|MON NATIONAL DAY
(By Ashley South)
On Monday 9th February the Mon community in London met to
celebrate the 57th anniversary of Mon National Day. This was
the third time Mon National Day had been formally observed
in the UK, and the first time I had attended this event in
my own country (last year I was in Rangoon on MND; the year
before I celebrated with the Mon community at Mahachai, in
When I arrived at Ealing Town Hall at 6 PM, it was obvious
that a great deal of hard work had already gone into the preparations.
As well as a photo display of the previous two years' events,
there was an impressive stage and sound system, featuring
a portrait of the great Mon king Rajadhirat, and a flying
hongsa (Golden Sheldrake) emblem (in fact, the NMSP flag).
I was a bit worried though, that there wouldn't be enough
people to fill the large hall.
However, it soon became clear that this was definitely not
a problem. By the time we all stood up to pay respect to the
flag, the hall was almost full; by the time the speeches ended
- about forty-five minutes later - there were many more people
In total, over 250 people attended the celebrations; of whom
I think about 50 were Mon. When I was living in the UK between
1997-2001, writing my book on Mon nationalism, there were
almost no Mon people here. However, the past two or three
years has seen the arrival of scores of young men and women
from Monland, most of whom are studying in the UK. It was
great to see so many Mon nationals gathered together so far
from their homeland, many wearing Mon costume, and all here
to celebrate and confirm their pride in being Mon. As well
as a few westerners, there were also a great many other people
from Burma, including Karen, Kachin, Rakhine and Burmans.
It was very encouraging to see representatives of different
nationalities celebrating Mon National Day together.
Speeches were given in Mon and Burmese by members of the
organising committee, who reminded the audience of the history
of the Mon people, and of Mon National Day, and the importance
of preserving and celebrating Mon national identity. I'm afraid
that I don't speak Mon, so my short talk - on Mon identity
and the current political situation in Burma - had to be given
After the speeches, it was time to eat and drink, sing and
dance. The noodles and spring rolls were delicious ('dangoon'
to the cooks). The songs and dance numbers which made up the
rest of the evening were a real pleasure too. Many of those
present proved to be excellent singers. The most popular performances
were probably the traditional Mon songs, many of which were
sung by individuals and groups who had clearly been rehearsing
for some time. These were greatly enjoyed by all in the audience
- especially when accompanied by dance routines. For me, the
highlights of the evening were the traditional dances performed
in colourful Mon costumes and head-pieces. I was particularly
impressed by the beautiful Mi Sorn from Moulmein, who sang
and danced with great skill.
In conclusion, this was a very enjoyable social occasion
- but one with a serious meaning. Like Mon communities the
world over, the UK Mon are rightly proud of their ancient
heritage, and keen to celebrate the continued relevance of
Mon identity in the twenty-first century. Congratulations
to all involved in organising this impressive event - and
please invite me again next year.