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Burmese authorities on Thursday put up a signboard naming a newly constructed bridge in Mon State after the late General Aung San, a controversial designation that has been met with protests by local residents.
The decision by the government to name the bridge — connecting the state capital Moulmein with Chaungzon town across the Salween River — after the Burmese independence hero has been a subject of contention in recent weeks. At the end of February, lawmakers in the Union Parliament’s Lower House passed a motion backing the controversial bridge proposal.
Opponents contend that naming the bridge after Aung San, a member of the Bamar majority, is an affront to ethnic minorities, who have seen so-called “Burmanisation” take several forms over the decades under military rule.
Min Min Nwe, spokesperson for a public movement against naming the bridge after Aung San, said local authorities early Thursday morning installed a large signboard — reading “General Aung San Bridge” — above the entrance to the bridge, which is set to open for use in May.
“The official opening ceremony for the bridge is scheduled for next month. They came to install the signboard at 4:30 a.m. this morning,” said Min Min Nwe.
He said thousands of local residents have twice staged demonstrations to voice their objection to the plan to name the bridge after Aung San. A petition calling on the government to reconsider the decision has also gained more than 100,000 signatures.
“Our first protest was joined by around 3,000 people and the second was around 40,000 people. We have also collected over 100,000 signatures so far in a petition that we plan to send to ethnic affairs ministers, the President’s Office and the State Counsellor’s Office, as well as the Union and regional parliamentary speakers and the Mon State chief minister,” said Min Min Nwe.
“We also plan to send an open letter to the international community to expose how the Burmese government does not respect the opinions and rights of ethnic minorities.”