The Burmese military intelligence appears to have stepped up surveillance and monitoring of actions by the New Mon State Party (NMSP), according to party members and officials who say they are being increasingly watched and questioned.

Members of major Mon political party report increased monitoring

Tue 07 Apr 2009, Tala Lawi, Mon Son and Blai Mon

The Burmese military intelligence appears to have stepped up surveillance and monitoring of actions by the New Mon State Party (NMSP), according to party members and officials who say they are being increasingly watched and questioned.

“I feel that now Burmese authorities are suspicious of us more than in past times now that NMSP announced it will not participate in the 2010 election,” a party member in Moulmein, Mon State’s capital city, told IMNA.

The NMSP announced it would not participate in the elections following a Party Congress in January, citing objections to Burma’s new constitution. The constitution was approved in May 2008, and both the document and the referendum process used to approve it have been widely condemned as undemocratic.

“Whenever exile media covers a story about Moulmein, [the Burmese authorities] think that the NMSP gave information to the media… The Sa Ya Pha [Military Affairs Security] phones to ask, ‘Did I talk with media? Did I have contact with media?’” added the Moulmein party member.

Burmese authorities have undoubtedly always monitored the party, but the source in Moulmein as well as party members and officials elsewhere told IMNA they feel these efforts have increased in comparison to the past. “Now, whenever I go outside, to buy something in the market for instance, I can see them following me,” continued the Moulmein party source.

“They plan to counter any Mon anti-government activity before and during the upcoming election,” Nyan Tun, a major in the NMSP’s armed wing the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA) told IMNA from the Thai-Burma border. “They are worried that a lot of the armed ethnic groups will try to block the process.”

Though the NMSP has said it will not join in the election, chief of Military Affairs Security Lt. Gen. Ye Myint has pushed the party to participate. In the first week of March, a group of three party leaders including Chairman Nai Htaw Mon met with Lt. Gen. Ye Myint at the Southeast Command headquarters in Moulmein to discuss the election. According to a source with knowledge of the meeting, the general again asked the party to join the election, and requested a chance to meet with the entire NMSP central and central executive committees, the decision making bodies of the party.

Soon after, in a regularly scheduled meeting of NMSP central and central executive committee members, IMNA sources with intimate knowledge of the meeting reported that the party decided to again meet with Lt. Gen. Ye Myint, though no actual meeting date has been set. Though this information was confirmed by other sources close to the party, it was strongly repudiated by party spokesman Nai Ong Mange in an article published by the Mizzima a few days later.

Other ethnic armed groups have also come under increased pressure to join the election and disarm their armed wings or bring them under junta control as “border guards.” The highest degree of tension has been reported in areas controlled by the United Wa State Army (UWSA), where a delegation lead by Lt. Gen. Ye Myint was forced to disarm in January.

No conflict has been reported between NMSP officials or MNLA soldiers and Burmese authorities, and Nai Ong Mange described the March meeting at the Southeast Command as conciliatory. “They said we should not be worried concerning disarmament,” quoted Mizzima. “It seems they were trying to console us.” Nai Ong Mange appeared to be referring to questions about the status of the MNLA, which the party has been repeatedly careful to say will not become an SPDC-affiliated border guard force.

Whether there has actually been an increase in surveillance is impossible to confirm, as is the motivation for any increased monitoring. What is clear, however, is that some party members feel there has been a change.

“I’ve noticed spies following me on motorbikes wherever I go. And sometimes, I’ve seen new faces amongst them,” a party member in Three Pagodas Pass, on the Thai-Burma border, told IMNA. The source went on to say that he felt the monitoring had increased following the party’s announcement that it would not join the election, and surmised that SPDC is gathering information in preparation for potential renewed conflict with the NMSP or new splinter groups.

“In Ye Town, whenever I went outside I saw Sa Ya Pha around me,” said another party member in Three Pagodas Pass who moved from Ye a few weeks ago. “When I was drinking tea with my friends in the tea shop, Sa Ya Pha also were sitting around us. I think they were listening to what we were saying.”

Another NMSP member in Thanbyuzayart agreed and said he is facing the same problem, with Burmese authorities even querying him about what occurs in the area NMSP liaison office. “Since the 2008 referendum, the authorities in Thanbyuzayart had had more contact with our office,” said the party member, who described seeing increased monitoring at the area’s Mon National Day celebration, held in the second week of February.

“Whatever we are doing or talking about with other armed groups, they want us to inform to them,” continued the source in Thanbyuzayart. As an example, the source described receiving calls from Burmese authorities interested in discussions between the NMSP and the ethnic Karen armed cease-fire group the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA). The Mon and Karen groups had been discussing a DKBA request to open gambling operations during the Mon National Day celebration, a request that the NMSP subsequently refused.

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