IMNA’s reporters have learned that following the New Mon State Party’s (NMSP) refusal of the State Peace and Development Council’s (SPDC) “people’s militia” offer last week, members of the state-run Special Police have been calling upon village headmen across Mon State, collecting an unofficial list of NMSP members’ names and villages of residence.
“They started it [gathering names] last week, it is happening in every township and also in the towns[villages as well as larger cities],they met with the village headmen and quarter headmen and they asked the number of NMSP members [in their village headmen and quarter headmen and they asked the number of NMSP members [in their villages and quarters]” reported a Moulmein resident connected with the city’s Myaingtaryar quarter headman.
IMNA’s field reporters across Mon State have gathered reports of similar NMSP census counts being collected by TPDC chairmen across the region, in the townships of Moulmein, Mudon, Thanphyuzayart, Ye, Poung, Kyaik-ma-yaw, and Chanung Zone.
“They [the TPDC and the Secret Police] asked like, ‘How many NMSP members are in the village?, What did they do [for a living]?, where are they now?’ Something like that. Some [NMSP] members they already know about, but some of they don’t know about yet,” said a village headman from Mudon Township, who asked that his village name be withheld.
According to a Poung town resident, “In our town, the Special Police came and took the NMSP’s list on Monday”.
Sources reported to IMNA that unofficial NMSP member counts have been taken in the past, usually during times of political tension between the NMSP and the SPDC.
“The authorities [the TPDC] hold the meeting every week, at the meeting they talk about the NMSP’s activities. [In earlier times of conflict] they asked that how many NMSP members were in a village, they did this at every meeting” a retired government worker, whom asked that his personal details not be released, reported to IMNA.
Many sources indicated that the collection of NMSP members’ personal information is a symptom of the breakdown of the NMSP’s 1995 ceasefire with the SPDC; Southeast Command Lt. Gen. Ye Myint informed NMSP members on April 7th that a refusal of the SPDC’s people’s militia offer could result in the return of the “pre-ceasefire relationship between the two parties.
“The SPDC wants to know, if the NMSP members are still at home or not, that’s why they do like that [retrieve member lists]. Now the situation between the NMSP and the SPDC is not the same as before, because the NMSP has rejected the [people’s militia] offer,” a political observer from Mudon Township explained to IMNA.
A spokesperson from the Human Rights Foundation of Monland explained that similar counts were frequently utilized in to aid in arrest and detainment of NMSP members before the 1995 ceasefire:
“In 1993 and 1994, they did this a lot…they collected not the names of the NMSP members, but the names of their families in the jungle. If they believed that the NMSP member had committed a bomb blast for example, they could call upon the family to bring this member forward…it’s a way of finding whom to blame.”