Unprecedented pressure from Burmese government on Mon party to restructure its armed wing
Thu 10 Sep 2009, IMNA, Arkar, Weng Mon
After rejecting the Burmese government’s effort to restructure its armed wing into a border guard force, the largest Mon political party has come under unprecedented pressure from the Burmese government to accept the offer.
On August 28th, the largest Mon political group, the New Mon State Party, rejected, for a second time, a request by the Burmese military government State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) for the NMSP’s armed wing to become a Border guard Force (BGF).
The Border Guard Force (BGF) or People Militia Forces, have been key to SPDC efforts to bring ethnic minority groups under control of the Burmese military government before the next election slated for 2010. The controversial 2008 constitution requires that there be only one armed group in the country under the control of the central government.
Crucially, at the August 28th meeting The SPDC’s Southeast Command Maj. Gen. That Naing Win issued a sever restriction on NMSP control of their autonomous ceasefire regions, according to a member of the New Mon State Party Central Committee (NMSP CC) who preferred to remain anonymous.
“I heard about the commander of the Southeast Command requesting that the NMSP not organize the people, or collect taxes and do not make an judicial or legal decisions in the regions controlled by the military government.” the NMSP CC member stated.
Specifically, the SPDC has denied the NMSP its ability to tax households in Moulmein division, Tavoy division, and Thanbyuzayat, Mudon, or Ye townships. According to the CC member, if the NMSP does carry on taxing households in those regions, the SPDC will respond with a formal order to cease and desist taxation. This restriction does not band taxation, political organizing, or judicial action in Daton division, or the portion of Moulmein division that is in Karen State.
While it does not conduct direct taxation, the NMSP gathers money from area residents through raffle ticket sales at the two major yearly Mon organized cultural holidays – Mon Revolution Day and Mon National Day. There, every household must buy at least one ticket, which are sold for 5,000 kyat a piece.
According to the CC member, nearly 20,000 tickets are sold yearly on average. The SPDC check on taxation would bar this sort of fund raising. This would effectively deny the party an average 100 million kyat ($95,238 US dollars) a year.
In addition, the NMSP would be banned from collecting tolls at NMSP checkpoints along the river way from Three Pagoda Pass (TPP) to Kyainnseikkyi village, and the roadways between TPP to ThanbyuzayatTownships and Halocknee camp to Ye Township.
Some of the remaining sources of income for the NMSP would include several small businesses run by the party, one which produces and sells rubber fields, as well as income from fishing in Tavoy district. Unlike several of the larger ceasefire groups, the NMSP has no history of selling or being involved in the production of drugs.
The NMSP agreed to a ceasefire with the SPDC in 1995. The ceasefire was believed by NMSP administrative party members to be the best opportunity available to the party to engage in political dialogue and resolve the long embattled political crisis in the region. Among concessions, the NMSP was given 4.1 million kyat a month by the SPDC, and administrative control over 12 autonomous ceasefire zones. In 2005 after refusing to join the SPDC national convention, sending only observers, the SPDC retracted its 4.1 million kyat monthly support for the NMSP.
An example of the impact of the SPDC restrictions will have on NMSP political organizing and judicial action can be seen in the Moulmein and Tavoy divisions listed above. There, the SPDC ban will directly affect NMSP judicial decisions and political organization in 172 villages, which are either under direct control of the SPDC or under shared control of the SPDC and NMSP.
However, a source from the CC has said that if people come to their office seeking justice, they will carry on conducting judicial action.
In the 5 areas the SPDC order has targeted, the NMSP will be restricted from holding political anniversary holidays and asking for direct political support for the 2010 election.
In reaction to the SPDC restriction, the CC member explained that NMSP will continue to work, “To inspire the people, to get close with the people and to involve the people to support us in the function and policy of our party. This has been our party’s organizational tactic. If we stopped to doing this our party would be meaningless. We [agreed to] the cease fire to organize, which has many meanings and methods.”
Another member of the CC explained to IMNA that it is difficult for the party to accept the SPDC request. The NMSP again strongly rejected the border guard force request citing that its support comes from the Mon people, who have encouraged them to reject the SPDC demand.
“The NMSP cannot accept the [SPDC’s] desire to change its [MNLA] into a border guard force or peoples militia force, and so they’re making restrictions on the NMSP,” said a Mon political analyst, explaining the pressure the NMSP has faced from the SPDC. “For example the NMSP joint secretary Nai Hongsa was made to look like he wanted to explode bombs.”
On August 19th, IMNA reported on leaflets scattered throughout Karen state that, among other topics, attempted to defame Nai Hong Sar with a supposed plot to set off bombs.
In contrast to higher numbers given by some news groups, the NMSP membership as stated on the official party website is 700. Currently the MNLA can field 350 soldiers, who are part of the 700 NMSP membership. At the time of the 1995 ceasefire the NMSP had 7,860 members.