Unrest continues following Tenasserim Division clash

August 1, 2013

HURFOM: Villagers remain uprooted from their homes following violence between Burmese military and New Mon State Party (NMSP) soldiers in Tenasserim Region’s Thu Mingalan village. With no resolution yet found between the two sides, and NMSP soldiers still being held hostage, there are worries that the conflict may be reignited in the displaced NMSP troop’s new location.

On 16 July 2 NMSP soldiers and 1 Burmese military sergeant were killed in a clash between the armed groups in the Tenasserim Region village of Thu Thu Mingalan, located in Bote Pyin Township, close to the Thai-Burma border. Subsequent to the incident violence continued in the village, with Burmese military forces torching the homes of 20 families six days later.

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Whilst eyewitnesses claim that the conflict began when Burmese soldiers tore down and burned an NMSP flag, an official account is yet to be released. Thus far the Burmese military have not responded to the NMSP’s demands for an explanation of the attack, nor have they released 3 NMSP soldiers captured and being held in detention.

The captured soldiers have been named as Nai Karak Mon, Nai Win Taung and Nai Ah Ra. Nai Karak Mon was captured when transporting his wife to their home, whilst Nai Win Taung was taken hostage by the Burmese military when he went hunting in the forest. The final NMSP soldier abducted, Nai Karak Mon, was kidnapped early in the morning when visiting his family in nearby Pyi Gyi Matain village. Reports have emerged that the captured soldiers are being held at the LIB No. 559 military base, also in Tenasserim Region’s Bote Pyin Township.

Following the violence many Thu Mingalan villagers, along with NMSP forces, were displaced from their homes to the Thai side of the border. Although the NMSP are trying to monitor the situation of those remaining in Thu Mingalan, this has been difficult given concerns for the safety of villagers found to be in communication with them. However, the NMSP feel that they have little choice but to assist residents from a distance, with fears that their return to the village would have violent repercussions.

NMSP Captain Tamoi Chan said, “If we approach [the area] where the clash occurred, we worry that people now in their [the Burmese military’s] hands and others living in the area would be hurt by them”.

In a new development, the NMSP have received reports that the Burmese military are marching to the border area where displaced NMSP soldiers and Thu Mingalan villagers are currently talking shelter.

According to NMSP Captain Tamoi Chan,  “We are not sure whether violence will break out again… If they come to our place [the NMSP troop’s new base] and fight us, we will face them.”

The on-going unrest has sent ripples of concern throughout the Mon community. On 29 July a crowd of around 200 gathered in front of the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok to protest against the attack and kidnapping of civilians and NMSP soldiers. During the hour-long demonstration students and other individuals, mostly of Mon ethnicity, shouted slogans such as  “stop fighting in ethnic areas”, “no civil war and “no false peace-making”. Protesters held up photographs of torched homes, the corpses of Mon soldiers and the burnt NMSP flag that reportedly ignited the conflict.

Demonstrators presented an open letter to the Burmese embassy condemning the recent attacks and listing examples of the government’s failure to maintain ceasefires with the country’s various ethnic armed groups. The letter also expressed concern for those displaced from their homes and unable to return to them due to the fighting.

Although the NMSP sent a letter of complaint to the Burmese military they have not yet released an official statement condemning the attacks and kidnappings.

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