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“Will fighting break out in Mon State?” An interview with Dr. Ponnya Mon, ENAC Executive Director

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Dr. Ponnya Mon received his PhD (Political Science) from Indiana University, in the U.S. He is currently serving as the Executive Director of Ethnic Nationalities Affairs Center (ENAC).

Question: Could you elaborate on which regions might possibly see fighting as a result of the country’s current situation?

Photo: Dr. Ponnya Mon, ENAC Executive Director

Answer: Following the military coup, there have been widespread protests across the country. Authorities have responded violently against the protestors, many of whom have fled to border areas. Most youth protesters have now joined the armed groups in the Karen, Karenni and Kachin controlled areas.

Some NLD members who won the elections have also joined ethnic armed groups controlling  areas along the border. Others have formed the Committee Representing Pyithu Hluttaw – CRPH and NUG (National Unity Government). Under the NUG, they  formed a People Defence Forces (PDFs) who are prepared to provide a military response against the junta. Looking at these developments, there is a possibility that there will be fighting across the country. This is because there are PDFs in every town and townships. There is also a PDF in Mon State. We know about this from reading the news and statements that have been released.

With those factors in play, there are possibilities of war in the urban areas. Now, there are outbreaks of fighting in Karenni State. And, there is fighting in the Sagaing area, in the mainland. Bamar areas  where there used to be no fighting are now experiencing the fighting. This can be seen in both the Magway and Sagaing areas.

Question:What about Mon State? Could you elaborate if you think any fighting will break out?

Answer: It is  a good point that there is no fighting in Mon State [yet]. The NMSP is not like the Karen and Kachin troops.  It has not been involved in fighting the Tatmadaw, and there is no Mon State PDF within NMSP controlled areas. The NMSP also does not accept a PDF. Without the NMSP’s knowledge, no military activities are allowed. So, in the Mon [NMSP] controlled area, there is no PDF. So, the Gen. Z or the youths in Mon State will have to reach out to the Karen armed groups for military training. They could collaborate with the Karen armed groups. I have seen their statements in the news that after the military training, they will return to the city and towns.

In Mon State there has  not yet been fighting or a  seizure of the city like what has occured in Karenni State. I assume that it is not easy to have armed clashes  like the ones that broke out in Karenni State and Sagaing area,  in southern Mon State in Mawlamyine to Ye or throughout Mawlamyine District. If we ask why it’s not easy to have such warfare or fighting here, it is due to the geography of these controlled areas. It is because they would have to pass through the NMSP controlled area to come into the city. For them to do so requires the acceptance and support of the  NMSP.  That it is far from a real possibility.

Armed resistance groups can lead the fighting in Karenni, Kachin and Sagaing areas. This is because the EAO’s there, allow such groups to pass through their controlled areas. So, it is not easy to have war in southern Mon State or Mawlamyine District.

However, there could be aoutbreak of fighting in Thaton District, northern Mon State. It will more likely take place in Thaton, Belin and Kyaikhto areas. Most of the PDF members are the [youth] supporters of the NLD. There are also non-NLD supporters but very few. If we look at the Mon State situation, northern Mon State has a lot of NLD supporters. So, the PDF may have more supporters. Another thing is that the Karen armed groups have been involved and supporting military training of resistance groups. So, the PDF in Thaton area could become stronger, and with the support from Karen armed groups, there is a possibility of a military operation in the city and town and the outbreak of the fighting. But in the southern Mon State, there will likely be bomb threats and some explosions that are organized quietly. I do not think there will be open warfare in the city and towns.

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