Spurt in tension between Burmese Army and Kokang rebels
Tuesday, 25 August 2009 22:46
New Delhi (Mizzima) – With the arrival of over 60 army trucks carrying Burmese troops, fresh tension has flared up between ethnic Kokang rebel groups and the Burmese Army in northeastern Shan State with the ruling junta issuing an arrest warrant for the Kokang leader Peng Jiasheng, sources said.
Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Sino-Burma border based military analyst, said the tension between the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) also known as Kokang Army and the Burmese troops had risen to a new level and that there could be a fresh clash between the two anytime.
“The tension is high and there are possibilities of a fresh conflict. But as of now both sides seem to be restrained,” Aung Kyaw Zaw said.
The tension, according to Aung Kyaw Zaw, began since the MNDAA like many other ceasefire armed groups, rejected the junta’s proposal to transform its army into a ‘Border Guard Force’, an army to be maintained and managed by the ruling junta.
However, the Burmese Army wants to avoid a confrontation with the Kokang Army and is using various tactics to win the group to their side by infiltrating into the groups’ leadership and breaking their unity, Aung Kyaw Zaw said. “The junta wants to break the Kokang like they did with other armed rebel groups. So, they are dealing with a few Kokang officers, who are interested to join them. And the Burmese Army has named these people new leaders of the Kokang group,” he said.
The fresh tension was in evidence on Monday, when the Burmese Army ordered the Kokang Army to move out of the Kokang Special Region saying they are to take up the security in the region. The Kokang Army, apparently, refused and geared up for a confrontation.
Aung Kyaw Zaw said the Burmese Army is creating tension between the Kokang leadership, which seems to be divided between the Kokang Supreme Commander Peng Jiasheng and his Deputy Commander Bai Souqian.
Bai, reportedly has wooed about 100 soldiers to his side but they do not seem to post any kind of threat to Peng, who enjoys the support of the majority of the army, he added.
Peng Jiasheng, also known as Phone Kyar Shin, escaped arrest at least three times including during the August 23 incident, where he was rounded up by about 100 troops at his home in Lao Kai.
“The Burmese Army does not want to negotiate with Peng Jiasheng but they want to use some of the Kokang officers who are willing to oblige it. So, they have issued an arrest warrant for the Kokang leader,” Aung Kyaw Zaw said.
On August 22, police in Northern Shan State’s capital Lashio served summons for Peng, his younger brother Jiafu and his two sons to appear in court. But the four, did not show up.
“How can they go, it is an arrest order. It would be difficult for the Burmese Army to arrest Peng Jiasheng,” Aung Kyaw Zaw said.
Analysts said the Burmese junta is deeply disappointed with the rejection by several ceasefire ethnic armed groups over their proposal to transform their armies into a border guard force.
The junta has been persuading the ceasefire groups to transform their armies into the BGF, which will be under the junta’s administration, as their new constitution, does not allow any other armed forces apart from the main ‘Tatmadaw’.
Several armed groups including the MNDAA, Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and United Wa State Army (UWSA) has rejected the junta’s proposal. But Aung Kyaw Zaw said the junta is currently targeting the MNDAA, as the group is the weakest among the armed groups.
“Approximately the MNDAA has about 1,500 troops and the junta thinks that they can threaten them and forcibly persuade them to transform. And besides, the junta already has several army battalions stationed in the Kokang region,” he added.
After the MNDAA rejected the junta’s proposal, the junta has brought in more troops under the pretext of a drug eradication programme and had so far deployed over seven more battalions.
“I think there are about 3,000 Burmese Army troops based in the Kokang area now,” Aung Kyaw Zaw, who maintains a close relationship with armed rebel groups along the Sino-Burmese border said.
Since the problems are not directly with the Burmese Army but more of an internal disagreement, Kokang’s allies including the United Wa State Army (UWSA) are unable to assist.
In a statement released on August 21, the Myanmar Peace and Democratic Front, an alliance of four ceasefire groups – MNDAA, UWSA, Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and the National Democratic Alliace Army (NDAA) also known as Mailai – condemned the Burmese Army for their interference in the problems of the Kokang Army.
The group said, the Burmese Army’s activities were being conducted under the pretext of drug eradication and expressed their full support to the Kokang Army.
Meanwhile, the fresh tension between the Burmese Army and the Kokang Army has forced several hundred villagers to flee to neighboring China, causing concern to the Chinese authorities.
Reports said, at least 10, 000 villagers have fled to the Chinese border.
A report by the Thailand-based, Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN), said over 700 soldiers of China’s People’s Liberation Army had been deployed along the Sino-BurmA border in anticipation of any hostilities that might break out between the Kokang and the Burmese Army.