Mon National Day celebrations in Rangoon enjoy upped attendance

Tue 02 Feb 2010, IMNA
The 63rd Mon National Day (MND) was celebrated by townships and villages large and small throughout Burma on January 29th of this year, but newly relaxed government regulations ensured that the MND celebrations held in Rangoon Division were and unprecedented success.

According to IMNA’s field reporter, who attended various events throughout Rangoon Division, MND celebrations were held in various locations throughout Rangoon Division, including in the ethnic minority-themed park known as “ethnic village”; the site is a tourist attraction in the division’s Tharkayta Township that showcases replications of various “ethnic dwellings” built by Burma’s various minority groups. Celebrations were also held in the Mon Community Hall in Rangoon, at the famous Shwedagon Pagoda, and at the Inya Lake Hotel, also in Rangoon.

In previous years, MND celebrations in Rangoon Division have suffered from low attendance, partially because of the Burmese government’s strict censure of any MND-related advertising; word of various MND ceremonies was spread largely via word of mouth. This year, Mon National Flags were allowed to fly at the celebration at “ethnic village”, and a large banner announcing the celebration of “Mon National Day” was hung at the Mon Community hall in Rangoon. NMD has been celebrated at “ethnic village” since last year; the 2009 celebration featured traditional Mon music and dancing performances, and the ceremony was held at night. Thanks to a larger attendance rate, this year’s celebration featured increased amounts of dance performances, and was held during the day. According to IMNA’s field reporter, the ceremony was celebrated at a “Mon traditional house” in the “village”; Rangoon monks and students traveled from the city to attend the celebrations and participate in Mon traditional dances. The project officer for the “ethnic village” event gave a speech promoting Mon ethnic literature and culture, and celebrating the courage of Mon kings.

The project officer also retold, when Mon traders brought the hair of Buddha to Burma from India, and established was is now the Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon. The role of the Mon people in establishing Shwedagon Pagoda is not readily acknowledged by the Burmese government; according to attendees, previous celebrations were banned from including similar speeches about Mon history.

A monk who attended the ceremony at “ethnic village” speculated that, “Giving more permission [to advertise] than previous years could be a pre-election tool, to show their [the government’s] democracy, and their soft attitude towards the people. The celebration at ‘ethnic village’ was given permission from them. We also can assume that the government will give such permission again in the future”.

According to a 60 year-old Mon man who attended the “ethnic village” event, “this cerebration at ethnic village can’t compete with the celebration held at the Padoun ma playground before 1996. After that, we didn’t get permission to hold the Mon National Day celebrations, and this year there is something good from a bad situation [the pre-election preparations] because we can see this cerebration in Rangoon again.”

Some business enterprises in the city also used the celebration as a marketing opportunity. IMNA’s reporter noted the establishment of a “Happy World Playground” at south edge of the Shwedagon Pagoda during its MND ceremony; individuals donning traditional Mon dress were granted free entrance. Individuals could also gain entrance to the play structure by showing advertisement leaflets for the event. According to attendees, the leaflets had been distributed around Rangoon for the previous three days, with no apparent interference from the Burmese government.

Mon State’s attempts at advertising for MND celebrations were met with unexpected resistance from the Burmese government this year, when committee members were banned from advertising in other languages besides Mon. While Mon attendees of the Inya Lake Hotel event were required to pay 15,000 kyat per ticket, in general MND celebrations in Rangoon enjoyed a relatively small amount of interference from the Burmese government. The vast majority of MND celebration attendees the IMNA’s reporter spoke to expressed their hopes that the trend will be continued at next year’s events.

Mon people cerebrated MND not only in Rangoon, but also in Moulmein city, Mudon Township, Thanphyuzayart Township, Ye Township, and Lamine Sub-Township in Mon State, as well as at Three Pagodas Pass in Karen State. The largest MND celebration was held at Lamine Sub-Township, Mon State.


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