Representatives from the New Mon State Party and the Tatmadaw met in Ye township on August 16 to defuse tensions prompted by the Tatmadaw’s recent beefed up presence near Mawlamyine district.
Tatmadaw military columns have shifted into a NMSP-controlled area between Za Mi Creek and Win Yaw Creek, according to local residents. The military columns began arriving on August 8, a day after the NMSP held a Mon Revolution Day ceremony, and have not yet departed, the residents said.
At the time of the August 16 meeting, around 200 troops from the Tatmadaw’s 283rd and 284th light infantry battalions and 28th and 32nd infantry battalions were reportedly active in Taung Pauk, Lai Ka Ni, and Wea Ka Lun villages, near the NMSP’s Mawlamyine District area.
The NMSP delegation, led by vice chair Nai Hong Sar, met with the Tatmadaw’s Bureau of Special Operations 4 at the 19th Military Operations Command headquarters to request that the Tatmadaw withdraw its battalions.
“We were able to reduce suspicions by half after meeting each other face-to-face and holding a discussion. We can clear all suspicions if all the Tatmadaw military columns leave this area. The Tatmadaw said they will consider this point,” said Nai Aung Ma Nge, head of the NMSP’s alliance relations department.
He added hat he finds the timing of the troops’ movement particularly troubling as a negotiating team for the ethnic armed groups was in the middle of discussing possible ceasefire terms with government negotiators when the Tatmadaw made its presence known in NMSP territory.
“The NMSP has less trust in the government and the Tatmadaw because the Tatmadaw military columns have entered [our area] like they were launching an offensive even though the Peace Commission and the DPN [the Delegation for Political Negotiation] were doing well with their discussions in Yangon. I feel that they [the Tatmadaw] are deliberately doing this,” he said.
Local residents in Mawlamyine district said they feel uneasy traveling around their villages due to the presence of the Tatmadaw soldiers.
“They [the Tatmadaw] told the villagers not to be scared or worried. They said they will leave within a few days and the villagers can report to them if their soldiers do anythin wrong toward the villagers,” said Nai Sein Lin, the administrator of Taung Pauk Village.
Under the state-level and union-level ceasefires signed with former president U Thein Sein’s administration in 2012, Inn Khwa Village in Kya-in Seikkyi township was agreed to as the base of operations for the NMSP’s Mawlamyine district office and the Mon National Liberation Army’s (MNLA) Battalion No 1.
The August 16 meeting was attended by a NMSP delegation comprised of vice chair Nai Hong Sar, general secretary Nai Aung Min, chief of staff Major General La Yi Kaung, home affairs department head Nai Win Hla, and Nai Aung Ma Nge. The Tatmadaw’s delegation included the Bureau of Special Operations 4’s chief Lieutenant General Min Naung, head of the Eastern Command Major General Myo Win, and the MOC-19’s interim commander Gen Soe Tun.