon NGOs on the Thai-Burma border. Such aid is deeply appreciated by many people there including the NMSP, said Pamoik Chan Mon of Mon Canadian Society.

 

Working nationally, the Mon organizations is preparing a Mon National Day joint-statement through a teleconference calling for the release of Nai Yekha, Nai Cheem Gakao and all political prisoners and for the Burmese regime to immediately desist from its extensive militarization and offensive in Mon State, especially in Southern Ye Township.

 

The feeling is that the Mon have been economically successful abroad and some are now looking to them for political solutions to the problems back home, as one participant recently said.

 

“The joint statement by the Mon community in exile is not the first time, we occasionally issue statements depending on the situation of the Mon back home; but step by step, the process is gaining momentum and solidarity after we formed the OMCC”, said Pon Nya Mon, Chairman of MRC based in the USA.

 

The OMCC also formed a committee to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Fall of the Mon kingdom (Honsawatoi).

  

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Betelnut production suffers due to dry weather

Kaowao: January 30, 2007

 

Ye -- Production of betelnut is low and the price has jumped up from the previous year due to less production because of dry weather.

 

“The current price is higher than last year at 12 Kyat (from 8 Kyat) for one betelnut, but production has been low because there is not enough water for the long summer season in this area.  Many farmers have to set up water pipes from streams for irrigation plus pay daily wages for it.  It is not worthwhile to grow betelnut,” said Nai Haleh, one grower from Ye.

 

A high demand for betelnut from other parts of Burma has increased and many wild lands in the rural area of Ye townships were turned into cultivated land for betelnut farms with old growth trees being cut down to make way for production.

 

Many villagers in the rural area search for new, rich and fertile land in southern Mon State and have turned it into cultivated land to plant export and domestic crops, such as rubber, coconut, betelnut, lime, cashew nut and other tropical fruits and vegetables.

 

“When I was young, we saw many birds and squirrels and hunted some, but we rarely see wildlife and green forest now,” commented Nai Khin, another farmer from Durae.

 

The betelnut palm is widely grown in southern Burma, particularly in Ye Township.  Betel-chewing, a practise first recorded in Southeast Asia 2500 years ago, is an integral cultural activity among the Burmese population.

 

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World hits on Kaowao in 2006

Kaowao: January 29, 2007

 

According to Webstats4u webtracker, Kaowao’s website has been visited by 78,904 web users in 2006.  The average increased to 216 per day compared to 170 users in May, 2005 survey. 

 

The main key words are interestingly Kaowao, Maharchai (the largest Mon migrant community on the outskirts of Bangkok) and Ashley South, author of the Golden Sheldrake, who wrote a book about Mon nationalism.  The busiest day in 2006 was October 23 with 423 hits.

 

By country, United States ranks first followed by Thailand, Canada, Finland and Malaysia.  The viewers in Thailand and Malaysia have increased from the previous years because more Mons are using the Internet in these countries. 

 

The jump in viewers in Thailand and Malaysia shows a change among exile Mon communities.  The largest overseas Mon community United States stays the same.  In 2005, Canada ranked 2nd followed by Finland, Thailand, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Norway, Singapore, China and others worldwide. 

 

 “Most youth are keen to read Kaowao, not for reaching the news, but for downloading the audio site, on poetry and news articles in Mon version,” said Ms. Pakao from Sangklaaburi of Thai Burma border.

 

Not only are the Thai Mons and activists reading Kaowao using the Internet in Thailand, but users are found among refugees and migrant communities who have some basic computer knowledge even though many thousands of migrant workers are illiterate. 

 

“I enjoy reading Kaowao rather than other Mon news, the quality of writing and a current reporting (in Mon), especially about the murder of Rev.  Jandimar is very interesting,” said Nai Nai from Indiana, USA.

 

Even though access to the Internet and email is restricted by the SPDC regime, Burma ranks 12th from 17th. Kaowao’s Duty Editor Nai Layeh Rot, says our audience in Burma is probably viewed by government agencies and military officers.  He quoted a resident of Three Pagodas Pass border town was told by a Burmese officer about DKBA citing a report from Kaowao.  However, a regular email user from Rangoon said he cannot access Kaowao from the Internet café. 

 

Over 1200 of Kaowao’s readers range from the U.N. officials, students, and academics interested in human rights and Buddhism, to Mon exiles and activists living in far flung places of the world like Caribbean Sea and Jvvaskylan in the Nordic and others who, not heard from them since they left Burma to find out news on events back home.

 

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Worldwide, Mon prepare for Mon National Day

Kaowao: January 27, 2007

 
Bangkok – Organizers of Mon National Day committees in their hometown locations are preparing to mark the 60th anniversary of Mon National Day which will fall on February 2nd, 2007.


As the auspicious annual celebration draws near, the Mon National Day Committees have been working hard for the event that will draw in thousands from cities to villages.


According to Mon Unity League based in Bangkok, the Mon migrant communities are preparing to celebrate in several locations in Samutsarkhorn, Pathomthani and Lopburi of central Thailand.

 
The Thai-Mon community will host a modest festivity at
Ban Kan Mak Village in Muang District of Lopburi while the majority of migrant workers will gather at Sirimonkun Temple with calm water canal access for participants on the Thachin River near Mahachai. The celebrations will allow speakers to express themselves in the morning and entertainment will take place in the evening at Maharchai and Klong Jet, near Bangkok.

 

Jointly hosted by Mon Canadian Society, Mon Women Organization and Mon Buddhist Temple (Canada) the Mon National Day in Calgary took place today from 6:00 p.m to midnight at Penbrooke Community Hall. Placing a high value on family, these events featured cultural performances by family members, Mon cuisine and speeches from community leaders. 

 

“It is a great opportunity for us, to welcome Canadians and friends in honoring our heritage”, said Ms. Anjalii Mon, Chairperson of the event.

 

The Mon National Day is largely celebrated back home in Burma in the areas dominated by Mon inhabitants in Mon State, Karen State, Rangoon and Pegu.  This year’s celebration has grown in Mon immigrant communities across Asia, Europe, Australia and North America where Mon live and enjoy some freedom.

 

Overseas Mon communities are preparing for a joint statement in four languages (Mon, English, Thai and Burmese).  At this time 13 Mon organizations from North America, Europe and Asia Pacific signed to join in.

 

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Myanmar citizens restricted for US account

Kaowao: January 16, 2007

 

Calgary – The Royal Bank of Canada has restricted Myanmar nationalities from opening a U.S dollar account, according to a Canada Press report.

 

The Royal Bank of Canada or RBC says the fight against terrorism and efforts to stop money-laundering are the reasons behind a list that restricts certain nationalities from opening U.S. dollar accounts.  Canadian citizens with dual citizenship in Iran, Iraq, Cuba, Sudan, North Korea or Myanmar are affected.

 

Reacting to a Radio-Canada television report about the restrictions, the RBC spokesman David Moorcroft says the American rules apply to certain foreigners who want to use a U.S dollar account at any bank, any credit union, anywhere in the world. The Royal Bank has refused to open American dollar accounts for people of certain nationalities since April 2006.

 

“The restriction of U.S dollar accounts, however, will not affect ordinary citizens or the military junta,” says Ko Myo, a Burmese citizen living in Canada.  It’s not necessary to open a U.S account for Burmese Canadians and we can wire (money transfer) some small amount of money to our families and relatives back home with the Canadian dollar.  For the Burmese elite generals, they can open their account at some other banks in Singapore, he added.

 

RBC is Canada’s biggest bank by assets, with a market capitalisation of Canadian $ 69.3bn close to Deutsche Bank’s.

 

In December 2006, Canada's Foreign Minister, Peter MacKay, had urged the UN Security Council to adopt a draft resolution addressing the human rights situation in Burma.

 

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 Politics


SSA calls for constructive engagement with China and Russia


 S.H.A.N:
27 January 2007


Amid harsh criticisms against
China and Russia following their vetoing of US initiated draft resolution on Burma on 12 January, the anti-junta Shan State Army (SSA) South is counseling a different approach: dialogue instead of confrontation, according to Col Yawdserk.

 

"The two countries may be hearing only from one side, and that is from the Burmese military, and not enough from us," he told S.H.A.N. "To them, the Burmese military may seem the only option seeing it is stronger, but force without justice never fosters peace and tranquility which both want and we should all endeavor to bring home the point to them."

 
Yawdserk said the best examples can be found in
Burma's neighbors that had also been under British colonialism. "Malaysia became independent in 1957 and Singapore in 1965, 9 years and 17 years respectively after Burma, but both are among the richest countries in the region. As for Burma, what can it show for all these years of independence except millions of migrants and refugees in Thailand?"

 
Burma's ruling State Peace and Development Council had escaped censure by the UN Security Council after China and Russia vetoed the draft resolution introduced by Washington to stop persecuting its people.

 

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Malaysia detains 176 suspected illegal immigrants from Myanmar

AP: January 28, 2007

 

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia  - Malaysian authorities detained 176 suspected illegal immigrants from Myanmar who set up their own village and passed themselves off as U.N.-recognized refugees, an official said Monday.


District enforcement workers and civilian volunteers on Sunday raided the immigrants' settlement, which comprised scores of tents, bathrooms and a volleyball court on the outskirts of
Kuala Lumpur, said Suhaimi Ghazali, a state legislator for the central district of Dengkil.


Many of those detained had documents that they claimed were given to them by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, but preliminary checks with immigration authorities showed the papers were false, Suhaimi said.


The raid followed complaints by residents in surrounding areas who believed the immigrants were in
Malaysia illegally, Suhaimi said. The detainees were sent to an immigration center and were expected to be deported once their illegal status is confirmed.


Malaysia has long attracted migrants, including those fleeing poverty, from Southeast Asia. Though the country relies heavily on foreign laborers for menial work, authorities regularly deport illegal immigrants, who are widely blamed for crime and social problems.


Activists have estimated that
Malaysia has at least 150,000 refugees and asylum seekers - including many with no valid immigration documents - who fled violence or persecution from places such as Myanmar, Indonesia's Aceh province and the southern Philippines.

 

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Canada: New Mon Community leaders elected

Kaowao: January 20, 2007

 

The Mon Canadian Society has elected new leaders at their annual general meeting, according to MCS source in Calgary, Alberta.

 

While Canadians were enjoying a leisurely day off from work over the holidays, the Mon migrant community took the time to catch up on Mon affairs to hold their AGM.

 

The annual report and financial statements were discussed and an amendment of the association was adopted during the gathering on Christmas Eve.  “The Xmas season is a perfect time to get together to discuss Mon affairs since most of us have some time off work,” said a member of MCS.  The AGM was held on December 24, 2006 at the Chinese Senior Association Hall attended by members and Mon families.

 

Nai Khaing Waen and Nai Cham Toik were elected as Presidiums and Pamoik Chan Mon was elected as the new Chairman of the MCS along with Central Committee members. 

 

According to the new constitution, the Chairman of MCS will select a Central Executive Committee from the newly elected CC members.

 

The aim of the MCS is to assist the members of the Mon community in Canada and provide humanitarian assistance to needy people back home in Burma

 

The first Mon Association in Canada was founded in Toronto during a Christmas holiday gathering of new comers in 1995.  Mon communities were respectively founded in Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta after more refugees arrived to Canada from Thailand.

 

The majority of the Mon living in Canada live in Calgary, Alberta due to the province’s booming economy.  In recent years, a Mon Buddhist Temple (Canada) and Mon Women Organization were founded for community development.

 

The first Central Committee meeting will be held on January 21, 2007 to launch new activities.

 

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Opinion

 

What lies ahead for Burma's cease-fires

 

Ashley South


Between 1989 and 1995, 20-plus armed ethnic groups agreed cease-fires with the Burmese military government. This year, these agreements are likely to come under renewed pressure.  

 

Since the fall of ex-prime minister Khin Nyunt in October 2004, the situation for most cease-fire groups has deteriorated, as they no longer have access to the centre of power in Burma.  The situation is particularly difficult for groups such as the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), which have publicly challenged the government - including by endorsing Burma's inclusion on the UN Security Council agenda.


Since it reconvened in 2004, 28 cease-fire groups have sent over one hundred delegates to the National Convention - although most realise that this process is designed to perpetuate and institutionalise military rule. The NMSP, KIO and several other cease-fire groups have issued demands regarding the type of (broadly federal) constitution they would like to see emerging from the convention.  In doing so they have sketched the outlines of what a future political settlement to "the ethnic question" in
Burma might look like. Although most of their demands have been rejected by the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), in expressing their aspirations the cease-fire groups have raised the political profile of Burma's ethnic nationalities.


With the National Convention drawing to a close, it seems likely that the military government will turn its attention to the cease-fire groups. With arrangements for a new constitution in place, the government will likely seek to "regularise" their situation, either by incorporating the cease-fire groups into state command-and-control structures, as local militias, or by forcing them to disarm - as occurred with two groups in
Shan State in 2004.

 
Some organisations may be willing to settle for a degree of autonomy and restricted political participation under the new constitution, which designates six sub-provincial administrations. According to this view, any constitution is better than continued direct rule by the military: although the space available to ethnic nationality and other parties under the new constitution will be very limited, it will at least allow them to participate in above-ground politics, from "within the legal fold". However, other cease-fire groups (including the NMSP) have indicated that they will refuse to hand over their weapons until a comprehensive political settlement is reached.


Probably, Tatmadaw Regional Commanders will be given scope to pick-off non-compliant cease-fire groups, as the opportunity arises. Although the regime may hope to gain some international credit by taking on organisations associated with the drugs trade, the most powerful ethnic armies, such as the 20,000-strong United Wa State Army (UWSA), will probably be left until last. Such considerations leave militarily weaker cease-fire groups, such as the NMSP, looking vulnerable.

 

The cease-fires have resulted in a mixed picture of positive and negative developments. Problems associated with the cease-fires are well documented, and include the Tatmadaw expansion into previously contested zones, accompanied by widespread land confiscation to build new army bases. Also, land has been confiscated in the context of "development projects", and under the Tatmadaw's self-support policy. Another problem associated with the cease-fires is the continuing incidence of forced labour and other rights abuses in areas adjacent to cease-fire zones. Most assessments of the cease-fires are produced by opposition groups and supporters. These generally underestimate positive developments, focusing instead on the many ongoing problems in these troubled regions. The positive aspects of the cease-fire are less widely discussed, and tend to focus as much on process, as on the substance of short-middle term results. Positive developments include a relative decrease in the most serious forms of human rights abuse, in those areas where cease-fires have held.


Efforts to rehabilitate and resettle displaced populations and reconstruct communities have also been a result of the cease-fires. The post-cease-fire re-emergence of civil society networks is among the most significant, but underappreciated, aspects of the social and political situation in
Burma over the past decade. For example, local communities have supported programmes such as the Mon language and culture courses, conducted over the school summer holidays in over one hundred monasteries across lower Burma.


In response to criticism from the ethnic communities they seek to represent, a few cease-fire groups have grappled with internal reform. The NMSP and KIO in particular have demonstrated a degree of democratic political culture, reflecting their 20 years of participation in pro-democracy alliances, such as the National Democratic Front and Democratic Alliance of Burma.


Policy-making within NMSP and KIO leadership circles usually involves a fair degree of debate and disagreement - which has sometimes resulted in damaging schisms and splits. Both the NMSP and KIO deserve credit for eliciting public participation in decision-making, by consulting with villagers, religious and civil society leaders from their communities, regarding whether and how to engage with the military government.


The NMSP is in a particularly difficult position. The three small blocks of territory granted to the party under the June 1995 cease-fire agreement are vulnerable to Tatmadaw incursion.  Neighbouring
Thailand, whose security establishment helped to push the NMSP into the cease-fire, is unlikely to be sympathetic to any resumption of armed conflict in Mon areas. The NMSP has been the most outspoken of the cease-fire groups. Indeed, since December 2005, the party has refused to endorse the National Convention, sending only a small team of "observers" to the forum. Although some activists might like the party to go further in its defiance of the government, the NMSP probably can do little more without definitively breaking the cease-fire - and bringing humanitarian disaster to Mon State.

 

The cease-fire groups will soon have to decide whether or not to participate in the restricted political space outlined in SPDC's new constitution. In part, such decisions will depend on the position of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy. The NMSP's attempt to "sit on the fence" will not be tenable for much longer. The party has been dealt a weak hand of cards - but has so far played them pretty well (sometimes as much by luck as judgement). While retaining relations with the government, the NMSP is the only cease-fire group that still enjoys credibility within opposition circles (including most exile groups), and remains in contact with its old
insurgent allies.


In 2007 the cease-fire groups are likely to come under renewed pressure from the SPDC.  However it responds, the NMSP deserves credit for having got this far, while still preserving its basic integrity.

 

Ashley South

Bangkok

 

(The Nation:  08-01-07)

 

Ashley South is an independent writer and consultant, working on humanitarian issues and ethnic politics in Burma. He is the author of, "Mon Nationalism and Civil War in Burma: The Golden Sheldrake" (RoutledgeCurzon 2005).

 

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ABOUT US

Kaowao Newsgroup is committed to social justice, peace, and democracy in Burma. We hope to be able to provide more of an in-depth analysis that will help to promote lasting peace and change within Burma.

 

Editors, reporters, writers, and overseas volunteers are dedicated members of the Mon activist community based in Thailand.

 

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