Local concern grows as tension between the NMSP and the Burma Army continues
February 16, 2017
On February 14, 2017, the Burmese military invaded and took control of two New Mon State Party (NMSP) checkpoints, increasing tensions that have existed between the two over the last several years.
At the same time, the Burmese military have begun stopping and checking travelers on the Thanbyuzayat-Three Pagoda Pass Road, implementing travel restrictions as Burmese troops are now mobilizing near Three Pagoda Pass.
The tension continues to grow as the NMSP has had to withdraw from two main checkpoints that have been under their control for 20 years.
These unstable conditions worry local plantation owners, travelers, cross-border traders, and local civilians.
“When the Border Guard Force (BGF) and the Anan-Kwin Burmese military battalion took control of the [NMSP] Doe-Kyike (Phaya Taung in Burmese) Checkpoint, I realized that something has happened between the NMSP and the government military. This region is our livelihood so I don’t want [this situation] to harm the people. Our livelihoods directly rely on the stability of the region,” said Nai Soe, 37, a highway driver from Taung Pauk village on the evening of February 14.
According to a Central Committee member of the NMSP, the Burmese military has pressured the NMSP to withdraw from their 25-year-old base in Ta-Dane village and if they fail to comply the Ta-Dane base will be destroyed by heavy weapons.
“I’ve been working on a rubber farm near Ta-Dane village for 12 years. I thought the region was peaceful as it’s under the control of the NMSP. But armed conflict [is likely to] start again now, so it’s difficult for us to do farm work. We hit bottom when the rubber price had fallen two years ago. Now the armed conflicts have started just after the rubber price has risen. It’s impossible to make a livelihood. This area is a battleground. Frankly, no one supports the war. It directly affects us. Please let’s stay peaceful,” said Nai Kyaw Oo, 61, a rubber plantation owner from Chaung Hna Khwa village who has an eight-acre rubber plantation in Ta-Dane village.
According to locals, there are about 65 rubber plantation workers near Ta-Dein and no one dares to go to their place of work due to the possibility of armed conflict. NMSP troops are active in the area and are hiding on the hills near Ta-Dein village.
“The Burmese military are strictly checking all cars and transportation [vehicles] at the entrance of Three Pagoda Pass. They have ordered [travelers] to open every single bag. We have no idea why they imposed this restriction, but we believe that there must be tension between armed groups,” said Ko Win Maung, 43, who has experienced the travel restrictions in person.
The Burmese troops at the Three Pagoda Pass Checkpoint are not from the local military base of Na Gar Taung, rather they are from Anan-Kwin military base in Kyainnseikyi Township of Karen State. Local military analysts believe this tension will continue to grow as the Burmese military has also mobilized the Border Guard Forces (BGF).
“It’s clear about this matter. [The Burmese military] had pressured [the NMSP] to sign the NCA (National Ceasefire Agreement)…If there is an armed clash with the Mon [NMSP], the Burmese military will surely use the BGF on the front line and will provide support at the back. If the situation continues, the Mon and the Karen are divided, so it isn’t beneficial to the peace process,” said a retired schoolteacher from Thanbyuzayat.
The NMSP had signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese Military Government in 1995, but the agreement was broken when they refused to reform themselves into the BGF in September, 2010. In 2012, the NMSP signed the state-level ceasefire agreement with U Thein Sein’s government.