Permission denied to repair Mon National schools in southern Ye township

HURFOM, Khaw-Zar Sub-township, March 25, 2009
An appeal to repair Mon national schools in southern Ye township has been denied by the Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC) and the local SPDC Battalion based in the area, according to the local Mon Youth Association’s members and activists who have been trying to repair the NMSP-run schools for their young people.
Members of the joint Mon Youth organizations in the villages under the control of Khaw-Zar Sub-township have tried to ask for the permission to repair their national schools from both the Sub-township PDC and the local Infantry Battalion No. 31 since the beginning of January, 2009. However, both Sub-township officials and the local military Commanders postponed the decision for more than two months and eventually gave a negative response, according to Mehm Lyeh, a 28 year old Yin-Ye villager and worker for Mon national schools.
He explained, “at first, we tried to repair the schools without any official permission. But most of the schools in this area needed major maintenance such as replacing the zinc roofs, the wooden frames and the brick fencing. On the other hand, we have been afraid of the possible consequences from the local authorities if we do it ourselves without any permission.”
According to another 27 year old Mon man from Yin-Ye village, “in our village the school building needs major repair to be in a good condition. If not, it might cause harm to the students. Most of the frames under the roofs are not really strong enough right now.”
In the first week of March some members of the Joint Mon Youth Association under Khaw-Zar Sub-township attempted to meet with the TPDC leader but received a reply from an assistant officer instead of the council chairman U Kyaw Moe, 48, an ethnic Burman, originally from the middle part of Burma.
“We didn’t get a chance to talk with the chairman. But we met with an assistant officer and he told us that the proposal was rejected by the Sub-township’s management board during the last weekly meeting,” a 25 year old villager from Yin-Dein village, who wishes to remain anonymous, told a HURFOM reporter.
In Toe-Tat-Ywa-Thit village, some security troops from Infantry Battalion No. 31 used the Mon national school as a base to organize village security with the local residents. While based in the school the soldiers broke some classrooms’ windows, chairs, tables and blackboards, according to a local resident who used to work as a Mon national school teacher in the village.
“The soldiers have to repair the wrong they have done in the last three weeks in our school,” said a 30 year old Mon man, a member of the local Mon Youth Association in the village. “This is the main reason why we want to fix our school. We have been ready to repair it for three months. We have collected sufficient funding through the support of our friends who are working abroad in countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. We have even bought 70 bags of cement, sand, iron frames and zinc roofs in order to repair the schools. But now we have been denied permission by the authorities. Of course, most of the officials are ethnic Burman and they might want to maintain the junta’s systematic policy of ethnic cleansing. Language and Literature are very important for every minority ethnic groups and thus they have always harassed our Mon education system.
The schools in this area have been running without a break since 1995 after the cease-fire between the main Mon political armed force, the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the current regime, SPDC. Occasionally Mon national schools have been threatened with closure by local authorities in a way similar to other Mon areas in the north. The authorities even took photographs of teachers and students in Mon national schools when the session began, to increase fear among the staff and the learners. In southern Ye township, some Mon schools were forced to close down by a military order in 2004. Local military authorities forced a Mon National School teacher to resign after they demanded that the teacher sign a paper agreeing to teach Burmese instead of the Mon language.

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