Tuesday, August 4, 2009

NMSP officially rejects future role in Burmese government ‘Border Guard Force’

IMNA - On August 4th, the New Mon State Party (NMSP) announced that it decided to turn down the offer made by the Burmese State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), to reform its armed wing, the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA) into either a Border Guard Force (BGF) or a government aligned people’s militia. Despite increased pressure from the SPDC to bring the MNLA under nominal state control as a reduced force, the NMSP statement sites the importance of ethnic identity and the will of the people in making its decision.

The statement, already available on the NMSP website, is to be officially announced on August 5th, at the 62nd Mon Revolution Day, which celebrates the beginning of the Mon armed struggle in 1948.

According to the statement, the NMSP signed the 1995 ceasefire with the Burmese regime because, like other ethnic armed groups, it wanted to solve the political turmoil in Burma through tripartite talks including the Burmese government, the ethnic communities, and the national democracy movement. It adds that its status as a political party with an armed wing has brought the NMSP and the Mon people their own rights and freedoms, as well as provided protection for Mon people and culture.

The NMSP will maintain the cease-fire with the government and will continue to call for tripartite talks to solve, not only the political problems with the current Burmese regime, but also with the future government that will form after the 2010 election.

This decision came after an emergency Central Executive Committee (CEC) and Central Committee (CC) meeting was convened on July 25th, where senior NMSP party members vowed to discuss their options until they had reached a decision regarding the future of the MNLA.

On June 7th high-ranking NMSP officials met South East Command (SEC) General That Naing Win who officially requested that the MNLA reform as a BGF. Though the NMSP was originally given until the end of July to return with a decision, it appears the deadline was extended, as the statement will officially be given to Southeast Command on August 5th.

The issue of forming BGFs has been a contentious issue for the ceasefire groups. In an attempt to resolve the long standing armed stalemate with over 15 ethnic armed groups, the SPDC requested that each group reform its armed wing into a ‘Border Guard Force’. The request comes as the SPDC purse’s its 7-step “roadmap” to a “disciplined democracy”. Seen by many as an attempt to legitimize its ruling status though an attempt at a civilian election, the SPDC has placed significant pressure on armed groups to resolve their status before the 2010 election.

The decision to reject the BGF offer came, according to one NMSP officer, after party leaders appealed to the opinions of the Mon community, prompting an influx of feedback from monks, university students, Mon youth groups inside Mon State, and Mon State residents who sent in letters. NMSP party leaders also spoke with residents of the central quarters of Thaton, Moulmein, and Tavoy districts under their control. The majority opinion held that the party should not accept the Burmese government request to form a BGF or a pro government people’s militia.

“The BGF and people’s militia are not important because orders to them would come from them [SPDC] and would have to act according to their orders,” said Nai Oukar Mon from Mon community at Mae Sot. “Such a result would in no way help the Mon people and NMSP. Because of the plans of the Burmese government, it [BGF] would not benefit our people.”

Three youth groups located inside of Mon State in Burma, released a joint statement comprising the opinions of the Mon Youth Organization, Young Monk’s Organization, and the Mon University Students Organization, which declared, “We don’t want to be a BGF or people’s militia, and don’t want to be damaged from the cease-fire. We want the party leaders make a decision themselves from their intelligence.”

“We have to think hard about the cease-fire. Before cease-fire with the SPDC, Mon people could do regular business not mixing with other ethnicities. But now we mix with other ethnicities after the cease-fire,” explained a Mon nationalist from TPP stating why he thought the Mon army should not become a BGF or people’ militia. “Before it was just the Mon and Karen ethnicities who lived at TPP. Mon depended on the Mon and Karen depend on Karen. If the cease-fire breaks apart and fighting begins again, other ethnics will administrate the area.”

A business man, also from TPP, expressed his distaste for the BGF proposition, explaining that in acquiescing to the SPDC’s demands, and submitting a reformed MNLA under nominal government control, the NMSP and Mon people would suffer a loss of dignity.

Additionally he stated that he supports the ceasefire, saying if it were to break, the Mon people would have no chance to fight for their culture. However, even the loss of that would not be significant as in his eyes the NMSP and the Mon people never received much support from the Burmese government, as had been agreed upon in the 1995 ceasefire agreement.

“The Mon army will become the Burmese army and it will be difficult for us to have any political control,” said one resident of Three Pagodas Pass [TPP] who was asked by IMNA his opinion on the political outcome if the NMSP had accepted the BGF offer. “It would be more difficult to conduct business and protect against human rights abuses because the army [including BGF and people’ militia] is led by the Burmese government. Its will be fine if Mon have to guard Mon border areas.”

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