Thu 28 Jan 2010
Filed under: Inside Burma
Already under pressure from Naypyidaw over the Border Guard Force issue, the ethnic cease-fire groups faced a fresh blow as a key leader of the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) based in Mongla in eastern Burma was killed on Wednesday.Min Ein, secretary-general of the NDAA was assassinated by unknown gunmen while he was doing regular exercise at the armed group’s headquarters in Mongla in eastern Shan State on Wednesday morning, sources from Burma’s border area said.
Min Ein in Laogai, 2003 (photo: MRTV)
The gunmen have not been arrested and no one has claimed responsibility, the sources said, adding that observers give two reasons for the assassination.
Some believe it was a political killing organized by the junta against an ethnic armed group unwilling to join the border guard force plan. A second theory suggests the killing could be related to a business conflict.
“I think Naypyidaw is behind the assassination. As a key player in the NDAA, Min Ein knew how to play the junta politically over the past two decades,” said Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burmese observer on the Sino-Burmese border who was with Min Ein as a communist guerrilla in the 1970s and the 1980s.
“The NDAA still does not totally agree to the junta’s Border Guard Force proposal, and Min Ein represented his organization in talks with the junta’s negotiator, Lt-Gen Ye Myint,” he said, adding that the junta stood to benefit as the Mongla militia had lost a “good political leader.”
Suspicions that the junta was involved would grow within the Mongla group if the gunmen are not arrested in the near future, he said.
“It is a kind of warning to NDAA chairman U Sai Leun, saying ‘if you remain a hardliner on the Border Guard Force proposal, your turn will be next,’” Aung Kyaw Zaw said.
The eastern Shan State town of Mongla is well known both as a symbol of the struggle for autonomy in Burma and for casinos and other businesses including drug trafficking.
An anonymous source in southern Shan State who is close to the ethnic armed group suggested that with many ethnic leaders running businesses in their territory, the death of the Mongla leader could be due to a business conflict.
Whether Min Ein, who was also known as Lin Hongshen, was killed for political or business reasons, his death will directly affect the people and leaders in Mongla.
Following the killing, security in the casino town of Mongla has been tightened.
“I do not want to comment on the issue before I get detail information. However, if the Mongla leaders distrust each other, it will not be good for unity within the NDAA,” said Khuensai Jaiyen, the editor-in-chief of the Shan Herald Agency for News.
Like other towns in Shan State run by ethnic armed groups, the situation in Mongla area known as Special Region 4 Shan State has changed since the military junta expelled the Kokang militia known as Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) from their territory, Special Region 1 Shan State, in August 2009.
At that time, Mongla authorities deported dozens of Burmese workers from their territory following reports that government agents had been arrested in Mongla.
Both the NDAA and MNDAA cease-fire groups along with the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the New Democratic Army – Kachin (NDAK) were formed in 1989 after troops separated from the former Communist Party of Burma (CPB).
Following the cease-fire with the junta in 1989, Min Ein was a key player when the four former communist groups (NDAA, MNDAA, UWSA, NDAK) formed an alliance known as the Peace and Democracy Front in November 1989.
The Mongla and Kokang leaders also have a personal relationship as Mongla leader Sai Leun, who is also known as Lin Mingxian, is a son-in-law of Kokang leader Peng Jaisheng.
As a Chinese communist cadre who was a former medical student from Bhamo in Kachin State, Min Ein was good in Burmese compared to other Mongla leaders. Because of this, he used to lead talks between the NDAA and the Burmese junta, and some among the ethnic groups suspected he was close to the Burmese generals.
When he was with the CPB, he was a general staff officer with the CPB’s war office in their headquarters at Panghsang. When ethnic troop within the CPB revolted against the communist leadership in 1989, he stood with them and later became the secretary-general of the NDAA.
Representing the Mongla group, Min Ein attended the 14-year-long National Convention for the constitution concluded in 2007. During the referendum, he called for genuine autonomous rights for ethnic groups along with the MNDAA and UWSA.
The NDAK agreed to accept the Border Guard Force plan in 2009.
Min Ein is the second ethnic leader to have been assassinated in the past two years. Mann Sha, the general secretary of the Karen National Union (KNU) was killed by gunmen on Feb.14, 2008.
Though the Democratic Karen Buddhist Organization, a Karen splinter group, was accused of being behind the killing, many KNU leaders then said they believed Naypyidaw was involved directly or indirectly in the plot.
According to confidential military reports from Naypyidaw leaked to The Irrawaddy, agents of the Military Affairs Security (MAS) formerly known as the Military Intelligence Service encourage Burmese commanders to make preemptive strikes against ethnic ceasefire groups if they have a chance.