Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mon People(孟族)

The Mon people were the first ethnic group to arrive in what is present day Burma, and they have settled in some parts of Thailand and in Tenasserim and the Irrawaddy delta in Burma. The group migrated to Burma between 2500 and 1500 BC and has close ties to the Khmer ethnic group.

The Mon (Thai: มอญ) are an ethnic group from Myanmar, living mostly in Mon State, Bago Division, Irrawaddy Delta of present-day Burma, and along the southern Thai-Myanmar border. One of the earliest peoples to reside in Southeast Asia, the Mon were responsible for the spread of Theravada Buddhism in present-day Burma and Thailand. In Myanmar, the Mon culture is credited as a major source of influence on the dominant Burmese culture.

As the eastern Mon were absorbed into the Thai/Siamese society long ago, the western Mon of Myanmar face the same pressure to assimilate. In Myanmar, the Mon are fighting for the retention of the Mon language and culture, and political autonomy. Once the predominant ethno-linguistic group in Lower Burma, speakers of the Mon language number less than a million today, and those of Mon descent number anywhere between two million and eight million. The majority of Mon speak and are literate only in the Burmese language, and are often counted as the majority Bamar.

The Mon language is part of the Monic group of the Mon-Khmer branch of the Austro-Asiatic family, closely related to the Nyah Kur language and more distantly related to Khmer. The writing system is Indic based. The Burmans adapted the Mon script for Burmese following their conquest of Mon territory.


Early history

The Mon were one of the earliest distinct groups to settle in what is now Lower Burma, as early as 1500 BC or possibly earlier. The Mon are primarily associated with the historical kingdoms of Honsawati, Dvaravati and Hariphunchai. Up until the 14th century, outposts of Mon culture continued to spread very far east, including modern Thailand and Isan plateau cities such as Lampang and Khon Kaen. As late as the 14th and 15th centuries, it is believed that the Mon were the ethnic majority in this vast region, but also intermarried freely with Khmer and Tai-Kadai populations. Archaeological remains of Mon settlements have been found south of Vientiane, and may also have extended further to the northwest in the Haribhunjai era.

The Mon converted to Theravada Buddhism at a very early point in their history. Unlike other ethnic groups in the region, they seem to have adopted Theravada orthodoxy before coming into contact with Mahayana tendencies, and it is generally believed that the Mon provided the link of transmission whereby both the Thais and Cambodians converted from Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism to Theravada Buddhism (increasingly from the 1200s). Although the precise date cannot be fixed, it seems that the Mon have been practicing Theravada Buddhism continuously for a longer period than any other extant religious community on earth, except for Sri Lanka, as the lineage was destroyed in India.

Humans lived in the region that is now Myanmar as early as 11,000 years ago, but the first identifiable civilisation is that of the Mon. The Mon probably began migrating into the area eastward from eastern India in the period from 3000 BC to 1500 BC and settled in the Chao Phraya River basin of southern Thailand around the 6th century AD.[citation needed] The Mon moved westward into the Irrawaddy Delta of southern Myanmar in the ensuing centuries. Mon tradition holds that the Suwarnabhumi mentioned in the Edicts of Ashoka and the Dîpavamsa was their first kingdom (pronounced Suvanna Bhoum), founded around the port of Thaton in about 300 BC, however, this is disputed by scholars. Oral tradition suggests that they had contact with Buddhism via seafaring as early as the 3rd century BC, though definitely by the 2nd century BC when they received an envoy of monks from Ashoka, and the Mon converted to Theravada Buddhism sometime before the sixth century , and they adopted the Indian Pali script. Much of the Mon's written records have been destroyed through wars. The Mons blended Indian and Mon cultures together in a hybrid of the two civilisations. By 825 they had firmly established themselves in southern and southeastern Myanmar and founded the cities of Bago (Pegu) and Thaton, and by the mid-9th century, they had come to dominate all of southern Myanmar.

The Mon ruled North Thailand for 500 years until they were conquered by the Tai in 1292. When the Tai conquered the Mon they adopted their Buddhist religion, their Mon alphabet, their arts and culture, all of which was influenced by the prior Indianisation of South and Central Thailand hundreds of years before. In the North the Mon Kingdom was called Haripunchai and in the central and Southern regions Dvaravati. The original Mon of North Thailand were assimilated into the Thai nation. However as a result of repression of Mons in Burma by the Burmese some Mon migrated as late as the 19th C and pockets of these Mon speakers remain today.

The Dvaravati(6th to 13th century)
The Dvaravati (Thai: ทวารวดี) period lasted from the 6th to the 13th centuries. Dvaravati refers to both a culture and a disparate conglomerate of principalities.
By the 10th century, Dvaravati began to come under the influence of the Khmer Empire and central Thailand was ultimately invaded by the Khmer king Suryavarman II in the first half of the 12th century. Haripunchai survived its southern progenitors until the late 13th century A.D. when it was incorporated in the Lanna Kingdom. The people of the region used the ancient Mon language, but whether they were ethnically Mon is unknown. There is evidence that these principalities may comprise many cultural groups of people, including Malays and Khmers.

Hariphunchai (661-1292)
Hariphunchai (or Haribhunjaya)(Pali: Haripunjaya) was a Mon kingdom in the north of present Thailand in the centuries before the Thais moved into the area. Its capital was at Lamphun, which at the time was also called Hariphunchai. In 1292 the city was besieged and captured by the Tai kingdom of Lanna.

Mon kingdom of Ramannadesa/Suvarnabhumi(1287-1539)

Mon kingdoms ruled large sections of Burma from the 9th to the 11th, the 13th to the 16th, and again in the 18th centuries.

In 1478, King Dhammazedi from the Mon kingdom of Ramannadesa, erected ten stone inscriptions written with Mon and Pali language. The inscriptions stated that his kingdom is also known as Suvarnabhumi. The stone inscription is known among scholars as the "Kalyani Sima" or "Kalyani Inscription". The inscription deals mainly with the reform undertaken by the king to purify Theravada Buddhism in his kingdom. It is generally accepted by most scholars that Suvarnabhumi is Lower Burma.

A Mon dynasty ruled Lower Burma after the fall of the Pagan dynasty from 1287 to 1539 with a brief revival during 1550–53. At first, Martaban was the capital of this kingdom and then Pegu. The Mon king Rajadhirat, who waged war with the northern Burman kingdom of Ava during the whole duration of his reign, unified and consolidated the Mon kingdom's domains in Lower Burma.

1453-1472 Queen Baña Thau

The most famous Mon monarchs during this period were Queen Baña Thau (Burmese: Shin Sawbu; reigned 1453–1472) followed by Dhammazedi (reigned 1472–92)

King Dammazedi (1472-92)

Queen Baña Thau personally chose Dhammazedi to succeed her. Dhammazedi had been a monk before he became king of Pegu. Under Dhammazedi, Pegu became a centre of commerce and Theravadan Buddhism. These two devout Buddhist monarchs initiated a long period of peace in Lower Burma.

Many foreign traders were attracted to the capital, which became well-known to the outside world as a center of commerce. As such, it is mentioned by the Russian merchant, Nikitin, who traveled in the East about 1470. Its fifteenth century rulers were, like those of old Pagan, chiefly interested in the development of religion. Missions were sent to Ceylon and on their return stimulated an important religious revival, which affected the whole of Burma. Its center was the Kalyani thein near Pegu, so named because its original monks had been ordained on the banks of the Kalyani river in Ceylon. Kalyani ordination became the standard form for the whole country. The story of the reforms is told in the Kalyani inscriptions erected by King Dammazedi (1472-92).

Dammazedi was the greatest of the rulers of Wareru’s line. His reign was a time of peace and he himself was a mild ruler, famous for his wisdom. A collection of his rulings, the Dammazedi pyatton, is still extant. He maintained friendly intercourse with Yunnan and revived the practice of sending missions to Buddhagaya. He was a Buddhist ruler of the best type, deeply solicitous for the purification of religion. Under him, civilization flourished, and the condition of the Mon country stands out in sharp contrast with the disorder and savagery which characterized the Ava kingdom. When he died he was honoured as a saint and a pagoda was erected over his bones.

The Mon kingdom possessed two great pagodas of especial sanctity, the Shwemawdaw at Pegu and the Shwedagon at the small stockaded fishing-town of Dagon, now Yangon.

1757 The last Mon Kingdom-Hongsavatoi fell

The last Mon kingdom was Hongsavatoi — they re-conquered much of their lost territory until King Alaungpaya forced them back and captured the kingdom by 1757, massacring a considerable part of the population. In the capital city of Hongsawatoi alone, more than 7,000 pregnant women, 6,000 infant, and 5,000 children were brutally massacred . Most of them were forced into several stockades and burnt them alive. Over 3,000 Mon Buddhist monks were also executed in various most cruel methods, including forced trampling by elephants.

To escape the genocidal operations of the Burman king, hundreds of thousands of the populace fled into neighboring Siam (Thailand) for asylum .The Mon religious leaders as well as the people were forced to flee to Siam and the Mon have been harshly repressed from the 1750s to the present day.

British Rule

Burma was conquered by the British in a series of wars. After the Second Anglo-Burmese War, the Mon territories were completely under the control of the British. The Mon aided the British to free themselves from the rule of the Burman monarchy. Under Burman rule, the Mon people had been massacred after they lost their kingdom and many sought asylum in the Thai Kingdom. The British conquest of Burma allowed the Mon people to survive in Southern Burma.

1947, a conference on drafting a constitution organized by Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League (AFPFL) was held in which the United Mon Association (UMA) of the Mon and the Karen Nation Union (KNU) of the Karen people were excluded from participating.

After Burmese independence

The Mon soon became anti-colonialists and following the grant of independence to Burma in 1948 they sought self-determination, U Nu refused them this and they rose in revolt to be crushed again.

They have remained a repressed and defiant group in the country since then. They have risen in revolt against the central Burmese government on a number of occasions, initially under the Mon People's Front and from 1962 through the New Mon State Party. A partially autonomous Mon state, Monland, was created in 1974 covering Tenasserim, Pegu and Ayeyarwady River. Resistance continued until 1995 when NMSP and SLORC agreed a cease-fire and, in 1996, the Mon Unity League was founded.

In 1947, Mon National Day was created to celebrate the ancient founding of Hanthawady, the last Mon Kingdom, which had its seat in Pegu. (It follows the full moon on the 11th month of the Mon lunar calendar, except in Phrapadaeng, Thailand, where it is celebrated at Songkran.)

The largest Mon refugee communities are currently in Thailand, with smaller communities in the United States (the largest community being in Fort Wayne, Indiana and the second largest being Akron, Ohio), Australia, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and the Netherlands.

Refugee Camps in Thailand

Ban Dong Yang Camp is officially known as a “refugee camp” because of its location. Just across the border in Burma are the three main Mon resettlement sites called Hlockhani, Bee Ree, and Tavoy, which have over 10,000 residents. Ban Don Yang camp was founded by the Thai government in 1997, when it moved two small Karen camps, known as Thu Ka and Hti Ta Bay, away from violence in Tenasserim Division and Dooplaya district. The two camps were combined and relocated to the Three Pagoda Pass border area, near the refugee camp run by the New Mon State Party (NMSP), called Hlockhani. Ban Don Yang Camp is the same camp that currently shelters Luther Htoo, who led the Karen rebel group “God’s Army”, along with his twin brother Johnny Htoo, until their surrender in 2001.

1.Halockhani in Burma

The largest refugee camp, Halockhani was founded in 1994, when the strongest Mon armed political party, the New Mon State Party (NMSP), was still at arms with Burmese military government; the camp was created to shelter the thousands of Mon refugees who had fled from civil war and suffering inside Burma. The lives of Mon refugees in Halockhani changed for the worse following the cease-fire agreement reached by the NMSP and the Burmese government in 1995. NMSP leader Nai Shwe Kyin made a public statement that Mon refugees could return home; he claimed that there were no civil wars and human rights violations in Mon territories, and that no help would be needed from the UN and International NGOs.

2. Bee Ree in Burma

3. Tavoy in Burma

4. Lohloe Camp in Thailand

Mon State
Mon State is an administrative division of Myanmar. It is sandwiched between Kayin State on the east, the Andaman Sea on the west, Bago Division on the north and Tanintharyi Division on the south, and has a short border with Thailand's Kanchanaburi Province at its south-eastern tip. The land area is 12,155 km². Mon State includes many small islands along its 566 km of coastline. Its capital is Mawlamyaing, formerly Moulmein.

Mon state's capital is at Mawlamyaing, the third largest citiy in Myanmar. Administrative body is set under South Eastern Regional Command of Myanmar Army in Mawlamyine and Mawyawaddy Navy Command controls coastline security. There are dispersed army infantry battalions at many towns in Mon state, and Thaton has a Light Infantry Division (44th). Major districts are divided for example, Mawlamyaing, Thaton, and Ye districts. At present, army infantries are densely placed in the former neutral territory of Ye district for future plans. Ye has become the major city for Southern Mon State with Sector Operation Command of Air Defense, and Military Operations Command 19 based headquarters.

Mon State consists of two districts:

Mawlamyine District
Thaton District

Mon's organizations

1. Monland Restoration Council

Main office
P.O. Box 9082
Albany, NY 12209
(518)-426-5424 (fax)

Branch office
P.O. Box 58511
Philadelphia, PA 19102-8511

2. Mon Information Service (MIS)
G.P.O. Box 2253
Bangkok 10501, Thailand

3. Overseas Mon National Students Organization
G.P.O. Box 765
Bangkok 10501, Thailand
(662)-2112346 (phone)
(662)-2919396 (fax)

4. Overseas Mon Young Monks Union
G.P.O. Box 2122
Bangkok 10501, Thailand
(662)-2112346 (phone)

Related articles

1. Mon Kingdom, included of list of Mon Monarchs)
2. Mon State,
3. Mon , by UNPO,
4. RESISTANCE: A BITTER EXPERIENCE FOR THE MON PEOPLE, by Sunthorn Sripanngern, The author was the brother of late NMSP leader Nai Kyan Sein, he told the story why Mon took up arm for resistance. A personal account)
5. Independent Mon News Agency,
6. Mon Information Home Page,
7. Mon,
8. Refugees with no place to flee, dated 12-1-2010,
9. Thai Border Refugee Camps,
10. World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Myanmar/Burma : Mon,,463af2212,469f2cf72,49749cdc6e,0.html

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