Military Reprimands  Rebel Group Over Drug Seizure, Detentions in Mon State

By Lawi Weng 28 March 2019

Mon State’s border affairs minister has rebuked the New Mon State Party (NMSP) for conducting anti-narcotics operations in areas under the government’s control in Mudon Township.

Col. Nay Htut Oo sent a letter to the NMSP’s liaison office in the state capital of Moulmein on Friday  accusing the group of violated the terms of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) it signed with the government.

On March 20, fighters for the group’s armed wing, the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA), detained eight people and seized about 500 amphetamine tablets and about 6.5 kg of kraton, a leaf that some locals boil in water to produce an illicit narcotic.

In his letter, Col. Nay Htut Oo said the NCA stipulates that the MNLA could not interfere in government affairs in areas under government control. He asked the MNLA to release the eight detainees but the group refused, raising tensions in the area.

An NMSP source said one of the detainees was a son of a Myanmar army officer with Light Infantry Battalion 209, based in Mudon, and was carrying 90 amphetamine tablets when caught.

On March 21, the Myanmar army sent two truckloads of soldiers to the scene of the MNLA operation, a former base of the group’s, and occupied the site for two days, according to local rubber farmers.

The spokesman for the NMSP could not be reached for comment.

Drug use is widespread in Mon State, but the government and military have refused to let the NMSP combat the drug trade outside of its areas of control since it singed the NCA last year, leaving traffickers with less to worry about. Local police have made few arrests.

The Mon Young Monks Network (MYMN) said in a statement on Wednesday that it supported the NMSP’s anti-narcotics efforts as an effective way to combat the social ills of the state’s drug trade and suggested the government work with the group rather than against it.

“The government should find the best way to cooperate with the NMSP,” it said.