Tatmadaw and NMSP Meet to Discuss Seized Mon Checkpoints
By Htun Htun 17 February 2017
RANGOON – The Tatmadaw and the New Mon State Party (NMSP) met on Thursday to address the conflict surrounding Burma Army troops’ seizure of two small NMSP bases and the raiding of the organization’s liaison office in Ye Township, Mon State.
At the Southeastern Command’s compound in Moulmein, representatives from the Tatmadaw’s Southeastern Command and the New Mon State Party discussed the Tatmadaw’s actions against the NMSP’s military wing, the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA). On Wednesday, the Burma Army took control of two MNLA checkpoints, typically used to collect taxes: Zee Hna Pin base in Thanbyuzayat Township and Phayataung base near Three Pagodas Pass on the Burma-Thailand border.
Gen Myo Win, the commander of the Burma Army’s Southeastern Command and the Mon State security and border affairs minister, represented the government in the meeting and the NMSP delegation was led by its general secretary, Nai Aung Min, and head of NMSP’s internal affairs department, Nai Win Hla.
Nai Win Hla said there is no current tension, but that the two bases have not yet been returned to them by the Burma Army.
“We were told that these bases would be returned, as is described in our bilateral ceasefire agreements, so we could say that the military tension is over,” he added.
Nai Win Hla said that they both agreed to hold further discussions on the current issues and that the Tatmadaw also urged the NMSP to sign the country’s nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).
“We think it is [about] pressuring us to sign the NCA,” said Nai Hong Sar, the vice chairman of the NMSP. He recalled that his organization ordered its troops to abandon the two bases in question, due to the Tatmadaw’s force. However, he added that they also left partly they because those bases were not as strategic as other bases under the group’s control.
“We could abandon them as long as we could avoid military engagement [by doing so], as we do not want to harm the current peace process. But we wouldn’t [abandon them] if the intimations had affected our key military positions,” he said.
Nai Soe Myint, the secretary of the Mon National Party, said that he heard “the Phayataung checkpoint [near Three Pagodas Pass] would not be returned, but the rest would be, because of the bilateral agreements.”
He said that the NMSP chairman Nai Htaw Mon also shared a letter with the general in which he said he hoped for the tension to subside, and that they are trying their best to be able to take part in the upcoming 21st Century Panglong peace conference.
Nyein Nyein contributed to this report.