Students can use ethnic titles but adults must use Burmese titles

May 27, 2020

HURFOM: The Department of Basic Education has decided to start the school season on July 21, 2020, and announced that parents could register their children with their own ethnic titles.

Not only in this academic year but in previous years, we accepted ethnic names. We registered the students’ names in accordance with their parents’ desire. We’ve requested a birth certificate during student registration. If Burmese midwife puts the Burmese title “Maung or Ma” in the certificate, we also have to put “Maung or Ma”. If the parents don’t want to put Burmese title, please don’t write in the certificate. But if the parents want to correct, we also fulfill their desire. When the school teachers put Burmese titles in ethnic names, the parents can complain that they don’t want to put Burmese titles. If not, it’s difficult to correct after the name is recorded in the school registration list,” said U Min Htay Oo, the Chief of the Ye Township Department of Basic Education.

The announcement stated that schoolteachers must register students with their names using birth certificates or household lists, and for those who could not present a birth certificate or household list, and who live in remote ethnic areas, student’s name registration must be in accordance with the parents’ desire.

It is known that students could make a registration with their own ethnic title but the adults or government staff must use Burmese title “U or Daw”.

Mon State Education Director, Dr Cho Cho Myat Aung said, “In accordance with their age, we have to use “Maung or Ko or U”. If she is middle-aged, we have to put “Daw” ahead of her name. They can put whatever they like after the title. However, it is our country’s policy to put a Burmese title ahead of the names.

But Mi Ngwe Lay, a Central Committee Member of Mon Women’s Network, responded, “Even though we’ve become adults, it isn’t inappropriate to put “U/Daw” ahead of our names. Because, for instance, in our Mon community, we put “Min” ahead of a young male’s name and put “Nai” when he becomes an adult. So if they put “U/Daw” ahead of Mon names, we have no special meaning to have Mon names. What we want is to put “Min or Mi or Nai” titles which are widely accepted by the Mon community.

Some ethnic names were difficult to rewrite in Burmese so schoolteachers translated the names and created a Burmese name so that the authentic meaning of the original name was destroyed, according to some parents.

The meaning of the Mon name may be destroyed, if written in Burmese. For example, if “Seik Je” in Mon is written in Burmese, it is pronounced “Thike Si”. So the name is destroyed. There are lots of problems when going to immigration office or passport office as Mon names were wrongly rewritten in English. Most of the Mon alphabet is similar to Burmese’s (but has a different pronunciation) so it’s not okay to use the Burmese alphabet to write Mon names. There are not too many problems for other ethnicities,” said Dr Min Arkar Htet who has led a campaign of “Mon Children Mon Names – We Love Our Names”.

For those who want name cards with the correct Mon pronunciation, please send me an official Mon name, date of birth and names of parents. I’ll create name cards with the correct Mon pronunciation and send them back. I’ve already created more than 100 name cards. The cards include names in Mon, Burmese and English languages, their date of birth and parents’ name, so everything is okay after showing the name card,” said Min Arkar Htet.

The Department of Basic Education has indicated ethnic titles are allowed when registering students.

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