RANGOON— A rebel armed group in southern Burma’s Mon State was this week forced by Burma Army troops to leave one of its bases after a short standoff, ethnic Mon sources said Thursday.
The New Mon State Party (NMSP) renewed a ceasefire agreement with the government in 2012. Its armed wing, the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA), still holds a number of bases in the region, where the party has a degree of control.
M-Seik Chan, a NMSP central committee member, told the Irrawaddy that a base in Yeedakon village near Thanbyuzayat Township had been occupied by a small rebel battalion since the group’s original 1995 ceasefire with the government.
This week, however, local Burma Army officials met with representatives to demand the battalion leave the base to make way for the expansion of a nearby government-run school, he said.
The rebels were happy to vacate the base for the public good, M-Seik Chan said, but he took offense to the Burma Army instead of the government kicking out the MNLA itself.
“They met us at our liaison office in Thanpyuzayat and told us to leave from our base as soon as possible. Their voices sounded no different from the military regime,” said M-Seik Chan, identifying the Burma Army delegation as Colonel Aung Min and Junior Colonel Myint Sein from No. 4 Military Training Center near Waekalee village.
“If the community needs land for the school, we will give it to the people,” said M-Seik Chan. “But, if the Burma Army comes to our base after we move out, we will need to find justice.”
The area became tense on Tuesday with the initial refusal of the Mon soldiers to obey the Burma Army’s order, but rebel troops left the base on Wednesday morning.
“They deployed their troops near to our base after they ordered us to leave. Our troops have built fences around the whole base and [at first] did not let them to come inside,” said Nai Marng, an NMSP member in Thanbyuzayat Township. “But now, our troops have moved out already.”
He said the Burma Army was confrontational, coming to the base twice on Tuesday morning to order the Mon fighters to leave.
“I think they are testing whether we dare to confront them with our troops,” said Nai Marng. “The second time they ordered us was very strong. They told us to leave as soon as we can. If not, they threatened us that they will fight.”
The Mon rebels are among the majority of armed rebel groups in Burma that have in place ceasefire agreements with the government. The quasi-civilian government of President Thein Sein is attempting to have all parties sign a nationwide ceasefire agreement in Naypyidaw this month, but groups in parts of the country are still fighting and negotiations with ethnic leaders have been troubled.
The NMSP’s party secretary Nai Hong Sar has said he does not want to sign the national ceasefire since the Mon group has already signed its own ceasefire with the government.
Small outbreaks of fighting have occurred between the MNLA and the Burma Army recently, despite the agreement. In July, rebel troops in Tavoy came under attack from government forces in a clash in which two Mon troops were killed. The NMSP has called for two soldiers captured during the clash to be released.