June 29th 2020 marks 25 years since the New Mon State Party (NMSP) agreed a ceasefire with the military government of the State Law and Order Restoration Council in Myanmar. At the time, this was greeted as a landmark moment, bringing to an end over four decades of conflict between successive central governments and the Mon armed resistance. The ceasefire has endured, but reform progress has stalled. Today the NMSP is just one of over a dozen ethnic armed organisations engaged in one of the longest-running peace processes in the world.
The political future remains uncertain. The country is in the midst of a troubled and protracted transition in which the 1995 ceasefire has become a key element. Given their symbolic importance, the events surrounding the NMSP agreement deserve attention and analysis. Since 1995, there have been relatively few armed clashes. But human rights abuses, civilian displacement, land-grabbing and the marginalisation of Mon cultural and political rights have all continued. At the same time, a new generation has grown up as the first to know peace in half a century. Despite the lack of political progress, the ceasefire has created a space within which a revitalisation of Mon culture and society has taken place. Mon educators, researchers and civil society actors have all stepped up efforts to achieve social and political progress. There has not been a political breakthrough. But the landscape of the Mon region is tangibly different today.
This publication marks a commemoration of the ceasefire day. The essays collected here reflect a diversity of reflections and opinion. Different aspects of the Mon people’s struggle for self-determination are discussed within the context of the 1995 ceasefire. Until the present day, the NMSP has retained a significant degree of legitimacy in Mon politics and society. The study begins with a preface by Nai Hongsa, the present-day NMSP chairman. Martin Smith offers a historical, cultural and political account of Mon nationality movements. Ashley South presents an assessment of the NMSP’s ceasefire achievements and challenges, with emphasis on the social, political and security trends. Nai Kasauh Mon provides a critical analysis of the ceasefire years, highlighting both successes and failures. And Banya Hongsar discusses the challenges that the NMSP and Mon movement continue to face in a country still entrapped within a cycle of conflict and ceasefire.
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