Accusations of violating ceasefire agreement prompt NMSP to release Burma army soldier arrested for drug trafficking to Mon State police

May 9, 2019

HURFOM: On March 20th 2019, one Burma Army soldier and seven civilians were arrested by New Mon State Party (NMSP) authorities on charges of drug trafficking outside Kwan Hlar village, Mudon Township, Mon State. The eight were to be sentenced in accordance with NMSP law, though in compliance with demands from the Mon State government’s Ministry of Security and Border Affairs, on April 24th 2019, the NMSP released the soldier to the custody of Mon State police.

In a statement published on March 22nd 2019, two days after the arrests were made, the Mon State Ministry of Security and Border Affairs issued a demand that the soldier be released. In the statement, the ministry also condemned NMSP authorities for contravening the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) by placing armed troops in an area under the jurisdiction of the Mon State government, without first securing permission to do so, when conducting the anti-drug operations that led to the soldier’s arrest.

We had no alternative but to hand over the soldier after hearing the ministry’s demands. He [the soldier] is a member of the Burmese military, and we’re obligated to cooperate with the Mon State government under the terms of the NCA. However, the seven civilians will remain in NMSP custody, said Nai Raja, the chairperson of the NMSP’s Liaison Office in Mudon Township.

According to Sergeant Nai Mile Way of the Mudon NMSP, the soldier in question, Private Ye Kyaw Zin Oo of Light Infantry Battalion No. 209, was in possession of 116 yaba (methamphetamine) pills at the time of his arrest.

A member of the NMSP’s Central Executive Committee, Nai Aung Ma Ngay, states that locals have requested NMSP authorities to take action against people who use and sell drugs, as they believe drug use in the region has increased as of late.

There’s been a rise in drug use, so locals have requested us to arrest the drug users and dealers in this area. In doing so, we arrested a Burmese soldier but have since handed him over to Mon State police,” said Nai Aung Ma Ngay.

As confirmed by Police Major Moe Lwin Oo of the Mudon Police Force, Private Ye Kyaw Zin Oo was released by the NMSP on April 24th 2019, and charged under Article 19 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Law once in police custody.

Such cooperation comes after a period of tense relations between the NMSP, the Mon State government, and the military. In March of 2019, Mon National Liberation Army troops (the armed wing of the NMSP) were ordered to remove their uniforms when providing security at the funeral of the venerable Abbot of Rehmonnya Nikarya Kaw Sein Monastery in Ye Township. In September 2018, the Mon State Ministry of Security and Border Affairs moved to restrict activities related to Mon Affairs, while in March 2018, the NMSP was ordered by the military to limit the number of attendees at public forums organized to discuss the NCA and other Mon political issues with Mon citizens.

Despite lingering tensions, the NMSP has maintained peaceful relations with the military since the signing of the NCA in February 2018. For now, the decision to release Private Ye Kyaw Zin Oo to authorities in Mon State may reassure residents of Mudon Township that peace will continue to hold.

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