Nigh time travel banned in Mudon and Thanbyuzayat

Fri 20 Mar 2009, Kyae Goe, HURFOM/IMNA
Residents of Mudon and Thanbyuzayat Townships in Mon State are not being allowed outside of their houses after 9 pm. The order comes after rumors of insurgent activity in the area.
Earlier this week, army officials notified the New Mon State Party (NMSP) liaison offices in Moulmein and Thanbyuzayat Townships of the restrictions. According to NMSP sources, the party was asked to ensure that its members and, particularly, soldiers in the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA), were careful not to travel at night.
If MNLA soldiers go out at night, the NMSP paraphrased the army official, they should travel in groups and inform local Burmese army battalions. If they do not, said the official, the army would not take responsibility if NMSP members were shot by mistake.
The MNLA is the armed wing of the NMSP, which is the largest political party representing Mon people. The party was able to retain its arms and control of a small amount of territory after agreeing to a ceasefire with the Burmese military in 1995. According to another local resident, however, the restrictions had already been in place for two weeks prior to the contacting of the NMSP. Village headmen in Kamarwet and Kalort Thort villages in Mudon Township, for instance, informed their residents that they should not leave home after 9 pm and should take particular care to register outside guests.
The order follows rumors of insurgent activity in the area. According to an NMSP source, the army official that contacted the party said that over 200 insurgents had entered the area.
How 200 insurgents could effectively, secretly operate in the Mudon and Thanbyuzayat is unclear, however. The townships are primarily made up of agricultural land and rubber plantations, and home to five Burmese army battalions.
One local source did, however, claim to have seen the Karen National Union (KNU) stopping buses bound for Tenasserim Division on the Moulmein to Ye motor road. About 30 KNU troops stopped a bus near Waekami village in Thanbyuzayat Township last month, said the witness.
A traveler who recently made the trip from Mudon to Moulmein, however, said that the situation along the highway seemed normal. Highway travel is not being restricted for travel through the area, he said, though local residents are restricted from traveling outside their villages.
Another traveler said that he saw an increased number of soldiers out at night, however. “When we came back from Moulmein, we saw that [soldiers] were guarding the plantations. But we didn’t see them the next morning.” Other local sources say that an added military presence can be seen in villages, where increased numbers of soldiers are patrolling.
The travel restrictions are causing particular problems for rubber plantation workers, who need to be at their plantations at midnight. Rubber is best tapped before the heat of the sun thins the sap. Plantation workers typically begin work at midnight, hoping to finish harvesting the sap by the morning so that it can be pressed into flats in time for them to sleep before rising again for work at midnight.
“It is very difficult for us to work in that amount of time,” explained a worker, who now must cover 4 acres with just a few hours to work each morning. “We just cannot finish our job.”

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