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NMSP volunteer soldiers seized by Burmese army, forced portering suspected

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Photo Caption- Two Burmese soldiers oversee a civilian who is being used as a porter for the SPDC in Mon State

Jury Chai : In an unprecedented move, Burmese solders have apparently arrested members of the largest Mon ceasefire group to work as either guides or porters as the Burmese unit operates in the area.

On July 12th, soldiers from the Burmese soldiers from the Costal Regional Command Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No. 409 where conducting security operations around Three Pagoda Pass(TPP) Township, Karen State, and arrested three New Mon State Party (NMSP) volunteer soldiers while they worked at their plantation and took them to apparently use as porters.

The NMSP volunteer soldiers were seized around 7 am according to a villager who witnessed the interaction from a distance. The 3 NMSP members were not in their Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA) uniforms at the time of the arrests.

The arrest of NMSP members for forced portering is an unprecedented move by Burmese military forces, as it appears to directly violate the terms of the ceasefire decided on between the NMSP and Burmese State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1995.

This apparent violation of ceasefire terms comes after the NMSP rejection of the SPDC border guard force proposal led the SPDC South East Command (SEC) to nearly abolish the ceasefire agreement in April. However the Burmese military backpedaled from harsher wording after the statement of a return to a “pre-ceasefire relationship” by Lt. Gen. Ye Myint prompted an exodus of NMSP families and supporters to the Thai Burma border.

“The soldiers arrested them on July 12th, and the soldiers have not allow them [to go free] yet,” said a source close to the NMSP. “We are still investigating.”

The NMSP volunteer soldiers who were arrested by the LIB No. 409 soldiers are Chan Lwin, Kyout Karaiand and Ye Aung. All three are from Jaw Kha Broud village, TPP Township.

LIB No. 409 which is led by battalion commander colonel Kyaw Soe Lwin is temporarily based in Chaung Zone village, TPP Township.

According to a source close to Chan Lwin’s family, They [NMSP volunteer soldiers] were arrested by Burmese soldiers when they went to the plantation south of Ma Papran village near Chaung Zone.”

The three soldiers are between 20 and 30 years old, and are already married. Two are ethnically Mon and one is ethnically Tavoyan.

“Now we have given the information to all of the NMSPs offices and check points [in TPP Township],” said an NMSP officer.

After the Burmese soldier’s arrested the NMSP members apparently for portering, the NMSP reported the arrests to Burmese Infantry Battalion (IB) No. 32 base in TPP town. IB No. 32 responded to party officials saying they would solve this problem, a NMSP officer based in TPP told IMNA.

The tactical commander of LIB No. 409 is slated to arrive in the TPP area later this July. As a result soldiers from LIB No. 409 have been ordered, beginning last week, to ensure security for the duration of the tactical commander’s stay in the area.

Other villagers have reported that local civilians have also been arrested in addition, to be used as porters. One political observer in the area speculated that the 3 NMSP volunteer soldiers have been taken as guides through the jungle by LIB No. 409.

Officials are worried that the arrested NMSP will face abuses that are reportedly common when villagers are forced to porter for the Burmese army.

The NMSP officer added, “I am worried but I can’t say anything, because we haven’t found them yet.”

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